Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 5: Conquest and Settlement: The Disruptive Truth of Israel’s Holy War
Lesson 61 – Enemies of Sanctification, Understanding Imprecatory Psalms
22 May 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I’d like to start with another question. Let’s go back to analyzing the world, the system that is, like the world, the flesh and the devil. How are we to look at civilization or the world is the word the Scriptures use for it, the cosmos, the Greek word cosmos, in what perspective do we put the cosmos? In other words, we look out and we see civilization, we see technology, we see “civilization” (quote unquote), and there are components to it that are okay, there are components to it that are not okay. In fact, the world system, the cosmos, is said to be our enemy. How can the cosmos be our enemy when God told us to go out and subdue the earth, men have gone out and subdued the earth, they’ve built buildings, they’ve farmed land, they’ve built economies, and they’ve built cities? How do we approach the question? This is to develop and sharpen our Christian biblical view of society around us? How are we to think about civilization? In your mind’s eye, when you start thinking of something like this, a little exercise is to go back to this framework and think about what each of those events tell you about civilization.
Let’s start looking at it from the standpoint of what does creation tell you about civilization? Man was created in God’s image and what was he supposed to do? He was told to subdue the earth. Therefore if he builds something, if he builds a city, if he builds an economy, is that wrong? Surely not because that was a mandate, that’s all part of the creation mandate. So there’s nothing wrong with quote “the development of civilization.” Since we’re talking about subduing the earth and that mandate given to man at creation, where was the second time it was given? The mandate was repeated to subdue the earth, go out and replenish it, when was it given? After the flood. We have the Noahic Covenant, so both the creation and the Noahic Covenant are telling us that civilization isn’t inherently wicked.
All this is is an exercise in taking a problem and enveloping it. I said that one of the disciplines that we want to develop is not let us get surrounded by the other guy, rather we surround him, and part of the game Satan plays is he gets a little truth and he makes a stay in that, like a fortress, and then he surrounds us so we’re isolated. What we’re trying to develop is just an approach that honors the Word of God by making it the total authority over every area. This is just one approach, you can come up with your own, but if you don’t anything like this then try this and then develop your own way of handling it, because every person thinks differently.
In talking about civilization, the way to do it is think—creation and Noahic Covenant, what do I learn about cities, economy, houses, progress, etc. from those two events. I know that God wants the human race to mature. So there is a maturing of the human race. If you think about the beginning of the Bible and the end of the Bible, which one ends in a city? You start in Genesis but is it a city? It’s a garden. You wind up at the end of the Bible with a city. So there is a progress from the rural to the urban, and that kind of repulses us sometimes because we always think of the urban movement as dirty, filled with ghettos, with crime, etc. and that’s what we’re trying to sort out here when we’re dealing with the question of what is civilization and how do we view it. But on the macro scale from creation God wants to build a city. What makes cities ugly, think about that. Cities don’t have to be ugly because the New Jerusalem isn’t ugly.
So why in our mind’s eye is the city probably the least desirable place to live? What makes a city undesirable? It’s the social decay that goes on in the city, and what do you want to do when you’re surrounded by that? You want to get away from it, so you want to go out in the country. What are you getting away from? You’re getting away from other people who are sinners. Does that suggest something about why the city, in the final analysis of the history of the universe, the city, the New Jerusalem at the end of the Bible, is possible? What has happened to all the people in that city that enables us to live together? They’re regenerate, they’re resurrected, and they are the saints. In that condition, the city is a desirable place, because in that condition people can share and worship corporately, because part of worship is a corporate thing, it’s not just praising God as an individual but sharing it.
C. S. Lewis puts it this way, he was troubled at one point in his life with this business with the Psalms, when he wrote his commentary on the book of Psalms, he struggled for… I don’t know how many years, when he wrote that, struggling with the idea that God demands praise. He said now isn’t that sort of repulsive, He’s asking us to praise Him, doesn’t that sound like something sick, until Lewis, as he thought further and further about this said, wait a minute, when I enjoy something, when you profoundly enjoy something, whether it be a work of art, a piece of craftsmanship, a move in an athletic event, an excellent meal well cooked, etc. what do you do? What is it that wells up within you that you want to do when you’re excited about something? You want to tell somebody, you want to share it with somebody. That’s what C.S. Lewis is pointing out; he says worship has this sharing. So in the New Jerusalem you have a civilization, it’s advanced and it’s urban, and it’s great, even though today the urban environment is undesirable.
Let’s conclude our exercise, what else do we learn about civilization, thinking about this framework? Obviously the number two event plays a role. It is a fallen, abnormal universe. We can’t articulate that enough, that we are living in an abnormal world. This cosmos, that word in Greek means the order, it’s opposite to chaos, the civilization of this world, this present civilization is a mixture of the creation and the fall together, that’s the problem. And that’s what makes it ambiguous, and that’s why it’s so hard to say what parts of it are good and what parts are bad, because you have two events that play, creation and fall together, and they feed this thing. So it’s the outcome of both things together. For example, it’s good that man subdue the earth and he made progress in the inventions, but no sooner does he invent but what are the inventions used for? For evil. Nuclear power, for example, can be a great boon, the environmentalists get upset when you say something like that but these people get upset when you burn a log. It’s a concentrated source of power that can be used, or it can blow people away; the Internet can be a tremendous boon to sharing information rapidly or it can also be to share evil rapidly. So no matter what the invention is, no matter what the progress is, the creation and the fall are stuck together until … and that’s the story that we’ve looked at this year, until God separates the good from the evil. And this separation is the destructive effect of the Kingdom of God.
We’re looking at how to look at civilization. We said the way you want to examine anything is to filter it through this grid that we’ve established. All we’ve done here is to go back to the Word of God to the key text. What happened in Abraham, let’s come forward in time and learn something else about this civilization. What did we say was critical with the call of Abraham that had not happened before? What new thing started in 2000 BC that had not happened prior to 2000 BC, and it all started with this man? God calls an individual out from the world of his time to establish a counterculture. This counterculture grows and grows throughout history, and it’s a declaration of war, and in one sense it’s the application of the separation, the kingdom of God is coming to separate the evil from the good, so therefore there’s turmoil and there’s disruption, because this is a surgical operation that’s going on, slicing ever so slowly down through history. And it’s this thing that’s causing a disruption, it’s an intrusion. Have you ever noticed something about every one of the science fiction things, whether it’s Alien, whether it’s Robin Cook’s Invasion, or whatever, what are the powers that disrupt the earth, good or evil? They’re always conceived as evil.
What power has intruded into the earth? What happened on the day of Pentecost? Talk about a virus coming into man’s hearts, it was an intrusion from the highest level of the universe, the right hand of the throne of God, because a member of this planet ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father, and from there He sent the Holy Spirit to this planet, and He disrupted it, and the program of disruption is quietly working its way down through history until the end time. It’s a program that’s building. It’s interesting that the world perverts this, and it’s always like the earth is the normal, it’s the morally normal thing, and the rest of the universe is the evil thing, and we have to defend ourselves against this evil virus, or this evil intrusion, invasion or whatever it may be. But it’s precisely the other way around. That reflects the fact that this separation is happening and it’s happening from the throne of God toward the earth. And it’s a threat, the presence of one Christian in a million non-Christian is a threat; that person doesn’t have to be nasty, you don’t have to fly all kinds of flags, just the presence of one Christian in the population of a million pagans is a sign of the end. The presence of a Christian is a sign of the end times, because it means that this invasion, this disruption, is happening and people are defecting from the world. We are, in other words, sort of a holy rebellion that’s going on right under Satan’s nose.
That’s the flavor of all this, this is why when we come to the Exodus and Sinai we developed this expansion, and that’s why there’s this conquest and settlement. I said in the notes that the conquest period has been taken by many devotional writers to be very pertinent to the Christian life. Back in 1911 there was a lady who wrote and taught a lot in England, called Jessie Penn-Lewis. If you find any of her writings they’re very interesting to read. She was submerged in some of the popular theology at the turn of the century, so we might disagree on terminology, but she is a very insightful writer and here’s what she says about the book of Joshua and Canaan. The title of this little booklet is The Conquest of Canaan, Sidelights on the Spiritual Battlefield, a book for Christian workers. It was a series of lectures she gave to missionaries who were training to go out into other countries. Let’s see how she approaches this whole conquest and settlement period.
“Let us take a look at the whole book of Joshua in order to get a bird’s eye view of our spiritual battlefield. To do this we shall need to rapidly refer to chapters rather than verses so that we may see how wonderfully it pictures the battle in the heavenly places described by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians.” Do you see what these writers are doing? They’re making an analogy between the holy physical war that went on to subdue the land and the war that’s being fought in the invisible realm today with the church. There’s this relationship and it’s not just Jesse Penn Lewis, if you read devotional literature you’ll see this theme arise time and time again. The picture is that the Canaanites are sort of a physical analogue to the demonic powers, that they are there, they are damned, their time is up, and it’s time to claim the land. And just as Israel walked in and every footstep was given to Joshua that this is your land, but you must claim it. Joshua invaded it was the conquest, and then he turned it over to the people and said finish it, which we know they never did.
So Jesus is the analogue to Joshua, by the way, both the names mean the same thing, Joshua and Jesus is the same name, so Jesus on the cross and ascension secures the ground, secures the blessing in the heavenly places, and it’s the church who, by her faithfulness, conquers in these realms. The problem with it is that we can’t see it happening; it’s sort of in the third or fourth dimension somewhere. But the church is making progress in some way; every time we are faithful to what God tells us to do and we operate by faith, we withstand the onslaught of the evil ones, some sort of ground is being taken out from under them, and it just goes on and on and on until the church finishes its mission and the ground has been taken and Jesus can come back again. So there’s an analogy here.
I want to review because there were some questions that came up after class and we want to go over some of those. We are looking at the doctrine of sanctification that grows out of this, and we want to say that the law and grace are both required. There’s this oscillation that happens, and you’ll see it in your own life, you’ll see it other’s lives, you’ll see it in history. But paganism, which is just another word for the mentality of the flesh, has this peculiar feature of rocking back and forth, back and forth, between legalism and licentiousness. Licentiousness denies and opposes law, so it tries to attack the law by saying there are no standards. When it does that it automatically dilutes grace and makes grace look like leniency. So both law and grace are distorted over here, the emphasis being on minus law, and then grace gets fouled up in the process. On the other hand, legalism appears to exalt the law but in effect denies grace and winds up messing up the law, because in legalism a person, like the Pharisees of the New Testament, don’t believe that they need grace but that rather they can determine right and wrong for themselves, follow and do that all in the energy of the flesh. That’s legalism. Licentiousness says I don’t care what the standards are, God is lenient and I’m free to do as I please.
These both are brought into perspective by the fact that there’s the Abrahamic Covenant that gives sovereign grace, that was our positional sanctification. God has decreed certain things and He has said I will behave in a certain way. So the Abrahamic Covenant gives our expectations for God; the Mosaic Covenant is where God gives His expectations for Israel, or the Sinaitic Covenant. It’s this covenant that sometimes produces legalism, because people act as though the Abrahamic Covenant didn’t precede it. They act as though here we have these dos and don’ts and I can do those, no problem. And they convert what was a private and public revelation to us, to our hearts as well as to our externals, and they truncate it to make this appear to be just do’s and don’ts, externals, and anybody can put on a phony front, therefore you can run around with a phony front without using any reliance upon they Lord. The licentious route is a destruction of authority, and this typifies paganism, paganism in a society at large, because what happens legalism usually doesn’t last too long, it gets tired and reverts to licentiousness. Then you’re in licentiousness for a while and it’s too chaotic to live, so you hunt around for some sort of order, and you go back and forth and back and forth. That’s the structure.
On pages 91-92 I say the law is necessary, but someone asked the question, what law are you talking about because in the New Testament it says we’re not under the law. The second paragraph on page 91 there’s three or four meanings to the word “law.” “The word ‘law’ can refer generally to all revelation in all the covenants taken together,” that’s one meaning and that would be a synonym for just the Word of God. Another meaning is “it can refer to the first five books of the Bible,” it’s used like that in the Gospels, “or it can refer to the Sinaitic Covenant in particular.” There are at least three meanings every time you see the word “law.” In the New Testament when it’s not under the law, it’s meaning number three that’s meant, because obviously we’re under meaning number one, we’re under the Word of God still, we have the law of Christ. So that’s what we mean here. Law in the larger sense is always there, God always specifies imperatives, commands, dos and don’ts to us.
We said that there’s a growth dimension and it takes time. Growth takes time and you have to be patient with yourself and with the Holy Spirit because when we struggle through things, particularly Americans, we have it in our culture that we want it over with, we want to get it over with, I want to microwave this whole thing, and the Holy Spirit’s clock isn’t that way, and that’s why you have to be patient with Him and how He works. A little encouragement in this regard is a verse that many people know in Romans, but not too many people pay too much attention to what some of the word meanings are. Turn to Romans 8, this is talking about the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and notice in verse 15, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father!’” One of the things that the Holy Spirit gives is a sense of intimacy with the Father, that word “Abba” is a baby’s term, it means the same thing in our society as dada, or papa, and it’s a very startling thing that at this point we have that sense of nearness to the Father. Romans 8:16, “The [Holy] Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Then after all that, ooh gee, that’s great we can get on with things, notice in verse 18ff, we have all of this groaning, this anxiety, this futility, and the consequences of living in a world which we have struggles with, we are sanctified slowly.
Notice in Romans 8:26, this is the passage I want to point to, “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” That’s the translation I have, but if you look at the Greek term here and do a study on it, what you come up with… some people think verse 26 is saying that when you start to pray the Holy Spirit will empower you to pray a certain prayer. He does that, but the emphasis on this verse, the words “groanings too deep for words” was a term that was used in Greek fraternities, secret societies, for passwords. The flavor of the word is that the Holy Spirit prays in, what we call in the military, secure communication. When you go into “secure communication” mode, you’re communicating still, but other people can’t hear what’s going on. The intriguing sense of verse 26 is that it appears to say that the Holy Spirit is praying along with us in the middle of all these trials in the previous verses, but He’s doing so on a secure line, He’s inside us, so the prayer comes from within us, back up into heaven to the Father’s right hand at the throne, but we’re not privy to that communication link. It’s like it’s a data link established from our hearts to the throne, and He prays on this line that’s secure, and we can’t get in on the conversation. It’s a comfort to know because He’s helping our weaknesses.
We do not know, says Paul, how to pray as we should, because sanctification is too complicated. I mean, who understands the human heart? We have this prayer, this prayer, we may be agitated over this thing, so we pray over that thing, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that there are probably 43.78 different other issues going on simultaneously with that one that we are cruising around in a fog spiritually and we don’t realize all the other stuff that’s going on. So the Holy Spirit is making prayers over all that in addition to that little bit of stuff that we see on the surface.
It’s a comfort to know, in verse 26, that we have One who prays who does know the full story of sanctification, and He’s praying about things for us that we don’t know. Some things we probably won’t ever know, or maybe in the future when we receive the name that no man knows except the one it’s given to, maybe the Lord will reveal back when you were going through that particular situation, do you remember praying da da da da, let Me show you what was really going on when you were in the middle of that, and let me show you the prayer that My Holy Spirit prayed for you, all the little details and the molecules of our life.
So sanctification is a big heavy thing and it takes time and it isn’t microwaved. What can happen though is that any given moment, as we say on page 93, we can, to the extent that we know we can believe and obey. And that’s all we can do, it doesn’t mean we are sinlessly perfect; it means that as far as the issues we are conscious of we are submitting in those areas. But that is not to say that there aren’t other areas we do not know about that we’re still in rebellion. And the process of sanctification is like an expanding light, I mentally always think of a search light on a dark stage, you know how you can focus the beam and it enlarges, and if you can imagine yourself walking around on a dark stage with all kinds of obstructions on it, and at first the light is just about two feet around, and you say good, at least I see myself and I see three or four square feet of floor space. Then as the light enlarges all of a sudden you see a mess out here. The mess was there before you became aware of it; it’s just that now in the stage of growth He wants us to deal with this. So now this becomes a problem, well it wasn’t a problem last year, how come, I’m supposed to be growing in the Lord. Yes, but as you grow the circle enlarges and the area expands so you are always encountering new stuff. If you don’t realize the strategy of what’s going on here it can be rather discouraging, because you think I’m not making any progress in my Christian life, I go from one problem to another. How come? It’s because He’s trusting you on the basis of what’s already happened to be able to move on to bigger and better things, and the bigger and better things are still more glop in the sanctification process.
You don’t want to get discouraged by this; this is just a way of looking at what’s going on. When the Jews went into Israel they had all kinds of battles, they had to fight their way through Jericho, fight their way through Ai, and after they won those battles were there more battles? Yes. Did their sons have to fight more? Yes. Well they could argue that well we’re really not getting a peaceable kingdom here, because we’re always at war. On the frontier yes, you always are because what is this world system? It is an abnormal evil world system and what did Jesus say, “in the world ye shall have tribulation.” We are sort of the D-Day invasion in the situation, we have to go in this and be the ambassadors of the future coming kingdom, that’s why we’re a threat to the world system by our existence. That’s the story of the sanctification process.
Tonight we conclude this last section on page 94 with the enemies of sanctification. At this point we’re going to get into the verses I asked you to look at on page 94. These verses are as troublesome down through history to Christians as the whole conquest and settlement. There’s a vocabulary word you want to understand, it’s in the fourth line of the last paragraph, “the imprecatory psalms.” These are the psalms that if you ever get into discussion with someone who, it’s now rare that a well-educated non-Christian reads the Bible, but if you ever do run across someone like that they will trot out these, I guarantee it, to try to humiliate you, try to make you feel like you’re some sort of primitive, how can a person like you believe in this religion that holds to these kinds of Scriptures. Just be forewarned.
The imprecatory psalms: turn to Psalm 35; we’re going to go through some of these because I want you to get exposed to some of the fierce things in the Bible. I point out on page 94 that, “These passages as well as traditional hymns, like ‘Onward Christian Soldiers,’ are often attacked today as not showing the ‘real spirit’ of Christianity.” There are churches that literally have cut out “Onward Christian Soldiers” from the hymn book. I remember that, during the Viet Nam era there was a church just down the block from us that did that, tore them all out, people sing about war and Onward Christian Soldiers, you’re just grooming people to think in terms of battle. That’s right, exactly, that’s why we sing it, because it still hasn’t gotten through.
Let’s review this, what is the justification for the ethics of holy war? How do we answer this? There is a command in the Scripture to go in and literally wipe out an entire civilization, it’s not regular war, this is war of extermination and genocide. How is that justified? The answer is that it goes back to a primary problem; the primary problem of good and evil. In the separation process evil must be ripped off, it must be destroyed in order to produce peace, and it’s a nasty, dirty, painful process, because we are now cancerous, we are now abnormal, we’ve got to rip off the tumor called evil. That’s why these instructions are given; these are surgical instructions. If you shy away from them, what is going to be the consequence? The consequence is that you’re going to postpone the coming of peace because you’re going to postpone the surgery necessary to get rid of it. So all these people, I call them the Christian social-sentilists, these sentimentalists are actually the enemies of peace because by not confronting the issue and agreeing that it has to be done is like someone saying I need surgery but I’m afraid to go for it. You’ve got a problem then.
Psalm 35:1, “Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.  Take hold of buckler and shield, and rise up for my help.  Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’  Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me.  Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them on.  Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.  For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my soul.  Let destruction come upon him unawares; and let the net which he hid catch himself; into that very destruction let him fall.” Try getting up and giving that as a prayer someday and watch what happens. But it’s in the Word of God. What do we do with this one?
Psalm 58:6, here’s a real ripper, try putting this in the prayer bulletin, “O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth; break out the fangs of young lions, O LORD.  Let them flow away like water that runs off; when he aims his arrows, let them be as headless shafts,  Let them be as a snail which melts away as it goes along, like the miscarriages of a woman which never see the sun.  Before your pots can feel the fire of thorns, He will sweep them away with a whirlwind….” Verse 6 has been a classic, if you want to memorize a verse that sticks in your mind what imprecatory praying looks like, there it is. “Smash their teeth, O Lord.” We have to come to grips with what is going on with this.
Psalm 83, sadly there probably isn’t one in ten Christians who have even seen these Psalms, and when they do see them they get real faint of heart. I’ll give a very famous example. C.S. Lewis went to write his book, [tape skips] which otherwise is a very fine book, Reflections in the Psalms, watch how he handles these. Even C.S. Lewis hits grease when it comes to this one, he slides all over the place trying to figure out how to handle this, because C.S. Lewis was at Oxford or Cambridge, I forget which, and he intellectually accepted a lot the world view around him, including sort of an evolutionary view of civilization. So he thinks that this is a primitive survival; in a liberal chapel class, they like to say this is the old primitive sections of the Scriptures. They’ll find out how primitive it is when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
Psalm 83:9, “Deal with them as with Midian, as with Sisera and Jabin, at the torrent of Kishon,  Who were destroyed at En-dor, who became as dung for the ground.  Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,” these are all people who are destroyed in the conquest and settlement. Verse 13, “O my God, make them like the whirling dust; like chaff before the wind,” just blown around. Verse 15, “Pursue them with Thy tempest, and terrify them with Thy storm.  Fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Thy name, O LORD.  Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever; and let them be humiliated and perish,  That they may know that Thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth.”
In that imprecatory psalm do you begin to see what’s happening? Look at the purposes clauses for those imprecatory prayer requests. What do you notice about those purpose clauses? Why is he praying this? For whose honor, his or the Lord’s? It’s a vindication of the Lord.
It’s like the passage in Samuel, in the Goliath story. There are some passages in 1 and 2 Samuel that you really want to get an honest translation; it will make your hair stand on edge. It has humor, it is nasty, it is right to the point, and one of those great scenes is the story of David, sitting there overhearing all these people worried about this Goliath guy. He’s got his sandwich and he’s going to go out and deliver his two brothers, they try to keep him away from this, and he hears all this discussion, and basically what he says is I don’t know what you guys are discussing all this for, there’s no issue here, the simple issue is that he’s a blasphemer, he’s an uncircumcised Philistine, and maligning the character of God. Anybody around here want to take him on? That’s David. [tape skips]
The imprecatory spirit is one to magnify God, that’s what it’s about. Look at verse 18 and 16, and you’ll see the purposes behind these imprecatory things is to declare God’s glory, and that’s why as Christians we can even make imprecatory prayers against our own flesh. Root this out from me, O Lord, that your name be glorified. So you see the imprecatory prayer petitions are very intimate to the process of sanctification. So instead of ripping out “Onward Christian Soldiers”, and ripping out all these militaristic hymns, we need more of them. It’s precisely those that give the orientation in sanctification that we need. [blank spot]
Psalm 109:6, this is another famous passage; it’s sort of like the bash him in the teeth kind of thing. “Appoint a wicked man over him; and let an accuser stand at his right hand.  When he is judged, let him come forth guilty; and let his prayer become sin.  Let his days be few; let another take his office.  Let his children be fatherless, and his wife be a widow.  Let his children wander about and beg; and let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes.  Let the creditor seize all that he has; and let strangers plunder the product of his labor.  Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children.  Let his posterity be cut off, in a following generation let their name be blotted out.” How’s that for a nice Christian love passage? This is in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit who is praying our sanctification, remember we said He’s making prayers for us that are on a secure line.
It gives you a flavor for the viciousness; it strikes you as almost a vicious spirit in the Scripture here, in an evil world. Some of this you even find at Christmas time. Read in Luke that passage where Mary learns that she’s pregnant, both she and Elizabeth, look at their prayers that they told Dr. Luke about. One of the interesting things, a medical doctor wrote one of the Gospels. Guess which of the four Gospels narrates the details of pregnancy? The Gospel of Luke, because he obviously went back and talked to these women, and he asked questions. Matthew was a tax collector, what did he know about babies? But Luke delivered babies, so Luke was interested on the human level about what’s going on here, and it appears that he did the most thorough research in talking to the women, how they felt, the details of the pregnancy, etc. In this passage, when Mary gives thanks has a fierceness about her, she says thank you that the rich be brought down, and you wonder, here’s a little Jewish teenage girl and she already has this almost vicious … it’s a praise to God but it’s got a vicious strength to it. What I’m trying to show you is that there’s a theme that runs through Scripture, and you can’t be embarrassed by it, and you’ve got to be forewarned that it’s there in the text, because someday somebody is going to drop it on you, and you want to be prepared. You should know this anyway because we want to have this attitude toward our sin, toward our own sin.
Finally, Psalm 137, as a Psalm this one probably is the most famous Psalm, the others have famous verses in them, but Psalm 137 is a Psalm that is pretty well known. This is a very interesting one, the imprecatory part of the Psalm is at the end, but it’s interesting in the first 4 verses there’s a comment about singing and music, and worship. It appears that this answers one of the mysteries of Jewish history, why is it that the Jewish nation seemed to have forgotten so much of the temple rituals. Here may be one of the reasons. It says, “By the rivers of Babylon,” this is after the exile had happened, so they’ve been deported to another country, “there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.  Upon the willows sin the midst of it we hung our harps.  For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormenters mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’  How can we sin the LORD’s song in a foreign land?  If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill,  May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” they had a problem in continuing the praise and prayer while they were in captivity.
In verse 7 you see them revert again to this imprecatory spirit. “Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, Who said, ‘Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation.’  O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, How blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us.  How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” Another great passage on Christian love. Now that we’ve knocked everybody’s teeth out, taken babies and bashed their heads against the wall, what is going on? Again it’s a demand for reconciliation finally, the destruction of evil. We cannot live continually in an abnormal evil universe; the Spirit won’t let that happen. We are, so to speak, troublemakers against an evil world until it goes away, constantly troublemakers, constantly in rebellion in principle against it.
We want to continue on page 94, I’ve gone through the passages; I tried to pick the worst ones. Footnote 12 gives you the passage on the psalms that I told you about, how C.S. Lewis does not do his customary good job, I don’t think. “Such problems arise because a previous problem wasn’t handled correctly in the minds of these critics.” Notice the thought process, “a previous problem wasn’t handled correctly” leading to this. “They have never embraced holy war itself in the original conquest narratives. They have not seen the necessary place of holy war in the Christian framework.” See it goes back to the framework.
On page 95 I have an extended quote from Van Til who was one of the great apologists in the 20th century, a man I’ve come to appreciate very much. Follow if you will and look at that quote. This is a man who basically is the author of presuppositional apologetics in the 20th century. He says this: “We must oppose with all our hearts and with all our minds the ethical program that those who deny Christ have made for themselves. That ethical program, is at bottom, the flat denial of our ethical program. If they succeed with theirs we cannot succeed with ours…. Compromise that we engage in, as we say, in order to win others for the kingdom, is strictly forbidden by Christ. We should throw out the life line, but we may not allow ourselves to drown along with those whom we wish to save….” That’s a good illustration.
We do try to save the drowning person, but we don’t allow the drowning person to pull us out of the boat. Have you ever been in lifeguard training? Helping a drowning person is not easy; sometimes you have to let them flounder around until it’s safe for you to try to help them. This is what Van Til is pointing out; don’t let yourself get pulled off the biblical presuppositions and world view when you’re trying to help someone else. If you do, you’re not helping them. “An analogy from the nature of war may serve to illustrate this point. As long as someone carries the flag of our opponents, we must seek to shoot him. Yet we would like nothing better than to have our opponents come to our side by recognition of our flag. But this can never be accomplished unless they swear off allegiance to their former flag.” I think that’s put very well.
This is where in the principle you have the same imprecatory thing, it’s a war, that’s what he says, as long as they hold their flag we have to shoot at them, we have to oppose them. We can’t be peaceful, we can’t coexist. There’s always this irritation and this war. I think we have just enough time to go through the end of the chapter, so next week can devote it completely to the review and a little bit on Handel.
Let’s talk about the response. In other words, knowing all this is happening, the world, the flesh and the devil, knowing that it just goes on and on, what is our response to the enemies once we understand their larger purpose. There’s a passage on page 94 that I quote that you should be familiar with, Genesis 50:20, Joseph is talking about his brothers, and he says I can forgive you, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. How did that help Joseph forgive his brothers? Why does that work, when you see an opponent just going for you, and you have a real problem because you see that you are the object of attack. How do you ever get yourself mentally in a position to see your way clear in dealing with that person as the source of it? The same way Joseph did, he elevates the things to a bigger picture. When you’re down on the chessboard you just see the pieces in front of your face, but you get ten feet above the chess board and look down and you can see the maneuver, and that’s the way we as Christians should look at life. We swallow up the details with the big picture. Joseph said I can forgive you because I see God’s hand at work, even when you attack me, I see God’s hand in that; I’m not thankful for the attack, I’m thankful to Him for what He’s doing and working with it.
When we come to this last page, our response to the enemy, that’s what we’re talking about. “They were to operate by faith in Yahweh’s promised program through Abraham, that the land was to be theirs regardless of the size, numbers and ferocity of their opponents. Yet the Israelites were not to heedlessly attack these enemies in their own strength…” what was the battle we saw in the conquest and settlement period, where they said oh yea, we’ll go out and fight, and they were defeated? Ai. Why were they defeated, they’d won battles before that, they won battles after that, why were they defeated in that battle? Because of sin inside, because they weren’t loyal to the Commander, and therefore He didn’t lead them into battle. That’s the insidious nature of sin, that’s how Satan gets us, when we’re involved in a satanic attack all he has to do is get us disbelieving, then we’re putty in his hands, it’s like our electricity is cut off.
At the bottom of page 95 I have a quote from the man who started a lot of counseling in the last thirty to forty years, Jay Adams started a consistent biblically based counseling approach. And he said this: “In counseling, week after week, I continually encounter one outstanding failure among Christians: a lack of what the Bible calls ‘endurance’; they give up …. The work of the Holy Spirit is not mystical…. The Holy Spirit himself has plainly told us how He works. He says in the Scriptures that He ordinarily works through the Scriptures…. He did not give us the Book, only to say that we could lay it aside and forget it in the process of becoming godly. Godliness does not come by osmosis… It is by wiling, prayerful and persistent obedience to the requirements of the Scriptures that godly patterns are developed and come to be a part of us.” Excellent quote.
Finally on page 96, there’s a reference back to the same kind of thing where I said the aim in sanctification was loyalty to God, not necessarily doing away with evil because God’s going to do away with evil. I’ve tried to illustrate this. The direct strategy is the top one, the indirect strategy is the bottom one. The top one is where we go out and attack the world, the flesh and the devil. And I’m here to tell you, you [can’t understand phrase] with your own personal sin problems and you’re going to find out that you can try all the direct attacks you want to and it’s not going to amount to a hill of beans because you can’t eradicate it. Flesh can’t eradicate flesh, and we have to let the Surgeon, with a capital S, the Lord, the Holy Spirit, do the surgery. And that’s why it’s always the indirect approach that works.
Remember what B. H. Liddell Hart said, every great war was won by an indirect strategy. That’s why we lost in Viet Nam. The North Vietnamese didn’t even have to field divisions in Viet Nam because they had us aced on the propaganda level at home. They broke the American public’s will to support the war, and it didn’t matter in the least … the United States military never lost a battle in Viet Nam, by the way, it’s not true that we lost militarily in Viet Nam. There was a very famous exchange that went on between a Colonel who went to North Viet Nam after the war and he was talking to one of the other commanders in North Viet Nam, and he said you know, you never beat us on the battlefield. And the North Vietnamese said yeah, but we didn’t have to, and he’s right. They indirectly approached the whole thing and they won, because they cut us off at the same point of propaganda and the will to win.
That’s what’s happening here. Think of Ai; Ai was the case where they tried strategy one and they fell flat on their face. Ai is a passage in the Bible to read when you’re tempted to do this by yourself, and realize what it fails. What did we say when we dealt with the battle Ai? If you study the book of Joshua you always find a sequence, the Lord said, Joshua did, and the people were victorious. Then you get in the chapter on Ai, you never have any instructions from God to Joshua, you never have a mention of Joshua doing anything, and then the army messes up. The whole format of the chapter’s unraveled, and that’s that direct strategy.
What would be some good examples of indirect strategy that shows you where they concentrate on their loyalty to God’s Word and they won? One of the obvious ones was the first one, Jericho, the test of doing something totally idiotic but they did it anyway out of loyalty to God. What was another one, the most fantastic thing that ever happened in human history? When they got deceived into making a treaty with the Gibeonites and they kept their word, and God stopped the sun and the moon, and He destroyed the other army with meteorites. You’ve got some pictures, and these principles that I’ve diagramed should be more than diagrams now; you should have some Biblical stories that you can kind of float around in your mind’s eye and think about, gee, I wonder how that worked, and use your imaginative powers, use that artistic thing that’s inside all of us. This is why in the last quote I have on page 96, I quote B.H. Liddell Hart. “Effective results in war have rarely been attained unless the approach has had such indirectness as to ensure the opponent’s unwillingness to meet it. The indirectness has usually been physical, and always” notice this, “always psychological. In strategy, the longest way round is often the shortest way home.” Very, very astute observation.
So we finish the conquest and settlement period, it’s been a very high-speed scan of part of Numbers; we’ve looked at a few things in Joshua, and the thing of Bochim in the book of Judges. We are at this point where we have gotten enough, theologically we’ve gotten to the half-way point of the Old Testament, actually, even though it doesn’t appear that way, theologically most of the heavy stuff is set up for the rest of Old Testament history.
One event that we didn’t have a chance to do this year is to go into the role of King David. We will cover that in the fall. The issue with a king is that it was not God’s will for them to have a king. The issue of a king is that it’s centralized government. If you want to look at a passage, probably the most famous passage on government power ever written in the Scriptures, 1 Samuel 8. 1 Sam. 8 is a discussion of the people after Bochim were upset because nothing ever happened, and they said we need a king like all the other nations, and Samuel, you’re a great prophet and all that stuff but you’re not a king and we want a king, so do whatever you have to and get us a king, you talk to God about that. We want a king! 1 Samuel 8 is the classic answer from the mouth of one of God’s prophets about the dangers of centralized government power, it is a classic reference and if you can’t read that and go through that and see that that has happened time and time again, every time you concentrate power in the civil government… it’s not against government by the way, they had government, they had a theocracy, but that wasn’t good enough, they wanted something like all the nations, let’s paganize our society so we can be one of the boys. So He said okay, be one of the boys and this is what’s going to happen, verses 10-13, there’s the price that any society pays that wants centralized power.
…without exposure to this you can fill up the word l-o-v-e with a lot of goo and have it unbalanced, so just be aware that our God is a God who gets mad, and He surely does in passages like this because it’s His Spirit that’s praying these prayers. It’s just that we have to remember that we’re praying for us, we’re praying against sin in our own life and the evil around us. It’s not like we’re praying against people who are completely damned. Remember the context in the conquest and settlement, they’re praying against Canaanites who as a culture have exceeded the limits of grace and yes, they can pray that. But in our case this imprecatory spirit can be targeted at the demonic power of principalities and powers that rule the darkness of this world.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question was why in that famous passage where an evil spirit comes upon Saul from the Lord it sounds like God is personally doing this. Well, those passages are to protect the sovereignty of God, because if God isn’t sovereign over evil, we’ve got a real problem. Think about that, it’s kind of hard to work through this but I think once you work through it you’ll see it. It’s just something you have to kind of work through. The reason the Bible is so emphatic that it’s God that hardens Pharaoh’s heart, that it’s God who sends the evil spirit on Saul is if you deny that, then it makes evil co-powerful, therefore you have good and evil co-reigning. And that situation is frightening, because in that situation the outcome is not guaranteed any longer. So that’s all those passages are doing, they’re all of the same kind of thing, you see it hundreds of times in the Scripture. And taken out of context, and taken out of balance you can get in trouble, you can become sort of a hyper-Calvinist and think oh gee, people are just puppets, and that’s not the context.
That’s why you have to read the whole story and get the whole story. The Samuel narratives are a fascinating story, and if you want to get a flavor for reading them, following an approach that I like to use with Scripture, it helps me with my powers of observation in Scripture is to pick a secular literature that has the same theme in it, and then compare the two. If you ask yourself, what is Samuel all about, it’s really a story of the rise of the monarchy, it’s the story of a dynasty, royal intrigue. Think about some novels or history books that would give you a secular counterpart to that, biographies of the House of Windsor, biographies of long reigning… you know, when all the monarchs of Europe, the Russians, the Germans and the English were all interwoven, there’s all kinds of history, I’m not a history buff in that period of history so I can’t point you to specifics but I’m sure you could find literature of that period. You could also find histories of the kings of the Pharaoh’s, and what you want to look for when you do this exercise is to ask yourself how does the secular dynasty work vs. the dynasty in Israel, because there’s a hidden invisible hand that’s working in the dynasty of Israel that’s not working in the house of Pharaoh. In the house of Pharaoh it’s all plots and whose son is going to reign by which wife, etc.
In the book of Samuel you’ll notice that the king never gets to be anointed unless he goes through the prophet. So the prophet precedes the king. Who was the prophet who anointed Saul? Samuel. Who was the prophet who anointed David? Samuel. Who was the prophet who came and straightened David out later? Nathan. You’ll see that the prophets had the role of king-makers. We sarcastically refer to the Republican and Democratic Party and we say that in the back, in the smoke-filled rooms the king makers meet, and in the Bible there were king-makers and they were the prophets. And where the prophets did not king-make, the king was illegitimate.
It’s a consistent theme throughout, and it even appears in the New Testament, because who’s the first character in the New Testament histories, Jesus or … who anointed Him? John the Baptist. So even in the New Testament the same format holds, John the Baptist is the king-maker, it is through him that Jesus is anointed and recognized. The king is always introduced to the community through the prophet and that authenticates him, that makes him legitimate. And once that authentication happens, the anointing, which is the word from which we get “Christ,” then the citizens of the nation sort of have to salute and say “yes Sir,” because this person who has now become king has been anointed by God.
The prophet himself can’t pick the king either. Do you remember the story where Samuel walks into the house of Jesse and he asks for Jesse’s children and the Lord checks Samuel and He says don’t look upon the outward appearance, I look on the heart, so there the prophet is clearly getting a supernatural direction. He’s a king-maker but he’s a king-maker because The King is telling him who to make the human king. And it’s a very supernatural process. In fact, you can argue that Samuel probably would never have picked David. Saul, by all measures that we can tell in Scripture physically and socially had it all over David. Saul was handsome, Saul was attractive, Saul was popular, he was a tall good looking man, he was a good soldier, he had all the assets, but the Lord saw something in his heart, and when Saul got the evil spirit, there’s a bigger picture there, when the evil spirit comes to dwell in Saul, and then you have this tremendously involved story that goes on for chapters and chapters, where you have the Jonathan theme.
If you think about it, who is the heir to the throne in these stories? It’s really Jonathan; he’s the heir to the throne because he’s of the Saulite dynasty. So the drama of this fantastic story is that this royal prince, the crown prince, makes friends with the man who will replace him and his father. That’s what’s so stunning about the story; it’s not some homosexual thing going on between Jonathan and David, that’s blasphemy. What’s going on is a most amazing friendship, and David protects … because obviously if you read in the ancient world when a new dynasty came in they usually eliminated everybody else because they were competitors to the throne. There you have David promised to be gracious to Jonathan. So you have a lot of this intrigue going on, it’s a neat, neat passage, a neat book to study, Samuel, because it not only gives you a sense of God working, it gives you a sense of how God works in political things.
Question asked: Clough replies: He does say that, several places. David, at this point in his life, again the larger picture to go from the details of his personal life to the larger picture, what is God doing in the book of Samuel. Just think about the macro scale here. What had the prophets promised? What’s the covenant that comes in with David? The Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7, and that controls the dynasty. Once the Davidic Covenant starts in, it’s just like the Abrahamic Covenant, once the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees the Jew historical existence you can have 18 Hitlers and the Jew will never be exterminated, he will outlive every Germany. Well, once you have David and the dynasty of David be given covenantal power, then it becomes merely a matter who in the Davidic family will reign. But it will always be the Davidic family. Nobody will ever destroy the house of David, all the way to the Messiah and the world will be literally run one day by the [can’t understand word] of David.
So the David dynasty is the most politically powerful family on the planet earth. And they’re given that power through the Davidic Covenant so that’s the big context for the court intrigue that goes on. Now the sequencing and the succession stories are all having to do with whether the next king will fill the shoes of the Messiah, and after Solomon, because Solomon finally wins out in that, it becomes very clear that no human king out of the house of David ever has enough strength of character to fulfill the role that’s necessary for the King. What you’ve got there and all the end result of those stories … it’s a commentary on centralized government, it’s to say that centralized government is needed; it is needed, but who is it that should occupy the seat of power, and the answer is it has to be a perfect person, and the perfect person was lacking, even in the house of David.
Just as earlier in the book of Judges what had failed. People had one of the most free forms of government the world has ever seen, it was a theocracy, it was practically no taxes, there was freedom on a level that we can’t even comprehend in that theocracy, it was the most free society that probably human society has ever seen. And the people didn’t like it. It broke down and the thing fell apart, so what did that argue against? It said that you can’t give power to the people because the people aren’t any good. The Davidic story says you can’t give power to the centralized government because that doesn’t work.
Do you see what’s happening, as biblical history unfolds, it’s a refutation of everything that man can do and showing that apart from regeneration we can’t function as a human race? We can’t function socially, we can’t function politically, we can’t function economically, and any other way. Now at that point in David’s life, when he’s dealing with his sons, he’s got a big problem, and the agony of the house of David is to illustrate to us the long-term consequences of sin. That’s why the stories take you through all of this, you feel like you’re going through, sort of like a puzzle or a maze of emotions, because here David is, he loves his son, now he’s got the problem of having to kill his son, but he loves his son. Then he’s got the problem, his whole house is falling apart because he’s got four or five wives, and the women are naturally loyal to their sons. Bathsheba is loyal to her son. Abigail is loyal to her son. You can’t blame the women, they’re the mothers. So now you’re got the queens inside the house reigning, multiple queens, each one preserving and demanding that her son be heir to accept the Davidic Covenant. So remember that it’s not just the guys, it’s the women in back of them that are operating, and you see that in the text. The women are very strong maneuverers in all the intrigues of the dynasty. It’s kind of neat, it’s very important that we observe that, not to knock women, but to show that women have tremendous power, and they’re explicitly stated in the Scriptures. And that knocks the idea that the feminist movement is saying today, oh the Bible was written in a patriarchal period where the men had all the power. It tells me that these ladies have never read the Scriptures.
The Davidic line gets so constricted, there’s an evil queen that finally comes into power and her job under Satan is to destroy the royal seed. And at one point the royal seed is down to a little kid that they hide in the temple, that’s a story in Kings. So the whole Davidic dynasty hangs by the thread of one boy that’s hidden away inside the temple for years. The question you get as you read these stories, is the promise of God going to come true, will this boy die, if this boy dies the promise of God goes away? So it’s like God takes you right up to the edge of the cliff, two inches away, and you feel yourself tottering on the edge, and that’s how suspenseful these stories are in the Old Testament, because they’re not just stories. We learn them in Sunday School, and we become familiar with the story, David and Goliath and all the other ones, but we fail to put them together like beads on a necklace and see the big picture, what’s going on here, it’s a magnificent portrayal of God’s hand in human history.
Take the David and Goliath story, for example. What were the credentials of the king? To be king in Israel you had to be anointed by the prophet, but that wasn’t enough. The prophetic anointing established that you were king, but you had to gain allegiance, part of being king was that you had to gain allegiance, the voluntary allegiance of the people. It wasn’t arbitrary, it had to be voluntary. So how do you gain allegiance of the people to make them want to follow you? You had to inspire them. With what? With leadership and talent. And the story of David and Goliath is a story that he had military talent. What else do you read about David in those years of his life that he also had?
[someone answers] Yes, courage, I group that with the military. What other thing do you notice? Musical, he wrote songs, etc. and he composed, half the book of Psalms is written by David. So look at who he was. These men were very unusual men by any standard. We read about David and Saul, and we’re so familiar with it we kind of think of them as just Sunday School characters or something, but if you compare what these guys did … can you imagine a President of the United States that would be a combination of say Dwight D. Eisenhower, as far as military, or perhaps George Washington, and pick some outstanding artist or musician, and imagine that all folded into one person. That multi-talent, the ability to just do anything and do it great, the kind of person that when they walk in a room people just say wow! That’s the kind of people that were supposed to be on the throne, and it lasted for two generations, then you have the biggest wimps, losers, and all kinds of guys on that throne. Then you have some men that tried to hold the line, Jehoshaphat and other guys, it’s amazing, a neat story of human intrigue. I wish we could get someone to depict this in a great film, I think it would jar people lose because if you had the right actors and actresses and good script writing, that people could just see these stories, because we live in an increasing illiterate age, probably less and less people are ever going to read the stories, because we have to see the story.