Bible Repetitive?

Numbers 7

Q. In Numbers 7:10-88, what is the significance of listing out what each of the 12 chiefs offered as they were all the same?

A. Numbers 7 is probably the most repetitive chapter in the Bible, with 6 verses for the leader of each tribe, offering the same dedication offering for the altar:
• 1 silver dish of 130 shekels (about 1/2 oz) i.e. 65 oz,
• 1 silver bowl of 70 shekels i.e. 35 oz,
• 1 gold pan of 10 shekels i.e. 5 oz,
• 1 bull, 1 ram, 1 male lamb for a burnt offering,
• 1 male goat for a sin offering,
• 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 male goats, 5 male lambs for peace offerings.

The current price (Oct 21, 2016) for gold and silver is US$1,266.43 and US$17.52 per oz respectively, so just the gold and silver alone costs US$8,084 today. Using average weights, the sacrificial animals would cost:
• US$4,800 for an average bull,
• US$3,000 for a pair of oxen,
• US$900 for 6 rams,
• US$1,500 for 6 male lambs,
• US$1,200 for 6 male goats
• for a total of US$11,400. So the grand-total including the gold and silver utensils would cost about US$20,000 in round terms, and is not a modest offering.

But why the repetition? The text did not explain, but the following are possible:
• Each offering by an individual is just as important as the next, and are therefore recorded individually.
• Each leader’s offering is the same as the others, so no one can boast his offering is bigger than others.
• It takes all to contribute before the combined effort is complete. No one is left out.
There could be other explanations, but these seemed reasonable.


All Fat is the LORD’s?

Lev 3 16 b

Q. Lev 3:16 says all fat is the LORD’s. He does not want to share either (Lev 7:25)? Why does God want all the fat and cholesterol for Himself? Does He like barbecued fat?

A. Your observation is correct, but God is spirit (Jn 4:24) and does not eat the offerings:
Lev 3:16 The priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma; all fat is the LORD’S.
• Lev 7:25 For whoever eats the fat of the animal from which an offering by fire is offered to the LORD, even the person who eats shall be cut off from his people.

I do not think it has anything to do with keeping His people from eat high cholesterol fat for their health either, as there is no hint of that in the text.

To understand why we need to look at the biblical background. The first mention of “fat” in the Bible is in Abel’s sacrifice, which the NT assessed to be better than Cain’s:
Gen 4:4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering;
• Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, …

Abel offered the fat portions of the firstlings of his flock i.e. his best, and the LORD had regard for him and his offering.

Unlike contemporary western culture which view fat as unhealthy, the ancient Near Eastern culture treated fat as the best or choicest part. This understanding is reinforced when Pharaoh offered Jacob the best or the fat of the land:
Gen 45:18 and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.

So when Lev 3:16 says all fat is the LORD’s, it is in fact saying offer your best to God. And when a person eats the fat, he is taking what is reserved for God for himself. No wonder that person should be cut off from or ostracized by his people. I don’t think God likes barbecued fat in the physical sense; He likes it when His people put Him first as they should.

Jesus’ Sacrifice Trivial? (2 of 2)

crucifixion 3

(Continued from yesterday)

Now let me give a little theology before I respond to skeptics. When man sinned, the result is spiritual death or eternal separation from God:
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,

However, God loved us and did not want us to be forever separated from Him, so He offered to take our place:
Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

But there is a problem. God is eternal and cannot die:
1 Tim 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
In order for God to die on man’s behalf, He had to become a man:
Jn 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This is called the incarnation. Thus Jesus has two natures – His original divine nature as God the Son, to which was added His human nature when He became man.

What some people do not realize is that Jesus did not take on a human nature for only the 33 years while He was on earth, but even after His resurrection and ascension:
Lk 24:39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.
• Jn 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
• Acts 1:11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

So contrary to what cults and some people believe, the divine Christ did not descend on the human Jesus for only 33 years and then leave. God the Son actually became man for all eternity after the incarnation.

Let’s get back to the skeptics. The trouble with them is that in their minds, their view of man (themselves) is too high, while their view of God is too low. From God’s perspective, the significance of Christ’s sacrifice is that the sinless Son of God offered Himself to substitute for man. The emphasis is on His deity. Since God is infinite, Jesus’ death is sufficient to atone for the sins of all men throughout human history. That would be a large number, but finite. The suffering is not just on the physical scourging and crucifixion, even though that’s one of the most cruel and painful tortures invented by men. The anguish is more on the spiritual and emotional, with Jesus carrying all the sins of all humanity on Himself:
2 Co 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The skeptics, however, see Jesus as little more than a man, may be even less, as some people have suffered longer or more intensely than He. They do not see the condescension of the Creator of the universe becoming a creature in the incarnation, nor what’s involved in atoning for sin. The incarnation gap, by the way, is infinitely more than say man becoming an ant, as both man and ant are creatures, and man does not have power to create even an ant. So skeptics dwell only on the physical, human level, thinking how short is 3 days compared to eternity. That’s not even the right perspective. No wonder they got it all wrong! Jesus took on human nature for all eternity future. He rose after three days to show that God is pleased with the atoning sacrifice, otherwise it would have to be repeated as in OT sacrifices. Foreknowledge of the resurrection does not lessen the mental anguish and pain of all the sins of all mankind bearing on Him, something the skeptics could not even begin to imagine. His sacrifice is acceptable to the Father, but not the skeptics. What arrogance! What ingratitude!

God is not too small, and Christ’s sacrifice is not too puny; the depraved mind and the darkened heart of the skeptics is. God offered them His best, but they just couldn’t see it, treating it as dirt with disdain. Reminds me of Mt 7:6:
• Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

But our task is not to judge but to proclaim the gospel. So we try to be gentle and patient as the Lord leads us. Hope this helps.

Jesus’ Sacrifice Trivial? (1 of 2)

passover lamb 2

Q. Can’t it be argued that Jesus didn’t really sacrifice Himself? Yes He endured the physical pain, but not the mental anguish that comes from not knowing what would happen to Him after He died. Since He knew He would rise again and get His life back in 3 days, doesn’t that nullify His life as a “sacrifice” and render it a temporary loss instead?
If you knew for example that you had to have your hand chopped off as a punishment, but that it would grow back in 3 days, it would be much easier to accept knowing it would be a temporary pain and to just “get it over with”

A. Before we listen to the words of men, let’s see what God had to say about Jesus’ sacrifice:

1 Co 5:7 … For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
• Eph 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
• Heb 7:27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
• Heb 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
• Heb 10:8-12 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,
• Heb 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Notice the following:
• Christ is the Passover lamb. The lamb was sacrificed so that when the LORD saw its blood on the doorposts and the lintel, He passed over that house to spare the firstborn of the Israelites (Ex 12:7, 12-13). In the same way, He was sacrificed so that those who trust in Him are spared.
• Christ gave Himself up for us i.e. voluntarily, out of love. No one compelled Him. Jn 10:17-18 because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.
• Unlike OT sacrifices which had to be repeated daily because they can never take away sins, He did it once for all, for all time, because that was sufficient.
• The effect was to put away sin and perfect forever those who are sanctified (set apart).
• After the sacrifice Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, meaning that God accepted and was satisfied with His offering, seating Him at the place of honor.

The emphasis was on the sufficiency and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice, not on its duration. Why? Because of who Christ is, the Son of God, and no mere man. The significance was not on the “three days”, even though that had been prophesied repeatedly.

(To be continued)

7 Pairs Clean Animals?

Gen 7 2-3 a

Q. In Noah’s ark, what if any is the significance of bringing 7 pairs of each clean animal vs. 1 pair of unclean animals? Was it for sacrificial purposes after the Flood and the lands dried?

A. Some interpret the “clean animal by sevens” as seven pairs; while others interpret it to mean three pairs plus one more male, since for the unclean “a male and his female” was counted as two:
Gen 7:2 You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female;

But whether 7 pairs or 7, there were two purposes:
For sacrificeGen 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
For food
o Gen 9:3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.
o Lev 11:47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.
The Jews ate only clean creatures (Acts 10:14)

Noah stayed in the ark was over a year:
Gen 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.
• Gen 8:13-14 Now it came about in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the surface of the ground was dried up. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

If only one pair of every clean animal or clean bird were taken, and they had not reproduced during the year, their use as sacrifice or food would have meant the extinction of that kind of animal. The bringing of sevens, whether pairs or singles, eliminated that threat.

Challenges facing Panama’s Chinese Churches

challenge 11

Every church has her challenges, some more than others. For the Chinese churches in Panama, their ministerial fellowship have identified the top 3 as follows:

1. Getting Believers to Worship. Unlike most Chinese in N. America who work in white or blue-collar jobs and get their weekends off, most Chinese in Central & S. America work in small businesses which are open 7 days a week. This creates a problem for C&SA churches in that while it is not difficult to share the gospel and get a confession of faith, it is very hard for the new convert to go to church to be discipled. This challenge is unique to that culture, and N. American programs based on inviting people to come to church to participate do not work.

What’s more, without disciples, there could be no leaders. Which leader would entrust the work of the ministry to immature believers who have not learned the basics of worship, instruction, fellowship and evangelism? So the missionary or pastor end up doing most of the work himself, perpetually feeding spiritual infants with milk. What’s the solution?

At the core, this is a problem of priorities and values. New converts steeped in materialism simply do not see the value of setting aside time to worship God, for to them time is money. To rectify this, the value system needs to be restructured from the physical to spiritual. Now the word can help the spiritual babies grow:
1 Pet 2:2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

But how do you feed them if they don’t come? There are two alternatives. The first is to find another time for gathering together for worship and training other than Sunday morning. This is the method adopted by restaurant workers fellowship in N. America. Since Sunday is the busiest day for those in food services, they meet on Monday nights instead. Services start at midnight after the restaurants have closed, and run till 2 or 3 am including Sunday school. This is a group method and more efficient.

The other option is to go to the convert’s business to disciple him/her. Most have a slow period during the day with few customers. Instead of the convert watching TV programs streamed from China, the missionary can do bible study with them, slowly shaping their values via God’s word. This is an individual method and takes more time, but probably more effective as the mentor shapes the mentee’s life by example.

2. Reaching the Second Generation. As in N. America, the first generation consists of immigrants, legal or illegal, from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or elsewhere. They speak Chinese, whether Putonghua (Mandarin), Cantonese or other dialects. Some subsequently obtain permanent resident status. The second generation consists of their children, born locally, and speak English in N. America, or Spanish in C&SA. Generally they are better educated than their parents, but unlike them integrate into mainstream society. If the church does not reach them, she loses her future and dies after the first generation. What do you do to reach the second generation?

God had been gracious to our host Panama Chinese Baptist Church (PCBC). Three years ago, before our friends’ arrival, the second generation was still young, being teens bored with church. Some spoke Chinese at home, but not well enough to understand the biblical vocabulary. The adults’ command of Spanish is sufficient for day-to-day transactions, but not enough to read the Spanish Bible. What to do? Just as N. American Chinese churches develop English ministry for their teenagers, C&SA Chinese churches develop Spanish ministry. The hard way is to develop such capabilities internally. The easier way is to enlist external help.

PCBC solicited the aid of a nearby Spanish Baptist church. They sent four youth workers weekly, and two children’s worker biweekly. With their assistance the Spanish-speaking congregation was built up from scratch to 25-30 youth, many of whom are beyond the children of the first generation, but their friends and classmates. It appears that this approach – working in partnership with Spanish churches – can be gainfully employed by other Chinese churches.

3. Sufficient Offering to Support Pastor. Generally churches worldwide do not pay their pastors enough, compared to jobs requiring equivalent education, experience, and working hours. But this is particularly a challenge for Panama Chinese churches. I don’t know the current salary scale, but a couple of years ago it was US$600 a month. Panama has minimum wage scales for different occupations. For example, for a construction worker working 48 hours/week, the minimum salary is:
$2.72/hour X 48 hours/week X 4.33 weeks/month = US$565.32/month

You can see that the pastor’s salary is barely above minimum wage. No wonder some locally trained pastors quit after a few years, because they can’t earn enough to support their family. A couple running a small convenience store can earn about US$2,000 a month, after costs of goods sold and rent. That’s 3.5 times that of a pastor! The pastor’s salary may have risen by now, and there might be certain expense subsidies such as gas, cell phone etc. But that hardly close the gap. Church members respect their pastors, but somehow this is not reflected in the remuneration. The offering is not sufficient to pay the pastor a decent salary, after rents and utility bills are taken care of.

I believe this is again related to the members’ value system:
1 Tim 5:18 For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Once the members’ values are aligned with biblical norms, they will learn not to rob God in tithes and offerings (Mal 3:8). So the solution is in discipling the new believers right from conversion, and over time this problem should resolve itself.

I do not have C&SA pastoral experience, so I may not understand the culture enough to propose solutions. But for now that’s how I see things. Hopefully I’m not too far off the mark.