The Old Testament represents the majority of our Bibles. Where did it come from? Can we have confidence that it accurately reflects God’s words and work among the Israelites?
Christians are known as people who are supposed to read the Bible and do the things it says to do. But why is that? On what basis is the Bible authoritative for Christianity?
YHWH’s indictment was strong, as was His plea for His people to repent. They refused; they were destroyed or exiled. YHWH would nevertheless restore. The message was recorded for our encouragement to not fall according to the same pattern of disobedience.
When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, even idols according to their own understanding, all of them the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, “Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.” Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the dew that passeth early away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the threshing-floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
Yet I am YHWH thy God from the land of Egypt; and thou shalt know no god but me, and besides me there is no saviour. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted: therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore am I unto them as a lion; as a leopard will I watch by the way; I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart; and there will I devour them like a lioness; the wild beast shall tear them. It is thy destruction, O Israel, that thou art against me, against thy help.
Where now is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, “Give me a king and princes?” I have given thee a king in mine anger, and have taken him away in my wrath.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is laid up in store. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for it is time he should not tarry in the place of the breaking forth of children. I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction? Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the breath of YHWH coming up from the wilderness; and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall make spoil of the treasure of all goodly vessels. Samaria shall bear her guilt; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
O Israel, return unto YHWH thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and return unto YHWH: say unto him, “Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good: so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ‘Ye are our gods’; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the grain, and blossom as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have answered, and will regard him: I am like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found.
Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Prudent, that he may know them? For the ways of YHWH are right, and the just shall walk in them; but transgressors shall fall therein (Hosea 13:1-14:9).
It’s the perennial bestseller; you’ve heard of it often. But what is the Bible? Why is it so important to Christianity? What are we to do with it?
It’s the question that almost every reader of the history and the prophets in the Old Testament asks: why did Israel not listen to the prophets? In reality, Israel listened to the prophets: the false prophets (Luke 6:23)! We do well to see what we can learn about the false prophets in the Old Testament lest we fall by the same pattern of disobedience.
The prophets spoke by the will of God. It may have taken years, but God fulfilled what He had spoken. God is faithful; we do well to trust in Him!
Habakkuk saw immorality all around him and wanted to know why God allowed it to be. He did not imagine what God’s response would be!
The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
O YHWH, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save. Why dost thou show me iniquity, and look upon perverseness? For destruction and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention riseth up. Therefore the law is slacked, and justice doth never go forth; for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore justice goeth forth perverted.
Behold ye among the nations, and look, and wonder marvellously; for I am working a work in your days, which ye will not believe though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, that march through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling-places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves; and their horsemen press proudly on: yea, their horsemen come from far; they fly as an eagle that hasteth to devour. They come all of them for violence; the set of their faces is forwards; and they gather captives as the sand. Yea, he scoffeth at kings, and princes are a derision unto him; he derideth every stronghold; for he heapeth up dust, and taketh it. Then shall he sweep by as a wind, and shall pass over, and be guilty, even he whose might is his god.
Art not thou from everlasting, O YHWH my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O YHWH, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction. Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy peace when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he; and makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? He taketh up all of them with the angle, he catcheth them in his net, and gathereth them in his drag: therefore he rejoiceth and is glad. Therefore he sacrificeth unto his net, and burneth incense unto his drag; because by them his portion is fat, and his food plenteous. Shall he therefore empty his net, and spare not to slay the nations continually? (Habakkuk 1:1-17)
As an expositor of the Law Ezra points the way forward for Israel; they must read and interpret what God had already revealed to do His will. We do well to learn the same!
Jerusalem was in sad condition in the mid-5th century BCE. God raised up a champion for her among the Diaspora in Nehemiah. Who will arise as a champion for spiritual Zion today?
God’s people were under foreign domination. How could they serve God in foreign circumstances? Daniel modeled the way forward.