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 Vol. 6, No. 6 

June 2004

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~

Image Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.

typewriter Ezekiel 36-37

By Louis Rushmore

What has happened back in Judah by the time Ezechiel proclaims the prophecy recorded in chapters 36 and 37? ~ Carlos Lugo

Judah was overrun by the Babylonians in 586 or 587 B.C. and most of the survivors were taken as prisoners to Babylon. Those remaining in Judah were under a Babylonian puppet ruler until he was murdered. Ezekiel was one of the prophets of the Jews in exile during the 70 years captivity. His prophecies occurred during that exile. The following commentary summarizes the Book of Ezekiel.

The collection of the prophecies placed together in this book, as forming a complete unity, falls into two main divisions:-I. Announcements of judgment upon Israel and the heathen nations, ch. 1-32; II. Announcements of salvation for Israel, ch. 33-48. Each of these main divisions is subdivided into two sections. The first, namely, contains the prophecies of judgment (a) upon Jerusalem and Israel, Ezek 3:22-24; (b) upon the heathen nations, ch. 25-32. The second main division contains (c) the predictions of the redemption and restoration of Israel, and the downfall of the heathen world-power, ch. 33-39; (d) the prophetic picture of the re-formation and exaltation of the kingdom of God, ch. 40-48; and the entire collection opens with the solemn dedication of Ezekiel to the prophetic office, Ezek 1:1-3:21. (Keil & Delitzsch)

Further, Keil & Delitzsch records respecting Ezekiel 37: "This chapter contains two revelations from God (vv. 1-14 and vv. 15-28). In the first, the prophet is shown in a vision the resurrection of Israel to a new life. In the second, he is commanded to exhibit, by means of a symbolical act, the reunion of the divided kingdoms into a single nation under one king." This commentary also places the approximate time of Ezekiel's prophecies in the latter part of his book at about 25 years after the 70 years captivity began, a long way yet to the end of the literal Jewish captivity in Babylon.

The prophecy in Ezekiel 37 appears to be two-fold, as Albert Barnes concluded in his commentary. "The vision was intended not only to comfort the despairing children of Israel-prefiguring the reinstatement of Israel now scattered and lifeless, as a community restored to their home, and reinvigorated with spiritual life... The prophecy concerns not only the Israel after the flesh but also the Israel of God; it points to a home in heaven and to a life of immortality." Likewise, Adam Clarke saw in Ezekiel 36-37 references to the eventual and literal restoration of Jews from Babylonian captivity to their homeland as well as allusions to the Gospel Age and the church. However, we dispute any allusions he or others may make to premillennialism respecting this text.

This chapter treats of the same subject with the preceding, in a beautiful and significant vision. Under the emblem of the open valley being thickly strewed with very dry bones is represented the hopeless state of the Jews when dispersed throughout the provinces of the Chaldean empire. But God, contrary to every human probability, restores these bones to life, thereby prefiguring the restoration of that people from the Babylonian captivity, and their resettlement in the land of their forefathers, v. 1-14. The prophet then makes an easy and elegant transition to the blessedness of the people of God under the Gospel dispensation...

Ezekiel offered hope for people in the hopelessness of a long captivity. He also offered a glimpse of hope far beyond the mere physical restoration of a displaced people back to their homeland, making allusions to the spiritual Israel, the clearest picture of which is seen in the church Jesus came to establish.Image

Simultaneous Worship
& Hermeneutics

By Louis Rushmore

Image Louis, Let me say that we do not sing during communion here in Williamsburg, so I am not trying to justify an ongoing practice. Having said that I am not sure your statement about a prohibition of doing two acts of worship at the same time is correct. Can we not sing and pray at the same time? What of songs such as "Lord, We Come Before Thee Now," and other songs that are obvious prayers to the God of heaven? I am not jumping stiff-legged into the air over this, but I am not sure that such a strong prohibition can be made. We do many things that are not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, do we not? I know we have allowed for such things by the "necessary inference" part of an accepted hermeneutic, but there could be flaws when one is trying to make an "inference," right? I really do appreciate your online GG and read it carefully during the course of the month. For Him, Bill Butterfield, Williamsburg, Virginia

Your kind words respecting Gospel Gazette Online are appreciated very much. I assure you that I do not intend to be contentious, especially beyond what sound exegesis of God's Word warrants. Perhaps the following observations will clarify matters somewhat.

Singing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," according to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, is to be directed both to fellow Christians and to God. That fact hardly confuses the biblical distinction between prayers and singing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." There is still such a thing as prayer though songs are likewise directed to God; there is still such a thing as singing though prayer is directed to God. The lyrics of the "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" that are sung neither direct them more nor direct them less to God.

The biblical hermeneutic (or the fundamental feature of any communication) is correctly commands (or direct statements), approved examples and implications (which require necessary inferences). Each of these (CEI) equally manifests divine authority in religion. It is possible, of course, for one to draw invalid inferences from implications, though valid inferences from divine implications are desirable and possible.

What sets first century Christianity apart from whatever else tries to pass for Christianity has to do with authority in religion. Christians must ever be concerned with what is authorized in Scripture (Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11). We must content ourselves with not going beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus has all authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18 ASV), and he delegated authority to his apostles (Matthew 18:18) and other divinely inspired, first century persons (Luke 9:49-50; 17) who penned the New Testament (Luke, James, Jude).Image

Buying Food with
the Church Treasury

By Louis Rushmore

Image bro rushmore, thank you for your paper. do you think that churches may use church treasury to buy items for church members to eat, drink or at a church picnic or purchase juice and donuts for breakfast or kentucky fried chicken for a church social? should members pay for these items individually out of pocket or can we use church treasury to buy these items? ~ jack Johnson

Your appreciation of our efforts through Gospel Gazette Online is uplifting. Thank you.

Ordinarily, the churches and brethren with whom I am familiar usually bring covered dishes or bring personally purchased items for 'church socials.' This is a good practice.

However, there are other occasions on which food is purchased with church money about which I have no problem whatsoever, especially occasions that are associated in some way with teaching or preaching the Gospel (e.g., ladies' inspiration days, lectureships, VBS, youth days, etc.).

In John 6:1-13, Jesus Christ introduced to his disciples the prospect of buying food for the multitude that had come to him (v. 5), and his disciples entertained the prospect of buying food for the multitude who had come out to Jesus (v 7). Despite the fact that Jesus planned to perform a miracle to provide the food, and that he was testing his disciples (v. 6), apparently neither our Lord nor his disciples disapproved of buying food for that occasion. Parallel verses in both Mark 6:37 and Luke 9:13 record Jesus saying to his disciples, "Give them to eat." While the church was not established yet, the principle appearing in these passages seems applicable to similar settings that may and do occur in Christianity. Of course, we cannot feed anyone miraculously.

While I have never heard the mission of the church described nor do I propose to amend the mission of the Lord's church to include social functions, fellowship among Christians cannot be minimized without doing serious harm to the church. Close and frequent social interaction is an essential ingredient of biblical fellowship. Acts 2:46 indicates that first century Christians socialized daily, ate together and were in one another's homes. If we can glean authorization from the Scriptures through implication by which we infer a place (i.e., a meetinghouse with its trappings -- lawn care, paved lots, etc.) for studying God's Word and worship, we can find sufficient implication from which we can infer (if opportunity otherwise escapes us) to provide place and means (including food) for that valuable Christian fellowship to occur.

Though we do not want to squander the Lord's money or spend it unwisely, there is a persistent tendency in humanity, including in the Lord's church, to emphasize material wealth and money to an inordinate position of concern (bordering on the love of money, 1 Timothy 6:10). Someone once observed that more passages of Scripture appear in the Bible addressing material wealth than any other biblical subject, doubtless because mankind has as much or more problem respecting material wealth than any other subject. It occurs to me that often members of the Lord's church have not completely let go of the money they profess to have given to the Lord and want to control it substantially after they have given it.Image

Number 7

By Louis Rushmore

what exactly is the significance of the number seven in the bible, and in what way; does it relate to the number eight? i see in leviticus the priest cleasing himself for seven days and presenting himself before the Lord on the eight, i also see the feast of tabernalces culminating on an eight day (the Last Great Day). what exactly does all this mean and of what relevance is it to xtians today? thank you, Coleen Wright

Numbers are used in a variety of ways in the Bible, comparably to the way numbers are used today. However, numbers were used in ancient civilizations and in the Bible in a symbolic way also. The number 7 is one of the numbers used often in this latter way. "There is clear evidence in the cuneiform texts, which are our earliest authorities, that the Babylonians regarded 7 as the number of totality, of completeness. The Sumerians, from whom the Semitic Babylonians seem to have borrowed the idea, equated 7 and 'all'" (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia). The same source devotes some space to explaining different ways in which the number 7 is used in the Bible. "The Biblical use of 7 may be conveniently considered under 4 heads: (1) ritual use; (2) historical use; (3) didactic or literary use; (4) apocalyptic use." Fausset's Bible Dictionary also refers to symbolic numbers and explains ways in which the number 7 is used in the Bible; "The numbers especially symbolical are 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 40..." An extensive treatment of biblical numbers appears in McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia; "Sacred Numbers. -- The frequent and significant use of certain numbers in the Scriptures demands notice." Each of the resources mentioned provides its information under the topic "Number."

Combined, these reference works contain more information that we desire to reproduce here. However, respecting the number 7, the Bible employs this number in its figurative references in the same way other ancient civilizations used it -- for the idea of completeness.

Works Cited

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1998.

McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle:  Biblesoft, 2000.

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