The false “little gods” doctrine

The term “exegesis” is mostly used in reference to a critical examination of biblical text in order to determine exactly what the text means. It is by no means flippant or casual. It does not just take another person’s word for it. It seeks, it probes, it searches and it uses the appropriate tools of interpretation to arrive at its conclusion.

So, imagine what my excitement would be if someone walked up to me and assured me that I can be like God, in fact, that I can exercise godlike authority on earth over my circumstances. I mean, if you know my “wahalas” (as a father of 3 kids with one of them about to start secondary school in september) I could really do with some godlike powers. Wow! Such powers could help with my mounting electricity bills, I could get my wife her new car, and save up enough for a holiday.

But, because of the seriousness of these persons’ claims, I would not just take their word for it.
I would ask them to show me EXACTLY where God promised us these godlike powers, and I would critically examine the text (particularly since the person has made the claim that God Himself has promised us that). Because I claim to fear and love God, I would want to “see” this for myself so that it can begin to shape the tenor of my life. Afterall, I am what I think about God. So, off to Psalm 82; but I will not just read verses 5-7 but all the other verses so as to have a proper context for such a great promise (if it is a promise)

Why would I do that?

Well imagine if you had a person who was stalking you and writing romantic letters to you. You were able to ignore him (I am assuming you are female) for a while, but after some time you were no longer willing to stand the harassment. So, one day you decided to write “A LETTER TO END ALL LETTERS” to this pest. You go ahead and write a very lengthy letter, the summary of which was “Look, stop stalking me, I DO NOT LOVE YOU NOW OR FOREVER”. But this stalker decided to remove the “DO NOT” so that the letter now meant, “I LOVE YOU, NOW AND FOREVER” and chose that to be his reality? Imagine how pathetic that would be?

So, it is always important to read things in their context. Especially those things that have both temporal and eternal consequences;

Like Psalm 82:1-8 ESV

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

One thing that should not escape our notice is that this psalm was written by an Israelite and if there is one thing there is to know about a Jew, is the Shema. What is the Shema?

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Immediately, this helps me understand that whatever was meant in Psalm 82, cannot in anyway contradict the Shema. So, lets follow the text and see whether it has something else to say. The text opens with God accusing “gods” for judging unjustly; this ought to supply us with a clue to whom he has in mind. Judge unjustly? Partiality to the wicked? All this judicial language, widows, fatherless, etc. must be referring to men. But what sort of men? This question should cause me, to search the scriptures for instances where men were referred to by God as gods. And those instances would necessarily predate Psalm 82 (for the obvious reason that it is used as a starting point by the psalmist, so that it must have been an acceptable terminology)

The first instance in Scripture where God alluded to man being “as God” (that is apart from the sad episode of the fall, which by the way should be a caution to those seekers of Godlike powers/influence) is in Exodus 4:16 and the text yields the very obvious intention of that statement:
Exodus 4:10-16 ESV

But Moses said to the Lord , “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord ? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.

The text above is self explaining.

Also, Deuteronomy 17:1-13 gives a clear explanation of those leaders in Israel whom the Lord had appointed as judges and whose words “in office” were final as though they were the very words of God. It would therefore make sense for the Psalmist in Psalm 82 to refer to these representatives of God (in respect to judicial matters only) as gods. Since they acted on God’s behalf before his people.

So you see, a careful examination of the text starts to dim my prospects of godlike status.

The Psalm itself is broken into clearly discernible parts:

1. The Problem is identified and brought to Heaven’s council.
God’s judicial representatives are perverting justice!
They are perverting Justice against the defenseless and taking up the cause of wicked men.

A double tragedy if you ask me. But God isn’t going to sit back and let justice remain perverted for ever…Oh no! He is going to do something about it.

2. So God declares his righteous standard for justice in verses 3 and 4

3. But these “gods” fell woefully short of the standard and the consequences of their perversion of justice are of cosmic proportions (verse 5).

4. Now, God passes his Sentence on these Judges; these unjust judges, in verse 6 and 7; they would not only lose their privileged positions, they will die like uncelebrated and ordinary men..

5. And because they were no longer fit to Judge, the Psalmist (or some other unspecified third party) pleads for God himself to judge in the place of these unjust men.

The text is not an allusion to humans attaining godlike rights or powers. The only promiser of such an illusion was Satan in Genesis 3. And Adam and Eve found out soon enough how much of a liar the devil was: They never became gods.

The truth is, becoming a god is an appealing proposal. Especially when we are convinced that the only reason we have to deal with all the stuff we deal with is because we are just mere humans. But nothing is further from the truth than that. Our biggest problem isn’t that we are just human, our biggest problem is that we are sinful. And what we need is not to shed our humanity, but to have our sins forgiven.

You see, God is good and we are not! This creates a huge problem for us as the Almighty God who is the righteous judge must needs judge sinful humanity. We are sinners who dwell in a sinful world. And even when the issue of our sin has been dealt with, we still have to dwell in a world affected by the sin of others. Remember Psalm 82:5? The sins of a few judges affect the entire earth to its foundations.

So, we are best served by being made to realize that as long as we are in this world, we would have tribulations but our hope should not dim, nor our resolve fail because Christ has overcome the world. It may not look that way, as we go through tough times, but we can trust the one who not only gave up his life as a ransom for many, but was raised from the dead, as infallible proof of mission accomplished!

I will not bother with the other scripture references because I trust that if this one thing is clear, then the others cannot piece together coherently; as all of them depend on the misreading of Psalm 82:5-7

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A Colloquy on Rejoicing

Remember, O My Soul, 

It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God: 
He requires it of thee for all his favours of grace. 
Rejoice then in the Giver and his goodness, 
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God, 
for whatever a man trusts in, 
from that he expects happiness. 

He who is the ground of thy faith 
should be the substance of thy joy. 
Whence then come heaviness and dejection, 
when joy is sown in thee, 
promised by the Father, 
bestowed by the Son, 
inwrought by the Holy Spirit, 
thine by grace, 
thy birthright in believing? 

Art thou seeking to rejoice in thyself 
from an evil motive of pride and self-reputation? 
Thou hast nothing of thine own but sin, 
nothing to move God to be gracious, 
or to continue his grace towards thee. 
If thou forget this thou wilt lose thy joy. 
Art thou grieving under a sense of indwelling sin? 
Let godly sorrow work repentance, 
as the true spirit which the Lord blesses, 
and which creates fullest joy; 
Sorrow for self opens rejoicing in God, 
Self-loathing draws down divine delights. 
Hast thou sought joys in some creature comfort? 
Look not below God for happiness; 
fall not asleep in Delilah’s lap. 
Let God be all in all to thee, and joy in the fountain that is always full 

Image

(drawn from The Valley of Vision)

Learning and Becoming – Self Discipline

One of my biggest problems is, distractions! I know there are a whole lot of things I can accomplish if only I was disciplined enough. So imagine my delight at coming across this practical guide to Self-Discipline by Pastor John Macarthur. Here is hoping it blesses you:

Learning Self-Discipline
John MacArthur
For many years, I have had the privilege of knowing the renowned classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. By the time he was thirty, he had become a master of his instrument. But such mastery did not come easily or cheaply. While other children played and participated in sports, he spent several hours a day practicing the guitar. The result of that self-disciplined commitment is proficiency on his instrument that few can match.

Self-discipline is important in any endeavor of life. It’s best defined as the ability to regulate one’s conduct by principle and sound judgment, rather than by impulse, desire, or social custom. Biblically, self-discipline may be summarized in one word: obedience. To exercise self-discipline is to avoid evil by staying within the bounds of God’s law.

I’m grateful for my parents, coaches, professors, and the others who helped me develop self-discipline in my own life. People who have the ability to concentrate, focus on their goals, and consistently stay within their priorities tend to succeed. Whether in academics, the arts, or athletics, success generally comes to the self-disciplined.

Since self-discipline is so important, how do you develop it? How can parents help their children develop it? Here are some practical tips that I’ve found helpful:

Start with small things.
Clean your room at home or your desk at work. Train yourself to put things where they belong when they are out of place. Make the old adage “A place for everything and everything in its place” your motto. After you’ve cleaned your room or desk, extend that discipline of neatness to the rest of your house and workplace. Get yourself to the point where orderliness matters. Learn how to keep your environment clean and clear so you can function without a myriad of distractions. Such neatness will further develop self-discipline by forcing you to make decisions about what is important and what is not.Learning self-discipline in the little things of life prepares the way for big successes. On the other hand, those who are undisciplined in small matters will likely be undisciplined in more important issues. In the words of Solomon, it is the little foxes that ruin the vineyards (Song of Sol. 2:15). And when it comes to a person’s integrity and credibility, there are no small issues.
A famous rhyme, based on the defeat of King Richard III of England at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, illustrates the importance of concentrating on small details:
For want of a nail, a shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost,
For want of a horse, a battle was lost,
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost,
And all for want of a horseshoe nail.

Get yourself organized.
Make a schedule, however detailed or general you are comfortable with, and stick to it. Have a to-do list of things you need to accomplish. Using a daily planning book or a personal information manager program on your computer would be helpful. But get organized, even if all you do is jot down appointments and to-do items on a piece of scrap paper. The simple reality is that if you don’t control your time, everything (and everyone) else will.

Don’t constantly seek to be entertained.
When you have free time, do things that are productive instead of merely entertaining. Read a good book, listen to classical music, take a walk, or have a conversation with someone. In other words, learn to entertain yourself with things that are challenging, stimulating, and creative. Things that are of no value except to entertain you make a very small contribution to your well-being.

Be on time.
If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time. The apostle Paul listed proper use of time as a mark of true spiritual wisdom: “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Being punctual marks a life that is organized. It reveals a person whose desires, activities, and responsibilities are under control. Being on time also acknowledges the importance of other people and the value of their time.

Keep your word.
“Undertake not what you cannot perform,” a young George Washington exhorted himself, “but be careful to keep your promise.” If you say you’re going to do something, do it–when you said you would do it and how you said you would do it. When you make commitments, see them through. That calls for the discipline to properly evaluate whether you have the time and capability to do something. And once you’ve made the commitment, self-discipline will enable you to keep it.

Do the most difficult tasks first.
Most people do just the opposite, spending their time doing the easier, low priority tasks. But when they run out of time (and energy), the difficult, high-priority tasks are left undone.

Finish what you start.
Some people’s lives are a sad litany of unfinished projects. In the words of poet John Greenleaf Whittier,
For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
If you start something, finish it. Therein lies an important key to developing self-discipline.

Accept correction.
Correction helps you develop self-discipline by showing you what you need to avoid. Thus, it should not be rejected, but accepted gladly. Solomon wrote “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Prov. 19:20); and “He whose ear listens to the life giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding” (Prov. 15:31-32).

Practice self-denial.
Learn to say no to your feelings and impulses. Occasionally deny yourself pleasures that are perfectly legitimate for you to enjoy. Skip dessert after a meal. Drink a glass of iced tea instead of having that banana split that you love. Don’t eat that doughnut that caught your eye. Refraining from those things will remind your body who is in charge.

Welcome responsibility.
Volunteer to do things that need to be done. That will force you to have your life organized enough to have the time for such projects.

These practical suggestions may not seem to involve any deep spiritual principles. Yet you cannot split your life into the secular and the spiritual. Instead you must live every aspect of your life to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). And self-discipline cultivated in the seemingly mundane things of life will spill over into the spiritual realm.

God Bless you. Olamide Falase (Reformed in Nigeria)

Watch and Pray

“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”Mark 14:38

I remember the hymn that asks the christian not to seek repose yet, because he/she is in the midst of foes and as such must watch and pray.

Thinking back now, I can’t remember whether I have ever given thought to the first part of that charge; whether I have ever bothered to “watch”.
Oh sure! I have done my fair share of praying, but I don’t think I have ever actually “watched.”
If anything, I have prayed then tried to do a bit “watching” (of course, watching for me had meant “looking out for the answer to my request”) but I don’t remember ever putting the watching before the praying.

The importance of watching was brought home recently so much so that I had to seek to understand what it really means to “Watch.”
Interestingly, having examined what the scripture had to say about watching, it became clear to me why many of us don’t do a lot of it, and why it is, that we have so many “christians” who simply just don’t pray.

We live in a very visual world. A world full of flashing lights, moving pictures and carefully crafted attention grabbing stuff. With so many of these things to massage our eyes and to distract us; it is no surprise that “watching” is near impossible.

What then does it mean to “watch”, or better still, what does the Scripture mean when it commands us to watch?

Well, the Scripture doesn’t exactly “define” watching; however, what it is can be inferred from the context of the verses that discuss it.
So, according to Scripture, to watch, is to evaluate all things in the light of God’s revealed truth. It is to be heedful of potential consequences in our appraisal of the events in our lives and that of those around us.

Take Daniel 9:2-3 for instance, as a classic example of how prayer is to be conducted.

“in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.”

Curiously, the obviously more time consuming task of watching was described, rather briefly, in verse 2, while the “shorter” resultant prayer- Daniel’s prayers wouldn’t have lasted more than 10mins- was recorded in verses 4-19. Daniel’s prayer was a result of careful examination of the Scriptures, (in this case, the prophecies of the Prophet Jeremiah.)

In several places in the Scriptures, we are not only commanded to “watch”, we were specifically directed on the things to “watch out for”:

      False Doctrine (Matthew 16:6, Mark 8:15);

The quality of our service to God in view of his return (Matthew 24:42-48);

The consistency of the knowledge we have to God’s revealed truth (Luke 11:35);

The events that militate against our testimony as believers (Luke 21:36, Acts 9:24)

The assumptions on which we base our faith (1Corinthians 10:12, 1Corinthians 16:13)

The quality of the company we keep (1Corinthians 15:33)

And so much more…

Also in 1 Peter 4:7, the Scriptures state without equivocation, the purpose of watching;
“7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”

We are to watch, according to the word of God, otherwise our prayers, as Pastor John Macarthur puts it, will find their way into “shallow and meaningless verbiage.”

“This is the confidence that we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us.1 John 5:14

Yearning for God as He is.

And he said to them “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’. “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the traditions of men”Mark 7:6-8

The yearnings in the heart of those who want to know God might be genuine, but the foundational assumptions they have come to cherish hinder the realization of such pursuits. To move forward in their objectives, they must let go of these “pet” notions that do not align with God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures.

It could also be that the God they long to know, is nothing like the God of Scriptures and they are thus inoculated against the knowledge of the one true God by the pursuits of strange variations of YAHWEH.

We must serve God as he reveals, not as we want; especially when what we want is not consistent with God makes known

What God are you yearning for today?

Suffering Persecutions- 2 Timothy 3:12

A commentary by Albert Barnes

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted- 2Timothy 3:12

Paul takes occasion from the reference to his own persecutions, to say that his case was not unique. It was the common lot of all who endeavored to serve their Redeemer faithfully; and Timothy himself, therefore, must not hope to escape from it. The apostle had a particular reference, doubtless, to his own times; but he has put his remark into the most general form, as applicable to all periods.

It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians – who live as the Saviour did – and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution.

The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage on account of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution.

Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Saviour did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship.

These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution.

It follows from this:
that they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.

they who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted.

Yet, if we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Matthew 5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.

let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.