John the Baptist and Elijah

Q. Is there any connection between Lk 1:17 and Malachi 4:5-6 ? Why is John the Baptist compared to Elijah? Is Malachi talking about the 2 witnesses before the Millennium ?

A. Yes, Lk 1:17 is a quotation from Mal 4:5-6. The wording is not identical as the former is in Greek while the latter in Hebrew:
Lk 1:17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
• Mal 4:5-6 Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

Some are puzzled over why John the Baptist was compared to Elijah, especially in the power of Elijah. Elijah performed many miracles, but John did not perform any. Where is the power? The similarity is in the spirit or nature of their ministry.

Elijah was God’s prophet who called Israel to repentance:
1 Kgs 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
• 1 Kgs 18:39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.

His ministry truly turned hearts to repentance. He restored the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their.

When John the Baptist came, the focus of his ministry was also repentance:
Mt 3:1-2 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
• Lk 3:3-6 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. ‘EVERY RAVINE WILL BE FILLED, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL WILL BE BROUGHT LOW; THE CROOKED WILL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.’”

John’s ministry fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy in Isa 40:3-5. Even Jesus acknowledged that John came in the spirit & power of Elijah:
Mt 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.
• Mt 17:12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. (Also Mk 9:13)

The power was in turning hearts to repentance, not performing miracles.

A second confusion over the quotation from Mal 4:5-6 arises because it applied to both Comings of Christ. The fulfillment in Christ’s First Coming was in John the Baptist. Elijah’s presence during Christ’s Second Coming will be in:
Rev 11:3-6 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

Elijah is not mentioned by name, but the description of calling down fire from heaven and shutting up rain fitted him:
2 Kings 1:10 Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. (Also 2 Kgs 1:12)
• 1 Kgs 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
• Lk 4:25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land;
• Jas 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

The references to turning water into blood and plagues fitted Moses (Ex 7:17-21). Interpreters differ whether these are two literal witnesses modeled after Elijah and Moses, or symbolic of God’s servants during the great and terrible day of the LORD. My humble opinion is the former.

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Moses’ Veil

Moses veil 1

Q. Why did Moses put on a veil when he spoke to the Israelites, but take it off when he spoke with God?

The story is recorded in Ex 34:33-35:
When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

The explanation is given in 2 Co 3:
v 7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was,
• v 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.
• v 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
• v 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Moses put on a veil because he did not want the sons of Israel to see the glory of his face was fading. He wants them to obey God’s commands through him, so he hid the fading glory from them. Whenever he spoke to the LORD, he took off the veil so that his face would reflect God’s glory, and he was transformed from glory to glory. This is true of us too. Whenever we commune with God through His word and prayer, His word transforms us and we are conformed more and more to Christ’s image. This is called sanctification. However, when we do not abide in Christ, we become more conformed to this world and do not reflect His glory (Rom 12:2).

Sin Offering Discord

Nadab Abihu 2

Q. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, and were consumed by fire before God. Their brothers Eleazar and Ithamar offered a sin offering but did not eat it. Why was Moses angry with them, then changed his mind?

A. The incident referred to is in Lev 10:

Lev 10:16-20 But Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up! So he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying, “Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD. Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.” But Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?” When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight.

The rules governing the sin offering are given in Lev 6:24-30:

Lev 6:24-26, 29-30 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the sin offering: in the place where the burnt offering is slain the sin offering shall be slain before the LORD; it is most holy. The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. It shall be eaten in a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting. … Every male among the priests may eat of it; it is most holy. But no sin offering of which any of the blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the holy place shall be eaten; it shall be burned with fire.

There were two types of sin offering:
1. Those whose blood was brought into the sanctuary – the meat should be burned;
2. Those whose blood was not brought into the tabernacle – the meat should be eaten.
In this case the blood had not been brought into the sanctuary, so Eleazar and Ithamar should have eaten the sin offering. Moses was angry because they were clearly in violation of Lev 6:25-26. However, Aaron defended them by saying that they did everything else, but could not eat today i.e. just this time, because they were mourning for their sons/brothers by fasting. They were not deviating from the rule by being lax. Moses accepted his explanation and did not pursue further. Hope this helps.

Transfiguration (3 of 6)

prophet priest king 1

(Continued from yesterday)

But can these threefold roles be further expanded to interpret some other strange passages / events in the gospels? Examples are:

i) the 3 strange God-initiated events of Star of Bethlehem / Transfiguration (with Moses and Elijah the prophets) / Tearing of the Veil of the Temple were visual confirmation of His Kingship / Prophethood / Priesthood. So the interpretation of the Transfiguration will be somewhat different from the traditional view;

Let’s look at the references:
• Mt 2:2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
• Deut 34:10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
• Mk 15:38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (See also Mt 27:51; Lk 23:45)

It is obvious that the star is associated with Jewish kingship and the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place is associated with the high priesthood:
• Heb 9:7 but into the second [Holy of Holies], only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

But while Jesus Himself and some people identified Him as a prophet:
• Mk 6:4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (See also Mt 13:57; Jn 4:44)
• Mt 21:11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (See also Lk 24:19; Jn 7:40)

and Moses was called a prophet in Deut 34:10, the most common immediate association of Moses is with the Law. So rather than interpret all three of Jesus, Moses and Elijah represent prophets, I believe a more natural reading is to interpret Moses and Elijah as representing the Law and the Prophets, with both testifying for Jesus:

• Lk 24:44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
• Jn 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
• Acts 28:23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.

(To be continued)