PERMIT ME TO substantiate my claim.
No, this is not an attack on the inerrancy of Scripture, nor is it yet another feeble attempt at recasting the literal language of Genesis into figurative.
However, there is a sense in which the first book of the Bible is full of lies.
The Old Testament records a significant incident in Eden’s garden.
The devil, in the form of a serpent, approached mother Eve and inquired, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'”
His goal was not to learn what the Almighty had actually said, but to prepare the woman’s heart for deception.
Eve replied that both she and her husband enjoyed the God-given liberty to eat from any and all trees within the garden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:3), save one — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
She noted that eating and touching the fruit from this particular tree would incur the judgment of God and result in the couple’s death.
“Not so!” said the devil. “You will not surely die. For God know that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:4).
In essence, the specter of death was simply an intimidation tactic employed by God to dissuade Adam and Eve from becoming like deity themselves.
According to the old serpent (Revelation 12:9; 20:2), Jehovah dangled punishment over the first couple to keep their ambition in check.
Death was God’s lie; it was an empty threat fostered upon man and woman in order to rob them of divinity and omniscience.
One commentator observes:
“Having led Eve first to question God’s authority and goodness and them both to augment and dilute His Word, Satan now was ready for the ‘kill.’ “Ye shall surely not die.’ The fact that God had warned Adam, and Adam told Eve, that eating the fruit of this tree would result in death, was beside the point. That warning, Satan suggested, was merely because God’s fear that they would learn too much. Not content merely with altering God’s Word, Satan now blatantly denied it, calling God a liar” (Morris, “The Fall of Man,” The Genesis Record, Baker, 111).
I find it striking that Genesis opens with the devil’s deception.
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
He accused God of the very thing he was guilty of himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3)!
However, I find it equally striking how that “the book of beginnings” records how humanity often emulated the devil in dishonesty.
- Cain lied about knowing what had happened to his brother, Abel (4:9).
- Abraham lied about the identity of Sarah (12:11-13; 20:2).
- Sarah lied about laughing at the promise of God (18:9-15).
- Isaac lied about the identity of Rebekah (26:7).
- Jacob and Rebekah lied to Isaac about a son’s true identity (27:6-29).
- Laban lied to Jacob about whom his future son-in-law would marry (29:15-30).
- Simeon and Levi lied to Shechem and his father, Hamor, about the consequences of the Dinah incident (34:13).
- Jacob’s sons lied about the alleged demise of their brother, Joseph (37:20; 31:35). (Have you noticed a sort of family history–grandfather, father, son, etc. of dysfunction and deceit?)
- Potiphar’s wife lied about an intimate incident with a slave in her home (39:13-19).
- Joseph lied when he accused his family of spying out the land (42:7ff).
Yes, Genesis, in a sense, is full of lies and serves to remind us that man is perhaps most like the devil when he says that which does not correspond to truth (cf. 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 2:2).
Jesus hates lies.
“Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitians, which thing I hate” Revelation 2:15; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
I suggest that we ought to be more like Him (John 14:6).
He was Rabonni. Master. Teacher.
He taught his students in terms of the spiritual despite the fact that their preconceptions kept them hearing, more often than not, in terms of the physical. They were looking to overthrow the Emperor of Rome; He was looking to overthrow the Prince of the power of the air,
Now imagine if Jesus had begun his very first Bible class with the twelve following introduction:
“Men,” he says, “Big changes are on the horizon. Judaism and the old Mosaic regime is about to come to a close. The Ten Commandments will no longer be in effect. Animal sacrifices will cease. Circumcision of the flesh will be a thing of the past. There will be no more High Priesthood – at least, not as you know it now. The Sabbath, with all of its fleshly ordinances, will be brought to an end. Regulations that your families have kept for generations will be made obsolete. What was once unclean will now be considered clean…”
How do you suppose Peter, James, John and their fellow-classmates would have responded to that kind of information?
Of course, these statements were correct (Romans 7:2, 6; Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:14ff; Hebrews 8-10), but it’s obvious they wouldn’t have been in any way prepared for them. Yes, the law was for Israel only (Deuteronomy 4:7-8), yes, the law constituted a temporary system (Jeremiah 31:31-32), yes, the law was about to become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), and a new and better was about to be established; but none of these twelve freshmen were mature enough to stomach that kind of doctrinal meat – at least not yet.
Jesus knew that – and that’s why He waited; He did not tell them what they were not ready to hear. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).
Christian teachers need to remember this important principle today. Typically folks have to get the hang of addition, subtraction and division before they wrestle with algebra, geometry and physics. They learn the basics and fundamentals first, then they are incrementally challenged with higher mathematics.
What is true in the realm of academics also ought to be true in matters pertaining to the Faith. Typically people need to learn the difference between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ before they’re told that instruments of music in worship are sinful. It’s not that instrumental music is an inconsequential matter and shouldn’t be addressed (Colossians 3:16-17); it’s a matter of readiness and timing.
We can convey the right information at the wrong time in the learning curve. What did Jesus tell the twelve? “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them YET.”
When we fail to prepare the heart – soil of our peers, try simply to win doctrinal arguments, and/or show others just how much (or little) we know about the Bible, more often than not, we shut out the very souls we were meant to convert. When we force information upon them when they’re not ready to hear it, we’re simply scattering the Seed-Word on blacktop.
It’s not that our friends will never accept the truth at some point in the future; it’s that they usually aren’t ready at Bible study #1 for deeper concepts of doctrine. It’s addition – then algebra, Testament – then worship, milk – then meat (cf. Hebrews 5:12ff).
Jesus, the Master Teacher, knew that. He prepared the hearts of his students for the reception of important truths. He reiterated ideas. He gave little tests. He spoke in figures and parables. He planted little seeds of faith, water them, fertilized them and then he waited for growth and maturity.
Christian teachers and evangelists would do well to remember his example.
MY FRIEND HAS been carefully monitoring her grandmother for some time.
There have been signals. Telltale signs. Inexplicable actions.
Lately they have been much more pronounced and observable. This is not simply “old age”; this is symptomatic of something far worse. Her grandmother doesn’t just forget something, she simply can’t remember. She can’t recall people or how to do the simplest of tasks. Faces have no context. Loved ones are total strangers. It’s as if her mind is a sort of computer hard drive that has been irrevocably erased. The data is all gone. The external components are still intact, but there are no files to open and review.
Now my friend’s family has been forced to make a heart-wrenching decision—to put grandmother into a nursing home. Grandma will never return to her old homestead. Her home with its treasures and precious memories will be emptied and divided among her loved ones. Alzheimer’s has claimed yet another unsuspecting victim.
What would it be like to not be able to remember? What would it be like to forget? What would it be like to lose the ability to function normally because your memories are being incrementally erased from your mind? Imagine her dreadful plight. She can see, hear, and move, but she can’t remember. Names mean nothing to her. Every face is an unknown. She is an infant in an old woman’s body, at best. I shudder to think about it. I am sad for my friend and her family.
But it occurs to me that God also has a similar affliction—figuratively speaking. He can’t remember like He used to. Perhaps it might be more appropriate to say that “He DOESN’T recall as He used to…” No, that’s not a misprint; The “Ancient of Days” doesn’t recall things as He once did. You might say it’s a divine form of Alzheimer’s. Don’t believe me? Read the following passage and pay special attention to verse 34:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their [b]hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
You may be thinking, “But Mike, how can this be? God is incapable of not remembering.”
In order for us to address this apparent dilemma, let’s notice a few Scriptural points:
- God is all-knowing (1 Samuel 2:3; Psalm 139:1-6; 147:4-5; 40:5; Matthew 10:29-30; Romans 1:19-20.)
- For God to not know or remember something would mean that He is not omniscient.
- God remembers sin in the sense that He knows everything, past, present, and future.
- Under the Law of Moses, sins were remembered each year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16; 23:26-32)—
“But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year” (Hebrews 10.3). This annual remembrance was necessary in order that God’s people a) would be made conscious (Hebrews 10.2) of the enormity of their transgressions as well as b) what was required in order to atone for them. Sin is a type of debt (Romans 6.23.)
So when the high priest offered the blood of innocent animals on behalf of the nation, the people were forced to see and remember the consequences—both physically and spiritually—of what they had done.
Think of it this way. Think of paying off your car loan. Each month the bank remembers that you have a car payment—and every month it mails you a reminder. You pay on the debt for several months in a row until eventually you pay off the car and the entire debt is—to borrow from Jeremiah—“remembered no more.” Now once the loan is paid off, does the bank forget that you bought the car, or that you had a bill to pay? We would agree and say, “Of course not.” The bank still keeps a record of your debt, but it acknowledges that the debt has been cancelled and, therefore, no longer held against your account.
Well, God has a record of our sin—because He can’t forget anything, but now under the new and better covenant (Hebrews 8;6ff), there is no need for perennial, repetitive sacrifices (i.e., bank reminders.) By virtue of the “once and for all” (Hebrews 10:5-18) payment/sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9.13-15), God no longer remembers our sins (Isaiah 43.25) or charges them against our account. He treats us as if we had never sinned; He, in essence, forgets (Jeremiah 31:34b; cf. Micah 7:18-20.)
The Leadership Principles of Jesus
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up…” (Mat. 17:1a; cf. Mark 9:2a).
1. Jesus didn’t just SEND His disciples; He LED His disciples.
OBSERVATION: A leader goes before and with his followers. He takes them along with him and shows them the way.
“Jesus…led them up on a high mountain by themselves” (Mat. 17:1).
2. Jesus didn’t merely lead His disciples; He lead them to a HIGH MOUNTAIN.
Mountains matter in Matthew’s account (cf. 5-7; 14:23; 15:29-38; 24-25; 28:16-20). God spoke in the Old Testament to Moses (Exo. 19-20) as well as Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:12) on a mountain. Peter later referred to this place as “the holy mountain” (2 Pet. 1:18).
OBSERVATION: A leader doesn’t simply move his followers from one location to another; He challenges them and takes them to a higher place.
“And He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light” (v. 2).
3. Jesus didn’t simply change Himself; He TRANSFORMED His disciples.
Scripture declares that the Lord was transfigured before Peter, James, and John. The Greek word is metamorphoo—from which we get our English words “metamorphosis” and “metamorphic.” It refers to a change on the outside that comes from the inside (e.g., like a caterpillar into a butterfly).
Jesus was still Jesus—but He was dramatically different (Lk. 9:29); His appearance was miraculously altered. Unlike Moses, who reflected God’s glory (Exo. 34:29-35), Jesus by contrast, actually radiated His Father’s brilliance from within Himself (cf. Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) as a reminder of a) His heavenly origin (John 3:33; 6:33, 38, 41-42, 50-51, 58; Eph. 4:10), b) His pre-incarnate splendor (John 1:14; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-7), c) His exaltation from the grave (Mat. 28:3), and d) His eventual and final coming at the end of time (Acts 1:11; Col. 3:4; 1 Tim. 6:13-16).
Peter, James, and John were strongly affected by the transfiguration. Years later, Peter commented on this very circumstance and said, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we (emphasis mine—mb) heard this voice which came from heaven…” (2 Pet. 1:16-18a).
The trio didn’t concoct what happened to Jesus on the mountain. Rather, they were first-hand eye-and-ear witnesses of the divine glory of Jesus! They went from humble Galilean fisherman (Mat. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11) to devoted apostles of the Lord who were willing to live, preach, suffer and die for Him (cf. Acts 4-5, 12)! Like their Master, they too were transformed (cf. Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18) into lights in a world of darkness (Eph. 5:7-8).
OBSERVATION: A real leader must first change himself before He can expect his followers to change.