Help those who “deserve” it? (2 of 2)

(Contd. from yesterday)

What about the synonym “worthy“? The word “worthy” appears 51 times in 49 verses in the NASB. In view of space I won’t repeat the verses here. “Worthy” is used both in the negative (e.g. worthy of death) and positive sense. The positive sense is applied to both God and men:

God or Christ
2 Sam 22:4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies. (Also Ps 18:3)
• Rev 4:11 Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.
• Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Men
Mt 10:10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. (Also Lk 10:7; 1 Tim 5:18)
• Eph 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, (Also 2 Thes 1:11)
• Lk 7:4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him;

The worker is worthy of his support or wages, but this has nothing to do with “helping” him, because he earned it. Christians are implored to walk worthy of their calling, of the gospel of Christ (Php 1:27), of the Lord (Col 1:10), of God (1 Thes 2:12; 3 Jn 1:6), and of the kingdom (2 Thes 1:5). None of these is earned or deserved, all are received by grace.

The only verse that speaks of someone “deserving” help in the sense of meriting it is Lk 7:4, but that was the Jewish elders’ assessment of the centurion, not God’s. Strictly speaking, God’s evaluation is in:
Lk 17:10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’

The centurion, and we as well, are unprofitable i.e. have not “gained” anything, when all we have done is our duty, what we are supposed to do. We have not “earned” anything by doing what was required, the bare minimum. There’s no merit. One might deserve help according to man’s standards, but not God’s. Nevertheless, God helps us and asks us to help others because of grace, not because he/she is deserving, as none of us are. Hope this helps.

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Help those who “deserve” it? (1 of 2)

Q. Is there a passage in the Bible that says help those who deserve help?

A. The answer depends on what exactly do you mean by “deserve“. If by “deserve” you mean they are “needy“, then most definitely YES:

Ps 40:17 Since I am afflicted and needy, Let the Lord be mindful of me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.
• Ps 70:5 But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.
• Ps 72:12 For He will deliver the needy when he cries for help, The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
• Ezk 16:49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.

If you were thinking is there a “priority ranking” in the Bible such that certain people are more “deserving” of our help than others, the answer is again YES:

1 Tim 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
• Jas 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

God has a “bias” for the poor, the needy, orphans and widows, those who have no other means of support. While the world in general tries to ingratiate itself with the rich and the powerful, God is diametrically opposite. His nature is just, and His righteousness is such that He prefers the underprivileged.

However, if by “deserve” you mean “merit” or “earned“, then the answer is NO or at best a limited “yes”. First, the Bible’s fundamental premise is grace, not merit. To say someone “deserves” help implies he has earned or merited it, and we are obliged to help him. Not to help means we are not living up to our obligations, and depriving him of something that is rightfully owed him. That is NOT what the Bible teaches.

When you look up “deserve” in the Bible, the emphasis is not on what you merit by virtue of your good works. I’m using the NASB, a literal translation, for clarity; other versions will be different. “Deserve” or “deserves” or “deserved” appear a total of 11 times in the NASB, but except for Judg 9:6 consistently used in a negative sense – deserve to be beaten, to die, deserve punishment – as recompense or reward demanded by our wickedness, iniquities, and folly:

Deut 25:2 then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt.
• Judg 9:16 “Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved
• 2 Sam 12:5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.
• 1 Kgs 2:26 Then to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth to your own field, for you deserve to die; but I will not put you to death at this time, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before my father David, and because you were afflicted in everything with which my father was afflicted.”
• Ezra 9:13 After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and our great guilt, since You our God have requited us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us an escaped remnant as this,
• Prov 26:5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.
• Isa 3:11 Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, For what he deserves will be done to him.
• Mt 26:66 what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”
• Lk 23:41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
• Heb 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
• Revelation 16:6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.”

It is not used in the sense of earning merit for right, so that we are obliged to help him. Why? Because even though the “good” deeds of “good” people are “good” by human standards, they simply do not measure up to God’s perfect standard:
Isa 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Filthy garments don’t merit anything.

(To be continued)

Thai Cave Rescue – The Other Side of the Story

The world watched with bated breath as the last of the 12 boys and their soccer coach emerged from the cave in northern Thailand where they had been trapped by flood water. We heaved a collective sigh of relief as what could have been a disaster turned into a rescue operation with a miraculous happy ending.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6AxQ8k1KUQ

My brother received a LINE message from his former classmate, a Thai Chinese who returned to Thailand soon after high school graduation. He offered another perspective into the whole incident which is not reported in western media. Some may call it coincidence, but to others it’s providence as too many things converge to attribute it to chance. I have no means of verifying whether this is “fake news” or not, but here are the points for you to ponder:

1. The 25-year-old soccer coach had lived 8 years as a monk, sometimes spending time alone meditating in caves as a spiritual discipline. There he learned how to get clean water which won’t cause sickness, and how to sit still to conserve energy. This was instrumental in keeping the boys alive when they underwent imposed fasting for nearly 10 days before they were discovered and food was delivered to them. And they were polite and orderly in total darkness!

2. By law the premier of the province Chiang Rai became the commander-in-chief of the rescue operation. He majored in geologic survey in university. His knowledge of land structures of the area was very helpful in planning the rescue.

3. The British cave diver John Volanthen who first found the missing boys said “I often wondered why I was so fascinated with cave diving. When I found the boys, I knew God had prepared me all my life to do this very thing!”

4. After the boys went missing for 10 days, British and other divers volunteered to fly to Chiang Rai to join the search and rescue effort. Several retired divers crawled and dived for hours trying to locate the kids in darkness. They had come to the end of the rescue rope they were carrying, so Volanthen emerged from the muddy water to observe his surroundings, and found 13 pairs of eyes staring at him. Had the rope run out 5 meters earlier or later, he would have missed the boys. God really has His own mysterious ways to perform miracles.

5. After the boys were found, the only English-speaking boy out of the entire group became the contact with the foreign divers. It turned out he was born in northern Burma, adopted by a Christian family, who provided for and schooled him such that he was fluent in 4 languages – Thai, Burmese, English and Putonghua. He became the fulcrum upon which communication turned.

6. After the rescue all 13 of them were sent to the nearest hospital for treatment and observation. It turned out about a year earlier a young Thai singer launched a charity event “One Person One Step” to walk from the southern to the northern tip of Thailand, a distance of about 3,000 km. The target was to raise 700 million Baht (about C$27 million) to equip 14 hospitals. 1.5 billion Baht (about C$59 million) were raised, with each hospital receiving about C$4.2 million. One of the recipients was the hospital to which the 13 were sent. Without that funding, they would not be equipped to serve the sudden influx of so many people. And the name of the singer? His nickname is “Wild Boar”, the same as the team of the 12 boys!

7. One more point about the coach. When photos of the 13 were broadcast on social media, people noticed that the coach looked particularly gaunt. It turned out that he gave all the food he had with him to the 12 boys, who did not bring anything as they had expected to spend only one hour to explore it, but were trapped by the monsoon flood. However, he was recognized by a woman in mainland China as her half-brother (same father, different mother) whom she had lost contact for 10 years. When the family broke up, her relatives brought her back to China, while her brother stayed in Thailand, but they lost contact. Later when she read her aunt’s message to her brother encouraging him to stay strong to protect the kids, she was sure it was him. She contacted the authorities and will be reunited with her half-brother, so the ordeal turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Rom 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

Origin of the Universe

Q. Someone told me you don’t need God to create the universe. All you need is an infinite regress of causes. What do you think?

A. I am a pastor with engineering and finance background, not a philosopher. I draw my conclusions based on evidence and logic. There are many with philosophy training who can articulate the reasoning behind why an “infinite regress” doesn’t work. Just go on YouTube and you can find many clear and concise answers e.g.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4AHFBft2L8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uiq1dyKcfhU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6UW3Imn5b8

But just for fun, I cite an illustration I heard this Sunday in a sermon by Tim Barnett of Stand to Reason, on the Origin of the Universe. Tim cited that originally Einstein did not like the idea of an expanding universe, and introduced a fudge fact, the cosmological constant, in his general theory of relativity, to produce a static and stable universe. This was until he looked at the evidence from Hubble’s telescope, which showed that there is a “red shift” in the light from distant galaxies, which means that the wavelength of the light is stretched, or that the light source is moving further and further away. In other words, the universe is expanding, not static! Einstein retracted his fudge factor and called it the greatest blunder in his life!

Since the universe is expanding, it means that in the past the universe was smaller. Now if you go back further and further in time, you can go all the way back to when the universe was infinitesimally small, beyond which it did not even exist. In other words, the universe had a beginning, and a beginning requires a Beginner. Remember “infinite regress” is only a mathematical abstraction, but does not exist in the real world. This Beginner must be outside of space-time to create space-time i.e. infinite, infinitely intelligent to design this complex universe with all its order and finely tuned conditions for life to exist, and infinitely powerful to call everything into existence from nothing (creation ex-nihilo. This eternal, omniscient and omnipotent Being, the First Cause, is whom we call God. Infinite regress have no reality. It is a figment of the imagination of those who refuse to accept scientific evidence.

The Lie

Q. 2 Thes 2:11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. What is the lie? Why would God send people a powerful delusion? Wouldn’t that make God responsible?

A. The phrase “the lie” appears only twice in the NIV NT, here and in 2 Thes 2:9. To answer your question, let’s start with the immediate context – 2 Thes 2:1-12, which talk about the Great Apostasy in the end times, and the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist. We analyze 2 Thes 2:9-12 by dividing the 4 verses into three parts – that which the lawless one does, the people’s response, and what God will do:

9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie,
10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Note the chronological sequence:
• First, the lawless one, empowered by Satan, will use power, signs and wonders to deceive.
• Next, the people who refuse to love and believe the truth to be saved, choose to believe the lawless one’s lie and delight in wickedness. That’s why they perish.
• Then God sends the people a powerful delusion to confirm their refusal to love the truth, so that they will be condemned.
So God’s sending the delusion did not cause their unbelief, but in response to it. They perish because of their own choice and love of wickedness.

What is “the lie”? In the NKJV NT, the phrase appears one more time:
Rom 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

“The lie” is contrasted with “the truth of God”. The background goes all the way back to Genesis 3, the temptation and fall of man:
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
• Gen 3:4-5 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The very first lie in the Bible is a direct contradiction of God’s word in:
Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
claiming that it cannot be trusted. It imputes an ulterior motive to God’s prohibition, not for our good to protect us, but to selfishly guard His superiority so that we won’t be like Him. Therefore obedience keeps us down while disobedience will promote us to be like God. This lie has been repeated throughout the ages in all religions, men trying to establish their own goodness apart from God. Men had fallen for it time and again, and will continue to do so until the end.

Strange Command

Q. I find 1 Kings 20:35-37 hard to digest. I don’t understand why the man who refuses to strike the prophet is punished so severely. Is there any other context that I should be aware of in understanding this? To simply have someone walk up to you and say “Hit me” is probably something I would refuse to do as well. And supposing that it was already known that the person asking was a man of God, wouldn’t the person being asked be even more fearful of punishment for striking the man that asked for that exact reason? How is the person being asked supposed to know that what he was being asked to do was permitted by God when it seemingly goes against how we are asked to treat each other?

A. This looked like a strange demand, until you examine the text carefully:
1 Kings 20:35 Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the LORD, “Please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him.
• 36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not listened to the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.” And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him.

First, “another” in v 35 is literally “his neighbor”, not someone living next door, but another “sons of the prophets”. This is clearer in the ESV or NIV:
ESV And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him.
• NIV By the word of the LORD one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” but he refused.

So he is not asking a stranger, but a fellow prophet, who should know better.

Secondly, he asked “by the word of the LORD” i.e. at the LORD’S command. The text did not say how much he explained, but one can infer from v 36 “not listened to the voice of the LORD” that, as a minimum, he did say that his request is the LORD’s voice, not his own, otherwise he couldn’t pronounce judgment on his companion for refusing to obey God’s command. There are no punctuation marks in the Hebrew. This interpretation takes the translation to be:
1 Kings 20:35 Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another, “By the word of the LORD, please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him.
This position makes it clear that the punishment was for disobeying God’s command.

In this connection, an earlier incident in 1 Kings 13:1-24 involving another prophet being killed by a lion for disobeying God’s command is instructive. There, the LORD commanded the prophet directly:
1 Kings 13:9 For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’
• 1 Kings 13:17 For a command came to me by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.’

Yet, despite his knowing God’s command, he listened to the lying old prophet and returned, with dire consequences:
1 Kings 13:21 and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you,
• 22 but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’”

God’s commands sometimes are not what we expected e.g. His asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but odd or reasonable, they are to be obeyed. They are not optional. So make sure whether what’s asked of us is from God or men. For that we need discernment, which God gives to those who seek for it:
Prov 2:3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding;
4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Satan

Q. Why did Satan fall? When?

A. Some scholars suggest Satan’s fall is described in Ezk 28 and Isa 14:

Ezk 28:11-17 Again the word of the LORD came to me saying,
• 12 “Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
• 13 “You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, Was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared.
• 14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
• 15 “You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you.
• 16 “By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.
• 17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, That they may see you.

Although some commentators claim this passage refers to the king of Tyre (v 12), as did Ezk 28:1-10 to the leader (ruler or prince) of Tyre (v 2), there are indications that it goes beyond the man who claimed to be god (v 2 and 9) to the being influencing him:
• Had the seal of perfection, perfect in beauty (v 12) – no mere human was described as perfect;
• Was in Eden (v 13), on the holy mountain of God (v 13) – Eden was destroyed during the Flood, so the king of Tyre in Ezekiel’s days could not have been there;
• Was the anointed cherub (v 14, 16) – cherubim (plural) was an order of angels;
• Blameless – although Noah (Gen 6:9) and Job (Job 1:1, 8, 2:3) were also described as blameless, combined with perfection this describes no ordinary human;
Now, if this describes Satan before his fall, how and why did he fall?

The clues are:
• Internally filled with violence, sinned (v 16);
• This sin is described as unrighteousness (v 15);
• Heart was lifted up because of beauty and splendor (v 17) i.e. he was proud.
There is no indication that it was due to an external influence, but from within, from his own desire. Now let’s look at Isa 14:

Isa 14:12-15 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!
• 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
• 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
• 15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit.

Again some commentators believe this is just a taunt against the king of Babylon (v 4), but “fallen from heaven” (v 12), compared to “thrust down to Sheol” (v 15) and contrasted to “ascend to heaven” (v 13), seems to be more than figurative of fallen from the heights. Star of the morning (v 12) is literally “the shining one”, Lucifer in Latin. The crux is in the five “I will” in v 13-14, above the stars of God (heavenly hosts or angels) and culminating in “make myself like the Most High”. This is reminiscent of the serpent’s temptation “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). The issue, as in Ezk 28, is pride. Lucifer was not satisfied with being created beautiful and wise, but wanted to be like God his Creator, for which he was cast down from heaven.

The question of “when did Satan fall” is less precise. We said yesterday that angels were created early in the creation week:
• Day 1 – Light;
• Day 2 – Expanse – sky;
• Day 3 – Land and seas, vegetation;
• Day 4 – Lights – sun, moon, stars;
• Day 5 – Water creatures, birds;
• Day 6 – Land creatures, man;
• Day 7 – Rested.

Taking Gen 1 to be more than poetry, the foundation of the earth would be created on Day 3, and according to Job angels were there to witness it:
Job 38:6-7 “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
So angels, including Lucifer, were created prior to Day 3, and possibly as early as Day 1. It could not be before Day 1, because in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1). Only God is eternal, not angels.

When did Lucifer sin? The Bible did not say specifically, but we can infer that it was some time after the creation week. This is because God pronounced each day from Day 1 to Day 5 “good”, and Day 6 “very good”. He also blessed and sanctified Day 7. My conjecture is that He would not have called it good or sanctified it had Lucifer rebelled during that time.

How long after the creation week? I don’t know as the Bible didn’t say. The serpent was already there in Gen 3. Some suggest that it might be 20-30 years after Creation as Adam and Eve were adults in the Garden of Eden, but God created man and woman, not boy and girl, and asked them to be fruitful and multiply. So He likely created them as young adults. All I can say is that it is some time after the creation week, before the fall of man. Beyond that is speculation.