Which of the World’s Standards Should We Observe?

To put it another way, are there worldly standards that we should not observe?

Thinking about this world and the life we live in it, there are many standards that can affect our life and how we live it. As a retired engineer, I know of many engineering standards that are intended to keep us safe and protected from injury. These cover things like building and bridge design and transport safety for airlines, roads, cars, railroads and many other areas.

There are also medical standards which doctors are required to follow. Unfortunately, humans are not standardized; we have many differences, and what may be effective for one patient may not be effective for another. But as long as a doctor follows the standards as laid down, he is immune from censure, no matter how effective and helpful or dangerous and inappropriate those standards are, and what the outcome for the patient is. However, any doctor who goes against the decreed standards for the benefit of his patients has the potential of being dismissed from his profession, even though deviating from those standards would have been the right thing to do.

Community standards for social media platforms have also been brought to our notice lately, especially since the social media platform Twitter has a new owner who has revealed the illegal censorship with the help and at the direction of government departments. They have been requiring social media platforms to hide truths that they did not want us to know for various political, economic or other reasons. The excuse usually given for this censorship is that the comments or truths did not comply with the “community standards” of the social media platform. These so-called “community standards” are not publicly defined or even applied impartially.

Various religions also have their standards. The Catholic Church previously did not accept homosexuality and transgenderism in their congregations, according to the immutable teaching of the Church on sexuality as stated in their catechism. However, over the recent past, the number of attendees has been dropping; so, in order to try to increase attendance, the chief bishop in the Diocese of Limburg, Germany, has mandated for all church leaders in his diocese to accept those who were previously banned because of un-natural sexuality, without any requirement for repentance. So, this prior standard was observed until it was not convenient due to the change in public morals, and it is now being ignored in at least one part of Germany.

Food standards have recently been changed in some countries—and especially throughout Europe—to allow what was previously considered a contaminant, i.e. various kinds of insects, to be now used as a source of protein and as an alleged attempt to reduce global warming. Apparently, according to proponents, insects do not use as much water as livestock and do not emit the same level of pollutants, but many scientists have pointed out that eating insects may be dangerous to our health.

So, in our lives, which standards should we observe, and which, if any, should we not follow? And, more to the point, how do we tell the difference? There is certainly a way to determine this, and God has provided the way.

Of course, when we look at God’s Word, the word “standard” or “standards” is used but refers mainly to the banner under which the tribes of Israel assembled. In some cases, it refers to the banner representing the whole house of Israel as opposed to other nations. So, God’s standards are not described as such.

But then, we know that God certainly has given us standards by which we should live. They are called commandments (or laws), judgments and statutes. And each of these is mentioned well over a hundred times in the Bible.

God instructed the children of Israel how they should live at the time just preceding their entry into the land He had promised them. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 shows us the benefits God intended if these standards were kept: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.”

Previous to this, in Deuteronomy 4:5-6, God explained that His Statutes and Judgments, if they were kept, were for the people’s wisdom and understanding in the sight of other nations: “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Deuteronomy 4:8 continues, “And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?”

So these are the standards God expects us to abide by in our lives today.

There is one particular biblical writer who made constant mention of the laws, statutes and judgments of God in a totally positive light. This, of course, was David, and his writings are mainly in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 1:2, we read the alternative of a sinner: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His Law he meditates day and night.” He meditates to understand the application of God’s commandments. In other words, he continually seeks to understand how he should live by God’s standards. And he finds them a delight.

Psalm 19, also written by David, is very revealing of his attitude towards God’s Ways. In Psalm 19:7-11, we note David’s attitude: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.”

We see the words, “delight,” “perfect,” “sure,” “right,” “pure,” “clean,” “true,” “righteous,” “sweet” and “great reward.” This is how David, a man after God’s heart, held onto God’s Way of Life. All his descriptions are totally positive. And when we consider that these commandments, statutes and judgements are God’s standards, then the answer to the afore-mentioned question is that we can compare the world’s standards with God’s standards and where there is no conflict, then the world’s standards can be lived by.

However, to answer the initial question of what worldly standards we should not observe or comply with, we note that the world’s standards, especially in the area of morality and in the area of food, are changing and moving away from God’s standards. In these cases, we must always put God’s standards first and live by them, rather than the standards of the world.

A Short History of Christmas Observance

The celebration of Christmas, as well as being Pagan, has had a long and confusing observance. December the twenty fifth is not the only time it was and is celebrated, and at different times and places, it was banned altogether. God commands us not to keep it.

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What were some of the events leading up to the English Bible?

Firstly, the Bible was written in three main languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Classical Hebrew was used for most of the Old Testament. Some parts of the books of Daniel and Ezra and one verse in the book of Jeremiah (chapter 10, verse 11) and one word in the book of Genesis (chapter 31, verse 47) were written in Aramaic. Hebrew and Aramaic were both Semitic languages, and if one was understood, much of the other could also be understood, due to their similarities.

Considering the Old Testament, the Hebrew that the Bible was written in was different from the modern Hebrew spoken in Israel today. For a start, there were no vowels but only consonants. Vowels were added later, which is a reason that the correct pronunciation of God’s name is uncertain today. Also, there was no punctuation and, according to “Got Questions.org”, there were no spaces between words, which can cause some difficulties in understanding.

However, as far as we are aware, the copying of the Scriptures was very meticulous. The Masoretic text used for the last thousand years is amazingly consistent with the Dead Sea scrolls and the Greek Septuagint versions. To demonstrate this meticulousness, there is an alteration in Judges 18:30 that was made in the text that has been incorporated into the Authorized Version and the New King James Bible. The term “the son of Moses” was changed to “the son of Manasseh” so as not to dishonour Moses due to him having an idolater for a grandson. The addition of one letter changed Moses to Manasseh. However, anyone reading the Hebrew text would notice that it is obviously an alteration because of the position of the added letter, a feature that has not been changed in the continual copying of the scrolls.

The Hebrew Bible was translated into a number of different languages, beginning with the Septuagint, a translation into the Greek language around 200 BC. This was a translation by 70 Jewish scholars carried out at Alexandra—hence the name Septuagint. (In Latin, septuaginta means seventy.) This translation was made so the Jews living in Egypt who may not have known Hebrew could still read the Scriptures.

Other Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into other languages, especially for the Jews in exile in the area near Babylon, well known ones being Aramaic and Arabic. One erroneous feature of the Arabic translation by Saadiah is that God does not have human features like a mouth, eyes, hands, feet, emotions of the heart or laughter. He also wrote that God does not travel, is not a warrior and is not a consuming fire. This heretical feature has become generally accepted even today by “traditional” Christianity.

The next major translation of the Hebrew Bible was into Yiddish in the 1200s. The main target of this translation was to women and children as the men could access the Hebrew Scriptures. Translations into Spanish, French and Italian followed. Surprisingly, a complete German translation of the Jewish Scriptures by and for Jews was not made until about 1830. It is interesting that the English Jews used the Authorised Version for over a hundred and fifty years before seeing the need to produce their own translation, and their English translations did not deviate much from the Authorised Version until the middle of the twentieth century. The obvious difference between the Jewish Bible and the Old Testament is the order of the books and the fact that the book of Joel has four chapters and the book of Malachi has three chapters in the Jewish versions (but there is no difference in the text itself).

Considering the New Testament, as far as we are aware, all of the New Testament books were written in Greek (with a few sentences written in Aramaic). However, it was not classical Greek, but the Greek that the ordinary people would understand.

Once God inspired the books that were to form the whole Bible, the first major translation was made into Latin by the scholar Jerome in about the year 400. This was termed the “Vulgate” because it was to be used by the common or vulgar people. This became the only translation that was allowed to be used in Western Europe according to the Roman Catholic Church.

Some portions of the Bible were translated into Anglo-Saxon; for example, the Gospels or the Psalms, but no complete translations of the whole Bible are known to have been made until the time of John Wycliffe, when he, and possibly his assistants, translated from the Latin Vulgate into an early form of English in about 1382. At that time, only the Vulgate was available and very few common people could read Latin. This was before the invention of the printing press, and all copies were made by hand, greatly limiting its circulation. At first glance, the handwriting appears impossible for us to read, but when reproduced in a modern font, the first verses are as follows (in Genesis 1:1-3): “In the bigynnyng God made of nouyt heuene and erthe. Forsothe the erthe was idel and voide, and derknessis weren on the face of depthe; and the Spiryt of the Lord was borun on the watris. And God seide, Liyt be maad, and liyt was maad.”

The limited copies were spread around England by the Lollards. In 1415, Wycliffe was declared a heretic because of enabling the common people to read the Bible for themselves. All his works were to be burned and his remains exhumed. Anyone who read the Scriptures in English “would forfeit land, cattle, life and goods from their heirs forever.” In 1428, at the command of Pope Martin V, Wycliffe’s corpse was exhumed and burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift, which flows through Lutterworth. Fortunately, about 250 copies of his works are thought to have survived, and some are found in museums and libraries today.

The next major event in the provision of the English Bible was the work of the Dutch philosopher and Catholic theologian Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. He was moved to correct the Latin Vulgate, believing it to be corrupt. He had no desire to take part in the Protestant Reformation, but only to correct the Vulgate. In 1516, he published a Greek-Latin Parallel New Testament. The Latin part was his own translation that he had made from six partial old Greek New Testament manuscripts which were more accurate and reliable than the Latin Vulgate. The six manuscripts contained the whole of the New Testament except for the last six verses of Revelation  which he back translated from the Vulgate into Greek. (According to some commentaries and translations, this would explain why an alleged mistake had been made and has been retained in the Authorised Version, in verse 19, where the “Book of Life” is mentioned, even though it is claimed that the original Greek says, “Tree of Life.”)

Of interest is the fact that these manuscripts did not contain the spurious verse 1 John 5:7, so for his first and second editions, Erasmus did not include it. When Martin Luther translated his German Bible, he used Erasmus’s second edition for his New Testament and also did not include it. This, of course, was very controversial, as it was a verse used to supposedly prove the Trinity doctrine. Finally, someone did find a Greek manuscript which included this spurious verse, so Erasmus included it in his third edition of 1522. Even so, he still believed it was a spurious addition. While it is assumed that the term Textus Receptus (Received Text) was used for the work of Erasmus, it was actually not used until 1633 when it was used in a publisher’s preface to the Bible. The full text of this preface in English was: “So you hold the text, now received by all, in which is nothing corrupt.” The term was then retroactively applied to Erasmus’s editions. The full title shown above is interesting in that it claims that in this text there is nothing corrupt. In other words, it is perfect, a remarkable claim.

The Greek text provided by Erasmus and used by William Tyndale was his third edition which included the spurious verse as mentioned above. He used it to translate an English New Testament for the common or uneducated people. At the time, the only Bible available was the Latin Vulgate, and only highly educated people could read Latin. He finished his New Testament translation in 1525 and then started the translation of the Old Testament, translating from the Hebrew. He finished the first five books of Moses in 1530 and went on to translate Joshua to Chronicles and Jonah before being burnt at the stake in 1536 because of translating the Bible into English.

He had been very fluent in about six languages and then studied Hebrew in Germany to enable him to translate the Old Testament. His translation is said to have been used in over seventy-five percent of the Authorised Version and many later versions. However, he had difficulties with shortcomings of the English language. In translating the New Testament, there was no English equivalent to the Greek word “Pascha” (Passover) so he used the nearest one, it being “Easter”, about twenty-six times, not wanting to use a Greek word in his English Bible. The same problem arose in the book of Exodus, so he invented the word Passover. He also invented words like Atonement. In fact, he invented more new English words and expressions than any other author. It is said that he refined and standardised the English language like no other, including William Shakespeare.

In his translation, he preferred words like “love” rather than “charity”, “congregation” rather than “Church”—the latter because he understood that the Greek did not mean a building but a group of people. His New Testament was printed in Europe and smuggled into England often in bales of textiles. This was because the Catholic authorities had banned Tyndale’s translation and burned every copy they found. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the bishop of London agreed to purchase every copy available and to burn and destroy them all. It is believed that the purchase price enabled more copies to be printed. Since at the time there was only the Catholic Church, his translation had no sectarian bias but was as accurate as he could possibly make it.

Myles Coverdale and John “Thomas Matthew” Rogers had remained loyal disciples the last six years of Tyndale’s life, and they carried the English Bible project forward and even accelerated it. Coverdale finished translating the Old Testament, and in 1535 he printed the first complete Bible in the English language, making use of Luther’s German text and the Latin as sources since he was not proficient in Greek or Hebrew. Thus, the first complete English Bible was printed on October 4, 1535, and is known as the Coverdale Bible. The king of England at the time was King Henry the Eighth, and he encouraged the Coverdale Bible to be published and available in every Church. Coverdale’s English was even more directed to the common people. He replaced “elect” with “chosen”, “descended” with “went down”, often “sons of God” with “children of God”. Because of the king’s encouragement, the Coverdale Bible would have been the first English Authorised Version. (However, some say the Great Bible of 1539 was the first Authorised Version of the Church of England.)

John Rogers went on to print the second complete English Bible in 1537 as a reference or study Bible. He printed it under the pseudonym “Thomas Matthew” (an assumed name that had actually been used by Tyndale at one time), as a considerable part of this Bible was the translation of Tyndale, whose writings had been condemned by the English authorities. It was a composite, made up of Tyndale’s Genesis to Chronicles and New Testament (1534-1535 edition) and the Coverdale Bible. John Rogers also added a few passages, translated by himself. It remains known most commonly as the Matthew-Tyndale Bible. It went through a nearly identical second-edition printing in 1549. John Rogers was executed as a heretic during the reign of Catholic Queen Mary by burning at the stake in 1555.

Up until this time, the Bible was divided into chapters, but not verses; the chapters having different sections, labelled A, B, C, D, etc., each consisting of a number of what we now know as verses. However, in 1551, Robert Estienne added verse divisions to his Greek New Testament. This enabled the Geneva Bible of 1557 (New Testament) and 1560 (whole Bible) to contain both chapters and verses as we know them today.

The Geneva Bible, printed in Switzerland, was a very popular English Bible, containing cross references and copious notes to help in studying the Bible. The last edition of the Geneva Bible was published probably in 1644, thirty-three years after the Authorised Version was published. Copies of the Geneva Bible were even taken to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Its English was suitable for the common people, and it was printed in an easy-to-read Roman style text, unlike previous Bibles which were often printed in a Gothic text style.

Unfortunately, the copious notes, and some of the Scriptural variations in the Geneva Bible, were influenced by Calvinist and Puritan teachings which were, among other ideas, against the rule by kings. Several of the notes spoke fiercely about the right of subjects to resist their king. This was one reason why King James commissioned the Authorised Version. It’s also one of the reasons why the Catholic English version Rheims-Doual was produced from 1582 (NT) to 1610 (OT).

After the Authorised Version was commissioned, King James banned the printing of the Geneva Bible in England because of its notes which emphasised Calvinist teachings. He had had enough of Calvinist teaching in Scotland where he had been King James VI before coming to the throne in England. However, one printer in England continued to print the Geneva Bible for some time but he gave every copy a date of 1599. Other printers put the Geneva Bible within the covers of the Authorised Version.

This brings us up to the Authorised Version commissioned by King James I and produced in 1611. It used much of both the Tyndale translation and the Geneva Bible but originally and most often without the notes and commentary of the Geneva Bible. The scholars, in order to show the majesty of the Bible, reverted to some more archaic English. Among other things, they changed “congregation” back to “Church” and “love” back to “charity”.

During the period between 1611 and 1769, numerous modifications, errors and corrections had been made to the Authorised Version; so much so that the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford sought to produce an updated standard text. This has remained almost unchanged from 1769 until today. There were many typographical errors; for example, in one printing the word “not” was left out of the seventh commandment which caused that version to be named the “Wicked Bible”. Another well-known misprint gave two printings the unofficial titles the “He Bible” and the “She Bible”, depending on whether he (Boaz) or she (Ruth) went into the city (compare Ruth 3:15).

In the Authorised Version, the word Easter was replaced with Passover in all cases except one in Acts 12:4. This is interesting in that the Geneva Bible had always replaced “Easter” with “Passover”. Some have speculated that there was a logical reason for this, but it is difficult to know what the translators had in mind over four hundred years ago.

There is another section printed in some versions of the Bible, this being the Apocrypha. (For details, see the Q&A, “Why don’t many editions of the Bible contain the Apocrypha?”) It is not included in the Hebrew Scriptures as it was uninspired, but was included in the Septuagint. After that, it was included in the Latin Vulgate and hence in all versions based on the Vulgate. This included the Wycliffe version, William Tyndale’s version, Martin Luther’s version, the Geneva Bible and the Authorised Version up until 1885 when it was removed. When King James commissioned the Authorised Version, anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha he threatened with a heavy fine and a year in jail.

Considering the Authorised Version, it is still on the top-selling list of Bibles, earlier this year being in the number four position with the New King James Bible being in the number six position in popularity. Previously, the Authorised Version was in the number two position for many years, and prior to that, it was the top selling version, which would probably make it the highest number of Bibles, or possibly even books, ever produced.

After 1611, when the Authorised Version was printed, a few minor revised versions were made, but it was not until 1881 that an official Revised Version was authorised to be used in England. It was to adapt the King James Version to an updated English Language but retain the form of the Authorised Version. In the USA, the American Standard Version was produced from 1900 to 1901 as a revision by American scholars of the Revised Version. From this time forward, another three major translations were made, and from 1979 to 1982, the New King James Bible was produced. Its aim was to update the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version or Authorised Version. A broader number of ancient manuscripts were used in its preparation, and, with good reason, it has become one of the most popular English translations.

And, as time goes on, more and more versions have been produced of varying qualities. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “of making many books there is no end”.

(For more information, please read chapter 2 of our free booklet, The Authority of the Bible.”)

Lead Writer: Paul Niehoff (Australia)

What Is Precious to God?

People often have things that they consider to be precious to them. It may be memories of a particular event. It could be an object, for example, a photograph, that reminds them of a particularly enjoyable occasion. It could be a particular friendship that has been longstanding and close. Whatever it is, it is important to them and they consider it precious.

In the natural world, there are minerals that are considered precious—metals like gold, silver and the platinum group of metals. There are also precious gemstones.

A good definition of precious is found in the Cambridge dictionary. It defines precious as: “Of great value because of being rare, expensive, or important.” This definition certainly applies to the above-mentioned listings. A person may find things, events or friendships precious because they are rare or important and the things may possibly be expensive.

Considering metals and gemstones, they are precious because of their importance in industry or commerce on account of their physical features. Some of them are very durable. Gold and silver and some gemstones have been considered precious for thousands of years. They can also be expensive because of their rarity.

It’s obvious that we consider things that are precious to us to be important for various reasons. When we read through the Bible, there are a number of things that are stated as being precious to man—things like precious stones or jewels, precious ointment, precious gold and silver—but there are a number of things that are precious or important to God. They are of much greater importance than physical things that are only temporary. These have a common goal that God considers a highly important part of His plan.

What does God reveal that is really precious to Him? It is not physical objects but more spiritual considerations. Looking at the Hebrew words in this regard, the meaning of precious is basically heavy in value (valuable) or rare. The Greek words for precious have the meaning of costly, valuable, honored, esteemed, beloved.

The first occurrence of precious other than a physical object is in 1 Samuel 3:1 where we find that at that time God’s Word was rare (or precious, as in the Authorised Version and some other versions): “Now the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare (precious, Authorised Version) in those days; there was no widespread revelation.”  We certainly know that God’s Word is valuable and, in those days, it was also very rare.

In Psalm 49:8-9, we find just how precious redemption is. The previous verses reveal that no amount of money can redeem souls: “For the redemption of their souls is costly (precious, Authorised Version), And it shall cease forever—That he should continue to live eternally, And not see the Pit.” Here, redemption is so important that it leads to eternal life. No amount of money could buy it, as will be seen later.

Further on in the Psalms, we find that God considers the blood, or death, of His saints to be precious. This is revealed in Psalm 72:14: “He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; And precious shall be their blood in His sight.” And in Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.” This is because when a saint dies, God will resurrect him or her to eternal life as a part of His Family forever. Their future is assured.

Psalm 139:17 informs us of something that should be precious to us, not just to David. It shows that we should think as God thinks: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!” Regarding God’s thoughts, we read in other passages that God desires all men to be saved, and He thinks good toward His people and not evil.

Proverbs 20:15 reveals that “the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel,” more than “gold and a multitude of rubies.” True knowledge gives us understanding of our future and what we will be.

In Isaiah 28:16 is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, revealing that He is precious: “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.”

In Isaiah 43:3-4, God reveals that He considers His people of Israel to be precious: “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore  I will give men for you, And people for your life.”

In the New Testament, further things are mentioned as being precious to God. In 1 Peter 1:7, the genuineness of our faith is much more precious than gold that perishes. In 1 Peter 1:19, the blood of Jesus Christ is also considered precious.

In 1 Peter 2:4-7, Isaiah 28:16 is expanded upon. The Messiah is again called the chief cornerstone and precious upon whom we are built up as a holy priesthood.

2 Peter 1:1 shows that God’s people have obtained the precious faith by the righteousness of Jesus Christ—not by anything we have earned by our own efforts. And the last mention of what God considers precious is in 2 Peter 1:4, telling us that we have received “exceedingly great and precious promises” that we can partake of the divine nature; basically, that we become God and have His nature.

So, what can we conclude from these passages? Even though God made precious physical things for man, which things are temporary, He considers those things much more precious which are leading to our eternal life. His Word, our redemption, the resurrection after our death, what God thinks about us and His intentions for us, the Messiah of course, genuine faith, the costly blood of Jesus Christ which alone makes our redemption possible, and the precious faith which can only come through the righteousness of Jesus Christ—all these result in the promise of us being born as a part of the Family of God.

All these precious things have the aim of increasing the number of Spirit beings in His Family which is His overall purpose. This is why Peter used his strongest expression “exceedingly great and precious promises.” Nothing in this physical world can compare with that.

The Error of Balaam

When the children of Israel were fighting the Midianites, as described in the book of Numbers, they also killed Balaam. What did he do to deserve death? It is explained in the book of Revelation. 

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Look Forward to the Future in Faith

In our Christian lives, we have many promises from God. He reminds us via the apostle Paul that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We also know through James that “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15). These are promises for us mainly during this life, but what about promises for our future? What should we have faith in regarding our future? What does God want us to be thinking about as we go through our day-to-day life with both its pleasures and difficulties?

We know that God tells us to seek first His “kingdom… and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). And if we do, it is pleasing to God, but we must have the faith to believe His promises. Remember, believing God counts for righteousness as was described about Abram. See Genesis 15:6.

When we want to study faith, the obvious chapter to refer to is Hebrews 11, which is commonly called “the faith chapter.” In it, we can read about many men and women who lived and died in faith. But what did they have faith in? In this chapter, there are examples of the ancients who looked to the promises of the future, rather than just their present lifetime.

Some did receive a reward for their faith during their lifetime. Noah was warned about a flood and by building the ark saved his household. And, in fact, it is because of his faith and action that we are alive today. By faith Sarah was able to conceive a child. Through that child we have received physical and spiritual blessings today. But others did not receive the promises while they lived, but looked to the future fulfilment of them (compare Hebrews 11:13). So, what did these look forward to?

Abraham obeyed God and left his homeland to a place that he was promised he would inherit even though he did not know where he was going. He dwelt there with his son Isaac and grandson Jacob who had the same promise. They and their families dwelt in tents during their lifetime, as we can read that Isaac took Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent as his wife. See Genesis 24:67. They did not have permanent buildings to live in during their lifetime.

So, what did Abraham especially look forward to? Hebrews 11:10 explains that “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” He was looking forward to a time when He would live in a permanent city that God would provide, not just in tents as he was living in during his life. Moses also, in faith, looked forward to the reward, “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt…” (See Hebrews 11:26).

So, all those mentioned who died in faith “…desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16). We can see glimpses of this promise, as a physical forerunner, in the Millennium; for example, in Isaiah 33:20-21. There we see Jerusalem, a quiet home, a place of broad rivers and streams. It will be so much better than what it is today. A city of peace—the name Jerusalem traditionally meaning “Possession of Peace.”

It will be where Christ will rule the earth from in stability and peace, for the benefit and blessing of all people. There will be no uncertainty as to who will be elected as the next president and whether he will do a good job or not, as there is today, but Christ will rule perfectly. And thinking about Jerusalem today, it could not be called a quiet home with broad rivers and streams today as it will be in God’s future. It has experienced many wars over the millennia and had very little peace.

But ultimately, after the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment, God will provide “…the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). And as we read in Hebrews 11:39-40: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

So, as we go through life with its many difficulties, we can remind ourselves that the men and women of faith mentioned in the Bible have not yet received their ultimate promise. God is waiting to share it with them and with us when we are all made perfect together. It is a promise that we should consider the most important thing in our life to look forward to—one that will be filled with joy and pleasure forevermore. So today, as we live our lives in both good times and in bad times, we should be looking toward that future Kingdom that God has promised to us and all of His people forever.

What can we know about the sons of the prophets?

There are two time periods in the books of the former prophets, those books being Joshua to 2 Kings, where groups or sons of the prophets are mentioned. The first was under the prophet Samuel and the second was during the time of Elijah and Elisha.

Considering the time of Samuel, he was the son of Elkanah and Hannah and was conceived miraculously. In fact, the name Samuel means “God has heard,” since he was an answer to Hannah’s prayer. 1 Samuel 1:1 informs us that Elkanah was a resident of the mountains of Ephraim. 1 Chronicles 6, verses 27-28 and 33-34 mention Elkanah and Samuel, listing them as descendants of Kohath, a Levite, but not of the priestly line that descended from Aaron. From this we see that Samuel was a Levite living in the area of Ephraim. The phrase in 1 Samuel 1:1 that Elkanah was “an Ephraimite” is understood as saying that he lived there or that he was born there and belonged, according to his  “civil standing” to the tribe of Ephraim; not, that he was by origin a descendant of Ephraim. He was also a prophet and a judge.

Samuel was brought up under the instruction of Eli, the high priest at the time. However, 1 Samuel 2:12 informs us that Eli’s sons, one of whom was next in line to be the high priest, “did not know the LORD.” In fact, 1 Samuel 2:24 records that their father told them that they made the people transgress.

As Samuel grew, he ministered to “the LORD” before Eli. This was a time when “the word of the LORD was rare,” and “there was no widespread revelation” (1 Samuel 3:1). Samuel matured and the “Word of the LORD” was with him, and all Israel knew that he was a “prophet of the LORD” (compare 1 Samuel 3:19-20). Under Samuel, there was a great increase in the knowledge of the Word of God. In fact, as we read in 2 Chronicles 35:18, Josiah and the people kept the Passover in a manner that it had not been kept in since the days of Samuel the prophet. So, Samuel began a religious revival in the land of Israel.

1 Samuel 7:15-17 informs us that, “Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He went from year to year on a circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpah, and judged Israel in all those places. (According to Josephus, he visited these towns twice a year.) But he always returned to Ramah, for his home was there. There he judged Israel, and there he built an altar to the LORD.”

In 1 Samuel 8:1, we find, “Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel.” 1 Samuel 8:3 continues, “But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.” Following this, the people told Samuel that he was old and his sons did not walk in his ways, and so they wanted a king to judge them like all the other nations.

God reminded Samuel that the people were not rejecting Samuel but rejecting Him. So, God selected Saul to be their first king. Samuel subsequently anointed Saul king and gave him a number of signs that he would immediately see.

One of those signs is mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:5: “After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying.”

According to Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, “The name of Gibeah, or Hill of God, was given to it on account of a well-known high place or sacrificial height in or hard by the town. We know that this sacred place was chosen by Samuel as the site of one of his ‘schools of the prophets.’

“A company (or group) of prophets.—These evidently belonged to one of those seminaries termed ‘schools of the prophets,’ founded by Samuel for the training of young men. The foundation of these schools in different parts of the country was one of the greatest of the works of this noble and patriotic man. These schools seem to have flourished during the whole period of the monarchy, and in no small measure contributed to the moral and mental development of the people. Some of the youth of Israel who received in these schools their training became public preachers of the Word; for after all, this, rather than foretelling future events, was the grand duty of the prophet’s calling.

“We note that this group of prophets was accompanied by musical instruments. Dr. Erdmann, in Lange’s Commentary, accounts for this especial mention of the music which we know, from this and other passages, was carefully cultivated in these seminaries (schools) of the sons of the prophets, by suggesting that in these societies religious feeling was nourished and heightened by sacred music.

“The object of the musical teaching of the schools of the prophets was, no doubt, to enable those who had studied in the seminaries (schools) to guide and direct the religious gatherings of the people, into which—as we know from the subsequent Temple service, the model of all popular sacred gatherings for worship—music and psalmody entered so largely.”

Even though Ellicott’s comments have some merit, we would add that the Bible nowhere says expressly that Samuel had founded the “schools of prophets,” even though some commentaries conclude that he had “probably” done so (compare the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary). In 1 Samuel 19:20,  as will be mentioned below, Samuel is later referred to as the “leader” over the group of prophets.

The Benson Commentary adds. “By prophets here, he understands persons that wholly devoted themselves to religious studies and exercises. For the term of prophesying is not only given to the most eminent act of it, foretelling things to come, but also to preaching, and to the making or singing of psalms, or songs of praise to God. And they that wholly attended upon these things are called sons of the prophets, who were commonly combined into companies or colleges, that they might more conveniently assist one another in God’s work.”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible mentions that “Musical instruments were the accompaniments of the prophetic song. 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 25:3.”

There is another mention of the sons of the prophets in 1 Samuel 19 at a time when David was fleeing from king Saul. 1 Samuel 19:20 reads: “Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.” 1 Samuel 19:24 continues regarding king Saul: “And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’”

According to Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, the term “lay down naked was not necessarily without any clothes, for under the tunic there was worn by men of the upper ranks certainly a fine-woven shirt of linen or cotton. Lyranus explains the words ‘stripped off his clothes’ as simply denoting that he threw off his upper garment, ‘his royal robe.’” In another context, the term naked can also refer to a soldier without any weapons, rather than without any clothes.”

As a clarification, earlier in 1 Samuel 15:35 we read that “Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death…” However, in this event, Saul came to not see Samuel, but to capture David, so there is no contradiction. And with Saul laying down all that day and all that night, David had plenty of time to escape capture.

The other period when the “sons of the prophets” are mentioned is at the time of Elijah and Elisha—Elijah meaning “My God, Yahweh [better: YHWH] is He,” and Elisha meaning “God is Salvation.”

All we know of the origin of Elijah is that he was a Tishbite of the inhabitants of Gilead, a land on the east side of the Jordan river (1 Kings 17:1).

There were still a number of God’s prophets in the land but Jezebel wanted to rid the land of any competition to Baal and his false prophets. 1 Kings 18:4 informs us, “For so it was, while Jezebel massacred the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water.”

When Obadiah unexpectedly met up with Elijah, he repeated this: “Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid one hundred men of the LORD’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water?” (1 Kings 18:13).

The Benson Commentary informs us: “There were schools of these prophets, it is likely, still remaining in Israel; but Jezebel endeavoured both to destroy the schools, and those that were brought up in them, in order that none might be left to instruct the people in the true religion. Obadiah — hid them by fifty in a cave — At the hazard of his own life, and against the king’s command; wisely considering that no command of an earthly prince could overrule the command of the King of kings. And fed them with bread and water — Sent them meat and drink privately every day.”

After Elijah had demonstrated by a miracle from God, that “The LORD, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39), Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, as we read in 1 Kings 19:2. He fled as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. In 1 Kings 19:9, God asked him why he was there and he explained why in 1 Kings 19:10, “So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword.  I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’”

Commentaries tell us that this statement may have two possible meanings, either no prophet except Elijah, including those that Obadiah had hidden in two caves were still alive, or the ones still alive are in hiding in fear of their lives and not doing God’s work.

The Benson Commentary explains it as “I only am left — Of all thy prophets, who boldly and publicly plead thy cause: for the rest of thy prophets, who are not slain, hide themselves, and dare not appear to do thee service.”

However, as the Church of the Eternal God has pointed out on several occasions, Elijah’s statement should be understood as a complaint that he was the only one left in Israel who worshipped God. He was in deep emotional turmoil which clouded his eyes for reality. The Nelson Study Bible states: “In his depression, he thought he alone was faithful to God. When he was killed, there would be no one left to serve God.”

Similar the Life Application Bible: “Elijah thought he was the only person left who was still true to God… Lonely and discouraged, he forgot that others had remained faithful during the nation’s wickedness.“

1 Kings 20:35 and 1 Kings 20:41 combined give us an understanding what the sons of the prophets were. This was still during the reign of king Ahab and his wife Jezebel. While the context is not being considered here, verse 35 mentions a certain man of the sons of the prophets, and verse 41 mentions king Ahab recognizing him as a prophet. This informs us of two things; firstly, that not all of the prophets were killed by Jezebel, and secondly, at least this son of the prophets was also considered to be a prophet by the king.

When the time approached for Elijah to be taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, the sons of the prophets were aware that Elijah would be removed that day. So, they had some predictive understanding. 2 Kings 2:3 tells us, “Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know thou that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent!’”

2 Kings 2:5-7 continues this theme: “Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, ‘Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?’ So he answered, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent!’ Then Elijah said to him [Elisha], ‘Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!’ So the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.”

After Elijah had been removed and Elisha had walked across the Jordan after God had divided it, the sons of the prophets acknowledged that Elisha was their new leader. 2 Kings 2:15 reads: “Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.”

2 Kings 4:1 gives us some more information of the sons of the prophets. Just as Samuel was married, (he had two sons), at least some or even most of the sons of the prophets were also married: “A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, ‘Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take away my two sons to be his slaves.’”

2 Kings 4:38 informs us that there was a group of the sons of the prophets at Gilgal. And 2 Kings 6:1-2 tells us that there were so many sons of the prophets at this location that their accommodation was too small, so they built a larger accommodation by the Jordan.

The last mention of the sons of the prophets occurs in 2 Kings 9:1-3 where one of these sons of the prophets was sent by Elisha to go and anoint Jehu king of Israel. 2 Kings 9:7 informs us that God told Jehu: “You shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel.”

In conclusion, we see that the Word of God was not well known in the land of Israel before the time of Samuel. He worked in many parts of the land as a prophet, a judge and a Levite. As in the time of Moses, one man could not properly fulfill these roles, especially that of a prophet, alone. As stated above, it appears that he may have established schools for training prophets to assist him in this work to teach and edify the people. These students were called the sons of the prophets.

It is apparent that these schools also existed during the times of Elijah and Elisha in the land of Israel, the northern kingdom. As we read, one group of them is stated having fifty members. However, whether they existed in the intervening time is not revealed. But they were certainly a source of teachers for revealing the Word of God to the people of their time.

Lead Writer: Paul Niehoff (Australia)

Where Is Truth? It Is Fallen in the Street

In 1949, George Orwell published a book, entitled “1984”, picturing what he thought the conditions in a future world would be like. The lead character in it was employed in the “Ministry of Truth” to revise past issues of newspapers in the cases where politicians’ promises were not fulfilled. His revisions were to change the promises to what really happened, destroy the old copies and file the new copies as their replacements.

This was also carried out by others in the “Ministry of Truth” on books and other historical documents so that all past references as to what was expected to happen would be changed to what did happen. So, historical researchers would “find” that all predictions actually happened as they were predicted to. In other words, they were destroying Truth to make politicians look good.

At that time, 1984 as suggested by George Orwell, the governments would be highly oppressive and employ “Thought Police” to arrest and “Disappear” citizens who disagreed with the government’s narrative—at times even going so far as to remove all records of that person’s existence, as if they had never lived. Orwell also coined the term “Big Brother Is Watching”. Of course, that was purely fiction and did not happen in 1984.

However, looking at today’s situation, some of the things George Orwell wrote about are happening. This present situation is mentioned in Isaiah 59:14-15. It is a prophecy that will occur just before the return of Jesus Christ, although it may have happened in other times as well. The verses state, “Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter. So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.” The term prey is sometimes translated as ridiculed, but more often as plundered. It could even mean in today’s terminology, make oneself a target. All of these meanings are occurring in today’s world.

When we look at the situation today, justice is often dependent on political favour. Truth is certainly not evident in many places. And where do we find righteousness? The fulfilment of these two verses has been made plain during the current pandemic. The meaning of words has been changed for political reasons. Pandemic used to be a situation with extreme numbers of deaths and illnesses. This was changed within the last twenty years to only require a high number of cases without an extreme number of deaths.

Also, the definitions of vaccines and herd immunity have been changed to suit the current narrative.

As for becoming a target, doctors and nurses can lose their medical licenses if they treat patients with effective and safe medications that the government forbids for political or economic reasons. This even extends to requiring the professional to have a psychiatric examination before regaining their license—something no professional wants on their resume.

Regarding the legal area, some schools teach a distorted history and can groom young children towards trans-sexuality. The parents who object vocally at school meetings have been labelled “Domestic Terrorists” by a government agency. A Supreme Court nominee was unable to give a definition of what a woman is when asked. From a technical legal standpoint, she might even have been correct to an extent, when considering current law in some states, when anyone can legally call themselves the opposite gender from their birth sex. For example, a man has the legal right in some places to call himself a lesbian and anyone who objects can be prosecuted because of using hate speech. It is indeed a sick world, totally departing from God’s standards.

While people in this day and age are not usually “disappeared” as George Orwell wrote, they can be “disappeared” or cancelled from social and other internet websites for disagreeing with the government narrative and speaking what is true. Truth has indeed departed and people readily become targets for not agreeing with evil in today’s world.

So, what does God require of us as He is a God of Truth which we read in Deuteronomy 32:4? “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” So, those items mentioned as missing in Isaiah 59:14-15, justice, righteousness and Truth, characterise God.

As for us, God requires Truth to be a part of our character, a part of our Way of Life, and not just in our words, but also in our thoughts—our innermost being, if we want to live with Christ for eternity. As we read in Psalm 15:1-2: “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart.”

We live in a very corrupt and evil world ruled by Satan, and while we have to live in it, we must not be a part of it. As we read in Revelation 18:4, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’” While this chapter begins by mentioning Babylon in Revelation 18:2, Revelation 18:3 expands this to include all nations, the whole world, as “all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

So, we need to recognize that this world is evil, and to please God, we must not partake of any of this evil, but live a life of Truth and be valiant for it.

How Do You Understand the Covenants of the Bible? (Part 6)

After all of this breaking of the covenant between the people and God, God foretold of another covenant.

We read of it in Jeremiah 31:31-34: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

The first covenant mentioned here (with the nation of Israel “in the day” when God led them out of the land of Egypt) did not involve God putting His laws in the minds of the people. It was a covenant that would guarantee many physical blessings and long life if kept but did not have a promise of eternal life. But this new covenant would be the answer to the question raised in Deuteronomy 5:29 (compare also Deuteronomy 29:4 and Joshua 24:19, as discussed in the previous Q&A). God would give them a heart to fear Him and keep His commandments.

This passage in Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted almost identically in Hebrews 8:8-12. Hebrews 8:6-8 gives us information of this new covenant: “But now He (Christ) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant [note, in passing, that the word “covenant” has been added here by the translator] had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them….” Hebrews 8:13 informs us, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

We read previously in Exodus 24:8, “And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’” Likewise, the new covenant was also certified with blood, this time not with the blood of animals but with the blood of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:12 informs us, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:14-15 states, “… how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

While the first or old covenant between God and the nation of Israel had many physical blessings, it did not have the promise of eternal life. However, this new covenant has a promise of eternal inheritance which certainly necessitates eternal life. So especially in this promise, the new covenant is greatly superior to the old covenant.

So from this we know there was nothing wrong with the first covenant, in fact it was very beneficial at the times it was kept, but God found fault with the people because mostly they did not keep it. As we read in Deuteronomy 5:29, the people did not have such a heart in them to keep all of God’s commandments on which the covenant was based.

There are other covenants mentioned in the Old Testament between individuals. One is mentioned in 1 Samuel 18:1: “Now when he (David) had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:3-4 adds: “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armour, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.” Again, these were signs for this covenant. As we read the story, David and Jonathan kept this covenant until after the death of Jonathan. David’s lamenting is described in 2 Samuel 1:19-27, particularly in 2 Samuel 1:26. “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women.” Their covenant was an extremely strong relationship (but it has nothing to do with the absolutely false allegation that David and Jonathan were gay lovers.)

God did make another covenant, this time with king David. The fact that it was made is stated, as a part of David’s last words, in 2 Samuel 23:5, although it is not stated here what it involved: “Although my house is not so with God, Yet He had made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things and secure. For this is all my salvation and all my desire; Will He not make it increase?” 2 Chronicles 13:5 relates a time when David, Solomon and Rehoboam had died and Abijah was king over Judah and fighting against Jeroboam and the tribes of Israel: “Should you not know that the LORD God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt?” Here we find that this covenant was for David and his sons to reign over Israel forever. And it was a covenant of salt, showing its permanence.

This covenant is also stated clearly in Psalm 89:3-4: “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations…” And finally, about this covenant, God states that unless the covenant with day and night can be broken, then His covenant with David, and that with the Levites, cannot be broken. Jeremiah 33:20-22 states: “Thus says the LORD: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’”

This covenant involves David’s descendants to be rulers over at least one tribe of Israel (compare our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”). However, David himself knew he would be resurrected to eternal life long before this covenant was made with him. He states in Psalm 17:15. “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” He knew he would be resurrected to eternal life as a Spirit Being.

In conclusion, we see that covenants are the method God used in His dealings with men, and also occurred between individuals. Putting aside for the moment the covenants between God and some individuals like Phinehas or the tribe of Levi, there were several periods of time when God made covenants, and some of these are very beneficial to us today. Apart from the indication of God’s covenant of marriage (see our discussion in part 2 of this series), the first period refers to the time of Noah when God promised He would never again destroy all life by means of a flood. This we can rely on that we will be safe from a total worldwide flood. The second period relates to the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The covenants included blessings of a land, descendant nations and kings.

In Genesis 18:17-18, God reveals that all nations of the earth shall be blessed in Abraham: “And the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?’” This is repeated in Genesis 26:4: “And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” And why would this be? Verse 5 continues: “… because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

But, of course, since we are a part of all nations to be blessed because of Abraham’s obedience, this covenant is beneficial to us today. In addition, the descendants of Abraham and, through him, the house of Israel would be greatly blessed physically as well, but those blessings would be removed when they would refuse to obey, as we are seeing today. And even more to the point, as Galatians 3:16 informs us, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.” So, we greatly benefit through Christ. As true Christians, we are spiritual Israelites, and we are thereby promised eternal life through the Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.

The third time period when God made covenants with men was at Sinai (and subsequently at Moab). In addition to the covenant which God made with Levi at that time, it was not just a man or he and his family that God made a covenant with, but with a whole nation of millions of people. This was the first covenant dedicated with blood. As we read in Hebrews 9:18-20, “Therefore not even the first covenant [note, in passing, that the word “covenant” was added here by the translator] was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.’” As we pointed out previously in Part 4, God made also a separate covenant with the people of Israel regarding the weekly and annual Sabbath days. We read in Isaiah 56:6-7 that even those who may not be Israelite by birth, if they refuse to defile the Sabbath and hold fast to this covenant, God will make them joyful in His house of prayer. This potentially includes all people of the world.

The fourth time period when God made a covenant was with David. This was for David to always have descendants to sit on the throne of Israel, not for his own eternal life.

The fifth time period when God promised a covenant was when it was stated in Jeremiah 31:31-34 that God was going to make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This time, God would put His laws in their hearts so they could keep them as they were intended to be kept. We read in Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” This new covenant included the promise of eternal life and rulership over all of God’s creation.

Hosea 2:16 informs us when this new covenant is in force, we will no longer call God our Master: “‘And it shall be, in that day,’ Says the LORD, ‘That you will call Me “My Husband,” And no longer call Me “My Master.”’” This obviously refers to Revelation 19:7, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

There are many covenants in the Bible, too many to mention in this short discussion, but they are the main way God uses in dealing with His people throughout the ages and into the future.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Paul Niehoff

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