The Case of Balaam

Brethren Lipscomb and Sewell: In Numbers 22:20-22 we read, “And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him.”

Now, if the above is true, what assurance have we of being blessed in doing what God tells us to do? You may say that he did something that God did not tell him to do, but it seems that God’s anger was kindled for the simple act of his going. Please answer in the Gospel Advocate.

 

This case of Balaam is precisely a similar one to that of the Israelites desiring a king to rule over them in the days of Samuel, the prophet, as recorded in I Samuel 8. Here they wished something contrary to the provisions he had made. He decreed they should have it as a punishment for dissatisfaction with his will. He gave the king, accompanied with the warning as to the evils that should follow.

Balaam gave a sort of obedience to God, but would not accept God’s decree as a finality, and showed his anxiety to go contrary to God’s will by coming to God to see if he would not change this decision. God, provoked at the disposition to rebel and the seeking God to change his mind and decree, did change it, and gave the command – or, rather, permission – for him to go. He did it under circumstances that Balaam ought to have understood that it was left him to rebel against God if he desired. And the going now against the refusal of God was an indication of his anxiety to go contrary to the word of God. When he did this, God’s anger was kindled against him.

It is a principle clearly laid down in the Bible that when men do not wish to obey God’s commands out of pure reverence for his authority, God permits them to go the way they love. They usually satisfy their consciences and think they do God’s service; yet the course they follow only leads to their destruction as a punishment for dissatisfaction with his will. Here he told Balaam not to go. Balaam returned to him, asking if he might not go, or to see if he would not change his mind. God, provoked at this dissatisfaction, told him to go; but when he went, God’s anger was kindled against him to his destruction.

The only difference between this case and that in I Samuel 8 is, here the permission to go, contrary to the expressed will of God, is given without the warning of the results, as was in that case. The reason of this difference may be found in the fact that Balaam was a prophet and less excusable in his course than these uninspired people. It is an admonition to us that we should take God at his word without preferences of our own. If we desire other ways, he will let us follow them to our ruin.

David Lipscomb

The Meaning of “At Hand”

 

A Baptist brother, preaching on “The Establishment of the Kingdom,” quoted Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16-21. In explaining Matthew 3:2, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he says it means “already there.” He gave for an example that having received a letter, to which we were going to reply, we would say: “Yours of — is at hand.” Please give us your views on the same.

The Greek verb rendered by the phrase “is at hand” in our Common Version literally signifies to approach, to draw near. The perfect tense is used in this passage in the Greek, and would be correctly rendered has come near, has approached. To draw near is one thing, and to be actually present, set up, is another.

We have the very same Greek word, in the same tense, differently rendered, in Luke 10, where the Savior, in giving instructions to the seventy, tells them if they entered a house or city that would not receive them, to shake the dust from their feet against them, and tells them to say: “Notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” This shows exactly what is meant in Matthew 3 — that the kingdom was nigh unto them. The kingdom of God was near when John began his preaching, and this is just what is said in the passage. John began the preparatory state of the kingdom, and this preparatory state continued till the crucifixion of Jesus, and the church was fully set up when the Spirit came upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost. The kingdom was present in its preparatory state when John began his preaching, and this explains the passages that speak of the kingdom as present while Christ was still on earth, such as when Jesus says: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). The kingdom was present, in its preparatory state and suffered violence before Jesus died; but after this Jesus said: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The words will build signify something to be done in the future, as everyone knows; and as this was said after the other passage which speaks of the kingdom as already suffering violence, the first one must refer to the preparatory state, in which it was then present, while the other refers to the full establishment of the church, which was then in the future, but was fully established on the day of Pentecost, when three thousand entered by a law that was never preached to men on this earth till that day.

Elisha G. Sewell

All Things to All Men

Please explain in the Gospel Ad­vocate 1 Cor. 9:22. What is meant by the expression: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”?

Paul in this passage was not speaking of anything that involved the law of God under Christianity. He only had reference to outside matters that were only matters of indifference. Paul never willingly disobeyed any requirement of God under Christianity to please any one. But in the customs of the people that involved no principle of Christianity, he submitted. When among the Jews, he acted as the Jews in all their customs that did not compromise any law of Christ; and the same also among the Gentiles, or heathen. In matters of indifference, in which if people partake they are nothing worse and from which if they refrain they are nothing better, Christians can be perfectly indifferent. If a Christian is where the custom is to invariably wash the hands before eating, he can submit to that; and so of any other custom of like character. But if a Christian is called upon to turn away from the laws of Christ or do anything that is contrary to them, he cannot yield, even if a refusal should imperil his life.

Elisha G. Sewell

Adventists and the Children of Israel

Brother Sewell: As one of our sisters has turned Adventist and has some of the members bothered, I would like a full explanation of the following passages of scripture: Ex. 31: 16, 17; Matt. 5: 19; Rom. 14: 5, 6. Who are meant by the “children of Israel” in the passage first named? What “commandments” is Jesus speaking of in the second passage?

The children of Israel were the Jewish people, the posterity of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. In this particular passage it meant the children of Israel that had come out of Egypt under Moses as their leader.

The Sabbath day, as one of the Ten Commandments, had but recently been given to the Jewish people. The verses you mention show that the Sabbath day was given to the Jews only. The Gentile world never had any share in it. In the first of Genesis, where the seventh day is first mentioned, it says that God rested that day. He had finished the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh. But he did not require men to rest on that day then. To show that the Sabbath belonged to the Jews only, the passage you name uses this language: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever.” These verses show beyond a peradventure that the Sabbath day was given to the Jews, and to them only; and when it says it would be a sign between Jehovah and the children of Israel forever, the “forever” means to the end of the Jewish covenant, the law of Moses, which really did end. Hence, when Jesus died on the cross, the law of Moses, the Jewish covenant, was taken out of the way, and with it the Sabbath day. This is shown in the following passage: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Col. 2:14.) The word handwriting especially takes in the Ten Commandments, as they were the handwriting of God, and the Sabbath day was the fourth command of the ten. Therefore the Sabbath day was, without any doubt, done away.

In verse 16 of the same chapter Paul says: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” This shows that the whole affair of the law was done away, Sabbath day and all. Hence the seventh-day claim is without foundation. The seventh-day Sabbath never did belong to the Gentiles, and it was taken from the Jews when Jesus died; and so it is out of date entirely now, as is the whole of the law of Moses. Matt. 5:19 simply has reference to the commands of the law of Moses, which law was still in force when Christ used that language; but when he died on the cross, some three years later, the law was taken away.

The other passage (Rom. 14:5, 6) has reference either to the Jewish Christians, who wanted to keep up the holy days of the law, such as the Sabbath day, or it refers to some sort of superstition among Gentile Christians there, either one of which would cause confusion and division without profit, and they better not have divisions over the opinions of men. All ideas of holy days, then, except the first day of the week, were merely the opinions of men not involving any divine authority. There is not a particle of divine authority to keep the seventh-day Sabbath since the abolition of the old covenant and the establishment of the new.

Adding to and Taking from the Bible

In verse 18 of the last chapter of Revelation, was the adding to and taking away from “this book” the book of Revelation or the entire word of God?

It is barely possible that the writer intended it to apply specifically to the book of Revelation; but it is a principle that applies to all the inspired writings, and I believe it was written in these last verses of the book that naturally closes the revelation of God, that as a two-edged sword it might guard from change or modification the whole revealed will of God.

Moses says: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deut. 4:2.) It is repeated in Deut. 12:32; Josh. 1:7. Prov. 30:5, 6 expresses it thus: “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” It is repeated a hundred times in one form or another in the Old Testament. If the Old Testament law — temporal in its rule, sealed by the blood of animals — was thus sacred and guarded from sacrilegious touch by the hand of man, how much more sacred the perfect and everlasting law of God, given through the word that was with God and sealed by the blood of his only begotten Son! The mission of Jesus, as announced by John, was to thoroughly purge his floor, separate what had been added by human tradition and burn it as chaff, so he could fulfill only the perfect will of God. He condemned all the traditions of the elders and all human traditions in religion, showing that even washing the hands as religious service when not commanded by God was sin. (Matt. 15.)

To displace God’s order under the Jewish dispensation with an order of men was to despise the law of Moses; to turn from the law sealed by the blood of Christ, to take from it or add to it, is to trample underfoot the blood of the Son of God and do despite to the Spirit of grace. To change the word of God by adding to or taking from it as God has given it is to assume the prerogative of God and claim to be wiser than he and to be possessed of more than his authority. I believe God intended that warning to apply to the whole of his written will; and if that specific command did not, the same principle and warning is stamped upon almost every page of revelation.

What “Things” Shall Be Added?

Brother Lipscomb: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6: 33.) What are the things to be added? If earthly good, will it be added without effort on our part to gain the good?

Earthly goods and comforts are embraced in the promise. In order to appropriate this promise, men are to seek, first, the kingdom of God — seek his kingdom that we may enter into it; second, they are to seek the righteousness of God. God’s righteousness embraces all the conditions and provisions God has ordained to make men righteous. God has provided a man should live industriously, maintain good works for necessary purposes, live plainly and economically. “Let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” (Tit. 3: 14.) Christians are required to live industriously, follow good callings, be economical and saving in the use of what they possess, and give freely to those in need.

To seek the righteousness of God is to live as God directs. Living thus, a man will abound in earthly as well as in spiritual blessings. It is to reach and enjoy the temporal blessings through spiritual ones. It is God blessing man through directing him in the channels in which God’s blessings flow, that man may gather them as he goes. In the ordinary affairs of life, in non-miraculous ages, God’s blessings are bestowed through compliance with the laws of God. The blessings come through working in harmony with God’s law; so such services in their operations bestow the blessings on man. Man may bless himself by complying with God’s laws.

David Lipscomb

Paul Wishes Himself Accursed from Christ

Brethren Lipscomb and Sewell: As I want all the information I can get on the Bible, please explain the following passage of scripture: “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Rom. 9: 3.)

As an exposition of this passage, we will insert the first three verses of this chapter as rendered in “The Living Oracles,” which we regard as the plainest rendering we have ever met with: “I speak the truth in Christ, I do not speak falsely, my conscience bearing me witness, in the Holy Spirit, that I have great grief, and unceasing anguish in my heart, for my brethren; my kinsmen, according to the flesh; (for I also was, myself, wishing to be accursed from Christ).” Paul had reference to his past course of life, before he became a Christian, while he was persecuting the church.

The Promise to Abraham

Please give us an article in the Gospel Advocate on the promises made to Abraham – whether they have been fulfilled or not; or do we, as Christians, look for those promises yet to be fulfilled? In Gen. 13:14, 15, God said to Abraham: “Look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it.” Then in Acts 7:5 it is said that he did not inherit it. Why I want your views on this is that the Adventists are creating great excitement in this country among the brethren.

When people will not know and practice the word of God, they will be carried off by some delusion or other. God will send a delusion upon those who stubbornly reject his word. The people of this country and age do not know what the Bible teaches; hence they cannot believe or practice it. We think likely Adventism is as harmless a delusion of a religious character as can afflict them.

The promise to Abraham was: “In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall poses the gate of his enemies; and in, thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” It is an indefinite question to ask if that promise has been fulfilled. There are so many items in the blessing that were not all to be accomplished at one time that the same answer will not answer for all.

The first promise, “I will bless thee,” certainly was fulfilled; the second, “In multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore,” was fulfilled. Their numbers increased beyond computation almost. They were given the mastery over their enemies, or possessed the gates of their enemies, until by disobedience they forfeited this power. Through Abraham the promised seed has come – Christ Jesus, our Lord. In him the blessing for all nations is provided. All nations who have received him have received the promised blessing, but the enjoyment of it depends upon our accepting that blessing and appropriating it through compliance with the conditions connected with the giving of it. The condition of enjoying the blessing through Christ is trust in him that leads to a full acceptance of Christ as the Ruler and Lord of all. No nation, as a whole, has accepted him thus. Some have wholly rejected him. They wholly fail of the blessing through this rejection. Only individuals of other nations and families accept him. To the extent that they receive and obey him, to that extent they have received the blessing. The blessings through Abraham have been provided and given to the world. The enjoyment of those blessings is only partial. The Jews have forfeited the blessings they once enjoyed. The Gentiles have only partially accepted the blessings, so to a very limited extent enjoy them. The blessings through Abraham have all been provided by God and placed in reach of man. Man enjoys them just to the extent that he receives and obeys Christ.

David Lipscomb