Astray by Dr. Abidan Shah

ASTRAY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Some animals are smart, and some are not. Dogs are smart. Some are even smarter than humans, especially working dogs. Bees are smart. They have the classic swarm intelligence where they work together to build a nest or defend themselves. Dolphins, they say, have a larger brain that any animal, relatively speaking. But there are also dumb animals. For example: sloths. Other than being super slow, they can also mistake their own limb for a branch and fall to the ground. Another animal that I consider dumb are sheep. They are often unaware of their surroundings, and, for just another clump of grass, they are often led astray. In fact, that is the title of our message today – ASTRAY. If you have your Bibles, please find Isaiah 53. Main point: Human beings are like sheep. We are easily led astray by our sin. We are prone to wander and get lost. Jesus came to bring us into his fold by taking our punishment of sin upon himself. He became our lamb unto slaughter. By trusting in him, we can be saved.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Context: So many of you have shared with us how much this series from Isaiah 53 titled “ATONEMENT” has meant to you. You have enjoyed the history and the geography behind these pages. You have also appreciated how the prophecies from the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New. Keep in mind that we were in our series through 1 Peter titled “TOGETHER FORWARD” that launched us back to Isaiah 53. Many of you have so many questions. Rest assured that we are in the process of getting something together that will benefit your whole family.

Listen again to Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray…” Isaiah the prophet wrote those words 100 years into the future to a people he had never met but who needed his words in their exile. Keep in mind that Isaiah, through the Holy Spirit, was writing to the Judeans who would be living in exile in Babylon. To refresh your memory – the people of Israel had divided into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) after Solomon’s reign. Both had sinned blatantly by going after false gods and breaking God’s commandments. God sent Assyria against the Northern Kingdom who by 722BC dispersed them, never to return. The Southern Kingdom continued for another 100 years, but they followed the way of their brothers and sisters to the North, if you remember from last week’s message. By 609BC Assyria fell to Babylon, their Akkadian brothers and sisters to the south. In 597BC, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came against Judah. Listen to 2 Kings 24       13 And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. 14 Also he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land. 15 And he carried Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officers, and the mighty of the land he carried into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 All the valiant men, seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths, one thousand, all who were strong and fit for war, these the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.” Before he left, he put Zedekiah, his handpicked king, on the throne and warned him to pay their taxes. Ten years later, Zedekiah rebelled, even Jeremiah the prophet warned him not to. As promised, Nebuchadnezzar returned. Listen to Jeremiah 52      13 He burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. 14 And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down all the walls of Jerusalem all around. 15 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poor people, the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the craftsmen. 16 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers.” Sin and disobedience have consequences. It may seem that God has decided to overlook sin but he will punish sin.

Application: Are you presuming on God’s grace? Is there unrepented sin in your hearts?

How did the people feel in exile? Initially, they lamented. They felt sorry for Judah, Jerusalem, their leaders, their homes, and themselves. Listen to them:

  • Lamentations 1 1 How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces has become a slave! 2 She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. 3 Judah has gone into captivity, under affliction and hard servitude; she dwells among the nations, she finds no rest…”
  • Lamentations 2 20 “See, O LORD, and consider! To whom have You done this? Should the women eat their offspring, the children they have cuddled? Should the priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord? 21 “Young and old lie on the ground in the streets; My virgins and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have slain them in the day of Your anger, you have slaughtered and not pitied.
  • Lamentations 3 14 “I have become the ridicule of all my people—Their taunting song all the day. 15 He has filled me with bitterness, he has made me drink wormwood.16 He has also broken my teeth with gravel, and covered me with ashes. 17 You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity.”
  • Psalms 137 1 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.”

Principle: There is a place to grieve, but prolonged grief or improper response to grief will lead to a victim mentality.

Application: Do you take your griefs to God? Are you living with a victim mentality? Do you know him as your Savior and King?

God was so gracious that he sent them word through Jeremiah that he was still with them. They were to build houses and plant gardens, take wives and have children, grow in numbers and seek the peace of the city where they were living. Listen to Jeremiah 29.    10“For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Did the people listen? Yes, the Bible doesn’t give us much information, but in the past century archaeologists discovered cuneiform tablets (wedge shaped style of writing in soft clay with a stylus which was then either baked in a kiln or under the hot sun) that give us hints that the people did quite well in Babylon. Remember, there were 2 groups of people in exile: the royals and the wealthy; the middle class. Those who were sort of commoners got land. They farmed and became successful. Those who were from the upper echelons of society also got land and other privileges. They learned Chaldean. Their children were educated in the cultures and manners of the Babylonians. They increased in affluence and wealth. Some became royal merchants and others like Daniel and Nehemiah became royal courtiers. Overall, they advanced socially, economically, and politically. In other words, yes, they did well. But how about spiritually? That’s a different matter. Not much indication in the cuneiform as to whether they were following God. If Sabbath keeping was any indication, they were not obeying God. Jeremiah 17      24 “And it shall be, if you heed Me carefully,” says the LORD, “to bring no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work in it, 25 then shall enter the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, accompanied by the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever.” Now it was out of sight, out of mind. Add to that a victim mentality and a little disappointment with God.

Application: In some ways, we are in exile. Are we still seeking God? Not all of us.

To such a people, Isaiah had sent his prophecy – Isaiah 53      1 Who has believed our report? (The prophet is speaking on behalf of the people to the watching world.) And to whom has the arm of the LORD (Isaiah used that imagery repeatedly – 40:10; 48:14; 51:5; 52:10. It’s like saying “right hand man.”) been revealed?

2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (The Servant will not be some mighty oak or some fruit tree laden with fruits. He will not be the “best of the best” like those who had been taken into exile. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”)

3 He is despised (not actively hating him but simply considering him worthless or unworthy of our attention) and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; (Have you been around someone in grief or sickness? Hair is matted; breath is bad; face is stained with tears. It is not a pleasant sight. We want to get away from there. The Judeans in Babylon were trying to climb the Babylonian ladder of success and regain their old splendor. Jesus was surrounded by sick and bereaving people when he came.) He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (We thought he was rejected and stricken “nagua” with leprosy. That’s why in the Babylonian Talmud the Messiah is described as a leper. This does not always have to be the case. To the contrary, he was representing us. We are grief stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. It is as if we are looking in a mirror and thinking it is someone else. He was not suffering because of the sins of the people but for the sins of the people. He was standing in their place and taking their spiritual punishment while they were improving their status in society and looking good and successful.)

5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised (The word is more like crushed.) for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (There is now a shift from illness to injury. This is where Isaiah started out – Isaiah 1        4 “Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers,children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. 5 Why should you be stricken again?You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment.” Our sickness is because of sin. Jesus did not come to suffer with us but to suffer for us.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; (Sheep run away and scatter when they are spooked.) we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. (The negative quality of the sheep are replaced by their positive quality by Jesus. Yes, they are dumb and fearful, but he was innocent and submissive.)

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? (Those in exile wanted the best for their children and grandchildren. Hopefully, they will look back and sing our praises. He would have no such opportunity. In that society, such people were pitied. He was representing them!) For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

9 And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. He was hung between 2 thieves, but he was put in the borrowed tomb of a rich man. Joseph of Arimathea was a righteous man who was also a member of the Sanhedrin.)

Invitation: Are you gone astray? Do you need healing? Have you come to Jesus?

The Servant by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE SERVANT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you remember your mom telling you, “You can get your own drink. I’m not your servant”? How many moms have told that to your kids? How many husbands have heard their wives say that? We despise the idea of having to serve anybody. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that the “SERVANT” was one of the prophetic titles of Jesus. Main point: In a world of sin and death, Jesus became God’s Servant for us. He did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. So also, as our world is in chaos and confusion, God’s way is always one of service and sacrifice. While people of the world are jockeying for power or trying to survive, choose the way of the Servant.

Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.”

Context: As you know, we are in our miniseries through Isaiah 53 titled ATONEMENT. The reason we chose Isaiah 53 is because Peter chose Isaiah 53 to give his readers an example to on how to suffer. Keep in mind that the main series is through 1 Peter. The reason I wanted us to go deeper in Isaiah 53 is because it is much more than just a model or a pattern for suffering. It is the very bedrock of our salvation. Here we find the precious truth of the vicarious suffering of Jesus for the penalty of our sin. Remember: God is holy and we are sinful. Sin deserves God’s judgment. We are under his wrath. Jesus took God’s punishment of sin upon himself. All we have to do is trust him as our Savior and King.

Application: Have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior and King?

Once again, Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently…” Keep in mind that Isaiah was speaking prophetically to the people of Judah who were in exile in Babylon.Remember the 3-part breakdown that I gave you of the book of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39; Chapters 40-55; and Chapters 56-66. The first section deals with events in Isaiah’s lifetime (739-701 BC). The second section deals with events about a hundred years after Isaiah (605-539 BC) until the coming of Jesus. Finally, the third section deals with events from 539 BC-the future restoration of Israel that is still to come. This prophecy falls under the second section, the period 100 years after Isaiah, when Judah was taken into captivity to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. To understand the meaning of the prophecy in Isaiah 53, we need to have some understanding of the historical situation at that time. If you remember, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been dispersed by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser in 722BC, never to return again. Their demise had given a sense of entitlement to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. It was a confirmation to them of God’s promises to King David and of Zion/Jerusalem as God’s chosen city. King Hezekiah, the king of Judah, was overall a good king. He was not pro-Assyria and he listened to Isaiah. It was unusual in those days for kings to listen to God’s prophets. When he was sick and near death, God even healed Hezekiah through Isaiah. But, he had to chastise Hezekiah when he turned to Egypt for help and even tried to build an alliance with Babylon. In fact, after he got better, Merodach-Baladan (king of Babylon) sent an envoy to visit him and Hezekiah showed them everything in his house. Nonetheless, when Hezekiah defied Assyria and Sennacherib came against Judah, they remained intact. Jerusalem continued as a city. Once again, it was a confirmation that God’s hand was upon them.

Unfortunately, Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh was anything but godly. He was a wicked king who did “abominable” things before God (see 2 Kings 21) – he built altars for Baal, worshipped stars, built altars in the temple, made his son pass through fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. 2 Kings 21:9 “…Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.” He ruled for 55 years! By the way, he was also the wicked king who had Isaiah sawed to death by a wooden saw in 681 BC. What was God’s reaction to all this? 10   And the LORD spoke by His servants the prophets, saying, 11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols), 12 therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies, 15 because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.’ ”

Just when you would think all hell would break loose, another king came to the throne named Josiah (after Amon). He was the total opposite of Manasseh! Sometimes, God delays his judgment to give us more time to repent and come to him. 2 Peter 3     7 “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Josiah began repairing the temple. In the process, God’s Word was found. 2 Kings 22      11 Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. 12Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” He tore down all the altars that Manasseh had set up, executed the prophets to the false gods, and cleansed the land. 2 Kings 23     25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. Unfortunately, the people had a false sense of confidence that they were going to be okay. But, listen to 2 Kings 23     26 “Nevertheless the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him. 27 And the LORD said, “I will also remove Judah from My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’”

Then, it happened, by 605BC, Babylon was in power. In 597BC, Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem. He besieged the city, replaced the king, and warned them to keep sending in the taxes. He appointed King Zedekiah to the throne. Zedekiah tried to get the help of the Egyptians against the Babylonians. He even asked Jeremiah to pray for God to deliver Judah. Jeremiah 21     9 “He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be as a prize to him. 10 For I have set My face against this city for adversity and not for good,” says the LORD. “It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.” Zedekiah didn’t like the answer. So he turned to other prophets. Jeremiah even came before the king with a yoke around his neck as a visual. He even warned those already in exile in Babylon to make themselves at home. This was not over. As prophesied, Nebuchadnezzar returned in 587BC, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, destroyed the walls, and drove the people of Judah out of their homes. Zedekiah was captured and his sons were killed before his eyes. His eyes were gauged out and he was dragged away to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar forced the exiles to march 700 miles across the hot desert to a land they had never seen. They were now “servants” in a foreign land. Gone are the days of confidence in God’s promises to David and to his chosen city Zion/Jerusalem.

What do you think is the state of mind of these people in exile? Everything is in chaos. Susan Langer (“Philosophy in a New Key,” Prof at Columbia, New York University) said, “Man can adapt himself somehow to anything his imagination can cope with; but he cannot deal with Chaos. Because his characteristic function and highest asset is conception, his greatest fright is to meet what he cannot construe, the ‘uncanny,’ as it is popularly called.” How do you think they were handling all this? Their glory days were over. Maybe, some were reminiscing. Others were becoming Babylonians. Their whole thought was how to shed the life of servitude. Will God bring us back? Is our God bigger than Marduk, Nergal, and Tiamat? Was it time to switch over? We don’t want to be servants anymore.

God had sent his answer through Isaiah over a 100 years earlier. God had already given his new way. Isaiah 43.     18 “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” In this way, David was not the Anointed One but Cyrus (a king who was yet to be born). The qualifications of leadership had changed. It’s not pedigree or power but humility, obedience, and righteousness. With that in mind, let’s read the section we began with – Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, My Servant (Pay attention. You are servants and hate it. I am sending someone who is also a Servant. Don’t despise your predicament. It could be God’s way of speaking to you and using you. The description of “the Servant” had already begun in Isaiah 42.) shall deal prudently; (Not just wise things but right things. The word is “sakal.”) He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.” (they describe God – Isaiah 6:1; 33:10; 57:15)

14 Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men; (their faces were disfigured in the exile. He would be worse.) 15 so shall He sprinkle many nations. (the idea is of sprinkling to make atonement or even expiation = to purify. We may think that in exile God may double down on his hatred for nations. To the contrary, God is reigniting his plan to reach the world! The people in exile thought that they had lost their identity. Instead, God was spreading them for his greater purpose to win the world). Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; (Pilate was not a king but he represented one. He was just the beginning.) for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider.

Invitation: Do you know the Servant? Are you trusting in him? Are you saved? Are you a servant?

Faithfulness by Dr. Abidan Shah

FAITHFULNESS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: If there is one refrain or chorus that we have all said or heard again and again, it is “what a crazy year 2020 has been!” None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares that this year would turn out this way. Although, this year was quite serious and sad in many ways, people found humor in it as well. Check out some of the memes that people sent me – “T-shirt with the year in review stars – ‘Very bad, would not recommend,’” “picture of a knight in his armor with the caption ‘me being prepared for 2020’ and the next picture with an arrow through the eye slit,” “a bunch of porta potties on fire with the caption ‘if 2020 was a scented candle,’” and this one with “Sorry folks, the world is closed.” As I was praying about what is it that God would want us to remember at the close of this crazy year, he directed my attention to Psalm 66. Here’s the main point: If we look at our trials only through the lens of our personal story, we will become fearful and hopeless. Instead, we have to look at our trials through the lens of our collective story; then we see that we have faced worse situations before and God has been faithful. The foundation of our faith is not our own experiences but the collective experience of God’s people in the Scriptures. If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now and in the future. I can pray to him in confidence and know that he will answer the prayer of the clean heart.

Psalm 66       1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

Context: Many of us treat the psalms as second-class literature compared to the narratives, prophecies, gospels and epistles. This is false. The psalms are equally Scripture. They are theology that sings. Once we decode the symbolism and the literary structure, they have some deep theology that is not found anywhere else in Scripture.

To start with, the psalm we just read (Psalm 66) can be divided into 2 halves: Verses 1-12 and verses 13-20. The first half is focused on corporate worship and the second half is focused on personal worship. In other words, first, we hear the chorus of the whole community singing and then we hear the voice of the individual worshipper. The first half lays the foundation for the second half. Without the corporate worship, there would be no individual worship.

First half – The choir calls all believers to praise God for his wonderful works. Listen again – 1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” In the context, I would say that “all the earth” is referring only to the “God-fearing Israelites” or only to “all the believers of the earth.” After all, how can the lost world shout joyfully to the living God? Also, 2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” Again, how can the lost world sing out the honor of God’s name and how can they make his praise glorious? Romans 3:23 is clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moving on to verse 3 “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’” Every human being is an enemy of God until he/she meets Jesus Christ.Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Also,Colossians 1      21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we can join the throng of those who sing praises to God’s name. 4 “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Application: Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? Are you singing praises to God?

Now the choir invites all believers to take a trip down memory lane – 5 “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot…” Here the choir of God’s people are singing about the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors, particularly the time when the people of Israel found themselves hemmed between the Red Sea before them and the chariots of Pharaoh behind them. Remember, after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh allowed the people to leave Egypt. As this massive crowd of 3 million began their journey, the land of Egypt was a wreck and the Egyptians were scared. The people of Israel had to walk right past the fortresses on Egypt’s eastern borders. There were soldiers and chariots in these fortresses with plenty of hatred and anger towards the people of Israel. Even though they were large in number, these former slaves (less than 24 hours) were no match for trained angry soldiers in chariots. God led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. Just then Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to pursue the people of Israel with a couple of thousand chariots with soldiers. What a horrible tactical decision!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses – Exodus 14     10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. God sent a strong east wind that divided the sea and made dry land for them. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.” This Angel of the Lord and pillar of the cloud was the pre-incarnate Christ who guarded God’s people until they were safely on the other side. Then God gave the command and the sea came back and drowned the entire Egyptian army.

Let’s return again to Psalm 66:6 “He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.There is a shift in the “person” from third to second. There is something very subtle here which is very substantial for our faith. The singers/congregation were not there at the Red Sea. Their ancestors were there. Nonetheless, they were there in the sense of the confessional statements (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). In theological terms, this is known as the “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” It means that by faith we are part of the whole story of God’s people. In other words, even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there spiritually and I saw the faithfulness of God in my life. We do that as Christians through the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The choir/congregation continues – 7 “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, 9 Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved.” This is the key verse of this psalm. God has preserved our feet from slipping into the netherworld. This does not mean that people have not died in 2020 of various causes, but God has our times in his hands and none have left this world outside of his time. 10 For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Everything from the exodus experience is now personal.

Application: What is your faith story? The Bible is our faith story. We have been through worse. If God brought us through fire and water, he will bring us through 2020. Can you sing that? Can you shout that? Do you understand now why we need community? We understand those who cannot be with us because of health concerns. That’s why we go above and beyond to make sure that we have the best online experience possible for those who cannot attend in person. To stop assembling is to take away our faith story. We have to remind each other of it.

Second Half – The individual proclaims his personal thanksgiving to God and promises to keep his vows. Listen – 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows.” There is a shift in the “person” from second to first. The choir goes silent now and all eyes are turned towards the individual as he makes remembers the promises that he had made to God through the trials. 14 Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah Many different kinds of sacrifices are in view here.

Applications: What promises did you make to God in 2020? You say, “I didn’t make any promises.” So, you just asked God to get you through? Get you through for what? Why should God give you another year? If were truly honest, many of us got through but our faith disintegrated. Many have destroyed the faith of others.

Listen to the conclusion of the psalm – 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 Butcertainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” There is confidence in our prayers when our heart is clean before God.

Application: Is your heart clean before God?

Conclusion:

  • We need both descriptive praise and declarative praise.
  • We need to go back and then we can talk about the now.
  • We need both the community and the individual.
  • We need both worship and thanksgiving.
  • We need hearts that are clean if we want our prayers to be heard.

Can you see God’s faithfulness in the past and the present? Are you saved?

DIGGING DEEP 3 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 3 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Recap from last week:

  • 2 Major views of Translation: Formal Equivalent (literal/word-for-word); Functional Equivalent (idiomatic/meaning-based/dynamic)
  • Range of translation: Highly Literal, Modified Literal, Idiomatic, and Unduly Free
  • No translation is strictly one or the other (except maybe the Unduly Free). They frequently overlap, some more than others.

Difference between FORM and MEANING (From Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions):

  • FORM includes letters, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc.
  • MEANING includes concepts or thoughts from the forms

“For genuine translation to take place, 2 things must happen: The meaning must remain the same, and the form must change (at least to some degree). If either of these two things does not happen, we have not translated.” (Brunn)

How to translate words?

  • “Words” are important. They are the building block of any language, the starting point of form.
  • “Full meaning of most words does not transfer directly between two languages. Meaning should be viewed as an area and not a precise point.” (Brunn)
  • Usually, there is only a partial overlap of meanings between corresponding words between two languages.
  • A Greek word has a range of meanings and the most appropriate has to be picked in translation.
  • Many times translations are not as accurate or consistent as they should’ve been.

Case in point: Logos (Taken from Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions)

  1. Logos has more meanings than just “word”

John 1:1 (NKJV) “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.”

Acts 1:1 (NKJV) “The former logos I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.”

Romans 14:12 (NKJV) “So then each of us shall give logos of himself to God.”

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NKJV) “For the logos of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:1 (NKJV) “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of logos or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:4 (NKJV) “And my logos and my preaching were not with persuasive logos of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV) “Let no corrupt logos proceed out of your mouth…”

1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV) “This is a faithful logos and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV) “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a logos for the hope that is in you…”

Acts 20:24 (NKJV) “But of no logos; nor do I count my life dear to myself…”

Matthew 5:32 (NKJV) “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for the logos of sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery…”

  1. Logos is more than just a “single” word

Galatians 5:14 (NKJV) For all the law is fulfilled in one logos, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Check the interesting rendering here by NASB)

John 19:7-8 (NKJV) The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that logos, he was the more afraid.”

  1. Guidelines for best translation of logos:
  • Literal translations use “word” most of the time for logos since it is the one that corresponds the most.
  • Idiomatic translations use the meaning that fits the context the most.

How about Revelation 22   18   For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

– Check Matthew 25:19; I Corinthians 15:2; Philippians 4:15; and Hebrews 4:13 (Logos is missing in the KJV translation because the translators were going for meaning rather than form.)

DIGGING DEEP 2 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 2 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Recap from last week:

  • Translations are still the Word of God. They’re also inspired and inerrant to the extent that they represent the original text.
  • Understand the difference between Wahy and Ilham (direct revelation vs. inspiration of the Holy Spirit)
  • There is no perfect or ultimate English Bible translation or word-for-word translation.
  • The best translation is the “modified literal.” “Modified” represents the real situation and “literal” represents the ideal goal. (Taken from Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal?) I lean more towards the literal side of things.

How Translation Works:

 

2 Major Views of Translation:

  1. Formal Equivalent: It is also known as “literal” or “word-for-word” translation. It tries to preserve the form in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek writing. This is with regards to both word and grammar.
  2. Functional Equivalent: It is also known as “idiomatic” or “meaning-based” translation. Some have even called it dynamic. It tries to focus on the meaning, naturalness, and clarity.

The matter is more complicated than that. The following is a better Range of Translation, as taken from John Beekman and John Callow’s book, Translating the Word of God.)

 

A.  Highly Literal – The focus is on both words and word orders. For e.g. Interlinears.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Actual – Joshua 1:9 (BHS) הֲלֹ֤וא צִוִּיתִ֨יךָ֙ חֲזַ֣ק וֶאֱמָ֔ץ אַֽל־תַּעֲרֹ֖ץ וְאַל־תֵּחָ֑ת כִּ֤י עִמְּךָ֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ׃ פ

Literal Translation – ?·not I-instructed·you be-steadfast-you ! and·be-resolute-you ! must-not-be you-are-being-terrified and·must-not-be you-are-being-dismayed that with·you Yahweh· Elohim-of·you in·all which you-are-going

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Actual – ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,

Literal Translation – as many as   but received him   he gives   to them   right   children   of God   to be becoming   to the   ones believing   into the   name of   him.

B.  Modified Literal Translation – It focuses on words and is willing to modify the word order to make sense. For e.g. NKJV, NASB, ESV

C.  Idiomatic Translation – It focuses much more on sounding natural and clear. For e.g. NLT, God’s Word, etc.

Joshua 1:9 “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

John 1:12 “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

D.  Unduly Free – It changes the wording and word order, historical setting, and original context to suit the present audience. For e.g. Cotton Patch Version

Important point to remember: No translation is strictly one or the other (except maybe the Unduly Free). They frequently overlap, some more than others.

Example: Job 19:27

Hebrew – “which I I-shall-perceive for·me and·eyes-of·me they-see and·not alien-one they-are-exhausted kidneys-of·me in·bosom-of·me.”

NKJV – “Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

ESV – “Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

NIV – “I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.

NLT – “I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

MESSAGE – “see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!

KJV – “Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

DIGGING DEEP 1 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 1 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Total number of all the Bible translations in the world: Not Sure.

Old Testament: Samaritan Pentateuch, Aramaic Targums, and the Septuagint.

New Testament: Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Ethiopic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Slavonic, English, etc.

Total number of English Bible translations: According to one estimation, there are 900 and another as many as 1400. This includes translations as well as paraphrases, revisions, and partial translations.

Original Languages of the Bible: 98.5% of the OT was written in Hebrew. Parts of the OT were in Aramaic: Genesis 31:47; Jeremiah 10:11; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; and Daniel 2:4b-7:28. Also, Jesus more than likely spoke Aramaic based on evidence of inscriptions, Aramaic words in the Gospels, Aramaic papyri evidence, etc. But, the New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

Translations are still the Word of God – translations are also inspired and inerrant to the extent they represent the original text. We believe that the original words are not isolated entities. They come together to make propositions. Hence, as long as the translations are true to the original text, they are just as much the Word of God as the original text.

Difference between the translations of the Quran and the translations of the Bible: In Islam, only the Arabic Quran is considered to be authoritative. This is the language in which it was given and the translations involve interpretation, which can be distorted. School kids are told to memorize the Quran in Arabic even in countries where Arabic is not the main language. Recitation of the Quran has to be in Arabic. Why is this? In Muslim theology there are 2 key words that are important to understand: wahy and ilham. Wahy is the pure revelation of God. It exists in heaven and everything else, including translations, is just interpretation or rendition. Ilham is God revealing his knowledge into the mind of the person. This is similar to the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. Under wahy, there is no such thing as the “original message” or “context” or the “true words” of the prophet Mohammed; the Quran is the word of God.

A good example to explain the difference between the Quran translations and the Bible translations: From Rodney Decker, “Verbal-Plenary Inspiration and Translation” – The International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sévres, Paris, has the official International Prototype Kilogram. It is the standard against which all kilogram measures are established. But, my weight measures are still accurate.

2 Timothy 3   16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 1:21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Major points to remember:

  • There is no perfect or ultimate English Bible translation.
  • There is no such thing as a word-for-word translation.
  • There is no such thing as consistent formal equivalent translation.
  • The best translation is the “modified literal.” “Modified” represents the real situation and “literal” represents the ideal goal. (Dave Brunn) In other words, “modified” acknowledges that the translators have to modify in order to reflect the best meaning. Literal is the goal of the translation.
  • Translations carry the same authority as the original text, to the extent that they reflect the original text.
  • Translations have to be constantly updated.

Couple of examples:

(Taken from Dave Brunn’s book – “One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal?”)

Jeremiah 48:4  בְּנֵ֥י שָׁאֽוֹן׃  = sons of roar, crash, noise

 NKJV – “Those who fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon because of exhaustion. But a fire shall come out of Heshbon, a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the brow of Moab, the crown of the head of the sons of tumult.”

HCSB – “Those who flee will stand exhausted in Heshbon’s shadow because fire has come out from Heshbon and a flame from within Sihon. It will devour Moab’s forehead and the skull of the noisemakers.

NIV – “In the shadow of Heshbon the fugitives stand helpless, for a fire has gone out from Heshbon, a blaze from the midst of Sihon; it burns the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of the noisy boasters.”

NASB – “In the shadow of Heshbon the fugitives stand without strength; For a fire has gone forth from Heshbon and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and it has devoured the forehead of Moab and the scalps of the riotous revelers.”

 

Romans 3:20 σὰρξ = Flesh, physical body; human nature, earthly descent, human being, person, man, earthly life, etc. 

NKJV – Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

ESV For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since zthrough the law comes knowledge of sin.

HCSB For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.

NLT For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

MessageOur involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.

NETFor no one is declared righteous before him23 by the works of the law,24 for through the law comes25 the knowledge of sin.

NIV Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

NASBbecause by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Episode 11: Biblical Words

In this episode, Abidan Paul Shah focuses on biblical words and their meanings. Often people do poor word studies and misinterpret passages. This episode will teach you to study words in their proper contexts.

For more information on Digging Deep, Clearview Church’s summer Bible study, check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/ClearviewDiggingDeep. You can also find the notes from each week on Pastor Shah’s blog.

DIGGING DEEP – 5 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 5 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Some preliminary remarks about language(s):

  • It is possible to communicate God’s Word in human words without any errors.
  • Avoid claims that one language is intellectually superior to another.
  • The main purpose is to understand how the language works at a particular stage and not how it has evolved. For e.g. Grammar and glamour are related.

Recognize language families:

  • Semitic (Hebrew and Aramaic)

Our focus is Northwest Semitic, which is divided into Canaanite and Aramaic

Abraham probably spoke an ancient form of Aramaic, coming from the Aramean region, Upper Mesopotamia (Deut. 26:5)

They must have adopted a form of Canaanite that later became Hebrew.

Hebrew probably had its glory days under David and Solomon but did not spread beyond the borders of Israel.

Aramaic became an international language under the Assyrians.

Later the people of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) were taken into exile to Babylon where they adopted Aramaic.

When they returned, they kept both Hebrew and Aramaic but the later became more prominent.

98.5% of the OT was written in Hebrew. Parts of the OT were in Aramaic: Genesis 31:47; Jeremiah 10:11; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; and Daniel 2:4b-7:28. Also, Jesus more than likely spoke Aramaic based on evidence of inscriptions, Aramaic words in the Gospels, Aramaic papyri evidence, presence of Aramaic in the Jerusalem Talmud and targums.

Hebrew can be divided into various periods: Early Biblical Hebrew (oldest poetic composition), Classical Biblical Hebrew (pre-exilic to post-exilic), Late Biblical Hebrew (Persian Period).

Hebrew almost became a dead language after the destruction of the temple and hence the Masoretes had to insert vowels into the text.

  • Indo-European (Greek)

Mycenean Greek goes back to the 13th century BC.

It was fragmented – Ionic (Western coast of Asia Minor), Attica (Athens), Aeolic (Thessaly), Doric (Corinth)

Athens became the cultural center and hence Attic played a big role in Greek literature.

Because of Alexander the Great (356-323BC), it became the lingua franca.

It went through some radical changes and became koine, the language in which the New Testament was written.

Koine is not “Holy Spirit” Greek, just common Greek of the time.

 

For our purpose of studying the Bible in depth, language can be broken down in 3 parts: 

  1. Word – is the building block of language. But, without a context, words are almost meaningless. For e.g. “Set that on the counter” and “Counter that argument.” One of the most common mistakes in word studies is “Root Fallacy” – meaning is determined by etymology (origin of the word). For e.g. “Good-bye” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “God Be With You.” But, the word “nice” comes from the Latin necius, which means “ignorant.” Other examples: bureau, express, beef, and pork.

Common Greek Misuse: “agapao” vs phileo. Agapao = divine love and phileo = brotherly love. But it is not so clear-cut. There are many overlaps. In Sam 13:15, agapao (LXX) is used for Amnon’s rape of his sister. II Tim 4:10 – Demas left Paul because he loved this present, evil world. Again, John 3:35 – Love =agapao but John 5:20 – Love = phileo.

Along with the syntax, we need literary and historical context. Also, the speech patterns of biblical Hebrew and Greek culture must determine the principles for word study. This does not mean that every root word study is useless.

  1. Sentence – It’s not enough to look at what the Bible contains but what it communicates. Sentence is a complete thought. Some cautions here as well regarding excessive use of grammatical categories. For e.g. Aorist in Romans 6:10
  1. Paragraph – Sometimes the Bible indicates where it starts and ends but many times it doesn’t. The context is key. There are many complicated tools to recognize shifts in paragraphs but just being sensitive to the context can help a lot.

 

Test Passages:

  1. Difference in meaning of the words “faith,” “works,” and “justify” as seen in Romans 4:1-5 and James 2:14-26.

 

  1. What is the place of “faith” in Mark 11:22 vs. Galatians 2:16, Acts 3:16, Colossians 2:12?

 

  1. How specific is a usage? Philippians 1:27 and Galatians 1:12

 

  1. Is this too much grammar? Matthew 7:7

 

  1. What is the flow of Romans 1:16-18?
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