Is Isaiah 38:1-4 a Clear Example of God Lying or Changing His Mind?

Question:  How is Isaiah 38:1-5 not either God lying or God changing His mind?

Answer:  Here is the passage:

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.  Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.

In a sense that is like asking,  “Why pray, we can’t change God’s mind? ” There is no doubt some mystery as to how prayer works. I would argue that God does sovereignly determine the course of life’s events but knows in His plan that we will pray and plans on answering those prayers.  But what about this particular incident with Hezekiah?

We see the same pattern with Hezekiah as we do with Jonah, when God tells the people of Nineveh through Jonah that in three days they will be destroyed but he only tells them that so they can have a chance to repent.  He only sends Isaiah to tell Hezekiah he is going to die so that Hezekiah has a chance to pray for another option. And then God rewards prayer with an answer.

As with much prophecy in Scripture that is negative in scope, there is this implied opportunity to change the outcome if Hezekiah responds, just as there was an implied opportunity for the people of Nineveh to respond and change the outcome. We are not used to these kind of prophetic situations so we don’t understand the implications. If Hezekiah doesn’t respond the way he did he does die as God foretold. God’s communication is not intended as unalterable. Hence,  no lie or changing of mind.

Interestingly,  we learn that Hezekiah had to go have a poultice applied to his wounds in order to be healed.  A supernatural healing through natural means.

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Will There Be Winter in the Earthly Kingdom?

Question:  I see many Watchtower articles depicting a lovely summer like landscape with kids playing with lions, tigers and bears and everyone has a gleeful look on their face.  We are experiencing a very cold, snowy winter so far and the outlook seems to be more of the same.  Will there be freezing cold winters in Paradise Earth?
I read: While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22 KJV)

Answer:  There are three phases to the kingdom:  (1) Jesus is currently ruling as king over his people and we live as subjects of the Crown in anticipation of the kingdom coming to earth, (2) Jesus will come and establish his kingdom on earth for 1,000 years, during which there will be births and deaths and a final rebellion led by Satan (Revelation 20), (3) then finally Jesus will hand over the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) and earth will be remade with no seas and heaven, God’s abode, will come to earth in the form of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21,22).

The question we must answer is whether the time frame God gives in Genesis includes the millennial kingdom (phase 2) and the eternal kingdom (phase 3).  I am guessing that the millennial kingdom will still have seasons, but that with the remaking of the earth described in Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3:10 there is a case that might be made for this promise having been fulfilled and there no longer being seasons.  Could there still be seasons?  I am sure there could be and there might even be a desire for such for in each season we see something unique and special about God’s handiwork.

phases of the kingdom

For further reading:

Did Jesus Lie?

Question:  Jesus lied. But he never sinned. So sometimes lying isn’t a sin?  I’m referring to John 7:8-10, where Jesus said, “You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.  After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.  However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.”

Answer:  It does seem that lying is not always a sin.  When Rahab lied to protect the Israelite spies in Jericho she was rewarded with safe passage when the attack came.  The Israelite midwives lied to Pharaoh about Israelite women giving birth before the midwives got there so that they could not kill the babies as Pharaoh commanded, and they were honored for this by God.  When God told Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse as king and he complained that if Saul found out why he was going to Bethlehem Saul would kill him, God told Samuel to say that he was going to offer a sacrifice (not the whole truth, but true).  When David realized that the Philistine leader he was seeking sanctuary from as he fled from Saul was against him and would kill him, he feigned madness and was sent away and he wrote a Psalm about how God delivered him (Ps 34).

In each of these situations the lives of good human beings were at stake.  It seems that when we lie to protect innocent human life it is okay.  For example, if a gunman came to your door and your family was hidden away in the house, and he asked you if you were alone, would you be obligated by God to tell him the truth?  Some situations and some people do not deserve the truth.  We may suppose that though lying is prohibited generally in Scripture, yet when a higher absolute (the protection of a human life) comes into play, that absolute takes precedence over the absolute against lying (similar to the absolute of obeying human governments takes a backseat to the absolute of obeying God, Acts 5:27-29).

It doesn’t seem, however, that this is the same kind of situation in Jesus’ life where he would need to lie to save someone or save himself.  Though going up publicly to the festival was dangerous, he didn’t need to go.  So it makes more sense that at the moment his time had not come, as he said, but then later the Spirit directed him to go in the manner he went.  He did face a dangerous situation then, but God protected him.

I love the fact that Gospel of John presents Jesus this way because it is another confirmation that the Gospels are factual accounts of Jesus’ life.  If the Gospel writers were only trying to present Jesus in some trumped up positive light they would not have presented him this way and left him open to a charge of lying.  But this is how it really happened and so they told it like it was.

Was John the Baptist the Promised “Elijah” Who Was to Come?

Question: In Matthew 17:11-13 Jesus tells his disciples that Elijah has already come and he was not recognized. It goes on to say that the disciples understood that Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist, however in John 1:21 when John is asked if he is Elijah, his reply is “I am not”. I am having a bit of trouble understanding this part of the scriptures and would be thankful for any clarity you could offer about this.

Answer: Jesus does not quite say that John the Baptist is the Elijah to come (a prophecy from Malachi 4:5,6 that says Elijah will come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and of the children to their fathers). He says, “Elijah comes and will restore all things” (i.e., he is coming in the future to do this), but “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him.” And in Matthew 11:14 he said, “If you will accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”

This suggests that like many prophecies there is a near fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment. John the Baptist is not Elijah. But he was acting like the predicted Elijah of Malachi 4 calling the people to repentance in anticipation of the coming of the day of the Lord, a day when God visits His people for judgment and then blessing.

What would have happened if the leadership had accepted John’s testimony and received Jesus as the Messiah? Would God have brought the end of the ages to completion? Wouldn’t Jesus have still had to die for our sins? He would have had to die for our sins but we may suppose he would have been killed at the hands perhaps of the Romans instead of at the instigation of the Jews. Peter says in Acts 3:19-21 that if the people of Israel would repent that “the times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” He further said that Jesus “must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” If the nation as a whole had responded to the gospel at that point perhaps He would have sent Jesus back and in essence John the Baptist would have fulfilled the role of Elijah in its ultimate fulfillment.

This also suggests that it may not be literal Elijah (revived from the dead or resurrected) who comes in fulfillment of Malachi 4, but someone who comes “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) as was predicted by the angel when he announced John the Baptist’s birth to his father. The “Elijah” yet to come will be like Elijah in the way he ministers and calls Israel to repentance.

Should John the Baptist have understood that he was the one to fulfill an Elijah-like role in Israel?  Should he have answered yes to the question of the religious leaders when they asked him if he was Elijah?  Perhaps it was dependent on the leaders recognizing him as such before he could boldly claim that role.  Perhaps he was unwilling to take that title upon himself, leaving that to Jesus, the king.

For further reading:

http://carm.org/bible-difficulties/matthew-mark/was-john-baptist-really-elijah

http://www.gotquestions.org/John-Baptist-Elijah.html

http://www.gbcsa.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65:question-why-does-jes..

http://www.equip.org/articles/was-john-the-baptist-elijah/

Does the Bible really prohibit sex before marriage?

Question:  Is sex before marriage a sinful act? Is there such a verse in the Bible? My friend once told me that sexual immorality is having slept with two or more people and that if you date and engage sexually for the very first time with one person until marriage, then that’s not sexual immorality or a sin. Is this true?

Answer:  There is no specific passage that says sex before marriage is sinful.  However, there is indication that this is assumed and there are reasons why it is harmful to a relationship and God would not condone something that is harmful to us.

Exodus 22:16,17 says,

16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.

The implication is that an injustice has been done to this woman and her family.  She has been treated as a wife, introduced to an act that inevitably suggests that the man is in love with her, has been induced to give of the most private and safeguarded portion of her life, only to consider the possibility of him not marrying her.  This is considered so shameful that he must marry her or, if her father prohibits it (because he knows it is destructive or has some other serious reservation) the bride price must still be paid.

Even when people say they are just wanting to have casual or recreational sex, it is still true that this bonding experience affects them in ways they are not paying attention to.  This is the way God created us.  We are body/soul people and what affects our bodies affects our souls and vice versa.  We cannot escape the claim such intimate contact makes on our souls.  But that is why there is a need for a lifelong commitment to be in place, that is, marriage, for there to be safety in giving this most precious part of ourselves.  It is the only safe foundation for sex.  God knows this and set the boundaries for us because He cares for us.

Are we really loving someone if we want and get sex from them without giving them the appropriate commitment?  If not, then it is a way of sinning against them and when we sin against them we sin against the God who loves them.

Before Christ, Did God Expect Gentiles to Become Jews in order to be Saved?

Question:  Cornelius was a God-fearing Roman.  One commentary says,”These were Gentiles who loved the God of Israel and were sympathetic to and supportive of the Jewish faith. Yet they stopped short of becoming full Jews in lifestyle and in circumcision.”  How did God feel about Gentiles who came to love Him but would not “fully commit” in terms of observing the Law?  Did He desire believing Gentiles to adhere to Jewish Law, or did He not expect that of them because they were Gentiles?  Cornelius was post-Jesus, but what about before Christ came?  When a Gentile became a believer in the God of Israel, did God want them to observe Jewish Law, or was that just for the nation of Israel?

Answer:  This is a very interesting question.  We are not given any specific answer to it that I am aware of in either the Old or New Testaments.  However, we might be given some clues.

We may suppose that Melchizedek (Genesis 14) was approved by God as priest, since he received tithes from Abraham, and we may presume that he was not required by God to adhere to the same standards Abraham was.  On the other hand Jacob’s sons told the men of Shechem that they could not ally with them unless they were all circumcized (Genesis 34).  But they were lying to them in order to avenge their sister.  So we might not believe that their statement was a valid one in any point.

When Naaman the Aramite was healed by dipping in the waters of Jordan (2 Kings 5), Elisha did not also preach to him that he needed to become a Jew as well, even though he presented Elisha with a request that when he had to go into the pagan temple and bow it be forgiven.  This indicates that he had converted to worship of Yahweh.  Elisha told him to go in peace.

The message in Acts 10 that comes from Peter’s mouth is, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (verses 34,35).  I’m leaning toward the view that it didn’t matter in any generation, before or after Christ’s coming, that Gentiles did not follow Jewish legal codes.

On the other hand, Paul continued at times to observe Jewish law (hence, his arrest, Acts 21:20-33).  He did not keep it in order to be saved, but simply because he was a Jew and it was permissable for Jews to keep the Law God had given them to set them apart from Gentiles.  Gentiles are not meant, it seems, to keep the Law, only Jews.

Randall Johnson

See also:

Do Gentiles Need To Convert To Messianic Judaism?

Why Aren’t Women Allowed the Same Freedom to Make Vows as Men?

Question:  In Numbers 30 Moses says that fathers of unmarried women who make vows can cancel them, as can husbands of women who make vows.  Why can males still living with parents and men make vows without anyone canceling them but women can’t?

Answer:  Women were considered under the authority of fathers and husbands and it would be disrespectful to that father or husband if his daughter or wife made a vow that did not fit with his vision for his family.  He would be considered someone who did not rule his home well.  The woman might make a vow that brought great inconvenience on her family, even endangered the family financially, taking from the family the protection it needed.  The given authority of the home needed to have the right to cancel such a vow.

Vows always involved sacrifice of an animal.  One of the most well-known vows was the Nazirite vow.  This vow was a voluntary show of devotion to God marked by not cutting one’s hair, not touching a dead body, and not eating anything from the vine.  At it’s completion a sacrifice would be offered.  One might vow to give up something or begin doing something in response to God’s answering a prayer.  Then, when the prayer was answered a sacrifice would be made and friends invited to eat the meat and hear testimony of God’s faithfulness.

Women could make such vows but the men in their lives had the right to counter them.  If a woman was widowed or divorced her vow stood.  I am assuming that if a minor male made a vow his father would have the right to rescind it, as well.

What if a man made a foolish vow?  As long as it did not violate the Law of Moses his vow could not be canceled.  Jephthah, a judge in Israel (Judges 11), made a foolish vow, promising that if God gave him victory he would offer as sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house on his return home.  His daughter came out.  It was against the law to sacrifice a human, so he had to keep her a virgin for the rest of her life.

Is it fair that a man’s vow must stand?  Perhaps not, but the Law of Moses wasn’t going to strip the leader of the home of his autonomy.  The wise leader doesn’t put his family in such situations, nor does he put others in places of suffering without good reason.

The principle here is that our actions affect others.  We need to show sensitivity to those whose lives we may touch by our acts of devotion or vows and choices we make.  Should I take that class, agree to volunteer for that service, make a purchase, start a project, without considering how it will affect those around me?  Who will we let “nullify” our choices?  Who has veto rights, if anyone?  We need accountability in our lives.

Randall Johnson