July 5, 2009
The word "safe" has an etymological root in the ancient Hebrew language. The Hebrew word "betah" connotes a sense of well-being and security resulting from having something or someone in whom to place confidence. The word emphasizes the feeling of being safe or secure. The ancient Hebrews saw their security and safety in a Transcendent God. The individual understood that they were devoid of the essential resources of life. Living in a militaristic world and surrounded by powerful empires, to put one's trust in anything but the Divine Sovereign was seen as completely vacuous. The word security in the Greek language means "without fear." It describes the state of being secure or the actions employed to obtain that state. To be secure without fear or harm. Detached from its theocentric root, "safe," "secure" and "safety" have come to convey a spatial and emotive result of feeling safe and secure due to governmental, community and individual decisions as mundane as home security systems and safes. These are but emblematic reminders that safety lies beyond our grasp. "Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe." Ps. 119:117.
We are witnessing the threnody of a dead philosophy. Secularism, with all its permutations; pragmatism, empiricism, atheism, humanism, are all in a decompositional state. No answer but one can be given to the centuries' old question that lays bare the philosophies of man, "For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). Nothing profits a man, only loss, eternal loss. May the sound we hear be the regenerative voice that pierces through the detritus of a dying age and liberates us to breath the breathe of eternity. May we be awakened from the stupor of a deadening somnambulance. "A sense of contact with the ultimate dawns upon most people when their self-reliance is swept away by violent misery." (Abraham Heschel, The Philosophy of Judaism, p. 422).
Lawrence W. Hilliard, Founder of Clarion Voice Communications
July 6, 2009
"When we see idolotry we are supposed to be provoked. When we see evil we are supposed to get exercised about it. If you can walk through this upholstered sess pool of earth and if you can hear evil, filth, degeneracy, vile language, the corruption of the media, the perversion of the Gospel . . . if you can see the multiple forms of idolatry, the worship of things and of the creature, more than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. If you can see this today and you are not provoked about it then you are not in touch with God, the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit IS provoked by evil and He stirs up the church so that we may do something about it. Christianity is not passive. Christianity is vigorously active."
July 6, 2009
"Should the leader allow himself to succumb to the wishes of those he leads, who will always seek to turn him into an idol, then the image of the leader will gradually become the image of the misleader. This is the leader who makes an idol of himself and his office and who thus mocks God."
July 7, 2009
"On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth." —Isaiah 62:6-7
"And I set watchment over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, 'We will not listen'." —Jeremiah 6:17
"At every stage of her existence the Church is in need of watchman who will guard the flock from all that would destroy it." —E. J. Young, Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 470
"She [the church] must fulfill the role of a watchman with respect to the State, she must remain principally critical with respect to every State and be prepared to warn it about transgression of its bounds." —Raymond Zorn, Church and Kingdom, p. 186
As ancient sentinels were stationed on the walls of a city to alert the inhabitants of approaching danger, so the prophets of Israel were to sound a toxin voice to the nation of impending calamity. The prophets of Israel were the heart of God in human flesh. They encountered every aspect of life in reference to God. The prophets diagnosed the spiritual, cultural, social, economic, political and military condition of the nation from the perspective of eternity. Their voices knew no bounds of influence and repercussion. Nothing was outside the authoritative domain of the prophetic voice. From kings to pauper, all would come to know the mind of God through the enflamed heart of the prophet. Their message embraced the totality of Israel's life and history. Their voice captured the present from the transcendence of eternity. The prophets mindset encompassed the world, not just a sliver of religious activity. "The prophet is not only a prophet. He is also a poet, preacher, patriot, social critic, moralist." "The prophet was an individual who said, 'No' to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness and syncretism." "The prophet faces a coalition of callousness and established authority and undertakes to stop a mighty stream with mere words. Had the purpose been to express great ideas, prophesy would have had to be acclaimed as a triumph. Yet the purpose of prophecy is to conquer callousness, to change the inner man as well as to revolutionize history." (Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, p. VIII, XIII, p. 16-17). The prophets left no avenue of society untouched by the revelation of God. Their voice hit the solar plexus of society with warning and redemption. No aspect of life was sacrosanct from their fiery confrontation. "By his very claim, his was the voice of supreme authority. He not only rivalled the decisions of the king and the counsel of the priest, he defied and even condemned their words and deed." (The Prophets, p. 260). The prophets' words brought doom to nations and restoration to others (Hos. 6:5, Jer. 1:10, 18:17 and Ezek. 32:17-18). The prophets spoke to nations and delineated the rise and fall of kingdoms. They could not be sequestered into a provincial setting. The world was their arena. They ordered armies and battles to be fought in God's name. They indulged in direct political action to influence the policies of state. "Intensely patriotic they were representatives of the charismatic tradition of the tribal league; filled with the Divine fury, they had roused men to rage Holy War against the Philistine masters." "This was in a true sense a political office, for the prophets spoke as messengers of Yahweh's heavenly court, the appointed agents of his imperium in the world, and it was their duty to remind kings and officials of state that the real ruler of Israel is Yahweh, and to criticize and correct the state in the light of his declared will. Such criticism the prophets had carried out repeatedly..." (John Bright, A History of Israel, p. 245, 262). The "thus sayeth the Lord", has ceased, we hear only the silence of God. The lack of authoritative voices that speak power to power, truth to lie, clarity to obfuscation, is sorely felt in a nation inebriated by the rhetoric of self-exaltation. The burden and call of a watchman still rests upon the church to warn and instruct the believer and secular society, of the impending intrusion of powers that aim to devalue and reinterpret the image of God and man. If the believer's voice is silent then the lacuna will be filled by the sound of allegiance from those who subordinate their lives to the god of the state. "She [the church], as the proclaimer and interpreter of God's word, must make clear its application to the State, setting forth the scope of the State's duty to its citizens and delimiting the bounds of the realm in which it exercises its authority." "The duties of the watchman for the Church are an ever-renewed challenge to her in whatever generation she may find herself, less the mystery of iniquity, in its ceaseless development, exceed its bounds and win by default what should have been defended at all costs by the Church." "...the Church must be prepared to resist all attempts by the State, whenever they shall come, to deify itself by arrogating to itself such authority and prerogatives which belong unto God alone." (Raymond Zorn, Church and Kingdom, p. 187).
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 8, 2009
"All we wish to be understood at present is, that it is perfect barbarism to think of exterminating it [civil government], its use among men being not less than that of bread and water, light and air, while its dignity is much more excellent. Its object is not merely, like those things, to enable men to breathe, eat, drink, and be warmed (though it certainly includes all these, while it enables them to live together); this, I say, is not its only object, but it is, that no idolatry, no blasphemy against the name of God, no calumnies against His truth, nor other offenses to religion, break out and be disseminated among the people; that the public quiet be not disturbed, that every man's property be kept secure, that men may carry on innocent commerce with each other, that honesty and modesty be cultivated; in short, that a public form of religion may exist among Christians, and humanity among men. Let no one be surprised that I now attribute the task of constituting religion aright to human polity, though I seem above to have placed it beyond the will of man, since I no more than formally allow men at pleasure to enact laws concerning religion and the worship of God, when I approve of civil order which is directed to this end." (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Ch. 20, Sect. 3).
July 9, 2009
Under the leadership of a Saul-like figure, a political-cultic movement clearly set forth its agenda: the removal of all legal restraints on the killing of the unborn, stem-cell research with the destruction of nascent life, legalized cloning, the destruction of labor-intensive free markets toward economic determinism, the ecumenism of faith-based ministries, the redefinition of marriage and a teleology that would render any relationship legal, encroachment upon religious freedom of expression under the guise of hate-crimes or incendiary speech and pressure upon Israel to further compromise territorial security. Every one of the above value judgments directly impact the Christian church theologically, economically, ethically and legally. Within days, after the inauguration of Barack Obama, every one of the above issues have seen Presidential fiat, or legislation, to expand the scope of government to the detriment of the individual and the unborn. We are witnessing the transformation of our democratic republic into an auto-cratic state while millions blindly hail this as the genesis of a new era of governmental involvement.
Last year, a U.S. House of Representative, Jesse Jackson, Jr., said that an additional book should be added to the Bible, describing the ascendancy of the greatest redemptive figure of Western history. He would call it the Book of Obama. "The single most extraordinary event in American history, even a redemptive act of divine revelation. The event itself is so extraordinary that another chapter could be added to the Bible to chronicle its significance." (from Politico, June 5, 2008, article by Josephine Hearn, "Black Lawmakers Emotional About Obama's Success"). Barack Obama has been accorded the title of "The Messiah" by the Nation of Islam. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, has declared that he (Obama) has entranced our youth and that the day of messiah has arrived. In Obama's own words, upon receiving the nomination for President of the Democratic Party, "Tonight the tides will slow and the earth will heal." The New Testament portrays Jesus' death and resurrection as the only redemptive hope of humanity but Obama says of himself and his followers, "We are the hope of the future; the answer to the cynics who tell us our house must stand divided; that we cannot come together; that we cannot remake this world as it should be. Because we know what we have seen and what we believe--that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored; that will not be deterred; that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different from all the rest." (Barack Obama, Speech in 2/5/08). With unbridled hubris, he declares, "I am confident that we can create a kingdom right here on earth." (Barack Obama, October 8, 2007 speech). We have no need for political rulers but men and women of truth who will endure rejection and umbrage to support the unborn, maintain the historic definition of marriage, support Israel as a sovereign state without further territorial concessions and maintain the economic value of the individual, the incentive to achieve. The rhetoric from Barack Obama and his adoring throng come from a matrix of unbridled pride and arrogance unprecedented in American political history. We have heard cult voices utilize such language in the past but they were relegated to the lunacy of mindless extremism. But Obama seduces an entire generation with political/cultic language that is more reminiscent of an illusionary god-complex. In ancient Rome when a conquering general returned to the city with his army and the spoils of war, the whole population would greet him with praise and acclaimation. But running behind the general's chariot would be a man who would whisper in his ear, "You are not a god, you are mortal." The church needs to remind Obama that he is not the messiah, he is only a sinful mortal. To perceive of John Calvin's view of state authority is to understand that he would have opposed and exposed such blasphemy against God.
We are at a crisis in American history and only the Sovereign God can restrain a movement that is dishonoring to Him at its very core. Though millions have cried out for a leader after their own heart, as Israel of old, the consequences of God giving Israel an alter-ego, Saul, for a leader was grievous. "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness unto their soul." (Psalms 106:15). We must pray and seek God to take us out of the small confinement that we are in. We must see Him as the Sovereign Lord of heaven and the nations of the earth. Only God bearing His holy arm can restrain the arrogance and the supercilious movement that is capturing the imagination and seducing millions of Americans. The change in the fabric of the nation is immense. We are experiencing a declining church and culture via political, legal, judicial and spiritual compromise. Only God can stop this declension. "All indications are that the Church-including the Reformed churches-will continue to decline in its integrity and influence. While this trend is discouraging in itself, the coming darkness may give the Church an unpredented opportunity to shine with the light of Jesus Christ, who has promised that against his church the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matt. 16:18). This is the promise of the Sovereign God, whose purpose will stand (Isa. 46:10), and who has called us to live for His glory in the church and the culture." (The Doctrines of Grace, p. 225).
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 10, 2009
"The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right, for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequalled. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man." (G. K. Chesterton, What I Saw in America, 1922).
July 12, 2009
"The Puritans,...wanted the church to conform exactly to the Biblical pattern, to be purged or purified of all the Roman and idolatrous practices which remained in the Church of England and were enshrined in the Prayer Book." —John Legg, The Footsteps of God, p. 195
In early 17th Century in England, there was a growing group of non-conforming Protestants, i.e., Puritans, whose influence in the pulpit and in Parliament was to, "purify the Church of England from all traces of what they held to be the remains of the corruption which survived from the Roman connection." (Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. 2, p. 813). The Puritans were a powerful force in Parliament and in the dissenting church in 17th Century England. "Puritans-those bent on 'purifying' the Church of England had not only increased greatly in number by the time of James I but had also prospered particularly as merchants and tradesmen, and a goodly number of them had made their way into the House of Commons. There they were at the forefront of the struggle between the King and Parliament in the 17th Century." (Clarence Carson, American Government, p. 135). With increasing political strength the Puritans attempted to limit the king in his acquisition of wealth through oppressive taxes, that supported the Anglican Church, and to restrain him from censoring preaching and worship. "But the House of Commons now included among its 467 members many representatives of the rising mercantile classes—who could not stomach a limitless royal power over their money—and many Puritans who repudiated the claim of the King to rule their religion. The house defined its rights in bold disregard of James' divinity. It declared itself the sole judge in contested elections to its membership. It demanded freedom of speech and security from arrest during its sessions, without these, it argued, Parliament would be meaningless. It proposed to legislate on matters religious, and deny the authority of the king to decide such issues without Parliamentary consent,..." (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Book VII, p. 139).
In 1603, in a rather bold move, the Puritans presented King James with the Millenary Petition, which was signed by a thousand ministers. It set forth their demands for changes in the Church of England. He realized his power over the church was threatened and rejected their petition outright. This set the stage for confrontations with the King, Parliament and the Puritans throughout the century. Laws of Uniformity were issued, dictating rules of worship, conduct, and the nature of preaching to be in concert with the Church of England. "James sought (1622) to restrict preachers to topics which seemed to him non-controversial and forbade them to deal with predestination or matters of state or to rail at 'either Papist or Puritans', an obvious attempt to curb both Puritans and their opponents." (Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. 2, p. 818). In rebelling against oppressive laws the Puritans would be classed as "seditious sectaries and disloyal persons", and persecuted in the form of imprisonment and execution. The famous Puritan writer, John Bunyan, would spend years in prison because his preaching violated the "Conventicle Act", in essence, a loyalty oath to the Church of England and the king. Unfortunately, this was not an anomaly. The desire to worship God in truth with political liberty was now borne. "Puritanism was not merely a religious doctrine, but corresponded in many points with the most absolute democratic and republican theories. It was this tendency that had aroused its most dangerous adversaries. Persecuted by the government of the mother country, and disgusted by the habits of a society which the rigor of their own principles condemned, the Puritans went forth to seek some rude and unfrequented part of the world where they could live according to their own opinions and worship God in freedom." (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1848, Vol. 1, p. 33). The brilliant theologian and colonial pastor, Cotton Mather (1663-1728), who entered Harvard University at age 11 and graduated at 15, who authored 450 books, chronicles in his magnum opus "Ecclesiastical History of New England, 1620-1698", the impulse of the early Puritans to risk all on the Atlantic to reach an unknown land. He perceived the same movement of God's Spirit upon their hearts that the Old Testament prophets revealed in the Hebrew word "ur" that "stirred or awakened", the heart of Cyrus and his armies and the nations of the earth to execute God's will (I Chron. 5:26, II Chron. 36:22, Ezek. 23:22, Isa. 13:17, Jer. 50:9,11, 51:11, Ezra 1:1). Cotton Mather, a Hebrew scholar, alludes to this Hebrew word and its theological significance. In the Old Testament "ur" is used in the causitive with God as its subject. God is not aloof or passive in history. He is in complete charge, manipulating his plan. Mather recognizes this in the action of God's Spirit to incline their hearts and direct the Puritans on an ardurous journey. "Briefly, the God of Heaven served as it were, a summons upon the spirits of his people in the English nation; stirring up the spirits of thousands which never saw the faces of each other, with a most unanimous inclination to leave all the pleasant accommodations of their native country, and go over a terrible ocean, into a more terrible desert, for the pure enjoyment of all his ordinances." (Ecclesiastical History of New England, 1620-1698, Vol. 1, p. 71). The Puritans would embark on a journey of faith more tumultuous than the navigation of the Atlantic under the inclination and direction of the sovereign God.
"Who would true valor see,
Upon landing in Plymouth, the Pilgrims formed a compact that set forth their overriding intent and reason for the establishment of the colony. "It must not be imagined that the piety of the Puritans was merely speculative, or that it took no cognizance of worldly affairs. Puritanism,...was almost as much a political theory as a religious doctrine. No sooner had the immigrants landed on the barren coast...than it was their first care to constitute a society..." (Democracy in America, Vol. 1, p. 36). In the form of an "Old Testament covenant" the Puritans acknowledged all rights were from God and service to Him their highest calling. "In the Name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland; having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honor of our King and Country a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, due by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience..." (The Mayflower Compact, 1620). The Pilgrims conjoined religion and state into a working contract that would influence all the subsequent colonies. "On November 21st, the colony's leaders assembled in the main cabin and drew up a social compact, designed to secure unity and provide for future government. In effect, it created a civil body politic to provide "just and equal laws," founded upon church teaching, the religious and secular governance of the colony to be, in effect, indistinguishable. This contract was based upon the original Biblical covenant between God and the Israelites." (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 29). The Mayflower Compact was the earliest constitution on the soil of America. The influence of the first Puritans would permeate the development in America of a national constitution that would secure the rights of the individual. "...besides this republican condition of society, the early settlers bequeathed to their descendents the customs, manners, and opinions that contribute most to the success of a republic. When I reflect upon the consequences of this primary fact, I think I see the destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on those shores, just as the whole human race was represented by the first man." (Democracy in America, Vol. 1, p. 301).
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 13, 2009
"It must never be forgotten that religion gave birth to Anglo-American society."
"...it was Calvin who provided a way of organizing churches that opened paths to the modern Western world of democracy, federalism and representative government."
The theology of the Reformation through John Calvin was the matrix from which democracy and the principles of a national constitution would proceed. The philosophic and theologic influence of the Reformation not only established churches but created nations from the central teaching of God's sovereign will and call. No individual would hold allegiance to any foreign despot that restrained the worship of God, for God alone was the Ruler of heaven and earth. The matrix of constitutional principles came from an understanding of God's sovereign nature. The individual has dignity and worth not deriving from civil law, but solely from God's hands, as made in His image and likeness. "...Calvinism has captured and guaranteed to us our constitutional civil rights; and that simultaneously with this there went out from Western Europe that mighty movement which promoted the revival of science and art, open new avenues to commerce and trade, beautify domestic and social life, exalted the middle classes to positions of honor, cause philanthropy to abound, and more than all this, elevated, purified, and ennobled moral life by Puritan seriousness..." The Reformation, "Created a church order, which became the preformation of state confederation, it proved to be the guardian angel of science; it emancipated art; it propagated a political scheme, which gave birth to constitutional government, both in Europe and America." (Abraham Kuyper, Stone Foundation Lectures, p. 29, 155).
The teaching that above the law of man was the law of God and that no man was to be enslaved to the legal fiat of an earthly monarch resonated in Puritan Theology. Man was made in God's image and was bequeathed with inalienable rights. Individual dignity and worth came from a sovereign God and could not be taken away by any earthly power. "The Protestantism of the Thirteen Colonies was laying the foundation for the democracy which found expression in the American Revolution and the United States. For example, in New England, the clergy were preaching the rights which came from nature and nature's God, the theory that all men are born free, the duty of resistance to encroachments on those rights, and the popular element in government. While many of the clergy looked askance at pure democracy, the radical Protestantism [Puritans] which predominated in the churches in the Thirteen Colonies, seeking as it was to carry through the distinctive principles of the Reformation, salvation by the faith of the individual, and the priesthood of all believers, underlay and permeated the democracy which characterized the United States." (A History of Christianity, Vol. 2, p. 963). The Puritans were equipped with an understanding of civil government and fortified by a theology that ennobled the individual. They went forth from England to worship God in freedom and to secure that liberty by the recognition of the ultimate authority of God. "Liberty regards religion as its companion in all its battles and triumphs, as the cradle of its infancy and the divine source of its claims. It considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom." (Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 1, p. 46).
"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the governance of any other." —John Adams
The signers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that religion was essential to the governing of a free people. The acknowledgement of a transcendent God would restrain the power of human government and empower the populace. Everyone was under the law of God, no one was above the law. Religion was the heartbeat of the nation that animated the republic. The expressed faith of the early founders exude a mature and expansive understanding of God that miniaturizes what is the usual fare from pulpits on any given Sunday in America. Listen to the voices of our heritage, men who knew that their faith and sacrifice was ordained by God and under His sovereign providence. "I...recommend my Soul to that Almighty Being who gave it, and my body I commit to the dust, relying upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins. (Samual Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, from the will of Samual Adams). "On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to his precepts." (Charles Carroll, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, from letter to Charles W. Wharton, Sept. 27, 1825). "Sensible of my mortality, but being of sound mind, after recommending my soul to Almighty God through the merits of my Redeemer and my body to the earth;..." (William Cushing, Supreme Court Justice, appointed by George Washington, from will of William Cushing). "Rendering thanks to my Creator for my existence and station among His works, for my birth in a country enlightened by the Gospel and enjoying freedom, and for all His other kindnesses, to Him I resign myself, humbly confiding in His goodness and in His mercy through Jesus Christ for the events of eternity. " (John Dickinson, signer of the Constitution, from will of John Dickinson). "I John Hancock...being advanced in years and being of perfect mind and memory thanks be given to God therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die [Heb. 9:27], due make and ordain this my last will and testament...principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth...nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God..." (John Hancock, signer of the Declaration of Independence, from the will of John Hancock). "This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed." (Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, from will of Patrick Henry). "Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son. His protection has accompanied me through many eventful years, fatefully employed in the service of my country; his providence has not only conducted me to this tranquil situation but also given me abundant reason to be contented and thankful. Blessed be His holy name!" (John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court, from will of John Jay). "I commend my soul to the infinite mercies of God in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, who died and rose again that He might be the Lord of the dead and of the living...professing to believe and hope in the joyful Scripture doctrine of a resurrection to eternal life..." (John Langdon, signer of the Constitution, from will of John Langdon). "I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of gospel light where the glorious tidings of the Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears." (Robert Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence, from the papers of Robert Treat Paine, Vol. 1, p. 48). "To the eternal, immutable, and only true God be all honor and glory, now and forever, Amen!" (Charles Coatsworth Pinckney, signer of the Constitution, from will of Charles Pinckney). "My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing by His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusivel upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come see quickly!" (Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence. (Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, George Corner, editor, p. 166). "I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12]...if you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish." (John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Works of John Witherspoon, Vol. 5, p. 276-278). "It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by ourselves..." (George Washington's Inaugural Address). The early founders were animated with the desire to please God. They saw no conflict between faith in the Living God and executing his will in the affairs of the political life of the new nation. They recognized God's blessing on the nation and praised Him for his copious grace. "The Pilgrim Fathers had come to America precisely because England had become immoral and irreligious. They had built the 'City on the Hill.' Again, their descendents had opted for independence and liberty because they felt their subjugation itself was immoral, irreligious and opposed to the Providential plan. There is no question that the Declaration of Independence was, to those who signed it, a religious as well as a secular act and that the Revolutionary War had the approbation of Divine providence. They had won it with God's blessing and, afterwards, they drew up their framework of government with God's blessing,..." (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 204).
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 14, 2009
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long-established shall not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patience suffrage of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States." "...with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." —Declaration of Independence
The colonial founders and many pastors were deliberate in their progress toward a break with England in an act of rebellion toward complete independence. Thomas Jefferson set forth in the Declaration of Independence a litany of grievances against King George III that embodied a reasoned and studied logic toward independence. The colonies were being ruled by an aloof potentate, whose directives were characterized as despotic and tyrannical by the early framers and churchmen. The pastor, Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1760), in 1750, set forth in a sermon the right of the people to revolt and replace an oppressive regime. "If we calmly consider the nature of the thing itself, nothing can well be imagined more directly contrary to common sense than to suppose that millions of people should be subjected to the arbitrary, precarious pleasure of one single man (who has naturally no superiority over them in point of authority) so that everything that is valuable in life, even their lives also, shall be absolutely at his disposal, if he happens to be wanton and capricious enough to demand them. What unprejudiced man can think that God made all to be thus subservient to the lawless pleasure and frenzy of one, so that it shall always be a sin to resist him..." (Perry Miller, Editor, The American Puritans, p. 125-126). In 1776, the most dominate thinker of the age, Edmund Burke, exposed the evil intent of the Crown and the righteous cause of the colonists. Burke told Parliament that the King was abusing his power in America by a "succession of acts of tyranny." It was "governing by an army." The British were shutting the ports, abolishing the antecedent state constitutions, and burning towns and churches. Burke said, "You (Parliament and King) drove them into the declaration of independency." The abuse of power, Burke said, "was more than what ought to be endured." When King George ordered church services and a public fast in support of the war against the colonies, Burke stunned the House of Commons by stating, "Till our churches are purified from this abdominable service, I shall consider them, not as the Temple of the Almighty, but the Synagogue of Satan." (Conor O'Brien, A Thematic Biography of Edmund Burke, p. 161-162). Edmund Burke's view was in concert with the Declaration of Independence and the interpretation of Romans 13:1-5 by many colonial pastors. Power had been so abused that America was justified in seeking independence from Britain by revolution.
The civil war era theologian Robert Dabney fillets the teaching of a vestigial remnant of those called "Legitimatists." They erroneously taught that the Bible teaches a monarchial succession that must be obeyed without dissent. The Legitimatists valued the prevailing power as having the intrinsic right to rule, irrespective of the oppressive nature of the government that refuses to obey God's law. They dismissed the value of the people to choose their own officials. The principle of "consent of the governed" was rejected by the Legitimatists. They asserted that the Bible teaches "...that the power the civil magistrate holds, is in no sense delegated from the people, but wholly from God; that the people have no option to select or change their form of government, any more than a child has to choose its parent, or a soul the diety it will worship; that no matter how oppressive or unjust the government may be, the citizen has no duty or right but passive submission, and that the divinely selected form is heritary monarchy..." (Robert Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 864-865). Robert Dabney exposes the ahistorical teaaching and the flawed understanding of Romans 13:1-5, "The New Testament does not limit its teaching to the religious obligation to obey kings, but says generally! 'The Powers that be are ordained of God:' thus giving the religious source, equally to the authority of kings and constables, and giving it to any form of government which providentially existed de facto. The thing then, which God ordains, is not a particular form of government, but that men shall maintain some form of government. Last, it is peculiarly fatal to the Legitimatists' theory that the actual government of Rome, which the New Testament enjoined Christians to obey, was not a legitimate nor a heritary monarchy, but one very lately formed in the usurpation of Octavius Caesar and not in a single instance transmitted by dissent, so far as Paul's day. "The original source of the power, the authority and the obligation to obey it, is God. The human source is not an irresponsible Ruler, but the body of the ruled themselves, that is, the sovereignty so far as it is human, resides in the people and is held by the rulers, by delegation from them. It is, indeed, the ordinance of the Supreme God, that such delegation should be made, and the power so delegated be obeyed, by each individual; but still the power, so far as it is human, is the people's power, and not the ruler's. '...the government is for the governed, not for the special benefit of the governors. The object of the institution, which God had in view, was the good of the community. The people are not for the rulers, but the rulers for the people. This is expressly stated by Paul in Romans 13:3-4. Having thus cleared the Scriptural theory from the odious perversions of the advocates of legitimacy." (Robert Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 864-865). There are some evangelicals, MacArthur and his sycophants, who view the American Revolution as illegitimate. Their perspective values the authority of colonial England as the God-honored government of the land. They reject the Reformation foundation of the American Constitution and diminish the value of our democratic state, as decreed by God for the ennobling of man and the propagation of the Gospel. This ahistorical view rejects our religious heritage and fosters a myopic mindset that perceives no interrelation between the church and state. Such a view of our history is quite simply troglodytic. The ordained power set forth by Paul in Romans 13:1-5, refers to the state, not an ordained form of government. Paul is referring to a "generic state." The Emperor Nero was on the throne when Romans 13 was written. He was a madman and a despot in every sense of the word. Nero was not in an orderly transfer of power, but he was a usurper of power, a violent renegade. Paul is referring to the structure of government that is ordained by God. "The several forms of government are of human will and pleasure; but government itself is an order of God. There may be men in power who assume it of themselves, and are of themselves, and not of God: and others that abuse the power that is lodged in them; who, though they are by divine permission, yet not of God's approbation and good will. And it is observable, that the Apostle speaks of powers, and not persons, at least, not of persons, but under the name of powers to show that he means not this, or the other particular prince or magistrate, but the thing itself, the office and dignity of magistracy itself; for there may be some persons, who may of themselves usurp this office, or exercise it in a very illegal way, who are not of God, nor to be subject to by men." (John Gill, Notes on Romans 13:1). When the colonies rebelled they had antecedent state constitutions that protected the right of the individual. A revolutionary principle was already in place predating the Declaration of Independence, government would exist by the "consent of the governed." The early church could not have imagined the principle of "inalienable rights" and "consent of the governed" under the tyranny of autocratic emperor rule. The majority of Christians living in the Roman Empire were unprotected by law.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 15, 2009
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." —First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified on December 15, 1791
There are those in the secular camp that immediately raise a complaint when there is the faintest protest from the religious sphere regarding government or state policy. They believe that religion should be sequestered into a circumscribed domain, not to function outside that purview. Many in the church have unquestioningly believed that the political realm is sacrosanct, that it is not to be influenced by religious values or confronted in debate. Both positions are fallacious. They are a distorted picture of our Bill of Rights. According to James Madison, the architect of the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments of the Constitution), a Hebrew scholar and a champion of religious freedom, the goverment was to be restrained from any intrusion into the full freedom of religious expression. The Bill of Rights put a permanent restraint upon the power of government. It recognized the "inalienable rights" of the individual, rights that did not originate from government and subsequently could not be legally abridged. The federal government was not to support or promote any particular denomination or group, but remain neutral from influencing the religious sphere. The religious community was to be protected from the power of the state. The dominance of the government over the church in England was not to be replicated on the soil of America. The church was separated from the state in order to protect the right of each individual to worship freely, without fear of persecution. Madison had said, "Religion flourishes in greater purity without than with the aid of government." A wall of separation was to restrain government from establishing a national church or interfering into the doctrines, preaching and worship of the church. Such intrusion would overstep the bounds of government authority without the sanction of law. "Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, 'that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.' The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men." (James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, October 1785). In the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the church is protected from the intrusive power of a rapacious state to influence and dictate religious matters. It was an anti-establishment clause that forbids the government from establishing a state religion or manner of worship. "It is against this background that we should place the opening sentence of the First Amendment, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' This guarantee has been widely, almost wilfully, misunderstood in recent years, and interpreted as meaning that the federal government is forbidden by the Constitution to countenance or subsidize even indirectly the practice of religion. That would have astonished and angered the Founding Fathers. What the guarantee means is that Congress may not set up a state religion on the lines of the Church of England, 'As by law established.' It was an anti-establishment clause. The second half of the guarantee means that Congress may not interfere with the practice of any religion,..." (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 209). Government is not to be unresponsive to the influence of religion. The separation was from government intervention not a restriction on the religious community. The church has the freedom to influence by word, deed and vote the direction of the nation. In fact, without the influence of religion, democracy will ultimately devolve into a power-hungry entity that acknowledges only the rights it bestows. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness-these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens." "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience, both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." (George Washington's Farewell Address). George Washington understood that a vibrant religious faith infuses a democracy with life and stability. When the faith of a nation wanes the health of a society declines.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 16, 2009
"Neutrality is an illusion. At the end of his days man always emerges either as a priest or as a pirate." —Abraham Heschel
The idea of neutrality is a myth. Indifference is the enemy of truth and the ally of evil. Allowing a blind and benumbed culture to rush along a path to complete ruin without warning is the result of cold indifference not compassion. In his discussion of Martin Luther, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "No, Luther had to leave the cloister and go back to the world, not because the world in itelf was good and holy, but because the cloister was only a part of the world...the only way to follow Jesus was to live in the world." (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 38). In a 1933 national radio address, the 27-year-old Bonhoeffer warned the German people of the evil of idolatry, "Should the leader allow himself to succumb to the wishes of those he leads, who will always seek to turn him into an idol, then the image of the leader will gradually become the image of the misleader. This is the leader who makes an idol of himself and his office and who thus mocks God." (Radio speech: The Younger Generations Changed View of the Concept of Fuhrer, 1933). Bonhoeffer perceived at an inchoate stage the insidious sin that the nation was committing in attributing attributes to a mortal that were innate to God. In 1943, when Bonhoeffer was in America teaching, he received the news that the churches were under increasing pressure to conform to the Reich Church. Without hesitation, he made reservations to return to his home and shepherd his flock. He knew what trouble would await him, but he returned "to the world." He returned to Germany and spoke out against the regime and joined the resistance to assassinate Hitler in July 1944. He was convinced that the greater evil was to do nothing. Lives had to be saved from the tyranny of a madman. The resistance to Nazi Totalitarianism by the Confessional Church represented by Bonhoeffer and Von Stouffenberg so impressed a young scientist that he would write, "Only the churches stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistance to stand for truth and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly." (Albert Einstein, quoted from the Political Christ, Allen Richardson, p. 102)
"A people which no longer remembers has lost its history and its soul." —Alexander Solzhenitsyn
During the Nazi era, Christians in Germany faced the daily pronouncements of a devilish dictator and his demands for conformity. The Reich Church, which conformed to the government policies, was in the majority. Only a minority of churches, the Confessional Church, spoke out against the anti-semitic laws, euthanasia and the glorification of the state. A few pastors continued to preach against such atrocities. One pastor, Martin Niemoeller, was put in prison for resisting the edicts of the state. One afternoon, he was visited by a fellow minister who condemned him for his political protests. He urged him to remain silent and respect the government and then he could be set free. He then said to Niemoeller, "And so, why are you in jail?" Niemoeller replied, "Why aren't you in jail?" (Donald Grey Barnhouse, The Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 9, p. 106-107). Silence was abetting the murderous regime. Modern evangelicals standing on the railway platforms with cattle cars filled with Jewish men, women and children to be sent to Dachau, Treblinka and Auschwitz, would give out tracts announcing upcoming services. The overriding call to save lives would be sublimated under a religious act that would carry an aura of spirituality. This is what, in essence, the Reich Church did, the majority of Christians in Germany did nothing. Complacency, passivity and in many cases allegiance, fueled the monstrosity of the tyrant. "...having the support of Hitler was the Faith Movement of German Christians. It confined its membership to those of Aryan descent, cut off all Masonic connections, denounced communism, stressed what it declared to be the spirit of Germany and Luther, and sought by a nation-wide organization, to make of the Church a united body to parallel national socialism. For a time, it seem successful and effected a centralized nation-wide organization embracing both Lutheran and Reformed which had as its head an ardent supporter of Hitler." (Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vo. 2, p. 1375). Love without truth and truth without sacrifice is a perversion of the Gospel. The Christians in Germany failed as a body to serve God in resisting a state that murdered over six million Jews. This blight will never be forgotten. As the German church compromised its faith, the church in America embraced an "America First" mentality. The majority of Christians were pacifists and isolationists. Even after the attack at Pearl Harbor, the mood was detachment from involvement in a conflict on another continent. The American church was unprepared for the dire consequences of a genocidal program that was utilizing the Scriptures for devilish ends.
Abraham Kuyper once said that there are times in a nation's life when the heart of the Church beats very faintly. We are in such a time. After decades of redefining God (Ps. 50:21), the Church is experiencing His chastening hand. The exaltation of man and the miniaturization of God has provoked God's smarting rod (Ps. 51:16-17, 94:12, 118:18). God's intent is to educate us afresh in the glories of His manifold nature. When the Church is weak the nation reflects the anemia of spirit. As the foci of faith is removed from God, the object of trust becomes the state and the word of man. The government becomes the 'god' of the nation in contradistinction to the Living God of Scripture. "Civil government similiarly assumes divine prerogatives when it arrogates to itself illegitimate authority and power." (Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, Vol. 6, p. 438). The promise of solutions to all aspects of life, originating from Washington, leave the church as an afterthought in the nation. "Throughout the ages, Caesar has generally got the lion's share and God has taken the leftovers. We often laugh about government and make jokes-I have repeated some of them today. But then we quietly let the primary questions of culture be answered by the government: questions of right and wrong; questions of life and death. The moral imperative of God is often surrendered with the limp words, 'Here Caesar, this is your business.'" (Halford E. Luccock, Exposition of the Gospel According to St. Mark, p. 841). When Caesar's business is all of life, the Church has little to commend itself to the world.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 17, 2009
"Evangelism is not enough. What is needed is a total world and life view, in which the fundamental principles of Biblical Christianity are applied to every area of human life and thought." —James Boice, The Doctrines of Grace, p. 212
The church is losing its spiritual and moral ground to the kingdoms of this world. Yet in their conceited illusion the evangelical anchorites justify such societal degradation as a sign that the end of the age is imminent. This is the ultimate escape from responsibility to our children and their children's generation. "Religious living is not only a private concern. Our own life is a movement in the symphony of ages. We are taught to pray as well as to live in the first person plural." "All generations are present as it were, in every moment." (Abraham Heschel, A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 422-423). The Christian cannot shut himself up in his church and abandon the world to its fate. A concatenation of generations have falsely assumed that the consummation of the age was within their lifetime. "...Occupy [Gk. "pragmateuomai", daily affairs of life, commerce, judicial functions] till I come." (Luke 19:13). "Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord doeth come." (Matt. 24:42). Jesus commands constant vigilance regarding the believer's interaction with society. "Too many of us evangelicals either have been, or maybe still are, irresponsible escapists." "As for social activity, we have tended to say it is largely a waste of time in view of the imminent return of the Lord. After all, when the house is on fire, what is the point of hanging new curtains or rearranging the furniture? The only thing that matters is to rescue the perishing. Thus we have tried to salve our conscience with a bogus theology." (John Stott, Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today, p. 14).
"...humanity glorifies God by subduing the earth by words and by work. Tragically, the pious abandon culture to the non-pious. They foolishly argue: 'Why polish brass on a sinking ship?' One polishes brass to glorify the ship's Maker, who will not allow His ship to sink. In other words, the 'purpose-driven life' aims among others things to produce a godly culture." (Bruce Waltke, Old Testament Theology, p. 221).
"God is not like a ship-owner who does not own the cargo. But the universe and the fullness thereof are His." (Midrash Tehillim, 24, 2). In spite of the carnage that man's rebellion has wreaked upon this world, God alone holds the title deed, the Divine imprimatur of nontransferable possession. Yes, the ship of state is listing, but we are called to be a restraint and empowerment toward a God-honoring government and culture. We are at a crisis in American history and only the Sovereign God can restrain a movement that is dishonoring to Him at its very core. Though millions have cried out for a leader after their own heart, as Israel of old, the consequences of God giving Israel an alter-ego, Saul, for a leader was grievous. "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness unto their soul." (Psalms 106:15). We must pray and seek God to take us out of the small confinement that we are in. We must see Him as the Sovereign Lord of heaven and the nations of the earth. Only God bearing His holy arm can restrain the arrogance and the supercilious movement that is capturing the imagination and seducing millions of Americans. The change in the fabric of the nation is immense. We are experiencing a declining church and culture via political, legal, judicial and spiritual compromise. Only God can stop this declension. "All indications are that the Church-including the Reformed churches-will continue to decline in its integrity and influence. While this trend is discouraging in itself, the coming darkness may give the Church an unpredented opportunity to shine with the light of Jesus Christ, who has promised that against his church the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matt. 16:18). This is the promise of the Sovereign God, whose purpose will stand (Isa. 46:10), and who has called us to live for His glory in the church and the culture." (James Montgomery Boice, The Doctrines of Grace, p. 225).
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 18, 2009
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." —Ephesians 6:12
"Therefore, woe be unto our daintiness, who, having suffered a little persecution, do by and by give up the torch to another as if we were now old worn soldiers." —John Calvin, Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, p. 228
The Apostle Paul sees the present age as influenced by demonic powers (Eph. 2:2, 6:12). Fallen man is a captive and is motivated to possess a passing world and forfeit eternity (Matt. 16:26, I Jn. 2:15-17). The governments of this present age are the outward manifestations of an unseen order of demonic power, to exalt man and his transitory plans to the level of transcendence (Gen. 3:15). "Behind the visible structures and institutions of society and culture, evil forces are at work using these invisible powers to enslave..." (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 651). The movement toward "building a kingdom on earth," which President Obama and other world leaders have expressed, come from a malignant source in defiance of God's word. "These forces are called rulers of the world [Eph. 6:12] in order to bring out the terrifying power of their influence and comprehensiveness of their plans..." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3, p. 914). These insidious powers are under God's control and execute his will in ways that defy the sequence of logic (Col. 2:15, Eph. 1:21-22). Paul says that the powers of darkness are encountered in prayer, in an ongoing conflict between them and the believer. The believer, in the power of God's presence and equipped in God's own armor (Isa. 59:16-17), can withstand and triumph through intercessory prayer (Eph. 6:17-18). "The Christians new wardrobe includes a war suit! The cosmic purpose of God embroils the believers with the spiritual hierarchy of the unseen world organized under the power of Satan." (George E. Harpur, The International Bible Commentary, p. 1438). God's will is accomplished through the weakness of our flesh. This is far more expansive than praying for the spirituality of a local pastor or for church growth. This is combat in the spiritual realms. Tragically, few understand the battleground. Prayer renounces all of our natural capacity, the will and limited power of our flesh, and consigns our dependent self into the hands of the powerful Lord of heaven and earth. In prayer we are stripped of natural reliance and then, and not until then, fortified for the fight in His armor and strength. It is a battle waged for His Glory. In intercessory prayer the powers over the world systems are restrained and enlightenment from the Word reveals the glory of God. All of this is orchestrated by the Victor of all heaven and earth. "Whoever reads the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) upon his bed is as though he holds a two-edge sword in his hand (to ward off evil spirits); as it is said, 'Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edge sword in their hand.' (Ps. 149:6)" (Ber. 5a). "And the children of Israel feared and cried unto the Lord (Ex. 14:10) when they saw Pharaoh approach. They betook themselves to their ancestors weapons [prayer]." "For prayer, the weapon of the mouth is mighty. Why is Israel called 'the worm, Jacob' (Isa. 41:14)? The worm's only weapon is her mouth but with it she fells mighty cedars." (Tanh., Beshallah, Sect. 9, folio 111a). "Sovereign of all worlds! Not because of our righteous acts do we lay our supplications before thee, but because of thine abundant mercies. What are we? What is our life? What is our piety? What our righteousness? What our helpfulness? What our strength? What our might? What shall we say before thee, O Lord our God and God of our fathers? Are not all the mighty men as not before thee, the men of renown as if they had not been?..." (The Jewish Prayer Book, p. 7).
If every demon in America went on a holiday most of the church world would not notice the absence. Several years ago in one of the largest churches in California, located in Sun Valley, the pastor expressed to the church that for several years there were only the same four people attending the prayer service each week. In a church, at the time of approximately 15,000 members, this admission of weakness was rather shocking. Unfortunately, this condition is not rare but characterizes the current spiritual climate in America. This is weakness and retreat, not combat. To those who respond in a hackneyed fashion to the passivity and indifference of the church with the mantra, "I am concerned about spiritual matters, not earthly. My job is to evangelize the lost." They invariably have no interest in the spiritual realm either. They are not confronting the realm of darkness with concerted prayer. During World War II, there were many military men and women in Pensacola, Florida, that performed clerical work. At the same time thousands of GIs were storming the beaches of Normandy. The majority of Christians are content with clerical work while only a few fight in the heavenly realm, asserting the victory of Christ. The church is in full retreat from the conflict of the age. "When the whole of Scripture compares this present life to a stern warfare and teaches that it is filled with many different struggles, they [anemic Christians] nod their assent that it is all true and correct. Therefore, the name 'Church Militant' is so commonplace and trite that it echoes even on the lips of children but when it comes to the point of decision, they seem to have forgotten all those things and run away from the image of Christ as though it were some strange monster." "...as long as it is a sojourner in the world it [the church] is to wage war under the perpetual cross." (John Calvin, Concerning Scandals, p. 29, 30). As the church removes itself from confronting the declining culture, it is indicative that the confrontation with the spiritual realm has been forfeited.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 19, 2009
The need to pray currently for our nation is incumbent upon all of God's people. A united confluence to seek the will of God is the only restraint to the encroaching darkness over the land. There are thousands of believers across America that are grieved and are being awakened by God for the future of this nation. Only dependence on the Sovereign God can redirect the present course that embraces progressively an autocratic view of life. At signal moments in our past, God has drawn his people in concerted prayer. "Wherefore, although it is true that while we are listless or insensible to our wretchedness, he waits and watches for us, and sometimes even assists us unasked; it is very much for our interests to be constantly supplicating Him; first, that our heart always be enflamed with a serious and ardent desire of seeking, loving, and serving Him, while we accustom ourselves to have recourse to Him as a sacred anchor. In every necessity; secondly, that no desire, no longing whatever, of which we are ashamed to make Him the witness, may enter our minds, while we learn to place all our wishes in His sight, and thus pour out our heart before Him." "It is very absurd, therefore, to dissuade men from prayer, by pretending that the Divine Providence, which is always watching over the government of the universe, is in vain importune by our supplications, when, on the contrary, the Lord Himself declares, 'He is nigh unto all that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth.' (Ps. 145:18)." (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Ch. 20, Sect. 3). God is the Sovereign Lord of all the nations and He has ordained that His will be accomplished in a unique way through the weakness of our intercession.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 20, 2009
His glorious abode is in the heavens above,
In the prayer literature of Judaism, the Sovereignty of God is the focal point of praise and petition. The nature of Jewish prayer is centripetal, centering around the truth that God controls and guides the universe, from the ordaining of the celestial spheres to the most intimate details of a man's life. Psalms 16:8, describes the proper attitude of prayer, "I have set the Lord always before me." As man contemplates the world, Israel, his daily life, and family, he recognizes that God is the Master and he a servant of the Most High. Man's thoughts are to focus centrally upon the Lord as the "Center of the world." "When thou prayest always remember before whom thou standest," is the ancient admonition. (Ber. 28b.) One was to meditate on the Glory, Power, Majesty, Love, Mercy, and Holiness of God before formal worship commenced. Otherwise prayer would degenerate into an empty, hypocritical, self-seeking exercise completely devoid of truth. The use of God's Name as a Divine Imprimatur put upon one's concealed lusts (Ps. 78:36-37, Ezek. 33:31, James 4:3) fallaciously passing as prayer, is unmasked by the searing condemnation of God, "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote..." (Isa. 29:13, Matt. 15:7-9) Prayer required "Kavvanah" (i.e., "directed intention", "concentration", a conscious awareness of Whom we address in prayer). "Kavvanah means that a man should empty his mind of all other thoughts and regard himself as if he were standing before the Divine Presence." (Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204, called the second Moses of Judaism, the philosopher/theologian par excéllence of Judaism, Yad, Tefillah, 4:16) "One may stand to pray only in a solemn frame of mind. The early pious ones used to tarry one hour [before they would pray], so that they could direct their hearts to the Omnipresent." (Mishnah, Ber. 5.1) When R. Elizer was asked by his disciples to teach them the ways of life that they might learn them and by following attain the life of the world to come, part of his reply was: "When you pray, know before Whom you stand." (Ber. 28b) "The Rabbis have taught: 'He who prays must concentrate his heart upon heaven.' Abba Saul said: 'We find a suggestion of this in the Psalm (10:17): 'Thou wilt direct their heart, Thou wilt cause thine ear to attend.'" (Ber. 31)
"Prayer to be efficacious must be predicated on true conceptions of God
The Yarmulka (i.e., skullcap) is worn during prayer and study of the Torah. A folk etymology of the word gives it as an abbreviation of "yare Mulka" (i.e., one who fears the King). "Reverence before the Almighty to whom we address our petition is essential." (David De Sola Pool, from The Traditional Prayer Book, pg. 17.) "The great men among the Sages would not uncover their heads because they believed that God's Glory was round them and over them;..." (Moses Maimonides, The Guide to the Perplexed, Part 3, Chapter 52.) "And know before whom you are standing, before the King of kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He. He tests the heart and searches out one's thoughts and knows the hidden things. So plead before Him for your soul which sins, and for your heart which strays." (Commentary of Joseph ben Judah Iben Aknin on the Aboth, 1160-1226 C.E.) When the Jew approaches God in prayer he comes before the Ruler of the universe, the King of the world. As petitioners they see themselves as suppliants addressing the King of the universe. Elie Weisel relates a childhood incident that underscores the holy nature of prayer, as an audience with the August King of the Ages. In the month of Elul (corresponding to the month of September) while preparing for the High Holy days, news of the German army's advance reached his town of Sighet in Hungary, "In a corner of the synagogue, my father and his friends, draped in prayer shawls and wearing phylacteries [box-like religious objects], talked about the latest news. There excited voices rose, and the elders hissed at them to be quiet. 'Ssh!', they said, 'We're praying here!' To this day, I can still hear that 'Ssh', and I know so well what it meant: what an idea to chatter and fret when Jews are addressing the King of the Universe. What an idea for peoples and their armies to slaughter one another over a few scraps of land or a few slogans while God is listening to His faithful." (Elie Weisel, professor of Humanities, Boston University, All Rivers Run to the Sea, excerpt in Parade magazine, Aug. 27, 1995) There is nothing (whether a Hitler, Hussein, terrorism, calamity, famine) that will ever supercede the preeminent importance of addressing the King of the Ages. "For we kneel and bow low before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, acknowledging that He has stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. His glorious abode is in the heavens above, the domain of His might in exalted heights. He is our God, there is no other, in truth our King, there is none else." (Aleinu, from The Traditional Prayer Book, David De Sola Pool, pg. 26.) And Oh, the depth of mercy of the Lord who hears the prayers of the faithful not as an aloof potentate but as One who is immanent within their lives. God humbles himself to speak personally to each petitioner in the most intimate manner. The Rabbis declared, "See how exalted the Most High is above the world! And yet let a man enter God's House and but whisper a prayer, and the Almighty hearkens, even as a friend into whose ear one pours his secret." (Y. Ber. 9.1)
"Prayer...is an experience which completely overwhelms an individual with the divine presence. The encounter is not subject to the ordinary dictates of reason, and therefore, it is impossible for naturalistic law to illuminate it." (Rabbi Howard R. Greenstein, Judaism: An Eternal Covenant, p. 68)
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 21, 2009
It was ordained that the observant Jews' first prayer on waking up each morning should be: "O my God, the soul which thou hast given me is pure. Thou didst create it within me, and thou wilt take it from me, but wilt restore it unto me hereafter. So long as the soul is within me, I will give thanks Prayer is existential theology in the truest sense. In prayer, the eternal God speaks to His handiwork thus freeing man from a prison of interminable silence and in that communication changes the petitioner. The Divine presence bridges the gulf between Creator and creature, and there transpires an I-Thou inter-communion with the God of eternity. Prayer "is an expression of man's quest for the Divine and his longing to unburden his soul before God (Ps. 42: 2-3, 62:9). "Prayer's source is the same; in its irresistible outpouring, the human heart merges all categories in an indivisible 'I-Thou' relationship." (Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 13, p. 978) The quintessential nature of prayer is to know God. Even the desire to pray comes from a Divine provocation, whether engendered by circumstances, tragedy, loss, self-exhaustion, adoration, to awaken our souls to an understanding that from His hands we have come and will return. "The issue of prayer is not prayer; the issue of prayer is God." (A. J. Heschel, Man's Quest for God, p. 87) The pedagogic nature of prayer is instructive of the eternal nature of the One whose presence we are invited to commune with. "...the idea of prayer is the foundation of the whole Torah. This means that man knows God, recognizing His greatness and His splendor with a serene and whole mind, and an understanding heart. Man should reflect on these ideas until his rational soul is awakened to love God, to cleave to Him and to His Torah, and to desire His commandments." (R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady, founder of the Habad sect in Hasidism, quoted from Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 13, p. 983) For in lieu of a formal theology, prayer became the "Theology of Israel." "Judaism needed no theology in a narrow sense, no 'Science of God', no philosophy; prayer took their place. He who prayed knew to whom he prayed, His glory, His power, His majesty, and His love. God simply was. He was there, He was near. Formal prayer was the system of Jewish philosophy, simplified, made accessible to everyone." (Leo Trepp, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Santa Rosa Community College, A History of the Jewish Experience, pg. 110-111) Thus prayer embodied the ever-living relational knowledge of the One True God. R. Simeon says, "Be meticulous in the recitation of the shema (Deut. 6:4, 5) and the Prayer. And when you pray, don't treat your praying as a matter of routine. But let it be a plea for mercy and supplication before the Omnipresent, blessed be He. As it is said, 'For he is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and full of mercy, and repents of the evil (Joel 2:13).'" (Aboth 2:13, from The Mishnah, A New Translation, pg. 677, Jacob Nuesner.)
"Lord our God, hear our voice, have compassion and pity on us. Accept our supplication with loving favor, for Thou art God who harkens to plea and prayer. Send us not from Thy presence without response, O our King, for Thou hearest the prayer of Thy people Israel in compassion. Blessed art Thou, Lord who hearkens to prayer." (Prayer from the Shemoneh Esreh, The Traditional Prayer Book, p. 16)
Pressed down under the heel of tyranny, persecuted as a hunted animal, with martyrdom as a legacy to faith, the Jew, though faced with the perplexity of oppression could pray. When human language failed, when even a monosyllabic cry was curtailed by incalculable suffering, the language of the heart reached God. And God was not silent! "This is how Rabbi Uri expounded the words of the prayer: 'May He who knows that which is hidden accept our call for help and listen to our cry.' We know very well how we ought to pray; and still we cry for help in the need of the moment. The soul wishes us to cry out in spiritual need, but we are not able to express what the soul means. And so we pray that God may accept our call for help, but also that He, who knows that which is hidden, may hear the silent cry of the soul." (Rabbi Uri of Strelisk, 1826 C.E., quoted from Tales of the Hasidim, pgs. 195-196, Martin Buber, ed.)
All prayer has as its central focus the Divine Kingship of God. As all the planets in our solar system revolve around a central foci, so all praise, intercession, and petition center upon the central Source of Life, the Great Sovereign, I Chron. 29:11-14, Matt. 6:8-13. "A benediction which contains no reference to the Divine Kingship is no benediction." (Ber. 40b) The benediction had to be introduced by the formula, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe." (A. Cohen, Everyman's Talmud, pg. 64.) Prayers are addressed to God as "Melek haolam" (Heb. "the King of the Universe") and "Ribbono shel olam" (Heb. "the Universal Lord"). Theocentric prayer presupposes the eternal will of God who has the capacity to intervene in a micro or macro manner within His creation. "Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult (Heb. pala, "incomprehensible, arduous") for Thee..." "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult (Heb. pala) for Me?" (Jer. 32:17, 27) God's transcendent authority was the foundation upon which all prayer was offered. The confidence in which the petitioner could address the Eternal Sovereign is engendered by the knowledge that the object of prayer is the King of the universe, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe." Let us listen across the ages to the Distant Voices of affirmation that pierce through the vicissitudes of Israel's history collectively and individually, declaring the ever-present Sovereignty of the Eternal God. The following extracts come from the Taanaitic and Amoraic periods of Judaism3:
Prayer was not to be interrupted even if a message or command came from an earthly potentate, "[While one is praying], even if the King greets him, he may not respond." (Mishnah, Ber. 5.1) For the worshipper was addressing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Prayer was to continue even in the face of eminent danger. "And even if a serpent is entwined around his heel, he may not interrupt [his prayer]." (Mishnah, Ber. 5.1) unto Thee, O Lord my God and God of my fathers, Sovereign of all worlds, Lord of all souls. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who restoreth souls unto dead bodies." (Ber. 60b)
"In the morning my prayer comes before Thee." Psalms 88:13. R. Phinehas said, "The angel who is appointed to prayer (i.e., a sort of Heavenly Secretary of State for the Department of Prayer), awaits till the Israelites in the last synagogue have finished their prayers, and then he takes all the prayers, and makes them into a chaplet, and places them upon God's head, as it says, 'Blessings are upon the head of the just, that is upon Him who is the life of the Worlds, who lives forever.'" (Proverbs 10:16) From the Midrash, Psalms on 88, 4 [190b, section 2]. "Sovereign of all Worlds! Not because of our righteous acts do we lay our supplications before Thee, but because of Thine abundant mercies." (Ancient morning prayer, Traditional Prayer Book, by Singer, pg. 7.)
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 22, 2009
The Rabbis ordained that "on beholding shooting stars, earthquakes, thunders, storms, and lightnings, the benediction to be uttered is, 'Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Whose strength and might fill the world.'" (Ber. 9.2) A blessing is recited when seeing lightning, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, King of the Universe, Who performs the act of creation." (Lewis Jacobs, Book of Jewish Practice, pg. 137.)
"For we bend the knee and offer worship and thanks before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, who stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, the seat of whose glory is in the heavens above, and the abode of whose might is in the loftiest heights. He is our God; there is none else, in Truth He is our King; there is none besides Him;..." (An ancient prayer from approximately the 4th century, the "Alenu Prayer" in Rabbinic Anthology, pg. 365, by C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe.)
"For the Kingdom is Thine, and to all eternity Thou wilt reign in glory; as it is written in Thy Law, 'The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.' And it is said, 'And the Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall the Lord be One and His Name One.'" (Singer, Traditional Jewish Prayer Book, pg. 76-77)
On hearing good news one must say, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who art good and dispensest good." (Rabbinic Anthology, pg. 377) On hearing evil one says, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, The True Judge." (Rabbinic Anthology, pg. 377)
A blessing in constant use on festivals and all joyful occasions is this: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us in life, and hast preserved us, and hast enabled us to reach this season." (Rabbinic Anthology, pg. 377) "Has he built a new house or bought new clothes he shall pronounce praise; Blessed art Thou God, our Lord, King of the Universe, who hast kept us alive, hast sustained us and hast brought us to this (happy) time." (Mishnah, Ber. 6.1, 3, 6) "Blessed are You, Lord our God, eternal King, who has given us true Torah, and planted eternal life in our midst. Blessed are You, Giver of the Torah." (A blessing after the reading of the Torah, Judaism, pg. 53, by Nicholas de Lange.)
The heavens are portrayed as praising God's Sovereignty over all the Universe, "...when God gave the Torah to Israel, earth gave praise, but the heavens were silent. God said to the heavens, 'You whose place is above, should have given praise to My Glory and to my daughter [the Torah], even more than the earth has done.' They [the heavens] said, 'Sovereign of the Universe, the earth may well give praise since it is to her that the Torah has been given; but we, from whom the Torah goes forth, how can we praise and not be grieved?'" (Pes. R. 95a
"Our God and God of our fathers, reign Thou in Thy Glory over the whole universe and be exalted above all the earth in Thine honour, and shine forth in the splendour and excellence of Thy might upon all the inhabitants of Thy World, that whatsoever has been made may know that Thou hast made it, and whatsoever has been created may understand that Thou hast created it and whatsoever has breath in it's nostrils may say, 'The Lord God of Israel is King, and His dominion rules over all. Sanctify us with Thy Goodness, and gladden us with Thy Salvation: O purify our hearts to serve Thee in truth, for Thou art God in truth, for Thou art God in truth and Thy Word is truth, and endures forever. Blessed art Thou, King over all the earth, who sanctifiest Israel and the Day of Memorial.'" (Ancient prayer found in the liturgy for the New Year, Traditional Prayer Book, pg. 249.)
An ancient blessing that appears in the present-day Jewish Prayer Book, is recited after a sick person has recovered, or someone has returned safely from a dangerous journey, "Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the World, who does good to debtors for He has done good to me." (From Sidur Rinat Israel, pg. 272, quoted from the pamphlet Jewish Background to the Lord's Prayer by Brad Young)
"Thou O Lord art great in all Thy Greatness: Thou art mighty in all strength; Thou revivest the dead by a word; Thou doest great things unfathomable and wonders uncountable." (The Talmudic Anthology, ed. by Louis I. Newman.)
"O Master of the World! Redeem, help, save, and assist Thy nation from pestilence, the sword; from rapine, blight, and drought; from the evil which assails the world. Before we call unto Thee, answer us. Blessed be Thou who canst remove calamity among the peoples." (Ketubot, 8)
"Let not thy prayer be a matter of fixed routine, but heartfelt supplication for mercy at the Divine Footstool." (Mishnah Ber. 5.1) "Address your prayer to the Master of Life and not to His Servants; He will hear you in every trouble," said R. Judah (Y. Ber. 9)
"Blessed be He who spoke, and the world existed; Blessed be He who was the Master of the world in the beginning." (The synagogue hymn recited before readings from the Psalms, Singer's Prayer Book, pg. 17.)
The Night Prayer conjoins God's Transcendence and His immanent Presence over us, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who makest the bonds of sleep to fall upon my eyes, and slumber upon my eyelids." (Ber. 60b) "Lord of the World who hast been ruling for eons ere creation came and all was made by Thine ordaining; as King Thy Name then found a claim. And afterwards when all's complete alone wilt rule in majesty; Thou always wast and Thou art now, and through eternity shalt be. And Thou art One, no second Person compares to thee nor Thine associate be; without beginning, without end, the power Thine and Sovereignty. Thou art my God, living Redeemer; in pain Thou art the strength I need; my banner Thou and my Protection; salvation's cup Thou givest when I plead. Into Thy hand I put my soul when I'm asleep to wake with cheer; and with my soul my body too; Thou God art with me and I shall not fear." (The final prayer on retiring, quoted from A History of the Jewish Experience, pg. 120, by Leo Trepp.)
"Thou art the Sovereign and I the subject. Who should have mercy on the subject if not the Sovereign? Thou art the Mighty and I nothing. Who should have mercy on the nothing if not the Mighty? Thou art the Ruler and I the ruled. Who should have mercy on the ruled if not the Ruler?" (From a Yemenite Prayer Book, in "An Offering of Prayer," ed. by Rabbi Morrison David Bial, pg. 24) The Rabbis declared, "See how exalted the Most High is above the world! And yet let a man enter God's House and but whisper a prayer, and the Almighty hearkens even as a friend into whose ear one pours his secret." (Y. Berakot, 9, 1.)
"True it is that Thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers; our Savior and the Savior of our fathers; our Maker and the Rock of our Salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no god beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to thy name by the seashore; together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, 'Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.'" (The prayer recited by the priests and people at the offering of incense during the evening sacrifice in the temple, quoted from The Temple at the Time of Jesus Christ, pg. 168, by A. Edersheim, 1825-1889, Jewish Old Testament Scholar and Commentator on the Gospels.)
"Therefore place the fear of you, O Lord our God, upon all your works, and the awe of you upon all that you have created. That all your works may revere you and all your creatures prostrate themselves before you, that they may all be made a single company to do your will with a perfect heart. Even as we know, O Lord our God, that dominion is in your presence, power is in your hand, and might is in your right hand, and your name is to be revered above all that you have created." (The Amidah for Rosh Hashana, petition 3, quoted from Faith and Piety in Early Judaism, pg. 156, by George Nickelsburg and Michael Stone.)
"Grant us, O Lord our God, to lie down in peace, and raise us up again. O our King unto life. Spread over us the tent of Thy peace. Direct us aright through Thine own good counsel; help us for Thy Name sake. Be a shield about us. Keep away from us every enemy, pestilence, sword, famine, and sorrow. Protect us from evil desires that may confront us or follow us but shelter us in the shadow of Thy wings. For Thou, O God, art our Protector and Deliverer. Guard our going out and our coming in unto life and peace, from now on and forever more. Blessed art Thou, O God, who guardest Thy people Israel forever." (The Evening Prayer for protection during the night, quoted from A History of the Jewish Experience, pg. 120, by Leo Trepp.)
In II Maccabees 8:12-20, in preparation for battle against Nicanors forces, (i.e., Syrian commander of the Elephant Corps, II Maccabees 14,12), Judas Maccabees assembles his men and prayed, "They rely on their weapons and their audacity but we rely on God Almighty, who is able to overthrow with a nod our present assailants and if need be, the whole world."
"He who lives forever is the creator of the whole universe; right belongs to the Lord alone. Who can steer the world with his little finger, so that all things obey his will..." (Ecclesiasticus 18.1-38) "God overthrows and judges who boast of and trust in, their power status and do not recognize the Sovereignty of God." (The Chumash, pg. 1031, D. Kimchi)
"O Master of the Universe, if per chance it is not yet time that the cattle should be gathered together and redeemed from their exile, I pray Thee, at least, to water the sheep and go and feed them, to let the Jews make a living so that they will have enough to eat and drink until the time is ripe for their deliverance." (A prayer for God's daily sustaining of the nation until the time of Messiah's coming. Rabbi Meyer of Przemyel, 1780-1850, a Hasidic Rabbi, quoted from Wellsprings of Torah, pg. 59)
The appellatives abound in the Apocryphal literature in respect to God's universal providence. Titles of unsurpassing greatness exalt and praise the only King among the nations. A sampling will reveal such adoration for the Most High. "Lord, you are our King forever and ever, for in you, O God, our soul makes its boast." (Psalms of Solomon 17:1) "For the might of our God is forever in mercy; and the reign of our God forever over the nations, in judgement." (Psalms of Solomon 17:3) "The Lord Himself is our King forever and ever." (Psalms of Solomon 17:46) "Blessed art Thou on Thy royal Throne; most worthy to be hymned, exalted forever. Blessed art Thou in the dome of heaven; worthy to be hymned and glorified forever." (From the Prayer of Azariah 5, verses 33-34.) "What born fools all men were who lived in ignorance of God, who from the good things before their eyes could not learn to know him who really is, and fail to recognize the artificer though they observed his works! Fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the starry signs, rushing water, are the great lights in heaven that rule the world, these they accounted gods. If it was through delight in the beauty of these things that men suppose them gods, they ought to have understood how much better is the Lord and Master of it all; for it was by the prime author of all beauty that they were created." (The Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-4) "Yet even so they do not deserve to be excused, for with enough understanding to speculate about the universe, why did they not sooner discover the Lord and Master of it all?" (The Wisdom of Solomon 13:9) God is acknowledged and worshipped as "Sovereign Lord" in Ezra 4, 6:1; "Lord Almighty," literally "Kurios Pantocrateo" in the prayer of Manasseh, verse 1; "Master," i.e., Gk. "despotes" or fiat ruler over all, Azariah, verse 14; "Lord and Master of All" in the Wisdom of Solomon 13:3, 9; "Almighty" in II Maccabees 8:24.
From the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods, God's Sovereignty is expressed in many different phrases and titles: "Sovereign of the Universe" from Talmud of Babylon, Ber. 17a, Ta'an 3:8, and in Genesis R. 65.9 on Genesis 21:1; "The Supreme King of Kings" in the Talmud of Babylon, Ber. 32b; "Master of the World" in Talmud of Babylon, Ta'an 23a; "King of Kings, The Holy One" in Talmud of Babylon, Ber. 28b.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 23, 2009
"Lord of the world, if it were possible to imagine a fraction of a second without your influence and providence, of what avail to us were this world, and of what avail to us were that other world? Of what avail to us were the coming of the Messiah, and of what avail to us the resurrection of the dead? What would there be to delight in, in all of this, and what would it be there for?" —Rabbi Abraham "The Angel" 1776, Tales of the Hasidim, Martin Buber, pg. 116
If one second could be independent of God, that moment would leave man solely to his own anarchistic nature and demonic influence, having no defensive capacity against such evil and destruction. Devoid of internal restraint, man's fallen nature, as an unbearable albatross, would expunge his last fragile gasp, before the knowledge of God's salvation had reached his darkened understanding (Isa. 9:2, II Cor. 4:4, 6). Only the prevenient (Latin praeveniens, "to go before, to be beforehand") grace of God preserves man. The prevenient grace of God bestowed upon us is a constant reality, existing prior to our sense of needing such grace. Such preserving grace precedes all human decision and endeavor. It is antecedent to all human action or sin. It is the grace which comes first, Jer. 31:3, I John 4:19. "For Thou dost meet (Heb. qadam, "precedest him, come before, to be beforehand") him with the blessings of good things;..." (Ps. 21:3) "My God in His lovingkindness (Heb. hesed, "steadfast, unchanging love") will meet (Heb. qadam) me; God will let me look triumphantly upon my foes." (Ps. 59:10, 79:8) The prevenient nature of God's grace secures us in the womb (Job 10:10-13, Ps. 139:13-15), delivers us into the world (Ps. 22:9, 71:6), preserves us from the manifold dangers attendant to infancy (Ps. 22:10, Isa. 46:3), designed the character of our days with a salvific purpose to lead us to trust Him (Ps. 139:16), and secures us in the contemplative love of God (Ps. 40:5, 139:17-18, 144:3). "But for the prevenience, or priority of God's grace, all would be lost." (Philip Hughes, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pg. 481) The priority of God's grace is to lead man to repentance, Ex. 34:6- 7, Rom. 2:4. Yet man is so obtuse in his understanding of God, due to his sinful rebellion (Jer. 4:22, 5:4, 8:7, Rom. 1:21, Eph. 4:17-18) that he cannot perceive or acknowledge the grandeur of such grace that is poured out upon him even in his unrepentant state. "Reader, it will be a happy thing for thee if,..., thou canst see both providence and grace preceding thee, forestalling thy needs, and preparing thy path. Mercy, in the case of many of us, ran before our desires and prayers, and it ever outruns our endeavors and expectancies, and even our hopes are left to lag behind. Prevenient grace deserves a song;..." (Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, pg. 352). The prevenient grace of God antedates the existence of the universe. It is the sovereign grace of God that has loved us before time (Jer. 31:3, Jn. 15:9, 17:23) and chosen the redeemed prior to the creation of heaven and earth (Eph. 1:4). "But just because grace changes the disposition, and so enables man, hitherto enslaved to sin, for the first time to desire and use his free will for good, it lies in the very nature of the case that it is prevenient. Also, as the very name imports, it is necessarily gratuitous; since man is enslaved to sin until it is given, all the merits that he can have prior to it are bad merits, and deserve punishment, not gifts of favor. When, then, it is asked, on the ground of what, grace is given, it can only be answered, 'On the ground of God's infinite mercy and undeserved favor.'" (Phillip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, p. LXVIII).
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 24, 2009
"There exists in the Universe a certain force which controls the whole." "It is the source of the existence of the Universe in all its parts. That force is God...blessed be His name!" "...God is called 'the life of the Universe'... 'and he swore by the life of the Universe.'" (Dan. 12:7). (Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed, Pt. 1, Ch. LXXII)
It is an axiom of the Jewish religion that God is never in abeyance from His creation or creatures. The doctrine of His preserving Providence is a foundational truth of Judaism. A universe created by God for Himself (Prov. 16:4, Isa. 45:7, Aboth 6:11, Rom. 11:36, I Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:16, Rev. 4:11) is justly inhabited by God, "'Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him?' declares the Lord. 'Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?' declares the Lord." (Jer. 23:24) "Thus says the Lord, 'Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for me? And where is a place that I may rest?'" (Isa. 66:1, Acts 7:48-49) "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him?" (John 1:10) "He is present and active in His universe not because He is organically one with it, but because He is the Master of it, the universe being pervaded, enveloped, and sustained by the mystery of His will." (Isidore Epstein, The Faith of Judaism, pg. 141) All of creation stands to God in a contingent relationship, having no innate capacity for its continuance. Because creation had a beginning, from the fiat of God (Ps. 33:6, 148:5) its continuance is not inherently secured. "The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; indeed, the world is firmly established (Heb. kun, "fixed, steady, firm, constant, to maintain"), it will not be moved." (Ps. 93:1, see also Ps. 89:11, 119:90) The Hebrew word kun is used as a passive verb to indicate that security, stability, and coherence are not inherent in this world. The power of preservation must derive exclusively from creation's source, God. The world is held secure and firmly established due solely to the power of God's Word. "Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created. He has also established (Heb. amad, "remains steadfast, endure, caused to stand") them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away." (Ps. 148:3-6) Throughout the billions of years and within the billions of galaxies the power that created all also sustains the entire universal order. "As the soul sustains the body so God sustains the world." (Midrash R., Lev. IV.8) Not a single atomic particle is devoid of God's preserving providence, "For the spirit of the Lord fills the whole earth, and that which holds all things together is well aware of what men say." (Wisdom of Solomon 1:7, written by an anonymous Alexandrian Jew between 200 and 100 B.C.) "By his own action he achieves his end, and by his word all things are held together." (Ecclesiasticus 43:26, written in approximately 190 B.C. by Jesus ben Sira, a Jewish teacher living in Jerusalem) In Colossians 1:17 the Messiah is declared to be the cohesive bond that holds the universe together: "And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." "...the action of gravitation, which keep in their places things fixed and regulates the motions of things moving, is an expression of His mind." (J. B. Lightfoot, 1828-1889, Professor of the Greek New Testament, Trinity College in Cambridge, England, St. Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, pg. 156)
Existing eternally outside time, God enters time's structure and the created order to possess it as we would grasp an object in our hands, but with no exertion of energy. All creation and might: I Chron. 29:12, Ps. 89:13, the entire creation: Ps. 95:45, 102:25, Isa. 45:12, Heb. 1:10; the preservation of all life: Ps. 104:27-28, 145:14-16; the breath of life: Job 12:10, Dan 5:23; the history of man: Ps. 31:15; the leaders of the nations: Prov. 21:1; and His redeemed inheritance: Deut. 33:3, Ps. 37:23-24, 95:7, 139:10, Isa. 49:16, 51:16, are all secured in the epicenter of God's hands. Using anthropomorphic speech, the Hebrew word yad ("hand") denotes the all-embracing sovereignty which God has and exercises over all His creation. "For thy almighty hand, which created the world out of formless matter,... great strength is thine to exert at any moment, and the power of thy arm no man can resist, for in thy sight the whole world is like a grain that just tips the scale or a drop of dew alighting on the ground at dawn." (The Wisdom of Solomon 11:17, 21-22) In the New Testament Jesus is called the "pantakrator" (Lit. Gk. "the one who has His hand on everything"). Pantakrator is translated "almighty" in Rev. 1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 14, 19:6, 15, 21, 21:22, II Cor. 6:18. This title is used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew El Shaddai. Nothing that exists whether angelic, demonic, human, material, or climactic can continue in being outside the purview of God's powerful, sovereign hand. God is not an aloof potentate who sits serenely divorced from the scene of His creation. But from the moment nililation was transformed by His Fiat, His world has been directly supervised and controlled by the constancy of His sovereign power. "How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation." (Dan. 4:3, Ps. 145:13, 146:10) "It needs to be emphasized that God is not present in creation as a king in his realm or a captain aboard his ship. He does not act upon the world from a distance; but with his whole being he is present powerfully here and everywhere with respect to his essence and power." (Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, pg. 162)
"The fountain from which good things are poured forth is the presence of the bounteous and beneficent God; on which account setting the seal to his lovingkindness he says, 'I will be with thee.'" (Philo, On the Migration of Abraham, VI.30)
To those in a covenant relationship with God, the active, preserving presence of their Redeemer is of the greatest assurance in a world of vacillating degradation. In the strongest form of asseveration God promises his abiding presence to Moses and the nation, "Certainly I will be with you,..." (Ex. 3:12) God's promise, "Expressed the abiding providence that would sustain the people throughout their unfolding history." (Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 12, p. 375) God would be with them! The verb "be" indicates the immediacy of God's presence, that would constantly lead, sustain, nourish, uphold, defend, and preserve His people from the Exodus, to the establishment in the land of Canaan, and throughout the varied changes of their national life. It is an enduring promise to His people. "The verb used in this declaration leans towards the idea of 'take place', 'come to pass,' 'happen,' etc., since it is not static but potent with movement. Perhaps 'become' is its nearest English equivalent. Applied to the living, active God of the Bible this verb must represent movement of some kind; and so it means, perhaps, 'I will become with thee.'" (George F. Knight, Theology as Narration, pg. 21) God promises that He is with us! He is in the situation, crisis, trial, pressure, gauntlet, and circumstance with his people. He becomes to each believer, within the events of each day, all that is required to pass through faithfully and triumphantly. "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid and tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." "And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed." (Deut. 31:6, 8) "...just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you." (Jos. 1:5, Gen. 31:3, Deut. 20:4)
God's providential keeping of his people is not the result of some mystical experience conjured up from an emotional frenzy or a supposed attainment of a superior level of faith. "...the practice of the presence of God consists not of projecting an imaginary object from within his own mind and then seeking to realize its presence; it is rather to recognize the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declares to be already there, an objective entity, existing apart from any apprehension of Him on the part of His creatures. The resultant experience is not visionary but real." (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, pg. 82) God's promise of his abiding presence, once given to his people, is reaffirmed and fulfilled throughout all generations toward the redeemed.This is what Scripture so boldly proclaims, "Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; thou hast taken hold of my right hand." (Ps. 73:23) "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." "For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'" (Isa. 41:10, 13) "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." (Isa. 43:2, Heb. 13:5-6, Matt. 28:20) "Inasmuch then as, on looking back to its [Israel] past history, it could not fail to perceive that it was so thoroughly a creation of Divine power and grace, it ought not to be fearful, and look about with timidity and anxiety; for He who had presented Himself at the very beginning as its God, was still always near." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 7, p. 163)
"The Holy One seems to be far away, but nothing is nearer than He. Let a man enter the synagogue and pray in an undertone, and God will give ear to his prayer. It is as if a man uttered his thoughts in the ear of his comrade who heard him. Can you have a God nearer than this, who is as near to his creatures as the mouth is to the ear?" —Y. Berakot, 13a
When the cardinal truth of God's eternal sovereignty and providential presence the nation was sublimated by Israel's apostasy, her existence would lose the moorings of being eternally elected, to embody the revelation of the panoply of God's attributes. "If the 'acids of modernity' were to corrode the belief in the living God, the Jew would lose his raison d'etre. Without a belief in a covenant with God there can be no meaningful Jewish survival." (Rabbi Walter S. Wurzburger, Rabbi of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, Toronto, Canada, The Condition of Jewish Belief, p. 279) To live as if God were not the "Lord of Israel," has been the greatest shame of the Siniatic people. But, glory to His Name, there has always been the "Holy Seed" in the stump (Isaiah 6:13). When the axe of divine judgment fell, an indistinguishable remnant kept hope alive as the true corpus of Israel; becoming the messengers of God (Isaiah 40:9 and 52:7), whose message "Your God reigns!" pierced though the demonic illusion that the world was ruled by competing petty deities. This proclamation would sustain the weary of heart to live beneath the eternal throne, when no place on earth could be found to lay one's head. "Judaism has seen history not as a 'register of the curses, follies, and misfortunes,' [Gibbon] but seeing God at work in the world, they [the teachers in Israel], trace the line of divine action in the lives of men and nations. They saw in history a continuous revelation of divine thought and purpose across the abyss of time." (J. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haptorahs, pg. 936) The central focus of the faithful is ever monopolized with Him who occupies the throne of Eternity, controlling time and all attendant events.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 26, 2009
"...though there [in heaven] God makes the most glorious displays of himself, yet he is so immense and infinite that he is not to be comprehended and circumscribed in any place whatever;..." (John Gill, 1697-1771, The Gill Commentary, notes on I Kgs. 8:27)
The reality of God's presence makes the universe a cosmos and not a chaos, "Every particle of matter and every point of space require God's immensity [i.e., God transcends all spatial limitation, His Being cannot be contained or localized] to maintain them in their existence." "The relation of God to space is such that God, the Infinite having the ground of his existence in himself, is present in every point of space repletively, and sustains space by means of his immensity." (Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, pg. 162) Nothing can set bounds to God's being, He is neither circumscribed or enclosed by space or spatial existence. God is not sequestered to a distinct locality, or confined within celestial frontiers however immense. He is not encompassed or shut in by creation. Distances of light years present no demarcation to God. God transcends every limitation of space, thus it is impossible to escape the Divine Presence. "With an earthly king, when he is in the bedchamber he cannot be in the reception-hall; but the Holy One, blessed be He, fills the upper regions and the lower. As it is said, 'His glory is over the earth and heaven' (Ps. 148:13), simultaneously; and it is written, 'Do not I fill the heaven and the earth?'" (Jer. 23:24, Midrash to Ps. XXIV.5; 103a) If God were confined to any locality or was limited by the expanse of light years, He would not be God. "His being...as immense [is] in no wise circumscribed by space." (R. L. Dabney, professor of Theology, Union Theological Seminary, 1853-1883, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 44) He immeasurably encompasses the most distant galaxies, enveloping the perimeter of the cosmos.
God contains all the universe, He encloses the created order, enveloping it in His all-pervading presence. Such is the immensity of God! God is frequently called in Rabbinic literature "Makon", i.e., "The Place." R. Ammi said: "Why is God given the appellation of 'place'? Because He is the place of the world, and the world is not His place [i.e., He fills the world but the world does not contain Him]." (Gen. R. Wayeze, LXVIII, 9) "God Himself is called a place, by reason of His containing things, and being contained by nothing whatever..." (Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Egypt, 20 B.C.-50 A.D., Som. 1:62-64) "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!" (I Kings 8:27, II Chron. 2:6) We who occupy a portion of earth and utilize a daily amount of air and water, live sequential lives moving from infancy to maturity. The conception of boundless, measureless, and infinite is only remotely imaginable by our limited conceptual frame. Though we use the terms boundless energy, unlimited wealth, infinite patience, and perpetual motion, we do so only as adjectives of hyperbole. We who are unable to occupy two time sectors even seconds apart, simultaneously, are befuddled by the idea of One who can be in time, all time, throughout the aeons, actively present within each second and yet outside time in eternity forever. "...he testifies in another place, where he says, 'Here am I, I stood here before you.' (Ex. 16:16). For he declares here that he stood before any created being: and he who is here is also there, and in other places, and everywhere, having filled every place in every direction, and having left nothing whatever destitute of himself: for he does not say, 'Here I stand and there, but now also when I am present do I stand there also at the same moment;' not being moved of changing his place so as to occupy one place and to quit another, but using one intense motion." (Philo, The Sacrifices of Abel and Cain, XVII.67-68) This is a God that shatters our cultural monograms of a manageable, adaptable Being. The God of immensity and infinitude will not conform to us. He is the eternal God of incomprehensible greatness. "Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable (Lit. Heb. "and of His greatness there is no searching out")." Ps. 145:3. (Job 11:7, Isa. 40:28) The unsurpassed, immeasurable nature of God's supremacy is beyond human comprehension. Just to have been graced with a molecule of knowledge regarding His Being, reveals the greatness of His condescension. "No mortal can fathom His Greatness with any amount of searching..." (Redak, Medieval Jewish Rabbi, quoted from The Book of Psalms, Vol. 3, pg. 536, translated and edited by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg)
"God is over all things,
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 30, 2009
"Everything decays but Thou dost not decay." (Lev. R. X1X.2 )
There is a theological presupposition underlying the reality of God as Creator, the eternality of God. God is eternal by nature. "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen, Amen." (Ps. 41:13) "For thus says the high and exalted one who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place,..." (Isa. 57:15, see also Gen. 21:33 and Ps. 90:1-4) Eternity is the constant state of the perfectness of God. The permanent state of the constancy of the holy, sovereign will, power, love, the essence of God. Eternity is the dimension that corresponds to God's eternal nature. "Eternity is a perpetual duration... eternity is contrary to time, and is therefore a permanent and immutable state, a perfect possession of life without any variation... infinite, immutable duration." (Steven Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God) Because God is eternal he is infinitude of nature. He is without boundary, measureless and unlimitable. Nothing in creation or time can restrain, contain or limit Him. He is unlimitable by nature, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!" (I Kings 8:27, see also II Chron. 2:6 and 6:8) Not sequestered by matter, time or the events therein, God can operate simultaneously in myriad dimensions.
As the pre-creational nihilation did not diminish or restrain God, so the created universe and human history does not augment or enhance the nature of God.. Creation is not borne out of necessity, a need in God, but solely originates from the matrix of His personal will. In the words of Irenaeus, "...it is not proper to say that the Supreme Deity is the slave of necessity, seeing that He is free and independent..." (Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, 130 to 202 C.E., The Treatise of Irenaeus Against the Heresies, II.5.3) A God of aseity, (Lat. a "from" and se "self", non-dependent) is not in need of a created world or any relationship to that creation. "Unlike his creation which, though independent from him, depends on him for its original and sustained existence, God's existence is from himself-He Is." (Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, p. 174). The human need for relational fulfillment, that is endemic to man, is antithetical to the eternal, self-sufficient nature of God. Man depends on a myriad of necessary relationships that are fixed necessities; he is a dependent being. As innately need-oriented, humanity cannot function without deriving life from external sources; food, water, oxygen, sunlight. Being completely need-dependent in our physical, social, relational and spiritual unions, we transfer this contingency to our thinking of God. We imagine that there must be necessity somewhere in the being of God, that requires a universe, angels and mankind to fulfill Him. But God is! "Divine necessity" is an oxymoron, for God is independent of all the works of His hands, "Even from eternity I am He;..." (Isa. 43:13). God does not live from, or by--"He is!" "But Thou art the same (Heb. "Thou art He"), and Thy years will not come to an end." (Ps. 102:27) In such conciseness, God emphatically declares His eternal, unalterable, and unchanging Selfhood. "Yet, had God so pleased, He might have continued alone for all eternity, without making known His Glory unto creatures. Whether He should do so or not He determined solely by His own will. He was perfectly blessed in Himself before the first creature was called into being." (A. W. Pink, 1890-1952, Biblical Expositor, Gleanings in the Godhead, pg. 12). God is obsequious to none.
"Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. Thou doest turn man back into dust, and doest say, 'Return, O children of men.' For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.'" (Ps. 90:1-4) Mountains are monuments of antiquity, emblems of an unseen past. But they are depicted as being "born" as infants, by God.All of creation is likened by God as a new born baby.The most striking mountain ranges are creational infants in comparison to God their Creator, who is from "vanishing point to vanishing point." God's eternality is contrasted with the transitory nature of creation and to the fragility of man that can be crushed as easily as powder by the Word of God.
"Blessed be He,
Lawrence W. Hilliard
July 31, 2009
"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!" —T. O. Chisholm
"Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful (Heb. aman, "certainty, firmness, dependability") God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep his commandments..." (Deut. 7:9) "Because he who is blessed in the earth shall be blessed by the God of truth (Heb. amen, "trustworthy, sure, rock-like, faithful, dependable"); and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth (Heb. amen); because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hidden from My sight!" (Isa. 65:16) Truth is the quintessence of God's nature. It is God's eternal character of steadfast integrity upon which all His words and works are founded. So the reality of His being is not comparable to the reality of any other existing thing. This is what the prophet said, "The Lord is the true God," (Jer. 10:10), and the Torah states: "'There is no one like unto Him,' implying that He alone is the Truth and there is no other Truth like His Truth (Deut. 4:39)." (Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204, foremost Medieval Jewish philosopher and Theologian, The Book of Knowledge, from the Mishnah Torah of Maimonides, Treatise 1, Chapter 1) Faith in God rests upon the knowledge that God's nature is truthful, dependable, faithful, permanent, and steadfast (Ps. 89:2, 92:2, 100:5). "Basically the term (Heb. emuna, "faithfulness") applies to God himself (Deut. 32:4) to express his total dependability. It is frequently listed among the attributes of God, Psalms 36:5, 40:10, Lam. 3:23. It describes His works (Ps. 33:4) and His words (Ps. 119:86, 143:1.)" (Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, pg. 52) God's veracity communicated to man by His Word is eternally immutable, "Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven." (Ps. 119:89) The word of God is forever fixed and secure in heaven. Issuing forth from the God of eternal faithfulness it is confirmed to all eternity. The continuity of the earth's rotational orbit, the predestined order of the seasons, and the comprehensive preservation of all life are a constant witness to the unchangeable character of God's word, "Thy faithfulness continues throughout all generations; Thou didst establish the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Thine ordinances, for all things are Thy servants." (Ps. 119:90-91) God's word which established and perpetually maintains the world is the same in quality as the word which He has embodied in the scriptures. "Were he a God in whose hand the processes of nature were ever shifting, then might we conceive him a God from whose mouth the proclamations of grace had the like characters of variance and vacillation. But it is just because of our reliance on the one that we feel so much of repose in our dependence upon the other; and the same God who is so unfailing in the ordinances of his creation, we hold to be equally unfailing in the ordinances of his word." (Thomas Chalmers, 1780-1847, Scottish theologian, quoted from The Treasury of David, Vol. 6, p. 219)
Lawrence W. Hilliard
August 1, 2009
"True it is that the eternal God is our King, the Rock of Jacob, our protecting shield. Throughout all generations He endures and His name endures. His throne is established, and His rule unchanging abides forever. His words live and endure eternally, precious and constant for all time, for our forefathers, for us, for our children and our descendants, and for all generations of the seed of Israel Thy servants." (Prayer from the morning service, The Traditional Prayer Book, edited by David De Sola Pool, pg. 192)
In Judaism, truth (Heb. emeth) is called "the seal of God"; the imprimatur that designates God as the Eternal King. The word emeth is made up of three consonants: aleph, mem, and tau; the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. A rabbinic maxim sees in the word the indication that God is the "first, middle, and last in time." (Gen. R. LXXXI.2) As aleph, God says, "I am the first for there is none from whom I receive my kingdom"; in mem, God says, "I am the middle, for there is none who shares my kingdom with me"; in tau, God says, "I am the last, for there is none to whom I shall hand my kingdom over." The all-encompassing nature of God's sovereign rule is described in the word "truth". His unchanging eternal kingship is depicted thereby. "What is the seal of the holy blessed God? R. Bibai, in the name of Reuben, saith, truth. But what is truth? R. Bon saith, the living God and king eternal." (Talmud of Jerusalem, Sanhedrin, folio 18) "But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nation's cannot endure His indignation." (Jer. 10:10) The Talmud (Shab. 119b, Sanh. 111a) presents a homiletical etymology of amen (truth) by explaining it as "...made up of the initial letters of 'El Melekh Ne'eman' (God, Faithful King) a phrase by which the reading of the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) is preceded when recited other than in congregational worship." (Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 2, pg. 803) God's eternal sovereignty existing before time, directing history within time, and extending eternally after time's consummation, is emphasized in the Rabbinical understanding of the "Truth" of God. There is immutable, enduring truth because of the permanency of God's eternal kingship. The causal of absolute truth is the Eternal, Sovereign God. "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen, and Amen." (Ps. 41:13). God is truth because He is the King of heaven and earth, the Sovereign Lord of time and eternity. The foundation of truth is the throne of God.
Lawrence W. Hilliard
August 3, 2009
"Everything has been created by God, except falsehood."—Eliyahu Zuta 3
The sum (Lit. Heb. "the head") of Thy word is truth (Heb. emeth), and everyone of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting." Ps. 119:160. The quintessence of God's word is truth. The totality, the whole of it is true, from top to bottom. "If he [the Psalmist] reckons up the word of God in its separate parts and as a whole, truth is the denominator of the whole, truth is the sum-total." (Franz Delitzsch,1813-1890, professor of Old Testament studies, Leipzig, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 5, p. 262) The Lord has nothing to retract, amend, or reverse. You can summarize the nature of every word in the Torah by one word: "truth", Heb. emeth. Emeth is the primary word in the faith vocabulary of the Old Testament emphasizing certainty, security, rock-like, foundation, pillar, stable, firm, support, uphold. To the ancient Hebrews anyone within the domestic and anything in the material sphere described as emeth spoke of permanency and stability (Ex. 17:12, Num. 11:12, Ruth 4:16, II Kings 18:16, 11:38, Esther 2:7, Isa. 60:4). When transferred into the realm of their knowledge of God, emeth readily spoke to them of the unchanging nature of God's character, He was a God of truth and His Word was commensurate with His character. The immutability of the Word of God, as eternal truth, is the enduring foundation of faith. "Judaism is a religion of truth. In the words of a medieval prayer, 'He is a God of truth; His Torah is truth; His prophets are prophets of truth; He aboundeth in deeds of goodness and truth.'" "Judaism is a true religion because it is rooted in God's truth." (Max J. Routtenberg, Rabbi of Temple Bnai Shalom, Long Island, NY, The Condition of Jewish Belief, p. 189) Biblical faith is established on nothing else but the truth of God embodied in the scriptures, "A person becoming involved with God in faith does not just participate in some vague, pious feelings; that faith acquires a concrete content in this God's words...God defines himself for the believer by means of these words." (Hans-Jurgen Hermission, Faith, p. 28)
In Matthew 24:35 Jesus declares his words are as permanent and immutable as the Torah. Jesus' words will outlast the present structure of the universe: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35). When the whole structure of the universe is replaced (Isa. 65:17, Rev. 21:1) his words will endure. They have an authority and eternal validity as only God's word can have, Ps. 119:89-90, Isa. 40:6-8. Only God can make this supreme declaration. The words of Christ are not an enshrined record in the flow of history, as if he were another great prophet, philosopher, or sage. But they are the very root of all life, it's coherence and solitary foundation. No mortal can speak in such transcendent language. Only a megalomaniac or the mentally deranged would venture into such a sacrosanct domain. Jesus, without hesitation, declares his words are the eternal words of God. Words that find origin in his nature. "The authority and eternal validity of Jesus' words are nothing less than the authority and eternal validity of God's words." (D. A. Carson, Matthew, pg. 507)
Lawrence W. Hilliard
August 4, 2009
"Everything in the universe is subservient to the Divine Will."—David Kimchi
The High and Holy One (Isa. 57:15) is currently proclaimed as a being that can be domesticated to adapt to the earthly desires of man. A miniaturization of the Eternal One that makes Deity palatable to narcissistic man. This reducio dei in our thinking, fostered by a minimalism of current topical preaching, has created a manageable God: easy to live with. God indicted Israel of old (Ps. 78:41) for such a constricted view of His majestic being and in Psalms 50:21 Israel is again indicted for assuming that God was similar to them in behavior. This illusory view of God has tragically obscured the grand and glorious revelation of Scripture regarding the Supremacy, Lordship, Kingship; in essence, the Sovereignty of God. For to affirm that God is sovereign is to state unequivocally that God has planned everything for His own glory and all things will come to pass as He has decreed. Extending from the universal to the most personal level, all time with its epochal and critical movements accomplish His purpose established from eternity. From the brightest sun to the nanosecond life of a atom, all exist because of His will and for His good pleasure. Toward these ends, all of our collective analysis terminate in the cul-de-sac of the inexplicable, unless seen from the perspective of God's eternal sovereignty. "...his all-controlling government is so far from capricious that it rests upon a well-defined purpose, and is the expression of the eternal will of the purposive God. It is its design, in one word, to declare that the sequence of the events which constitute what we call the world's history, and in which we are enmeshed, dark and inscrutable as may be their nexus and meaning and issue to us, is after all not the result of accident or chance, nor yet of necessity or fate, nor of human caprice or Satanic malice; but the orderly working out of the purpose of our Father in heaven, the infinitely wise and holy One, the infinitely righteous and loving One." (Benjamin Warfield, professor of systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1886-1921, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, p. 95) "But he is unchangeable and who can turn him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind." (Job 23:13-14, R.S.V. translation) "But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." (Ps. 115:3) "Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps." (Ps. 135:6) "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they were, and were created." (Rev. 4:11, see also Ps. 33:10-12, Isa. 46:10, Dan. 4:35, Rom. 11:36, Eph. 1:3-10, and Col. 1:16) On account of the free, unfettered holy will of God, there is a multi-faceted creation: macro-cosmic, microscopic, and sub-atomic particle, instead of nihilation. "First of all, the basic tenet of any knowledge of God, namely, that the Lord is the free Creator of the Universe. All that is in heaven, on earth and in the sea came into existence through His will, which is free, unhindered, and subject to nothing else. Therefore, even now all things are subject to his all Mighty will for the goals which He has set." (Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Psalms, pg. 412-413)
The Old Testament declaration of God's sovereignty encountered a world steeped in the myth of theogony.The belief that the gods of the nations have a pedigree. Generations of father-gods, had bequeathed authority to each god over a certain territorial domain. They ruled only by inheritance of authority and sphere, always dependent on powers outside themselves, and constantly vying for greater sovereignty over the earth. But piercing through this mythological prison of fear was the transcendent declaration, "God is King!" Only One over all, Yahweh, in the present tense, now. "For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods," [Ps. 95:3]. "For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens." [Ps. 96:4-5, 97:9, 135:5.] For in reality the gods were only lifeless idols, vain images, non-entities, things of not, amplifications of prideful man's desire to transcend creaturehood. Duet. 4:28, Leviticus 19:4, I Chron. 16:26, Ps. 96:5, 115:4, 135:15, Isa. 46:1-2, 5-7, 42:17, Ezek. 14:7, Dan. 5:23.
In the religion of Israel any thought of a shared dominion or limited sovereignty was anathema to the nature of God. The basal belief of Judaism is the Supremacy of God over all. "All theogonic motifs are seminally absent [from the Old Testament]. Israel's God has no pedigree, fathers no generations; he neither inherits nor bequeaths his authority. He does not die and is not resurrected. He has no sexual qualities or desires and shows no need of or dependence upon powers outside himself." "The basic idea of Israelite religion is that God is supreme over all. There is no realm above or beside him to limit his absolute sovereignty. He is utterly distinct from, and other than, the world; he is subject to no laws, no compulsions, or powers that transcend him. He is, in short, non-mythological. This is the essence of Israelite religion, and that which sets it apart from all forms of paganism." (The Religion of Israel, Yehezkel Kaufmann, pg. 60-61.)
His Sovereignty is inherent to His nature. It is innate to His Being. God has a right of dominion in His nature from all eternity. It is connatural and intrinsic to God. "If God be a Spirit, and therefore a person, infinite, eternal, and immutable in his being and perfections, the Creator and Preserver of the universe, He is of right it's absolute sovereign. Infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, with the right of possession which belongs to God in all his creatures, are the immutable foundation of his dominion." (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, pg. 440.)"The extent of his dominion flows from the perfection of his essence; since his essence is unlimited his royalty cannot be restrained." "It is a dominion that originally resides in his nature, not derived from any by birth or commission; he alone prepared it. He is the sole cause of his own kingdom; his authority therefore is unbounded, as infinite is his nature; none can set laws to him, because none but himself prepared his throne for him. As he will not impair his own happiness, so he will not abridge himself of his own authority." (Steven Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, vol. 2, pg. 360, 381.)
God's Kingship is constantly linked in Scripture to His essential nature, His aseity, i.e., Self-Existence, as the eternal I AM-Yahweh. "But the Lord [Yahweh] abides forever [heb. "sits enthroned"]; He has established His throne for judgement," (Ps. 9:7) "The Lord [Yahweh] is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land." (Ps. 10:16) "The Lord [Yahweh] sit as King as the flood; Yes, the Lord [Yahweh] sits as King forever." (Ps. 29:10) "But Thou O Lord [Yahweh], dost abide [heb. "sit enthroned"] forever; and Thy name to all generations." (Ps. 102:12) "The Lord [Yahweh] will reign forever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!" 146:10. Ps. 92:8, 93:1, 96:10, 97:1, 98:6, 99:1, Jer. 10:10. His Essence is conjoined to His position as King. The modality, extent, and power of God's Kingdom is based on His most personal revelation of His Being.
God is the eternal King, from the Genesis fiat [Ps. 33:6, 9] to the last recorded second of measureable time. Isa. 65:17, Rev. 21:1. "All' (Heb. kol)in the totality of universal particularities has been in His direct purview and guidance forever. "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all (kol)." (Ps. 103:19) "O Lord, the God of our fathers, art Thou not God in the heavens? And art Thou not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Thy hand so that no one can stand against Thee." (II Chron. 20:6) "To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen." (I Pet. 5:11).
The exalted Christ designates himself "The Almighty," in Revelation 1:8 and 4:8, also used in 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 14, 19:6, 22:2. The word "Almighty" is made up of two Greek words, "panta" (all, totality, everything) and "krateo" (to grasp securely). Panta defines everything severally that make up the totality of the universe. It encompasses the entirety of the cosmic order and every individual element contained within. The word is all-comprehensive, all realms are included, not one atom is excluded. John the Baptist in his testimony to Jesus says, "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand." (John 3:35) As Messiah, God the Father has given him as his inheritance all of creation, no restrictions. The Rabbis say, "The world was made but only for the Messiah." (Sanh. 98b) As the resurrected Lord, Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18) The executionary authority over all of creation that was innate to his nature, was temporarily laid aside as the "servant of man," is now given back to him in his triumph over sin and death. This is a transcendent declaration of universal Lordship and dominion. Cosmic control over all realms, with nothing outside the purview of his ruling scepter. These declarations have the same linguistic force as Psalms 103:19, "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all." (See also I Chron.29:11-12) What was the bedrock of Judaism, God's universal sovereignty, would be the foundation of Christianity advancing through the storm of the Roman era.
Christ declares that he holds all things at all times in his hands (Rev. 1:8). Even the masculine singular morphology of "almighty" affirms this. "I and I alone am the Almighty." A monergistic declaration of sovereignty is asserted by Christ. He depends on no assisting arm. It is pathetic that a preponderance of current preaching expound a synergistic sovereignty. That man "working with God" make this declaration (Rev. 1:8) a present reality. This prideful inebriation is a grand illusion that believes man can extend the sovereignty of God. But "all things" are incessantly in His hands. The prideful insanity of man knows no bounds. O the unashamed arrogance of dying man to boast that he, arotting mass of putrifying flesh, can assist and even expand the dominion of Eternal God, throughout His world and universe. A macular epythelic eye sees only a fraction of God, and that distorted. Turn to the "pantakrateo" and be blinded by his radiance and then be healed to see clearly this mighty God who has no need of us , but loves us.
The old negro spiritual sums this up quite clearly, "He's got the whole world in his hands." "This sovereignty of God is the ground of peace and confidence to all his children. They rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; that neither necessity, nor chance, nor the folly of man, nor the malice of Satan controls the sequence of events and all their issues. Infinite wisdom, love, and power, belong to Him, our great God and Savior, into whose hands all power in heaven and earth has been committed." (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, pg. 441.)
Lawrence W. Hilliard
August 10, 2009
What's in a name? In America a personal name bears only a conversant identification, having been supplanted by social security, credit, occupational, and bank account numbers, all on a computer file. But in the Semitic world of the Old Testament a name became the description of a person's character, reputation, disposition, renown and destiny. The Hebrew word "shem" translated "name", emphasizes the essence of a person's character, that would speak volumes regarding the past, present, and future implications of an individual's life.
When Moses in Exodus 3:13-14, anticipating the question from the Children of Israel, asked God, "What is His name?" He articulated the most audacious question that a mortal can inquire of the Immortal. What [Heb. "mah"], conveying the sense of "What is your substance, makeup, your innermost Being, your core, what are you really like?" This was the essence of Moses' probing question into the Divine Name in Hebrew, i.e., "shem," regards character, disposition, person, reknown, and substance. God did not rebuke such a request, for the answer to this signal question regarding God's character, the birth and continued existence of Israel throughout all history would depend. The reply of God would be the most assertive declaration of Selfhood. For it would embody the very essence of life in all it's uncreated, engenerate, underived, non-dependent fullness. God's revelation of His Name, the rabbis call his "Shem ha mephorash" i.e., the most personal, distinctive name. All other names of God describe some aspect of His work or relation to man, but this is unique, His own Self-definition.
"And God said to Moses, 'I AM Who I AM;' and He said, 'Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Ex. 3:14) The Hebrew, "Yahweh AshereYahweh," comes from a verbal root, "To Be." The verb of absolute existence. The Self-sufficient, Self-fulfilled, Self-sustained, quintessence of life within Himself as the Eternal God. The name defines God as aseity [Lat. "from one's self"], of Being. He is the fullness of unbounded life, the power of Being itself. He was, He is, and He will ever be, the One who will never be without life. In the translation of Moses Maimonides, He is, "The existing Being which is the existing Being." (Guide to the Perplexed, pg. 95, 1170.) The state and condition of absolute existence is conveyed to transitory man."I am that I am," Exodus 3:14, that is, the Existent, whose existence depends on his own essence and not upon another, the expression 'That I am,' is in the first person, as if to say, because I am, not because another than I is. My existence and power are not dependent upon another at all, as in the case in the other existents [creation]. None of the existents could say of himself, 'I am that [because] I am.' They would have to say, "I am that [because] he is"' That is, I am in existence because another than I is in existence, namely, the First Cause, upon whose existence that of all other beings depends. But God's existence depends on Himself and not upon another cause. Therefore, to Him alone of all existing things is applicable the name, 'I am that I am.'" (Joseph Albo, 1380-1440 C.E., Ikkarim, II, 27.)
In Numbers 6:27 Yahweh is succinctly called "my name." The name which is unique to God alone. It is to be an expression of God's nature forever. "Thy name, O Lord, is everlasting, Thy remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations." (Ps. 135:13) It is God's holy name, "My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord; and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever." (Ps. 145:21) Separate from all of creation, expressing God's purity of being. "If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored (Heb. kabed, "to be heavy, God's incomparable greatness") and awesome (Heb. yare, "to be feared") name, the Lord your God."
Between the close of the Old Testament and the time of Christ, the Name of God was categorized as ineffable. Considered too awesome, sacred, and overwhelming to be spoken. By it's very nature it was inexpressible by mortal man. Rabbinical interpreters read Exodus 3:15, "This is My name forever,…" as a command to restrict it's public use and the need to substitute another name for it. For the root of the word forever (Heb. leolam) is "to conceal." "In this the Rabbis found an allusion to the rule that the name of four letters should not be read as written, but be 'concealed' i.e., another word is to be substituted for it." (Rashi, 1040-1105 C.E., French exegete and greatest commentator on the Talmud.) Thus the text was read, "This is my secret name, (Lit. "my name to be concealed").
In the post-Old Testament period there was a curse of exclusion from the "World to Come," put upon anyone who spoke the ineffable name. "And these are the ones who have no portion in the world to come;" Abba Saul says, "Also: he who pronounces the divine Name as it is spelled out." (Mishnah tractate Sanh. 10:1, Jacob Neusner, A New Translation.) "Whoever explicitly pronounces the Name is guilty of a capital offense." (Pesikta 148a) Josephus, the mid first century Jewish general in the first war against Rome, and historian, cites his reluctance to use God's holy name. "Whereupon God declared to him (to Moses) his holy name, which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say anymore." (The Antiquities of the Jews, book two, Chapter 12.4.) The Israelites came to refer to God simply as "The Name," so as not to come close to infringing upon God's holy inexpressible nature.
The August Name of God was only pronounced publicly once a year, on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest made confession of sins on behalf of the nation of Israel. "Thus did he say: O YHWH Thy people, the House of Israel, have committed iniquity, have transgressed, have sinned before Thee. I beseech Thee by the Name YHWH make Thou atonement for the iniquities and for the transgressions and for the sins wherein Thy people, the House of Israel, have committed iniquity, have transgressed and sinned before Thee; as it is written in the Torah of Thy servant Moses, saying: 'For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before YHWH.' (Lev. 16:30). And when the priest and the people that stood in the Court heard the glorious and revered Name pronounced freely out of the mouth of the High Priest, in holiness and purity, they knelt and prostrated themselves, falling on their faces, and exclaiming: 'Blessed be His glorious, sovereign Name forever and ever.'" (Mishnah tractate Joma 6.2.)
Even the daily hours of prayer for the Jew are a living memorial of the nature of God's Name. In the Chasid Shimuel Rab. Samuel ben David asks, "Why are we commanded to use three hours of prayer? Answer: These hours point out the holy blessed God; He who was, Who is, and Who shall be. The morning prayer points out Him who was before the foundation of the world, the noonday prayer points out Him who is, and the evening prayer points out Him who is to come." Thus indicating that time in it's past, present, and future aspects, is not an impediment to God, that restricts Him to work sequentially. But time as God's creation, is a continuum with a genesis and telios.Time is indwelt with God's presence in each successive moment as it's preserver and sustainer. This promise of God's presence became the bedrock of God's care for His people, who would never be outside the ever present and watchful attention of their faithful God.
The revelation of God's name, Yahweh, embodies a dual exegetic. As we have just delineated it reveals God's essence. But secondarily, there is the promise embedded in Exodus 3:12, "And He said, 'Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you; when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.'" In the strongest language of asseveration [certainly, Heb. "ki", a divine oath] God promises to be the ever-present, help, sustainer, provider, and guide to His people forever. At every moment of time "I will become all that you need at each step along the way," is the force of the Hebrew phrase. "No words can sum up all that He will be to His people, but His everlasting faithfulness and unchanging mercy will more and more manifest themselves in the guidance of Israel." "According to the Rabbis this Name [Yahweh] stresses the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God in relation to His creatures; He who educates, punishes, and guides; He who hears the cry of the oppressed, and makes known His ways of righteousness unto the children of men. He is the great Living God who reveals Himself in the Providential care of His people." (The Pentateuch and Haptorahs, J. H. Hertz, pg. 215, 216.) O praise the glorious Name of God forever.
Man is always in a relation of polarity to God, he is diametrically opposite to God. The obverse of all God is. The most often used word in the Old Testament for man, whether generically or individually is "enosh." The Hebrew word that identifies mankind as feeble, dying, weak, anemic, fragile, mortal, sickly, and dependent. A being always need of God: Psalm 8:4, 103:15, 144:3, Job 7:17. Man was made to find in God all that he is not. To be a God-dependent being. In God's nature, as in it's native home, man's full provision resides, and when the circumstances change, God's manifest grace will sustain and uphold him. "And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed." "Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you." (Deut. 31:8, 23) "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isa. 41:10, Jos. 1:5, 9, 17, I Chron. 28:20, I Sam. 18:12, Isa. 43:2, Matt. 28:20, Heb. 13:8.) From this revelation of God's August Name we glimpse the nature of the Eternal God; Self-existent, eternal, independent, self-sufficient, almighty, unchanging, ever-present, unbounded, unlimited, ingenerate, creator, preserver. "The Lord is great in Zion, and He is exalted above all the peoples. Let them praise Thy great and awesome name; holy is He." (Ps. 99:2-3) O praise the glorious Name of God forever!
Lawrence W. Hilliard
August 16, 2009
Foremost among the dominical sayings of Jesus is his self-assertion of Deity. In John 8:53-59 Jesus asserts his supremacy to Abraham. He unreservedly makes the claim that he is by nature greater than Abraham as to preexistence [before Abraham] and futurity [Abraham saw his day].This assertion shocked his contemporaries, for Abraham was accorded the highest accolades and status in all Jewish literature. To a Jew who gloried in the truth that he was a "son of Abraham," this was a heinous declaration of blasphemy deserving of execution by stoning. Abraham was considered the stellar personality of all Judaic history. Though God was the maker and possessor of all the world [Gen. 14:19, 22], Abraham was considered a special possession of God, "Five possessions the Holy One, blessed be He, made especially His own in His universe, the Torah, heaven and earth, Abraham, Israel, and the Temple." (Pirke Aboth)The earth and mankind were created for the sake of Abraham. R. Joshua b. Karha and R. Azariah said: "The world was created for the sake of Abraham. As to this great mass [i.e., the earth], for what end is it here? For the sake of Abraham, as it is said, 'Thou hast made the heaven and the earth, and thou didst choose Abraham.' [Neh.9:6, 7]." (Gen. R., Ber., XXII, 9.) "God created man for the sake of Abraham." (Gen. R., Ber., XV, 4.) Because Abraham was a great maker of proselytes, he was esteemed by God as a co-partner in the creation of the world. So God said to Abraham, "My name was not known to my creatures: as you made me known to my creatures, so I regard it as if you had been in partnership with me in the creation of the world." (Gen. R., Lek leka XLIII, 7.)Abraham was said to have established God's kingship over all the world. "But since the time our father Abraham entered the world, he made Him King over the earth; as it is said, 'I make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth.'" (Sifra Deut. section 313;134b.) Abraham keeps the whole Torah as yet unwritten. (Jub. 16:28) He belongs to the righteous who have not sinned. "So thou, Lord God of the righteous didst not appoint repentance for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were righteous and did not sin against thee." (Prayer of Manasseh, 8)
In the face of this panegyric glorification of Abraham, Jesus said without equivocation that he was superior to the Patriarch in all respects. That Abraham's sole focus of hope was upon Him and he rejoiced to see his day. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." (John 8:56) In a rabbinical commentary on Genesis 15:18, when God made the covenant with Abram, He revealed to him both this olam (dispensation) and the olam to come (days of the Messiah). (Ber. R. 44) In connection with Genesis 24:1, "Abraham was old, stricken in days;" the literal Heb. is, "gone into the days." Rabbinic exegesis understands this to mean Abraham entered into all the days of the future. Abraham saw outstanding days in the future history of Israel; the Red Sea crossing, the giving of the Law, the building of the Temple, and the age to come, the Messianic era. (Gen. R. 59.6 on Genesis 24:1.) Even in Rabbinic literature the Messiah is elevated above the Patriarchs and angels. "The Messiah will be more exalted than Abraham, more extolled than Moses and more high than the angels." (Midrash on Isa.52:13, Tanhuma (Buber's ed.) Toldot 134-135.)
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." (John 8:58) Jesus says that his intrinsic nature is forever greater than Abraham's. Christ introduced this monumental statement with the double, "truly, truly," (lit. Gk. amen, amen). A form of speech that was used to introduce a statement reserved only for God. No rabbi or prophet would begin a saying with the single or double "amen". For God is called "the God of Amen" in Isaiah 65:16, signifying rock-like stability, truthful, faithful, dependable, firmness, enduring, unshakeable, a continuous support. Amen indicates the integrity of God, that he never lies, that His words endure forever. "God is not a man, that He should lie, has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Num. 23:19) Jesus constantly used this manner of speech to introduce his teaching. (Matt. 5:18, 26, 6:2, 5, 16, John 5:19, 6:47, Rev. 3:14.) Thus guaranteeing the origin, validity, and fulfillment of his words as spoken by God. This use of amen has the force of "I say to you." Speaking not as a prophet, priest, scribe, rabbi, but I, as God, say to you. No rabbi in the history of Israel ever prefaced his teaching with the word amen, only Jesus.
Abraham had a beginning in time, "was born," (lit. trans. "came into existence") in the aorist tense, and died. (John 8:53, 58). But Jesus said, " I Am." Gk. "Ego Eimi," the LXX translation of the August name of God, "Yahweh Ashere," (Ex. 3:14).It is the divine style of speech in the most emphatic form. Eternity of Being is declared. "Am" (Gk. eimi), is a verb in the present tense active voice, indicating continuous existence. He continually is! Timeless life is conveyed. "The isness is expressive of both his presence and his existence." (Theological Wordbook of O. T. Vol. I, pg. 210-214.) The contrast between the created (Abraham) and the uncreated (Jesus), the temporal and the eternal was unmistakable, and the crazed crowd was looking around for stones, as Christ's self-appointed judges. (John 8:59) "That is a supreme claim to Deity; perhaps the most simple and sublime of all the things He said with that great formula of old, the great "I AM... These are the words of the most impudent blasphemer that ever spoke, or the words of God incarnate." (G. C. Morgan, Commentary on John)
Lawrence W. Hilliard
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