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.

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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.

Angels

Q. God created angels first before humans (we know because Satan was already fallen as the serpent). But do we know why He created them? And when?

A. The word “angel” translates the Hebrew word “mal’ak” and the Greek word “aggelos“. The former means “messenger, representative, or ambassador”; the latter also means “messenger, envoy, one who is sent”. As such, we know one primary purpose God created them was to be His messenger, to communicate His will e.g.
Dan 8:16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and He called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.”
• Mt 2:13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
• Lk 1:28 And coming in, he (an angel) said to her (Mary), “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
• Acts 5:20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”
An angel spoke to Peter and the apostles.

Another reason God created angels was to execute His purposes, including His judgments e.g.
Ps 103:21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will.
• 2 Sam 24:16 When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
• Mt 13:41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,
• Jn 5:4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
• Acts 12:23 And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.

What’s more, they were charged to watch over and serve God’s children e.g.
Ps 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.
• Ps 91:11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
• Mt 18:10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
• Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

As to when, the Bible did not state explicitly, but there are hints:
Gen 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. The hosts refer to heavenly hosts, or angels.
• Ex 20:11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. “All that is in them” would include angels.
• 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?
When God laid the cornerstone of the earth, the morning stars and the sons of God, both referring to angels, were there already to sing and praise.
So the clues point to early in the creation week, but we just can’t be sure.

I Don’t Believe in God!

Q. “Don’t tell me about your religion. I don’t believe in God.” How would you answer that?

A. There are many ways to approach this. Let’s start by defining what, or who, we mean. The Oxford Dictionary defines god as “the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being”:
• Creator means “a person or thing that brings something into existence”;
• Ruler and source of all moral authority implies, as a minimum, intelligence and goodness; and
• Supreme being means the highest person.

For people who don’t believe in God, even though they may not say it, essentially they are denying:
A creator or First Cause. The Law of Cause and Effect states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. If you trace our physical universe to its beginning, it must be caused by something or someone outside of itself. It cannot cause itself into existence, otherwise it would violate the law of non-contradiction. This is because the universe must exist in order for it to create anything, and it must not exist such that it has to be created. But self-creation requires both to be true simultaneously, and it simply can’t be, otherwise logic breaks down and there is no basis for reasoning. So a transcendent First Cause must pre-exist our universe, whom we call the Creator.
A designer. If you examine our universe, you will observe order (e.g. planetary orbits), symmetry (e.g. structure in organisms), and intricate design such that things work together. Just as a building requires an architect and a painting requires a painter, so this careful design requires a highly intelligent Designer who planned and executed everything.
A person. Not only is the First Cause all-powerful in order to create the universe, and all-knowing to design all living and inorganic matters, He must have personality as we have intellect, emotions, an innate sense of right and wrong (morals), and a will to decide, as that which is created, namely us, cannot be greater than the creator.

So simple logic tells us that an omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), moral being (person) exists, and we call this First Cause Designer God. To say that you don’t believe in God simply tells us that you do not want to accept the evidence, which are plenty. It does not change the fact that God exists, who you can know if you care to find out.

Jacob wrestling with God

Q. In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestled with a man and asked him to bless him, and he changed his name from Jacob to Israel. Who is he? What does it mean?

A. Skeptics laugh at the Bible claiming it is full of contradictions e.g.
V 24-25 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.
• V 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

They say Jacob obviously wrestled with a man according to v 24, for how else can God not prevail against him. But in fact they do not understand and presupposed many wrong ideas.

First let’s observe what the passage said:
V 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
• V 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Jacob obviously knew that his opponent was someone higher than him, for he asked Him to bless him, buy probably did not know His identity until His self-disclosure in v 28, after which he realized that He was God. But didn’t the Bible say no one has seen God? Yes, in:
Jn 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
• Jn 6:46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.

No one has seen God the Father at any time. Who Jacob saw was God the Son, the only begotten God, the One who is from the Father, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, and He allowed Jacob to prevail against Him in order to bless him. There is no contradiction. Skeptics do not know God, and presumed the Bible to be wrong, when actually they are the ones who are in error.