Daddy blog

I started this blog when I was following the Life Journal Bible reading plan on YouVersion. (I've since completed that plan.) At that time, YouVersion didn't provide any way for people to respond to my notes, other than to "like" them. So this blog is here to remedy that problem. You may comment on my notes here in the comment section.
I also have a general blog.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The name “Yahweh” was probably known before Moses

14/1/2017 Genesis 27:7 ‘Bring me venison, and make me savory food, that I may eat, and bless you before Yahweh before my death.’

Note: This is not in my usual SOAP style because it's more of an explaining of a puzzle.

I have been reading Genesis again recently as I am using the Walk Through The Bible 365 reading plan and have been struck again by the fact that the name Yahweh is used in Genesis many times before the name was supposedly revealed to Moses for the first time at the burning bush.

To complicated matters further, Exodus 6:2 seems to say that the name of Yahweh was unknown to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I just found out that the New English Bible translators' notes on Exodus 6:3 actually explain the situation. Here's the note.

There are a number of important issues that need clarification in the interpretation of this section.

First, it is important to note that “I am Yahweh” is not a new revelation of a previously unknown name. It would be introduced differently if it were. This is the identification of the covenant God as the one calling Moses – that would be proof for the people that their God had called him.

Second, the title “El Shadday” is not a name, but a title. It is true that in the patriarchal accounts “El Shadday” is used six times; in Job it is used thirty times. Many conclude that it does reflect the idea of might or power. In some of those passages that reveal God as “El Shadday,” the name “Yahweh” was also used. But Wellhausen and other proponents of the earlier source critical analysis used Exod 6:3 to say that P, the so-called priestly source, was aware that the name “Yahweh” was not known by them, even though J, the supposed Yahwistic source, wrote using the name as part of his theology.

Third, the texts of Genesis show that Yahweh had appeared to the patriarchs (Gen 12:1, 17:1, 18:1, 26:2, 26:24, 26:12, 35:1, 48:3), and that he spoke to each one of them (Gen 12:7, 15:1, 26:2, 28:13, 31:3). The name “Yahweh” occurs 162 times in Genesis, 34 of those times on the lips of speakers in Genesis (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:340-41). They also made proclamation of Yahweh by name (4:26, 12:8), and they named places with the name (22:14). These passages should not be ignored or passed off as later interpretation.

Fourth, “Yahweh” is revealed as the God of power, the sovereign God, who was true to his word and could be believed. He would do as he said (Num 23:19; 14:35; Exod 12:25; 22:24; 24:14; 36:36; 37:14).

Fifth, there is a difference between promise and fulfillment in the way revelation is apprehended. The patriarchs were individuals who received the promises but without the fulfillment. The fulfillment could only come after the Israelites became a nation. Now, in Egypt, they are ready to become that promised nation. The two periods were not distinguished by not having and by having the name, but by two ways God revealed the significance of his name. “I am Yahweh” to the patriarchs indicated that he was the absolute, almighty, eternal God. The patriarchs were individuals sojourning in the land. God appeared to them in the significance of El Shadday. That was not his name. So Gen 17:1 says that “Yahweh appeared…and said, ‘I am El Shadday.’” See also Gen 35:11, 48:2, 28:3.

Sixth, the verb “to know” is never used to introduce a name which had never been known or experienced. The Niphal and Hiphil of the verb are used only to describe the recognition of the overtones or significance of the name (see Jer 16:21, Isa 52:6; Ps 83:17ff; 1 Kgs 8:41ff. [people will know his name when prayers are answered]). For someone to say that he knew Yahweh meant that Yahweh had been experienced or recognized (see Exod 33:6; 1 Kgs 18:36; Jer 28:9; and Ps 76:2).

Seventh, “Yahweh” is not one of God’s names – it is his only name. Other titles, like “El Shadday,” are not strictly names but means of revealing Yahweh. All the revelations to the patriarchs could not compare to this one, because God was now dealing with the nation. He would make his name known to them through his deeds (see Ezek 20:5). So now they will “know” the “name.” The verb יָדַע (yada’) means more than “aware of, be knowledgeable about”; it means “to experience” the reality of the revelation by that name.

This harmonizes with the usage of שֵׁם (shem), “name,” which encompasses all the attributes and actions of God. It is not simply a reference to a title, but to the way that God revealed himself – God gave meaning to his name through his acts. God is not saying that he had not revealed a name to the patriarchs (that would have used the Hiphil of the verb). Rather, he is saying that the patriarchs did not experience what the name Yahweh actually meant, and they could not without seeing it fulfilled.

When Moses came to the elders, he identified his call as from Yahweh, the God of the fathers – and they accepted him. They knew the name. But, when they were delivered from bondage, then they fully knew by experience what that name meant, for his promises were fulfilled. U. Cassuto (Exodus, 79) paraphrases it this way: “I revealed Myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in My aspect that finds expression in the name Shaddai…I was not known to them, that is, it was not given to them to recognize Me as One that fulfils his promises.” This generation was about to “know” the name that their ancestors knew and used, but never experienced with the fulfillment of the promises. This section of Exodus confirms this interpretation, because in it God promised to bring them out of Egypt and give them the promised land – then they would know that he is Yahweh (6:7). This meaning should have been evident from its repetition to the Egyptians throughout the plagues – that they might know Yahweh (e.g., 7:5). See further R. D. Wilson, “Yahweh [Jehovah] and Exodus 6:3,” Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, 29-40; L. A. Herrboth, “Exodus 6:3b: Was God Known to the Patriarchs as Jehovah?” CTM 4 (1931): 345-49; F. C. Smith, “Observation on the Use of the Names and Titles of God in Genesis,” EvQ 40 (1968): 103-9.

So, essentially, the translator is saying that Genesis 6:3 is not saying that this verse is saying that they didn’t know the name Yahweh at all; it's saying that they didn’t יָדַע (yada’) know Him that deep way that was revealed to Moses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Boy Scouts' Motto

13/12/2016

S: Matthew 24

O: Different Christians have different interpretations of this passage, because of different views of eschatology. Some Christians believe this deals with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70, while others believe that it has to do with the Battle of Armageddon -- the ultimate Last Battle of the End Times.

In a previous Life Journal entry, I discussed how the parallel passage in Luke helps explain one of the mysteries here, the Abomination of Desolation.

But in today's reading, I was struck by what the main point was: The main point wasn't all these details about what's happening. The main point, which Jesus repeated several times in many passages was this: “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42) (Thanks to Tim Bulkeley for highlighting this in a sermon in November.)

The reference to "just like the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:37), the two men, one taken, one left (Matthew 24:40), the two women one taken, one left (Matthew 24:41), the thief in the night (Matthew 24:43), "Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matthew 24:44) , the parable of the faithful slave vs the bad slave (Matthew 24:45-51), the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the judgment seat of Christ (Matthew 25:31-46) all are shouting the Boy Scouts' Motto: "Be prepared!"

A: It's fine to discuss and debate your particular eschatological view with other Christians (as long as it's done in a brotherly manner) but at the end of it, it doesn't matter if you're preterist, postmillennial, pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, amillennial, or whatever.

All of us will meet our maker. Whether the rapture is today, tomorrow, in a million years, or is purely allegorical, we could step in front of a bus tomorrow or die in a car crash, or have a heart attack, etc. So we should always be ready. Always be following what Jesus wants us to do.

P: Father, when I am tempted to sin, may I remember this, and "be prepared". In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Don't bother asking for God's guidance if you're planning to ignore him in the end

26/11/2016

S: Jeremiah 42-43

O: Babylon had conquered Judah and carried off most of the people into exile. They appointed Gedaliah as governor of Judah, but Ishmael ben Nathaniah assassinated Gedaliah.

Johanan ben Kareah and other people who didn't have anything to do with the assassination feared Babylon retribution, and asked the prophet Jeremiah to ask God what they should do, promising “May Yahweh your God be a faithful witness against us if we refuse to obey whatever he tells us to do! Whether we like it or not, we will obey Yahweh our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.” (Jeremiah 42:5-6)

God told them to stay in Judah, for He would make the king of Babylon kind to them. God also warned them not to go to Egypt, because if they did, they would be caught up in Babylon's invasion of Egypt.

However, when Jeremiah had finished giving this message from Yahweh their God to all the people, Azariah ben Hoshaiah and Johanan ben Kareah and all the other proud men said to Jeremiah, “You lie! Yahweh our God hasn’t forbidden us to go to Egypt! Baruch ben Neriah has convinced you to say this, because he wants us to stay here and be killed by the Babylonians or be carried off into exile.” So Johanan and the other guerrilla leaders and all the people refused to obey Yahweh’s command to stay in Judah. (Jeremiah 43:1-4)

As a result, they ended up suffering in the war when Babylon invaded Egypt.

A: James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

And so, indeed, we ask... but are we willing to listen when He tells us, through His Word, counsel of Godly believers, etc.?

My family is facing such a situation now... the prevailing counsel is going in one direction, but we seem to be resisting it.

P: Father, may we be obedient to Your guidance. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Missing the whole point

22/10/2016

S: 1 Corinthians 8

O: Most Western people don't bother much with this passage, because they are never offered food offered to idols to eat. However, it is very common for us Chinese Malaysian Christians who come from non-Christian families to be faced with this. The traditional Chinese New Year family meal is first offered to the ancestors, and you are expected as part of the family to participate in it.

Many Chinese Malaysians, when we first become Christians, are told that the Bible says that we should not eat food offered to idols. So we end up massively offending our families by refusing to eat the food at the family dinner, because it had first been offered to the ancestors. Many non-Christian family members have come to the conclusion that Christianity is anti-family as a result.

But let's look at what the passage really says. Read the entire chapter (or even, the entire letter of 1 Corinthians) to make sure I'm not taking these verses out of context.

"Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no other God but one." (v4) "But food will not commend us to God. For neither, if we don’t eat, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better."

So what is the point of this passage? Verse 7 says, "However, that knowledge isn’t in all men. But some, with consciousness of the idol until now, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled."

And verses 10-13 say, "For if a man sees you who have knowledge sitting in an idol’s temple, won’t his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? And through your knowledge, he who is weak perishes, the brother for whose sake Christ died. Thus, sinning against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat forever more, that I don’t cause my brother to stumble."

So what was the point? That you don't eat the food? No! It's "don't cause others to stumble"!

A: So what must we do? We are to be discerning and think about our actions! We are to evaluate whether our actions will draw people to Christ or push them away from Christ. Will eating draw people to Christ, push them away from Christ, or be neutral? There is no blanket answer, so we must do the hard work of evaluating each situation and not just blindly follow some man-made rules.

We as the Malaysian church need to do a better job of teaching our new believers this principle instead of just giving them a list of do's and don'ts. Let's not needlessly offend our non-Christian friends and relatives.

P: Father, help us to be wise and think about our faith, and learn your principles, instead of just blindly following rules. I know that I myself fall short of this time and time again so I need Your help. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

May we be one

10/9/2016

S: 1 Timothy 1:3-7 As I urged you when I was going into Macedonia, stay at Ephesus that you might command certain men not to teach a different doctrine, and not to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes, rather than God’s stewardship, which is in faith— but the goal of this command is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith; from which things some, having missed the mark, have turned aside to vain talking; desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor about what they strongly affirm.

O: Over the years, like many people who are serious about studying the Bible and following Jesus, I have developed various opinions and views about different things which not all Christians agree on. For example, I personally think that it's quite possible for God to have created the various different lifeforms via evolution or over a long period of time; I strongly suspect that the Antichrist of Revelations was Nero and the Great Tribulation was the Neronic persecution; I think that it is right and correct to baptize infants; I have come to believe that Holy Communion/the Lord's Supper/the Eucharist is not purely symbolic but have some spiritual mystery happening behind the scenes; and think that the idea that things will get worse and worse until the Second Coming of Christ is probably erroneous.

However, I know many Christians who believe differently from me, and whose lives exhibit evidence of a living faith in Jesus. Many of these people are members of my same local church. I could spend endless hours arguing and debating with these people, to the detriment of serving Christ together.

I used to hold various views dogmatically and consider those who disagree with me as somehow "less" Christian. Ironically, most of those views I listed above are different from the ones I used to hold -- my earlier self may well have considered my present beliefs heretical.

I had a wonderful experience while studying for my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was part of what was then known as the Graduate InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and that fellowship blew me away with the fact that there were Christians from doctrinal backgrounds that in the 17th century were actually fighting wars and killing each other -- we had Arminians and Calvinists, Baptists and Catholics, Orthodox, etc. all united in serving Christ together on campus.

After our fellowship meetings, we often went to a coffee shop and discussed/debated our different beliefs -- but we did not let it hinder our working together for Christ on campus.

A: We need to agree to disagree agreeably on all these secondary issues. Part of the difficulty is what one person considers a "secondary issue" might be considered a "primary issue" by others.

But Jesus prayed for us to be united, just as He and the Father are united (John 17:21) and to love one another as He has loved us. (John 13:34)

P: Father, give us wisdom to realize when our disagreements have become endless arguments. Give us Your guidance when to agree to disagree agreeably. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Great Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

3/9/2016
S: 2 Chronicles 17:3-62, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Kings 16:30-33, 2 Chronicles 18, 2 Chronicles 19:2-3, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37, 2 Chronicles 21-23

O: Israel and Judah had split after Solomon, and the northern kingdom of Israel had had one bad king after another. There was war between Israel and Judah from the time of Jeroboam till the time of Zimri. Now, a new dynasty had taken over Israel under Omri during the reign of good king Asa of Judah.

After Asa died, his son Jehoshaphat became king of Judah. He was a good king, and followed Yahweh. Therefore God blessed him and Judah became prosperous.

Seeing that prosperity, Moab, Ammon and Edom formed an alliance and invaded Judah. Jehoshaphat was terrified, but called for fasting and prayer. So God spoke through Jahaziel: He would rescue them. So the worship singers lead the army of Judah going into battle.

God caused Ammon and Moab to attack Edom instead, and then Ammon and Moab fought each other! So in the end, all Jehoshaphat and his army needed to do was to gather the plunder! It took them 3 days to do that, there was so much of it.

Ahab succeeded his father Omri to the throne of Israel, and he was steeped in evil. Yet, inexplicably, Jehoshaphat made an alliance with him, having his son Jehoram marry Ahab's daughter Athaliah. Perhaps he thought it was worthwhile to do this in order to end the years of war between Israel and Judah since the split in Rehoboam & Jeroboam's time. But in doing so, he essentially was having his son marry a follower of Baal. This was in spite of Jehoshapat's good experience with Yahweh saving him, and in spite of knowing that his ancestor Solomon's marrying pagan princesses caused him to stop being faithful to Yahweh, which resulted in the divided kingdom.

Some time later, Ahab decided to attack Ramoth Gilead, and asked Jehoshaphat to help him. Jehoshaphat agreed, but wanted to consult a prophet of Yahweh about it, even though Ahab's prophets of Baal had already predicted victory. So finally Ahab called the prophet Micaiah, but warned Jehoshaphat that Micaiah never predicts anything good for him.

Indeed, Micaiah predicts that Ahab would be killed in this battle. Nonetheless, Ahab persists and Jehoshaphat foolishly follows him. Ahab took the precaution of disguising himself so that the enemy wouldn't know it's him, so during the battle, the enemy attacked Jehoshaphat instead, thinking that he was Ahab. Nonetheless, the Word of Yahweh by Micaiah came true as a stray arrow killed Ahab.

Later, another prophet of Yahweh, Jehu ben Hanani, admonished Jehoshaphat for helping the wicked, those who hate Yahweh. God is upset with Jehoshaphat for his partnership with such people, yet also recognized that Jehoshaphat was faithful to God and never worshiped other gods.

In spite of this, Jehoshaphat entered another partnership with the wicked, this time with Ahab's son and successor Ahaziah, the new king of Israel. Perhaps he thought it was OK as this time it was a business partnership and not a military one. They made ships to go to make money trading to Tarshish, but the prophet Eliezer ben Dodavahu prophesied that Yahweh would destroy it because of his partnership with the evil Ahaziah. So the ships were broken and the business venture failed.

The consequences of these illicit partnerships Jehoshaphat made with the house of Omri were far-reaching and nearly snuffed out the line of David in Judah! Here is what happened as a consequence after Jehoshaphat died:

Due to his marriage to Athaliah bat Ahab, the next king, Jehoram, became an evil Baal-worshipper and led Judah astray spiritually.

Ahaziah ben Ahab fell from though his window lattice and was gravely injured, and sent emissaries to Beelzebub to ask if he would recover. Yahweh sent Elijah to admonish him for consulting Beelzebub instead of Yahweh, and told him he would die.

Then his brother Joram became king of Israel, but by this time Yahweh had given up on the house of Omri and had the prophet Elisha anoint Jehu to replace the house of Omri in Israel.

While Joram was recuperating from battle injuries, his nephew Ahaziah ben Jehoram (son of his sister Athaliah), who is now king of Judah, came to visit his uncle, and Jehu fell upon them both and killed them, as well as other relatives from Judah who came later to visit, not realizing that a coup had occurred. Jehu then started a new dynasty in Israel.

Meanwhile Athaliah in Judah saw her chance and killed all the descendants of the House of David and grabbed power for herself! She then began a reign of terror, suppressing the worship of Yahweh in Judah and promoting Baal.

Fortunately, Ahaziah's sister Jehosheba managed to hide away baby Joash with the high priest Jehoida in the Temple. 6 years later, they managed a counter-coup and killed Athailah and restored the House of David to the throne of Judah.

A: Our choices have consequences. 2 Corinthians 6:14 warns, "Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"

When we are seeking partners — whether in business or in marriage — we must be careful whom we choose.

The Bible doesn't make it black-and-white what it means by "yoking with unbelievers", but many Christians think that it means making a partnership. For example, the Bible has many examples of believers working for non-believers without condemnation, for example Daniel and Joseph both served pagan kings. But marrying non-believers seems to be almost completely negative (the only exception I can think of is the special case of Hosea and Gomer.)

P: Father, thank You for the example of Jehoshaphat, both good and bad. When we are making our choices, help us to remember and give us the wisdom to make godly choices. In Jesus' name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jeroboam's Folly

30/7/2016

S: 1 Kings 11:29-39, 12:26-30, 13:33-14:13

O: In spite of the wisdom God gave Solomon, he did not stay true to the Lord but worshipped other gods. So God decided to remove 10 tribes from his kingdom. So God sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam (11:29-39) and promised him, “It shall be, if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do that which is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.” (11:38)

So afterwards, the 10 northern tribes rebelled from Rehoboam son of Solomon, and Jeroboam became their king. When Rehoboam was about to muster the troops to reconquer Israel, God told the prophet Shemaiah to warn,  ‘Yahweh says, “You shall not go up or fight against your brothers, the children of Israel. Everyone return to his house; for this thing is from me.”’ Thus, Rehoboam had to leave Jeroboam alone and Jeroboam’s kingdom was established.

But then later, Jeroboam stopped trusting God. (12:26-34) Instead of trusting Yahweh to establish his kingdom securely, he worried about the people continuing to go to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh there. ‘So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and behold your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’ (12:28)

As a result, God condemned Jeroboam and his family who all abandoned Yahweh. The only one who stayed true to Yahweh in Jeroboam’s family was his little son. So God allowed this son to die before disaster strikes Jeroboam’s family, “All Israel will mourn for him and bury him; for he only of Jeroboam will come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward Yahweh, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.” (14:13)

A: So many children are named David these days, because David was a “man after God’s own heart”. This is in spite of David’s many sins — because he repented and turned back to God after he sinned.

But nobody is named Jeroboam. Instead, we read in later passages of the Bible, whenever a king is bad, he is compared to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Jeroboam could have been like David. God gave him the promise, if only he stayed true to Yahweh. But he didn’t, so now his name is mud.

We need to trust God, and repent when we sin, like David did. We must not allow human reasoning to draw us away from God, and to draw people we influence away from God.

P: Father, thank You that You are sent Jesus to pay for our sins. Thank You that You forgive us when we repent. May we not repeat Jeroboam's folly, and always repent and never abandon You. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)