Posted in doubts

Beating the Drums Once More…On Doubt

A one trick pony. A pounding of the same drum. The beating of a dead horse. The repeating of the same tale. Perhaps, that is what I am about to do today, but I cannot resist the urge.

A few posts back I wrote about what I called “that shadowy idol called doubt.” My reason for doing so was two-fold. On the one hand, I think that doubt is a good thing. On the other hand, we have a tendency of elevating our doubts to a height that they should never be placed.

Doubt a good thing…

Specifically, doubt can be good when it comes to our abilities. We ought never to think too highly of ourselves. We should never allow our knowing to puff us up with pride. And so, when it comes to human ability (what we can or cannot do) I think a little doubt is a good thing. It keeps us realistic. We all have limitations. We all have blind spots. We all have personal struggles.

In terms of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, I think a little self-doubt teaches us to lean more heavily on the Rock of our Salvation. God is our refuge. He is our strong and mighty tower. It is in Him that we stand, we move, we live, we breath. He is what sustains us by the power of His Word. He is the one who gifts us and enables us to serve Him. From His mouth comes knowledge and wisdom. From His hand comes strength and power to stand in the midst of our adversaries. A little self-doubt in our abilities teaches us to be dependent upon Him who made us in His image. A little self-doubt teaches us to yearn for the grace of God:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with my weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1Cor 12.9b-10; ESV).

And so, doubt can be a good thing, when it teaches us to reach for our Lord.

Doubt a bad thing…

However, the opposite is the case when we doubt God or His Word. We ought never to think that God might be mistaken, or that His word is lacking in anything. All that we have been given in Holy Scripture is necessary for living a righteous life. All that we have in the Bible is sufficient for answering those tough probing questions we all encounter. How are we here? God created everything. How did He do it? He spoke it into existence. How long did it take? Six days (approx. 24hrs in length). Why is there so much evil in the world? Because of the curse of sin. Why are people selfish, hateful and sometimes down right wicked? Because being children of Adam they are sinners—they bear his image. Why do we find fossil grave yards all around the world? Why are there sea creatures at some of the highest points of the planet? Because of the global flood of Noah’s day. Why are their different languages? Why do people look differently in one part of the world from the in other parts? Because God separated the earth (people) during the time of the tower of Babel. Why are clothes necessary? To cover our nakedness, to remind us of our shame (i.e., sin). What’s our purpose? Why are we here? We are to glorify God, having been made in His image (i.e., to represent Him). What happens when we die? We face judgment, some to eternal life others to eternal death (i.e., separation).

These are just a smattering of questions that some people have regarding basic life questions. These are mocked and doubted both inside and outside of the Christian faith. But there are other areas of doubt.

A Smattering of Questions…

Did the walls of Jericho really fall down after marching around them and blowing trumpets in Joshua’s day? Did Moses really part the Red Sea by following God’s commands to raise the staff and separate His hands? Did manna come down from heaven? Did the rock produce water? Did the Israelites clothes really not wear out after 40-years of wondering in the desert? Did Balaam’s donkey really speak? Did the serpent in the garden? Were the Israelites really slaves in Egypt? Did God choose (elect) to save them because of a promise to Abraham and God’s decision to place special love on them? Did Peter walk on water? Did Jesus turn water into wine? Did Gideon rout the Midianites with just 300 without losing a single man, even though they fought numbers in the 10’s of thousands? Did Samson really kill a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey? Did Paul really get bit by a poisonous snake and just shake it off without any health issues? Did Jesus really arise from a sealed tomb under Roman guard and then appear to His disciples? Did silver become so abundant in Israel during the reign of Solomon that it was like gravel? Did Elijah stop the rain for three-and-a-half years, and also call fire down from heaven? Did he really outrun Ahab who was riding in a chariot to Jezreel? Did David slay a 9 ½ foot giant named Goliath? Did Daniel escape a lion’s den unscathed? Did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego go into a burning furnace and then after some time inside leave that furnace without hair or cloth singed or smelling of smoke?

What do we do with those biblical events? Do we believe them? Or to our own peril, do we doubt them? If we doubt them, do we then parade those doubts around as if we are really sophisticated, smart thinkers? In our doubt, are we ashamed of admitting them to the world? As a result of our own doubts, do we attempt to find answers for them that will alleviate some of the embarrassment that we might experience when those who don’t believe ask us our thoughts regarding them?

A Serious Flaw in our Thinking…

When our doubt is exalted in this fashion it is an idol, for we would rather cherish our doubts in those moments than the Lord who has spoken truly. Our failure to fully grasp such things is not excuse, for doubting them. And if we doubt these supernatural occurrences (which are logical in a universe that God has created), then what grounds do we have in believing that our salvation, purchased by the life of Jesus Christ, is not also on shaky ground? If those things, which make up an integral part of the whole of our Christian faith can be legitimately doubted and explained away, then what justification can we provide in saying that our faith is not in vain?

Often you will hear Christians appealing to 1Cor 15 where Paul argues for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as necessary or else our faith is in vain. But what is forgotten is that Paul is addressing a specific issue in the Corinthian church where some were arguing against the resurrection (bodily). However, he was not saying that Christ’s resurrection is the only aspect of our faith that makes it null and void if it didn’t happen according to the Scriptures. The Christian faith is a total encompassing worldview. It all is interrelated. It is all one cogent whole. Thus, if one part is found to be in error or false or to be seriously doubted, then so too might any other part of it be. If God has not spoken truly in His Word through His prophets and apostles on any point, then what basis do we have in not assuming that it is all in vain?

Abrahamic faith…

Faith is the opposite of doubt. Abraham was accredited righteousness, not because of anything he had done, but because he believed (did not doubt) what God had said. We are called to have the same faith. In this way we are identified as children of Abraham. But if we hem and haw on God’s Word at various points, preferring to express our doubts as if they are good things, then how is this an exercise of Abrahamic faith?

Posted in Jesus Christ

Offspring (Seed) of David: Part II, Matthew’s Genealogy

Jesus was (is) called the son of David on numerous occasions, and not once did he rebuke or correct the statement, but enjoyed the application to himself. As he made his “way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest’” (Luke 19.37-38).

At that moment, as the people were praising Jesus identifying him as David’s son “some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples’” (Luke 19.39). He refused. Rather he responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19.40). As I explained last time (Offspring (Seed) of David: Part 1), Jesus’ authority is derived from his sonship as He is the rightful heir of a great kingdom.

From this point we could choose to go in one of two directions. I will choose the earthly route before I double back to the heavenly one. Although, it should be said you cannot divide the earthly aspects of Jesus lineage from His heavenly one. But for the sake of explanation we shall try.

It was foretold by Nathan the prophet that David would have a member of his house (his seed) that would sit on the throne of an eternal kingdom (cf. 2Sam 7.12-14). Nathan is not the only prophet that spoke of this future son of David, there were others. (NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list).

  • Isaiah proclaimed, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his root shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isa 11.1-3a).
  • Jeremiah likewise said, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness…And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them’” (Jer 30.5-6).
  • Amos foretold, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9.11).
  • Hosea declared, “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days” (Hos 3.5).
  • Ezekiel explained, “I [the Lord God] will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken” (Ezek 34.22-24).

Each one of these passages point to the one rightly identified as the son of David. In a future post, we shall investigate some of the meaning behind these prophetic texts, and how we see their fulfillment in the New Testament canon of Scripture. For now, though we turn to the breaking of a 400-year period of silence between the time of Malachi and John the Baptist. We shall begin to look at the beginning of the Gospel According to Matthew, and Luke.

The Genealogical Significance: Part I

Both Matthew and Luke’s gospel’s have genealogies in them that trace the line of Jesus back in history to his forebearers (cf. Matt 1.1-17; Luke 3.23-38). Though these are the passages that put many professing believers to sleep, they are of paramount importance to the student of Scripture. Both gospels are written by two different authors to two different audiences. Matthew is writing primarily to Jews, whereas, Luke is writing primarily to Gentiles. Both gospels highlight Jesus’ claim to kingship through the Davidic line (cf. Luke 3.31-32). Matthew’s differs in that his focus is on Abraham and David (Matt 1.1). Luke’s on the other hand goes all the way back to Adam (Luke 3.38).

Why do these two gospel writers focus on different individuals? What is the significance?

Quick look at Matthew’s Genealogy…

Matthew starts his genealogical record with the following declaration: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1.1).  Matthew’s highlighting Abraham and David point the reader to Jesus as the true offspring (i.e., seed) of these men. Why is this important? Because of what God promised to/through them.

To father Abraham, God said:

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gen 22.17-18; emphasis added).

To David, I have already noted what God has spoken about his offspring above. So instead, lets listen to David’s own testimony regarding what God has promised (cf. 2Sam 7.12-14):

“Great salvation [God] brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever” (2Sam 22.51; emphasis added; cf. Psa 18.50).

God promised to both Abraham and David that they would have an heir (offspring; seed) that would be the heir to the promise, through whom the promise of God would flow. In Abraham’s case, his seed would be a blessing to all nations (people) of the earth. Likewise, David was promised that his heir (offspring; seed) would receive an everlasting kingdom. In both prophetic passages (Gen 22.17-18; 2Sam 7.12-14) the heir apparent would receive a kingdom.

This truth is clearer to the reader of 2Sam 7 passage, but perhaps not so much in Gen 22:17-18. The key to the reader of the Genesis 22 passage is found in the phrase “…possess the gate of his enemies….” To own the gate of one’s enemies means that even your enemies are subservient to you, as gate can be symbolic of the leadership of the people in question (e.g. Deut 21.9; 22.15; 25.7; Josh 20.4; Ruth 4.11). Only one with authority that supersedes the elders at the gate, could hope to own them.

Matthew in giving the genealogy of Jesus, ties these prophetic passages to the Lord. Jesus attributes passages like these (cf. Gen 22 & 2Sam 7), along with the many that I quoted earlier in this article to himself when being interrogated by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor at that time, in terms of his kingship and kingdom.[i]

Pontius Pilate: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18.33).

Jesus of Nazareth: “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (John 18.34).

Pontius Pilate: “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18.35).

Jesus of Nazareth: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18.36).

Pontius Pilate: “So you are a king?” (John 18.37a)

Jesus of Nazareth: “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18.37b; emphasis added).

Thus, if we look to what was recorded earlier with the disciples and the people and the children crying out to Him; as “Hosanna to the son of David” (Matt 21.15; cf. Mark 11.9-10; Luke 19.37-38; John 12.13) we find the reason why Jesus refused to rebuke them, claiming that if such as these were silent the very stones would cry out (Luke 19.40).

**This looks as good as a place as any to hit the brakes. In this post we have looked at Matthew’s genealogical record that points Jesus of Nazareth to Abraham and David, as the rightful heir (inheritor) of God’s promise to/through them. We have focused primarily on the earthly aspects of the Lord’s lineage. Next time we shall look at Luke’s genealogical record of Jesus, the son of David (Luke 3.31), the son of Abraham (Luke 3.34), the son of Adam (Luke 3.38) joining together the earthly and heavenly lineage hinted at earlier in this article.

To be continued…

[i] This does not mean that Jesus quotes them to Pilate, but rather the truths that they reveal—the son of David, the son of Abraham is the rightful king of an eternal kingdom—are foundational to what he acknowledges before Pilate.