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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Commentary on the Song of Songs


The Song of Solomon, first and foremost, is a hymn, a beautiful hymn of praise with two young lovers extolling the beauty of each other, and married intimacy. Old Testament scholar, theologian, professor, and author Tremper Longman describes this exquisite poem as ‘The Song ( of ) a lover and his beloved rejoicing in each other's sexuality in a garden. They feel no shame. The Song is as the story of sexuality redeemed.‘ This is likely one of the most apt descriptions of this book, but it also seems to fall somewhat short of demystifying this almost enigmatic book, a book which has a host of commentary about it.

Solomon’s ‘Song of Songs’ tells a story of the love of two lovers, their meetings, aspirations, and finally consummation. Though this is such a story, it does not stand alone. As part of the greater story of Scripture, the ‘meta-narrative’, you might say, the history of Yahweh’s dealings in love with His people, this book must be understood thusly. Firstly, we must understand that, not only is this poetry, it is ancient Near Eastern poetry, written about two young lovers ( a concept with which we are very familiar ) in a land and culture very different from ours, and in a time and language very foreign to us.

As I already said, there has been a host of commentary written about this marvelous little book ( only 8 short chapters ), ranging all over the theological and interpretive spectrum, from a very literal explanation of its explicit nature, to an allegory of the love between the Son of God, Jesus the Christ, and His Church. Many scholars, even from ancient times, have given an allegorical interpretation of this poem, while others think it does harm to the story itself to do so, but, when you think about it, as part of a greater story, though this is ascertainably a historical account, it has an allegorical aspect to it, for it is not just a poem of two young lovers, but it is an encapsulated history of God’s people, Israel..

In the first few verses can be found allusions to the oil of anointing, and while more could doubt doubtless be found pertaining to a cultural connection here; it is plain to see that this poem is not only relating the story of two young lovers, but is telling us part of a greater story, and relaying a deeper spiritual truth!

The whole poem centers, like all of Scripture, especially the Genesis, around a Garden theme, and in particular, the vineyard. One interesting note we might make here, is that, while in verse 6 of chapter 1, the Shulamite laments, ‘I haven’t kept my own vineyard’, but later, in verse 12 of chapter 8, she elates, ‘My own vineyard is before me’, for, said she, ‘I was in his eyes like one who found peace’.

‘The ‘eyes’ have it!’

The Lover, assumedly Solomon, in verse 15 of chapter 1, and again in 2:14, 4:1, 5:2, and 6:9, makes reference to his beloved as a dove, and often recites that ‘Your eyes are doves.’ In His sight, we have peace. Even in this day and age, men still refer to her in whom they have found peace, their ‘dove’. The beloved even, in verse 12 of chapter 5, when extolling the physical attributes of her lover, recites, ‘His eyes are like doves’, while in chapter 6, verse 1, she asks him to avert his eyes, ‘for they have overcome me’.

It has been said that ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’, and this is very true. It is easy to express one’s love with the lips and not really mean it, but it is hard to lie with the eyes!

Apples, Raisins and Figs  

Some who have made commentaries on this wonderful little book have mentioned that, while in our culture, we are not used to mentioning our lovers in connection with fruits such as those mentioned above, this was quite common in that Eastern culture from which this document came.

The mention of the trees of the wood, or garden, may immediately take us back to the Garden which Yahweh typically prepared for His people. This garden theme, as mentioned earlier, runs throughout this book, or poem, like a scarlet thread, holding it together!


The Marriage-Hopes, Dreams, Aspirations-Consummation

As discussed briefly earlier, one must read this poem as simply one part of a greater story. This is the story, as some commentators have found, of the meeting, subsequent longing, and finally relief of two young people, in ancient Palestine, likely in the environs of Jerusalem, where Solomon was king, but, as a part of and contingent on, that greater story; a deeper meaning can be sought here, and found.

Beginning in chapter 3, and then again in chapter 5, the Shulamite experiences what some have referred to as ‘dream sequences’. In her first dream, the Shulamite maiden goes in search of her lover, finds him presently, and in the middle-eastern style ( Genesis 24:67 ), marries him. Presumably after this dream, she then notes something like a cloud, or pillar of smoke come from the wilderness. This should be reminiscent of the Pillar of cloud that led the children of Israel through the desert, as discussed in my commentary on Exodus.

The dream in chapter 5, however, had a somewhat different and likely prophetic outcome. In this dream, the lover seeks entrance to his beloved’s most intimate chambers, but the beloved hesitates and the lover is gone. When she seeks, as before, for her lover, several unusual things occur that had not before; she is beaten, bruised (molested ) by those whom she sought help from, and through another set of occurrences, this time more friendly, she finds that he has returned to his garden, most likely to patiently await her.

Between these two ‘sequences’, though; something of interest has occurred. The lover seems to lament that his beloved is ‘a locked up garden…..a locked up spring, a sealed fountain’, though he still delights in the fact that she is ‘a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, flowing streams from Lebanon’. Upon this almost lamentably and seemingly erotic statement of frustrated sexual love, the second dream occurs, and the beloved seems to be somewhat sobered, though her love has obviously not abated.

As the Shulamite, somewhat confused by this course of events, wanders off to her own vineyard and garden ( 6:11 ), she is ensnared, for whatever reason, and is asked to return ( sound familiar ). At this point, the lover speaks up with his own words of ensnarement ( Hosea 2:14 ), and captivates her heart, once again!

Conclusion

Beginning in chapter 8, verse 6; the author seems to launch into a bit of a tirade, having learned from experience that ‘love is strong as death’, and ‘jealousy is as cruel as Sheol’. He next seems to continue with a bit of a wisdom discourse, and realizes that ‘If a man would give all the wealth of his house for love, he would be utterly scorned’. True love, that which Solomon seemed to have found, and that which we have with our Lover, our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, truly is, as our Lord Himself tells in Matthew 13:45 & 46, ‘a pearl of great price’!

In conclusion, then, when the ‘friends’ of the Shulamite speak lamentably ( even scornfully? ) of their little sister , who ‘has no breasts’, we might think of the several passages in the latter prophets ( Jeremiah 3:7-10, Ezekiel 16:44-59 ) in which Yahweh speaks of a certain ‘sister’ like this!

Finally; one cannot stress enough that this book must not, cannot, and will not stand alone! It is part of a greater, more sacred ( is there anything more sacred than marriage? ) love story, the story of Yahweh’s love for His people, His own creation, His ‘precious’!

For the sake of The Story, 
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Commentary on Exodus

Most of us are probably fairly familiar with the individual stories within this book, known as the second book of Moses, such as ‘Moses in the Bulrushes’, ‘The Burning Bush’, and probably the most famous of all, the giving of ‘The Ten Commandments’ in Exodus 20. Although these individual stories are good to know and digest, they must be understood as simply a part of the greater story, the meta-narrative, which includes all of Scripture, not just the book of Exodus.

 The authorship might well be attributed to Moses himself, though this may be questioned by some modern scholars. Speaking of modern scholarship, it has been questioned whether the book of Exodus would be better touted as theology, rather than history. Archeologists have not, according to some reports, found any evidence of this mass ‘exodus’, and the astounding logistics alone seem to deny the probability of this being an actual historical account. Whether or not it is an actual historical account (‘exact’, may be a better way of putting it ), or simply, as is believed about certain other parts of Scripture, an allegorical story, one that is related in such a way as to portray a deeper spiritual truth; it is certain that God did deliver, through a man named Moses, His people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.

One of these spiritual truths, indeed THE spiritual Truth that all Scriptural types pointed to, was Jesus the Christ, the Son of God! It does not take much searching, if one is at all familiar with the Story of the people of God, to notice quite a few blatant parallels between the life of Moses and the life of Jesus! Starting in verse 15 of the first chapter, we see a parallel between the two; whereas Herod had all the male children under a certain age killed, so the Pharaoh tried to have all the male children killed. Now granted, the stories do not run exactly parallel, but the main storyline is the same. Herod had the children killed a millennia or so after this part of the story, to try to rid himself of any contenders for his throne, while the Pharaoh tried to have the Hebrew children killed in order to prevent the nation from growing too strong and overthrowing, through whatever means, his throne; when you think about it, there’s not a lot of difference there.

After Moses is saved from perishing ( along with countless others? ) by the Hebrew midwives, and is adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter; we aren’t given any information about him until roughly 40 years  have passed, and again, it isn’t long before he is in danger again, and this time flees to the land of Midian ( more parallels? ), and remains there, in the wilderness, for another 40 years. While Moses is residing in the wilderness of Midian, he has been busy tending the sheep ( more parallels ) of his father-in-law. Another parallel that we can’t miss here, in the wilderness sojourn of Moses, is the fact that he  drew water from the well for many, in opposition to those who stood in the way ( see related story  in John 4 )! The day finally comes, though, when God reveals Himself to Moses in a very frightening and personal way; the famous burning bush! After a good deal of whining and complaining on Moses’ part, he finally agreed to return to Egypt to free his brethren, but only after God told him that his brother Aaron would be pleased to go with him, and yet another parallel; God told him, much as He told Joseph about 12-1500 years later, as recorded in Matthew 2:20, ‘Go, return ……………for all the men who sought your life are dead.


Reading this story; one may notice the parallels, as well, to Jesus’ reception among His people. When Moses and Aaron appeared in the land of Egypt with the accompanying signs and the blessing of God, or YHWH, they were received, as Jesus was at first, with much joy, and praise, but when persecution began to arise because of opposition to the freedom that was preached, God’s people began to complain and even to turn against their Promised Savior!


Beginning in chapter 6, and verses 14-25, the author once again seemingly interrupts the story to give yet another short account of the Levitical lineage of Moses and Aaron, much as he had given a short account of those who came into Egypt with their father, Israel, or Jacob. Why is it important that we understand, at this point in the story, that both Moses and Aaron were of the line of Levi? As the story unfolds, and God begins to reveal His Law to His people, we will begin to see why it is important that Moses and Aaron belonged to the tribe of Levi. It is interesting to note, however, that as the author begins to relate the lineage of Israel, he begins, as at the beginning of the book, with Reuben, and so on, but when he gets to Levi, he does something different; first, he gives Levi’s age, and he begins to recount the progeny of Levi, including the birth of Aaron and Moses, and the marriage of Aaron,, and ending with the heads of the tribe of Levi. Yet another interesting fact that we might note here, is that, not unlike Matthew’s Gospel  account of the lineage of Jesus, concerning the notable reference to the background of certain of the women in His ancestry, the author makes clear that the mother of them both was technically their great-aunt, since their father married his own fathers sister, seemingly in direct opposition to the Law as recorded in Leviticus 18:12, ‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister: she is your father’s near kinswoman’. Even so, the age of their father is recorded as being equal to that of Levi!

As we move quickly through this book; we should note, as we come upon the plagues that were visited upon the land of Egypt, that these plagues, for the most part, serve as harbingers of those unveiled in the book of Revelation. It is against the enemies of His people that God brings plagues like these, destruction and annihilation!

As Moses and Aaron begin their ministry to the children of Israel in earnest, and perform before the Pharaoh the signs that God had given to Moses; as promised, the Pharaoh’s heart is hardened towards them and their pleas, and so God begins to bring upon him and his people, his land, the plagues that He had kept in store for those who oppose Him, His people and His purpose!

The order of the plagues should be noted here, the first being in the water, which, as is clear, is of necessity to sustain life. Interestingly enough, though, the magicians of the Pharaoh’s court are able to duplicate this sign and the people of Egypt are able to bypass this plague by simply digging next to the river. This in itself could engender some interesting questions!

The second plague involved the bringing up from this very river, which had apparently been healed after seven days, a multitude of frogs, which, as we can tell from The Revelation of Jesus Christ, chapter 16, verse 13, are indicative, in the prophetic Scriptures, of evil spirits. The magicians again, though not surprisingly, were able to follow this miracle with their own loosing of evil spirits, or frogs. You may note here, though, that the magicians were not able to rescind this curse ( 8:8 ), nor were the people able to bypass it, as with the waters of life. The Pharaoh, though his heart remains hard, is beginning to realize that here is something beyond his power, or even that of his magicians.

Yahweh ( YHWH ) now begins to affect a curse of the fruit of the ground, the first miracle that the magicians are not able to duplicate. This plague, which affected both man and beast upon the land, involved ‘lice’, which, as we are familiar with, are scavengers and disease-laden insects.

In the midst of this plague, which by all accounts is never removed, Yahweh looses yet another plague upon the land; this plague, though related to the previous one, with hordes of flies, yet another harbinger of disease, is the first one where God began to set His people apart, making clear to the Pharaoh that ‘I will put a division between my people and your people’. It is after this realization that the Pharaoh seems to have learned his lesson, for he says ‘Go, sacrifice to your God in the land!’. This, however, was not quite what Yahweh had commanded, and so the plagues must continue.

Moses now reveals to the Pharaoh that ‘the hand of Yahweh is on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks with a very grievous pestilence’, again making a saving distinction between His people and those of the rebellious Pharaoh. Interesting to note here, is the fact that it is recorded in the next few verses that ‘all the livestock of Egypt died’, even though the next plague affects, once again, both man and animal. More reason, you might say, to view this as something more than just a historical account!

The next plague, though, seems to come directly from ‘heaven’ itself; ashes, a universal sign of mourning, are scattered into the air, and become boils, breaking out on both man and animal, although we may safely assume that, yet again, God’s own people, the children of Israel were spared from the effects of this plague!

Because the Pharaoh refused, once again, to soften his heart, and to spare his own people further decimation; Yahweh unleashed yet another curse directly from ‘heaven’! This time, judgment came in the form of a grievous hail, a hail which would again destroy ‘man and animal’ ( 9:19 ). This time however; Yahweh offered the Pharaoh and his suffering people an ‘out’: whoever would heed the Voice of the Lord, and bring their livestock under shelter would be saved from the effects of this plague. Some of the people were beginning to receive the Message, gathered their livestock in, and thus were spared! Now, it is revealed that, not only would this affect all in whom was ‘the breath of life’ ( Genesis 6:17 ); this time even ‘every herb of the field’, or the food supply, would be cut short!

After Yahweh’s famous revelation to the Pharaoh that ‘for this cause I have made you stand: to show you my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth’ ( Referenced in Romans 9:17 ), and because of his refusal to heed the Word of the Lord; this plague came upon his land, and he seemed to soften his heart ( at least, for the moment ), for he told Moses, ‘I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer’! Yet again, though, after Yahweh had lifted the curse of the hail, as He had promised, the Pharaoh hardened his heart, and refusing to humble himself before the Almighty, disdained to let the people go!


As we have progressed through these plagues, you may have noticed that these plagues, for the most part, are almost exactly repeated in the book of Revelation. The next plague visited upon the Egyptians is nothing different, for now the Lord released one of the most devastating plagues yet, a horde of consuming locusts. These locusts proceeded to eat whatever the hail had left ( which probably wasn’t much ); ‘There remained nothing green, either tree or herb of the field, through all the land of Egypt’; Egypt was desolate, and again the Pharaoh was seemingly brought to his knees, but when God took away the plague of locusts, his heart was hardened, and he refused to let the people go.

Though the Pharaoh had previously been given a chance ( a warning ) prior to all the other plagues, he received no such warning this time; the lights went out! As with certain of the other plagues, though, God’s people were spared this inconvenience, for ‘all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings’. I believe that the Pharaoh must have been receiving the message loud and clear by this time, but because of the stubbornness of his own sinful heart, every time God took away the plague, his heart was hardened.

Through the hardness of the Pharaoh’s heart; God would unleash one more prophetic plague on the land, and this plague would be the deadliest of all; in this plague, God promised to kill every firstborn in the land, both man and animal would die. After repeating this prophecy, a prophecy which would boomerang on this same people a millennia and a half ( give or take ) later, Moses leaves the presence of the Pharaoh, and the author gives the people of God a set of instructions on how they are to act to preserve their own lives, and the Passover feast that they are to observe yearly, as a memorial to the way that Yahweh had passed over their homes when He struck the firstborn of all Egypt.

Thus we see the actual Exodus begin, with the story of how the children of Israel ‘despoiled the Egyptians’ ( plundered them ), and how Yahweh led them by way of the wilderness, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt’ and how He became to them ‘a pillar of cloud’ by day, and ‘a pillar of fire’ by night, in order to lead them safely through the wilderness.

As we move through this book, on the way to the giving of the Law at Sinai, we begin to see a pattern emerge, a pattern which would lead to the final revelation of the True ‘Israel of God’, the destruction of the false people of God, and the fulfillment, in the True Firstborn, of all the types that were given under this Sinai, or Mosaic covenant.

This pattern, really one of self-destruction, was a lack of trust. Though they had seen the great and awesome works of Yahweh, as soon as they encountered opposition, they began to complain and bewail their comfortable servitude, and to forget about the freedom that had been promised and given. This eventually led, through many captivities, and much tribulation, to the complete annihilation of their descendants as the special people of God, and their downfall as a nation, in the wasting of their land, and the destruction of their City and Temple in AD70!

With Yahweh’s mighty deliverance of His people, and the now-famous ‘Song of Moses’ ringing in their ears, the wilderness journey of the children of Israel was underway.  Their first trial in the wilderness, interestingly enough, involved water.  When they finally came upon some water, after three days of travel; it was so bitter that they could not drink it, and when they complained about it, Yahweh, through Moses, showed them a certain tree that they could throw into the water, upon which they were able to drink, for the water was made sweet, and palatable.

After Yahweh had tested them thus with the waters of Marah, He reiterated His promise to them, saying, ‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of Yahweh your God, and will do that which is right in his eyes, and will pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you, which I have put on the Egyptians; for I am Yahweh who heals you’, and brought them to an oasis, which symbolized the fulfillment of His promises to them: it had twelve springs of water, one for every tribe of Israel, and had seventy palm trees, offering shelter, shade, and picturing His perfect rest!

It was after they left this oasis of perfect rest, and entered into the wilderness of Sin, that they again encountered temptation, for, becoming hungry, they again complained, and God graciously rained ‘bread from the sky’ for them. On top of that, He also provided meat for them to eat, though this came only in the evenings, while the bread, which they called manna, appeared on the ground with the morning dew.

A note we might make here, and a most important one at that, is that, whereas the meat, in the form of quail, was delivered to them every evening, the manna, which was white ( Revelation 2:17 ) like ‘coriander seed’, appeared ‘morning by morning’ ( 16:21 ( Lamentations 3:22 ). This distinction that is made between the evenings and the mornings is significant of the blessings of the old and new covenants, and as the author here focuses mostly on the manna, which came from the sky, or ‘heaven’, and mentions only once the quail which was provided in the evening, he shows, even here, how the new is better than the old, and the second than the first!

The author also makes another important note at this juncture, how the children of Israel wandered this deserted land for a symbolic and prophetic forty years, fed by this bread from heaven!

Now we come to another most interesting occurrence, the place where Moses was commanded to ‘strike the rock’. The same rod with which Moses had turned the waters of the Nile into blood, and with which had parted the waters of the sea so that the children of Israel crossed on dry land, Yahweh now used to bring water from the rock to give drink to His thirsty sheep!

Beginning at chapter 17, and verse 8; we now read how the children of Israel came into contact with the first form of armed resistance that they had faced thus far. After deliverance from the Amalekites through divinely appointed means, it should have been clear to Israel that their God was the True and Living God, but how quick they were to forget His Promise, and to turn to their own ways, as we shall see!

Sometime after the battle with Amalek, in which Yahweh had told Moses ‘I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under the sky’; Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian , showed up at the Israelite encampment with Moses estranged wife and two sons, both of whom bear significant names, Gershom, which means ‘a sojourner there’ and Eliezer, which means ‘God is my help’. Jethro, when he heard of the way that God had delivered the children of Israel; gave praise to Yahweh as the One True God, and advised Moses on how to better judge His people.

We now come to ‘to the mountain that may be touched, and that burned with fire’ ( Hebrews 12:18 ), to Mount Sinai, the terrible and awesome site where God came down to speak to His people. Reading through this text, you may note the ‘third day’ reference, and the fact that they were to remain at a distance; they were not to touch the mountain lest they die. They were also to purify themselves in preparation for meeting their God.

The Ten Commandments

The giving of the Law on Mount Sinai is likely one of the most well-known, or at least revered, and possibly most misunderstood passages in the Hebrew Scriptures.  This Law, and we’ll not go into a lot of commentary on it, pointed to the coming Messiah, as Paul later wrote concerning it, ‘the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ’ ( Galatians 3:24 ). There is much commentary going around today, among a growing number of Christians, in regards to the keeping, in a very literal way almost, of these Ten Commandments, and while Yahweh did give them to His people to be kept, there are several things we must keep in mind, the first being the words of the Son of God Himself, Jesus, the Christ. He, when asked what the great commandment of the Law was, summed it up perfectly, precisely, and concisely: He said ‘You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind. This is the first and great commandment’, and a second, which is like it, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself’; on these two commandments, He said, ‘hang all the law and the prophets’. Following these two commandments, we do keep God’s Law. By truly loving God, we do not worship idols, by loving God, we do keep His Sabbath, which is fulfilled in Jesus, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves, we will not murder them, by loving our neighbor as ourselves, we will not commit adultery against or steal from them; as Paul again said ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’.

When the people saw the lightning, heard the thunder, and felt the earthquake that were indicative of the terrible and awesome Presence of God, they cried to Moses, ‘Speak with us yourself, and we will listen; but don’t let God speak with us, lest we die’. Fear was a great factor, physical fear, anyway, not fear of a Godly sort, played a big role in the events that would transpire over the next millennia or so!

After the most famous and familiar giving of the Law on Sinai, Yahweh, through Moses, gave further instruction to the children of Israel, most of which is seen to be specific to the Israelites, although most of these further commandments should be seen as pointing to a greater spiritual truth, and applicable in some way, to all the people of God in all ages.

It is important to note here too, that after the giving of the Law to His people; God revealed Himself to them, for the author next records that ‘They saw God, and ate and drank’, ‘they’ being Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel.

The Temple of God
                       
We now come to another very important and prophetic text in the book, that of the instructions for building the tabernacle. First, we read a lengthy and detailed description of the furnishings of this temporary sanctuary, beginning with the ark of the Presence, then the table for the Bread of the Presence, with which to symbolically feed His people, and finally, the lamp stand, with seven lamps ( note the number of completeness, or perfection ), to shine a Light for His people!

Beginning in chapter 26, we read another lengthy and very precise set of instructions on how, and with what materials this tabernacle, or temporary dwelling of God, is to be constructed. After these basic instructions on the construction of the tabernacle; Yahweh gave Moses instruction on how a veil is to be made and hung in a certain way so as to make a divider between two rooms, ‘the veil shall separate the holy place from the most holy for you’ ( 26:33 ). This veil, typical, as well, of the Messiah, would appear in the later construction of the Temple, and would eventually be torn apart, signifying that the way into the Holiest, or the Presence of God, was now open; no more dividing curtain!

The altar of burnt offering was ordered next, then the hangings for the court of the tabernacle, and the olive oil for the lamps, which the children of Israel were to beat from the olives, and to keep the lamps continually shining its Light!

Now for the Image of God that was to minister within His new Temple! Yahweh next commanded Moses to bring Aaron and his sons before Him, to sanctify them for the service of the tabernacle. First, with great pains, the author describes the clothing that would be worn by the priests, with special garments and other accoutrements for the high priest alone. He was to bear on his shoulders two stones which were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, for, ‘Aaron shall bear their names before Yahweh on his two shoulders for a memorial’. As the true High Priest, which Aaron now prefigured, Jesus the Christ would bear, not just the names, but the sins of His people, as He made the one final sacrifice!

When the tabernacle, the priests, and the sacrifices were all prepared; Yahweh then gave Moses very explicit instructions on how the offerings were to be presented, and when. All these instructions were given to Moses during his forty day and forty night sojourn on the mountain, at the end of which he was delivered the tablets of testimony, upon which these commandments and instructions were written by the finger of God.

While Moses was up on the mountain with God, the people were not idle. Because he had remained out of their sight for this long time, the children of Israel complained, this time to Aaron, who seemed to have a more ready ear. When he had done their bidding, and made an idol for them, he announced, ‘These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt’. When Yahweh saw this, He was ready to destroy them and to raise up in their place a people for His name from the loins of Moses, but Moses pleaded with God; ‘Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of the sky, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever’. Upon hearing these bold words, and heeding the pleas of His servant Moses; Yahweh relented, and promised to spare them at that time, but, He said, ‘in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin’. This day finally came, when in AD70; He destroyed them from His Covenant in AD70, with the destruction of Jerusalem, their holy city, and the Temple.

After the episode of ‘The Golden Calf’; even though Yahweh relented from destroying His people at that time, He refused to go the rest of the way with them on their wilderness journey, lest, He said, ‘I consume you in the way’ ( Hebrews 10:29 ). It is significant that at this time, and from Sinai onward, the people wore their jewelry no more!


At this point, the author finds it necessary to introduce us to the fact that Moses would set the tabernacle of meeting, or the Tent, outside the camp. As Moses reasons with God, face to face, as with a friend, we find that Yahweh prophesies the true Rest that He gives; He promised Moses, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’. It is at this time that Yahweh reveals His true glory to Moses, but only a small part of it, for, Yahweh said, ‘man may not see me and live’. After Moses had received a glimpse of the glory of God, he was called up to the mountain of God once again, to receive the ten commandments of Israel’s God, but this time, he was to prepare the tablets himself and carry them up to Yahweh on the mountain.

When Moses had received these ten commandments written in stone, which Yahweh had reiterated to him on the mountain, he descended once again to the people, after a symbolic and prophetic forty days and forty nights, with a face that shone so the people were not able to bear it!

Moses finally relayed the Law that Yahweh had given him on the mountain, along with the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle, the furnishings for it, and the priestly garments for the service of it, all of which pointed forward  to the true Temple, the True Priest, and the true service of God!

The book of Exodus, as discussed earlier, is more than just a story of how Yahweh delivered, through Moses, His people from the bondage and servitude of Egypt, though it is that and more! The story of the Exodus is a story of the deliverance of the people of God from bondage to sin and death, through the ministration of the New Moses, or as Paul puts it, ‘the last Adam’ ( I Corinthians 15:48 ). As we read this story with the understanding that it does not stand alone, but is merely a part of the Greatest Story Ever Told, we may realize how, no matter what the case may be about the date, authorship, or historicity of the account, that it was given I such a way as to reveal a most important truth!

In His Service,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 16, 2012

God in a Box?

Many Christians today seem to have 'taken the tack' that God is here, but not there, pertinent to this area of life, but not that, ruling and reigning, up there, in that realm, but not here, in this one. We seem to have swallowed 'hook, line and sinker', the notion ( usually unspoken ) that the Presence of God is limited, on this earth, anyway, to the four walls of a church-house ( I don't say 'building', but 'house', because it is not always a 'building' which 'houses' the Church of God )!

Those Christians that act like the realm of God ( 'Heaven' ) is present on earth only when and where His people are gathered for worship, and/or to partake of 'The Lord's Supper', have, in essence confined their Creator ( as far as they're concerned ) to the four walls of any given church building ( as long as the right denomination meets there ), or proclaimed that the Presence of God dwells between the pages of the 'Holy Bible' ( usually KJV )!

With this notion as their basis many Christians have become functionally atheistic and well-nigh useless as the Body of Christ on earth!

The main reason that our country is in the shape she is in, is because Christians of all eras have relegated God ( as if He can be relegated ) to this area of life, but not that. Take the civil realm, for instance, what is commonly referred to as 'the political realm': 'Politics', and 'politicians' have come to be dirty words, and while politics is sometimes a 'dirty business', it is so only because Christians, for as long as we can remember, have abdicated their position as 'rulers with God' ( Israel ), and, voting for 'the lesser of two evils', have engendered a change of what should be 'sacred', to what is now known as 'secular'.

From the beginning, this was not so, and really is still not so, even though the enemies of God and His people have done their best, sometimes with the  unwitting help of God's people, to make it look and feel like it is, and should be. Should there be a 'separation of church and state'? Well, yes and no; without going into a long history of the battles that have been waged, and the wars that have been lost, both over the lack of this separation, or because of this separation, it is certain that any man-driven religion, such as Roman Catholicism or Calvinism, for that matter, should not have absolute authority over the affairs of ( any ) state. On the other hand, the Body of Christ, which spans the globe, and is not confined to any specific country, or boundary, SHOULD be bringing their authority to bear, not only in the 'civil realm', but  in all areas of life!

To be fair; there have been as many, or more Christians in the past, and are even now, who, acting contrary almost, to their theology and doctrines, have done their utmost for His highest! Even with a false eschatology, and often a weak ( at best ) theology, many foreign missionaries, both at home and abroad, have done much for the advancement of His Kingdom on earth, and have been blessed by God! As many more though, particularly in this county, but mostly as a result of interaction, both directly and indirectly, with other nations, have taken the tack listed above, that of limiting God's interaction with His own Creation, and thus His power and authority over said creation.

Most Christians would probably look at you with much aghast if you were to accuse them of this, and would quickly defend their beliefs with a lot of 'mush-gush', or even a fairly strong theology, but then return, as soon as you walked away, to their life, with God in this box over here, politics and the civil realm over here, their personal life over here, and so on and so forth.

Praises be to God our Father; more and more Christians are waking up from their slumber, and realizing where a theology and doctrine such as that outlined above often leads!

With the knowledge and realization that there should be no difference between 'sacred' and 'secular', no separation of Church and state, no religious realm versus political realm, we must, as the people of God, and rulers with Him, begin, once more, to act upon this knowledge and belief, and take back what rightfully belongs to us; 'This is Our Father's World', and we are His children, though hopefully, no longer children!

Actively praying and believing,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Covenant Family ( Birds & Bees ) Revised and Expanded

A covenant, as defined in most any modern dictionary, is 'an agreement between two or more persons'. Most people, Christians, even, are very familiar with this definition, and so for years, a covenant has been defined as such. Our forefathers made covenants of this sort, compacting together, agreeing to do one thing, and to not do another. Marriage unions are formed this way. Whether the vows are spoken before a Justice of the Peace, or before a congregation of God's holy people; there is an agreement made between a man and a woman, and a covenant formed before the God of the universe!

As you may have heard before, 'covenant relationship, to one extent or another, is essential to all of life'! Physically ( biologically ), a simple example can be taken from the human fetus, that new life which is formed through the covenantal union ( sexual ) of the aforementioned man and woman, now husband and wife. We all know the story of 'the birds & the bees', so we won't go into all the beautiful ( but x-rated ) details here, but when the sperm enters the egg, and the new child begins to form in the womb of the mother, the necessary elements must be present for that child to grow and thrive. This is covenant, and although some might prefer to use the word relational, or relationship, this simple truth holds for all of life. Without the necessary nutrients, any form of life, as is witnessed everyday, will shrivel up and blow away.

In society today, even Christian society, you may hear covenant described as 'a type of contract; an agreement between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.' As we are used to thinking, especially in modern-day America, and even earlier, from the founding fathers, a covenant is 'a solemn agreement between the members of a body politic to act together in harmony with the precepts of the gospel.', but biblically speaking, a covenant, while it does include sanctions, and subsequent blessings or cursings, is not so much an agreement to be kept, as a life to be lived!

A family, while it can be entered into legally, aside from birth, and usually by agreement, is formed by the union of a husband and wife, and any children who come from that union. An outsider, one not actually born into that family, may become a part of that family through the process of adoption, usually by the agreement of the child's legal guardians or birth-parents. Although not a part of that family by birth, the adopted child legally becomes one of the family, and subject to the covenant, or laws, of that family.

The Removal of the Curse

You may have heard it said, 'eschatology matters'; well, it does! We are used to hearing, most often, and even reading, that the covenant God made at Sinai with the children of Israel, was indicative of an agreement between Him and His people, whereby He would do certain things if they did certain others. From this point point of view, that is true: Deuteronomy 28 famously describes what would occur if God's Law was obeyed or disobeyed. If it was obeyed, kept and followed, they would receive blessings, and if they disobeyed, they would receive cursings. Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and The New Covenant, we see things somewhat differently; because of the removal of the curse, we no longer must fear the curse when we fail to obey every jot and tittle, as those children did under the first covenant ( Hebrews 8:7 ). If we continually disobey, as many of them did, and fell in the wilderness ( Hebrews 3:17 ), we will reap the consequences of what we sow, whether it be a stubbed toe or a failed marriage, even physical harm. If we do not continue in disobedience to that Covenant, but turn in repentance, and live in obedience to that Covenant into which we were born, we will enjoy the benefits of the blessed Presence of our Creator!

Blessed Union 

It is much the same in our earthly families; when we obey our father and mother, our progenitors, we reap the benefits and blessings of that most holy union, but when we fail to obey the covenant of our home, we reap what we sow, in that we will not enjoy the blessings of our relationship, or covenant. We must realize, even though, that just like our heavenly Father, they still love us in spite of our failings, and will continue to show familial, though maybe strained ( or is that 'pained '? ) love toward us, in hopes of bringing us back into a blessed relationship with them!


When a man and women covenant together, whether it is simply a contractual agreement, or truly a covenant to become one, the result of that union, as God has blessed it, is children; children who then grow into men and women themselves. The child, however, having no part, in actuality, in this agreement, this covenant, reaps the benefits of the relationship with the parents, and as the child grows, through the choices that child makes, will either enjoy the blessings of obedience, or the consequences of disobedience. As with our heavenly Father, we know that, even when we fail to obey our family covenant ( 'yes, Virginia; I said 'family covenant' ), our parents still love us, even though it becomes necessary either to teach us the right way through the board of education applied to the seat of knowledge, or whether, as the child grows older, the parents simply exercise tough love by allowing their child to reap what they have sowed!

Our Father in Heaven deals with His errant children in much the same way. Although the curse has been reversed, and we now approach our Creator by a new and living way, the cursings and blessings of Deuteronomy 28 hold true as well today as yesterday! Yes, having been born into The New Covenant, and thus members by birth of the family of God, we still undergo discipline, suffering the consequences of our actions, reaping what we sow when we fail to keep the Covenant of our Family. When we live according to that Covenant, maintaining a good relationship with our Creator, we are blessed with all the constituent elements ( all that is needed ) for Life!

The Covenant Family then, whether it is blood related, or Blood related ( by natural birth or spiritual birth ), must adhere to some sort of covenant or it will not survive. I realize that we all fail ( as a human being myself, I can attest to that fact ), but when we do, if we do not founder in our failure, or continue in the same direction, but repent and return to the right path, we may, once again, enjoy the benefits of blessed relationship with our Family. If, however, we continue in our disobedience, and founder in our failure, we will continue to reap the adverse consequences of our action, will become separated from our Family, and will no longer enjoy the blessed Presence of our God and Father!

So as not to end on a bad note; let us always enjoy the covenant Life that we have been blessed with, by maintaining a good relationship with each other as fellow members of the covenant family, and with our Creator, from Whom all life comes!

Charles Haddon Shank


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Blowin' in the Wind......................

No, this is not a doctrinal statement; this is a statement, however, and inextricably linked to doctrine: God is awesome!

I know I've written before on this subject, and have been accused of walking around, metaphorically, with my head in the clouds, and to a large extent, and looming larger all the time, this is true; right or wrong, I have lately turned ( my eyes have always been drawn toward the beauty in the 'heavens' ) back to enjoying and greatly appreciating the beauteous canvas that our Creator has spread for us in that vast expanse that we call the sky!

Clouds, throughout the prophetic Scriptures, have been indicative of the judgment of God, whether for good or evil. Clouds indicate then, more concisely and precisely, the Presence of God, the glory cloud, as is seen throughout Scripture, and much talked about in theological circles.

I have mentioned before, the fact that I enjoy gazing at and photographing the clouds, 'God's handiwork', because 'clouds don't talk back': in one sense this is true, but on the other hand; clouds speak volumes. When you stop and think about it, the way that God has spread this ever-changing canvas is an amazing sermon on the way that God has ordered His Kingdom; we like to think that we are on this planet, in this world, doing our own thing, and even if we are working for the glory of God, and striving to advance His Kingdom; we often get the idea that we are not blowing in the wind, that we know better than what God may have in store for us!

The Answer, My Friend.......

One thing that I enjoy ( and actually, truthfully, get a little perturbed by, sometimes ) about that most lovely and almost mesmerizing of God's creations, is that they are forever changing! Not to get too scientific about it; clouds, like something else we could mention, are but a vapor; it doesn't take much, relatively speaking, to change their whole demeanor, or pattern, from something beautiful, into something even breath-taking!

The Presence of God is also indicated in Scripture by the wind, although this is maybe a less familiar theme than the cloud. The first example, of course, is the divine wind, or Spirit of God, that hovered over the face-less waters of the deep, in the creation account of Genesis 1. In Ezekiel's vision of the resurrection of Israel, the wind is very active, being called upon to bring life to those who were dead.

This life is much like the clouds, when it comes right down to it: we go through this life, to one extent or the other, taking the bull by the horns, or staunchly and simply riding the storm out, but no matter how we choose to face it; the outcome is ultimately in God's capable and infinitely mysterious hands! As much as we like to think 'I can do this', or, 'we can handle this', it is God that has determined the outcome ( for our good ) and who blows us into the pattern, and onto the course that we eventually take. We have a choice, don't get me wrong, but we must remember that we are 'blowin' in the wind'; it is how we face that Wind that determines how we enjoy this life, and whether we are always open to change to the new shape or location, even dissipation, that God has in store for us!

Thankfully,
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Paulbots? ( the resurrection of common sense )

First off; what IS a Paulbot? To plagiaristically quote a certain funnyman, 'if you love liberty more than the cold comfort of slavery, you might be a Paulbot'! Is the younger generation acting like a bunch of robots, following the teachings of Dr. Paul because 'it's the cool thing to do', or are they dissatisfied with the way things are, and have latched onto 'Ronbo' because they see some relief in what he proposes?

Ron Paul did not originate the ideas that have begun to seep back into this nation of sheep, which has been so comfortable under the rod of tyranny and oppression for so long, but for those few who have labored with their blood, sweat, and tears, under the persecution of the God-hating 'statists'; Ron Paul is indeed, 'a breath of fresh air'. For those under the age of 30; he is simply the anastasis, or resurrection, of  'common sense'.

After receiving several wake-up calls, and being startled from my comfort zone, I have begun, as a good Christian should do, to involve myself more and more in the realm of politics, not only ( but especially ) of the state/local area in which I reside, but of this nation as well. I have often said, particularly in the past year or so, that the great thing about Ron Paul, is that it is not just Ron Paul; it is an idea, an ideal, to be more precise, and one which is the closest that we have gotten in quite some time, to the ideals which our forefathers espoused, and for which they fought ( and won ) with their 'blood, sweat, and tears'. These freedoms, some of which we still enjoy, have been, to a large extent, either completely lost, are drastically altered as to be almost unrecognizable as such!!

To call these brave young people, who seem to be almost fanatical, at times, 'Paulbots', basically saying they're mindless robots, following 'Dr. No's' lead, is tantamount to saying that some of our founding fathers ( not much older, if any ) were 'Benbots', or Thombots'! No, they were lovers of liberty, just like many of our young people today, who have taken up the reins of liberty, where their fathers and grandfathers dropped the ball! I will admit that there are some of this crowd ( okay, a good many ) who have not built their doctrine of liberty on the foundation of our liberty in Christ, and even those who have, are steeped in a futurist, almost a defeatist eschatology, but I believe that as these young people begin to seriously study the narrow avenue of liberty, this too will be resolved. As for those who have simply latched on to the freedoms that we have, for the most part, begun to take for granted, and hence have lost, without building their doctrine on the foundation of our God-given liberty; it is up to us, as the Body of Christ, and heirs of that true freedom, to gently show them a better way!

Ron Paul's motives, as well as those of his so-called 'Paulbots', may be called into question, although, to be fair, the motives of any one of us may be questioned, and that concerning any subject, not just politics. I will be the first to admit that Ron Paul is not perfect, but as a follower of Jesus Christ; I believe that of all the choices out there; he is best qualified to lead this country back to where she should be, that of being a light to the nations.

Thoughtfully,
Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Model of Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as [ it is ] in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.


When Jesus, at the request of His disciples, told them, 'In this manner, therefore, pray', it should be clearly evident that He was not saying that they must pray these exact words, but that they should look for, and therefore work for, His will to be done, and His Kingdom to come 'On earth as [ it is ] in heaven'.

Eschatologically speaking; Jesus was speaking directly to those present, in reference to the 'heavens and earth' of the Jewish, or Old Covenant ( 'first covenant'-Hebrews 8:7 ) economy, for it was in the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the demise of that sacrificial system that the last vestiges of the first covenant were destroyed forever and the Kingdom of Jesus the Christ was fully implemented. This Kingdom, prophesied in places like Daniel 2, was to be a progressive Kingdom, gradually filling the entire creation. 

Although the above is true; we can still model our prayers accordingly, realizing that though His Kingdom has come 'On earth as.......in heaven, and He has forgiven the sin of His people, we are His servants, His ambassadors, you might say, to bring His Kingdom to bear, through bearing the same fruit in our own lives, acting as He taught us!


As we implement these principles, first in our own life, then the life of our family and the larger covenant community, the Church, and through all of the above, in the realm of civil government, or politics, then, and only then, will we see the blessings for which Jesus taught us to pray. This is not to say that 'Heaven' has not been brought to earth, for this happened at the Advent and Revelation of Jesus, the Son of God; as God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel ( 2:35b ), 'the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth': this is/was God's doing, but it is through us, 'living stones' ( I Peter 2:4-6 ) and 'a kingdom of priests' ( Exodus 19:6 ( Revelation 5:10 ) that He has chose to advance His Kingdom!

Forgiveness=Love, Love=Forgiveness


Jesus began to teach them how they ( we ) should pray, by telling them first of all, that we should give Him due reverence ( 'Hallowed be Your name' ), then most holy and humble deference ( 'Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
' ), then allows for petition, both for necessary sustenance, and necessary protection.

Forgiveness is an integral part of love, as you may have heard, and from a human standpoint especially, this is true; if we cannot forgive those whom we are to love, we will not truly love them, even if our actions toward them show a 'kind' of love.The Love that God showed us, however, WAS Forgiveness itself! It was through His forgiveness of the sins of His people that God showed His Love for us, and through His Love that He showed His forgiveness. 'We love Him[b] because He first loved us' ( I John 4:19 ); it was because of this Love, embodied in Jesus the Christ, and the forgiveness of our sins, that we are enabled to forgive, and thus to love!

We then acknowledge why we revere Him, and acknowledge that it is His Kingdom, His alone the power, His alone the glory. Through our forgiveness of our brother ( sister, father, mother ), we show the Love that He showed us, and thus His Kingdom is advanced!

Let us continually seek the glory of His Kingdom, acknowledging that it is only through His Love, His Forgiveness, and His power, that we can work to do this. Let us forget our own glory, our power, our own strength, for aside from His; we have none!  

In His Name,
Charles Haddon Shank