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 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 3: Kingdoms in Decline: The Discipline of Cursing
Lesson 84 – Rib Proceeding: Deuteronomy 32, Isaiah 1, Hosea 4, Micah 4, Jeremiah 24, 36
26 Mar 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We want to get into the prophets a little bit more, but to try to warm up we’ll get into things, the prophets are God’s spokesmen and historians. They operated in Israel beginning, really with Moses, because technically Moses was the first prophet. We don’t read much about them at Mount Sinai, the conquest and settlement, but they obviously are present by the time of the rise and reign of David. So we’re talking from the Exodus, 1440 BC down to David, 1000 BC, so for three or four centuries the prophets had become pretty numerous. They had become a major function in the nation. Think of them as spokesmen for God and historians for God. The reason they’re historians for God is because God enters into a contractual agreement with the nation, and there had to be historic monitors to performance. A contract always defines behavior over a time interval. These contracts were made to monitor man’s behavior and God’s behavior.
What we want to do is review the process, spiritually, that’s happening. The idea of the prophets is to bring the nation into a relationship with God, and to keep it in a relationship with God. When the nation is out of fellowship and disobedient, particularly when it’s been out of fellowship and disobedient for a time period, they can’t just start with conviction of sin. It’s not that simple, because sin can’t be defined if our picture of God is wrong and incorrect. So the prophets had a bigger job to do and the job was to show God for who He was through His works in history. So they had to constantly interpret history for the nation, constantly pull the nation back, who’s in charge here, point to the sovereignty of God. Who is doing the work, point to the omnipotence of God. Who is the One who is immutably bound to His Word? It is God, going through all the attributes, His omnipresence, His omniscience, His love, His holiness, His justice, etc.
In the notes we mentioned that the prophets worked off of several of the covenants. In the handout I made a chart on page 47 that shows these covenants.
Table Comparing the Biblical Covenants
|Covenant||Parties||Sign(s)||Legal Terms||Founding Sacrifice|
|New World (Noahic)||God; and Noahic human race & animals saved on the Ark||Rainbow||Eternal survival of human race; no more global flood||Noah’s sacrifice|
|Abrahamic||God; and Abrahamic progeny||Divine oath; Circumcision||Defined real estate; Chosen seed; and Worldwide blessing||God’s sacrifice|
|Sinaitic||God; and tribes of Israel||Sabbath||Hundreds of laws to express loyalty||Moses and elders’ sacrifice|
|God; and progeny of David||Surviving royal line||Father-son relationship; chastening but not rejection; Jerusalem-centered reign||?|
|New||God; and future nation of Israel||Jesus’ blood||National regeneration; post-dispersion regathering; worldwide dominancy||God’s sacrifice (Jesus)|
Just a quick review of the covenant structure. The middle three of those five covenants we have talked about, the Abrahamic, the Sinaitic, and the Davidic. Those are the three covenants that were the authority for the prophets, and the prophets interpreted history in light of those three covenants. I keep repeating this for the reason that every class I’ve ever taken in college and university, the guys have totally misread, I wonder sometimes if they ever read the Bible. Some of these PhDs read a lot of books about the Bible, but they never read the Bible, and they constantly try to throw this stuff out to the students that the prophets were originators; the prophets were people who cried out against the social evils of their time. Yes they did, but that wasn’t their main purpose. Their main purpose was to bring the nation into a relationship with God or you couldn’t define what evil is. You can’t talk about social evils unless you have a standard of good and bad. Where do you get the standard for good and bad? It has to come from God.
Those are the three covenants that they worked on; that’s the covenantal structure. What we’re looking at is the fact that each one of these prophets was an individual unto himself, God worked uniquely through each one. If we characterize the prophetic message, it basically has three themes to it, whether you’re looking at Micah, Jonah, Hosea, Daniel, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Hosea, Haggai, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, whatever prophetic book you’re talking about they generally are working these three themes over and over again.
The first one we’ve already studied, the theme that Jehovah is in charge of even the pagan nations. They want the nation to understand that Jehovah is sovereign, and He’s sovereign over the pagans. So while the pagan nations may be ferocious, and may come in and defeat Israel, it must never be forgotten who is behind the pagan nations. God is! Not the pagan gods and the pagan goddesses but the Jewish God is over the pagan nations. They constantly make this theme, and this is why, when you read these prophetic books, you wonder why do they have all these details, and the crying out against Nineveh, and the crying out against Moab, and the crying out against Edom. Some of these nations don’t exist today; many of them don’t exist today. Why are these little dinky nations remembered in the Scripture? Why don’t we have the big nations? Why these? Because they were big to Israel, and they had to have the assurance, even in their carnality, and even in their disobedience, that God was still sovereign. That’s why, no matter what the prophetic book is and you read that theme, you’ll see it come up again and again.
The second theme was that Israel has broken covenant. Israel has broken the Sinaitic Covenant. The significance of that statement is that because they’ve broken the covenant, they don’t merit the rule and reign of God any more. They’ve kind of cooked their goose. We want to return to where we left off on page 43. I want to point out some parts in that national anthem of Israel in Deuteronomy 32. I want you to see the structure. This was the song that ended the Sinaitic Covenant. It was Moses’ farewell to his nation, and he composed a song that was to be sung down through history. It is a song that is remembered in the book of Revelation, the song of Moses. In this song Moses develops a format that will later be used by the prophets. That format is a rib format, it is pronounced r-e-e-v, and the rib is often translated in your Bibles as “I have a case against thee, O Israel.” Some of the translations use a dispute, that’s some of the ways the English translations pick this word rib up. I mention the word because it’s a technical word and it’s important, it’s not just a randomly selected noun. This is a particular technical term that is being used by the Holy Spirit in these passages of Scripture to signify something very important is going on here.
Moses in this song actually has the three parts of the rib; the first part, second part, and third part. The first part is the court procedure or the convocation of the court. In Deuteronomy 32 the congregation of the court is in verses 1-14. If you have a modern translation you see they put a big split in the text between verses 14 and 15, to section that off. It starts off with a call to the witnesses. Just let your eyes go down verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. [2, “Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb.  For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!  The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.  They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation.  Do you thus repay the LORD, O Foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.  Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations, ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you.  When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.  For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.”]
For example, verse 10, “He found him,” that is his people, Jacob, Israel, “He found Israel in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.  Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.  The LORD alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him.  He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and he made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock.  Curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs; and rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat—and of the blood of grapes you drank wine.”
All that is in what tense? Present tense, future tense, or past tense? It’s all past tense, because the court is looking at behavior that has occurred. Has this behavior actually finished occurring when Moses wrote the song? No, it’s still going on. In verses 1-14 you have a description of what God has done for the nation. Verses 1-14 are all God did this, God did that, look at the subject of all the action verbs. In every one of those verses you’ll see the emphasis is on God, God, God, God. What happens in verse 15? Observe the text. What do you see as you shift from verse 14 to 15 and 16? Who now is the subject of the action verbs? “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—you are grown fat, thick, and sleek— then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation.” Who’s the subject? It’s the nation.
So when the court comes into session, the witnesses, verse 1, “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” They are the witnesses to the behavior of the covenant, and we believe that in verse 1 where it says “Give ear, O heavens … and let the earth hear” that it’s not just the literal heavens and the literal earth, it’s the intelligent beings that occupy these areas, in other words, an angelic witness. So there’s an angelic witness that’s convened and the court procedure in verse 1-14 is a depiction of God’s faithfulness. This is the first part, Yahweh is faithful, He has done all these things for His people.
Then the second part, in verses 15-18 there’s a shift, something is introduced, the subject changes, the action verbs now are no longer describing what God is doing, all the action verbs in verse 15, 16, 17, and 18 are verbs that are describing the action of Israel, the nation. Verse 16, “They made Him jealous with strange gods, with abominations they provoked Him to anger.  They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread.  You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth.” That’s the accusation.
The second part of a rib proceeding is the indictment. The indictment will specify what parts of the treaty were broken, what parts of God’s law have been violated. Verses 15-18 means that they have basically [violated] the first great amendment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Verses 15-18 is written to show a violation of the first commandment. And in the violation of the first commandment, they’ve violated all the other commandments. But the emphasis in verses 15-18 is the violation of the first and great commandment. There’s the indictment.
Then the next section, in verses 19-26, starts spelling out the announcement of the judgment. So in this rib, the suzerain or the Great King against the lesser kings in the treaty now announces to these people He was in alliance with, He’s saying you violated the treaty, and now comes the judgment. So he spells out the sentence. In verse 19, “The LORD saw this, and spurned them,” what’s so amazing about this chapter, this is why the people with PhD’s in university classrooms always screw up because they see that obviously verses 15-18 is describing history that’s post-Mosaic, this happened after Moses. How could Moses write what’s going to happen? He couldn’t, they think, therefore chapter 32 is all fabricated, it was written after the fact. Chapter 32 was written by the prophets who were using it to justify their social crusades. The prophetic program is substantiated by the Scripture, and Moses, under the power of the Holy Spirit could foresee the future of the nation that he founded. He wrote its national anthem to be a prophetic theme of its own history down through the centuries. That’s obviously supernatural, but you know you couldn’t have anything supernatural in the classroom.
Verse 19, “And the LORD saw this, and spurned them, because of the provocation of His sons and daughters,” watch the sentence unroll here.  “Then he said, I will hide My face from them,” what we’re looking at is back to this chart, this is how God works with us in a relationship, He has a relationship with the nation, and here’s what it looks like, this is how the Holy Spirit is unfolding how God deals with sin. The indictment of this rib proceeding is the way He is doing that. So in the imposition of the sentence, verse 20, one of the things that God does is He hides His face, He breaks fellowship; men break fellowship from Him, and He says okay, I’ll lock the door and you don’t have the key, sorry. So, “I will hide my face from them, I will see that their end shall be. For they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness.”
Verse 21, “They have made Me jealous with what is not God;” see the emphasis on the first commandment here, “they have provoked Me to anger with their idols.” How many social evils are being discussed here? This is theological evil, and the Bible does that. The first commandment is the first commandment for a very good reason. It’s transgression of the first commandment that leads to the other things. We get it all backwards. The way we try to analyze things, we try to start with a social problem, and ask ourselves, gee, the social problem, how do we solve the social problem? But if we’re thinking it’s just a social problem, we haven’t even defined the problem correctly yet. The problem isn’t a social problem; ultimately, it’s a theological problem. But because we think horizontally we don’t bring God into the analysis, so we never define what the problem is, and that’s why we never can solve the problem. “They have made me jealous…they have provoked me to anger,” notice the irony in verse 21, “So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
Verse 22, “For a fire is kindled in My anger, and burns to the lowest part of Sheol, and consumes the earth with its yield, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.”  I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them.  They shall be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague, and bitter destruction; and the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, with the venom of crawling things of the dust.  Outside the sword shall bereave, and inside terror; it shall destroy both young man and virgin, the nursling with the man of gray hairs.  I said, ‘I will cleave them in pieces, I will make the memory of them to cease from among men.” Stop, because up to there it’s all rib proceeding. Beginning in verse 27 something happens, and we’re going to deal with that. Right now we just want to see the proceeding. So we go from verses 15 through 18 for the indictment, and then we pick up in verse 19 through 26, that’s the rib pattern.
Now I want to prove it. I want you to see a parallel structure occurs in three different prophets, because I want to show you that these guys are all in cahoots. They look different; they are different men, ministering the Word of God in a different age to a different audience, with a different calling, but behind them stands the unified Spirit of God. Isaiah is one passage; Hosea is the next passage, and Micah.
Isaiah 1:2-4, “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the LORD speaks: ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me.  An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.’  Alas, sinful nation, people weighted down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.” There’s a parallel between that and verses 1-14 in Deuteronomy 32, in that you notice Isaiah convenes the same courtroom witnesses, the heavens and the earth, identical phraseology, exactly the same in the Hebrew, same idea. It’s true that in verses 3 and 4 he also brings up the corruption of the people, but those who have studied the structure of Isaiah argue that the real conviction doesn’t come until later on in the passage, in verses 5-23. We won’t debate the fine points of the formatting, but notice the parallel. Isaiah did not make this text up; do you see where he got it? Isaiah goes back to Moses, he’s building on Moses, he’s administering the covenant.
Hosea 4:1-3, “Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.” In that case Hosea is not invoking that same set of witnesses, the heavens and the earth, but the tip in the text that he has in mind the rib is that word, “the LORD has a case,” that’s the word rib, the Lord has a controversy, I think some of the King James text sometimes translate by controversy, the Lord has a controversy.” “Controversy” is an English translation of the Hebrew word for rib, so the fact that rib, that noun, is in the text tells us that Hosea is thinking in terms of a lawsuit here. And yes, he doesn’t use the same thing, but the idea is there in the text. He sees himself as bringing an announcement of the court, the convening of a court. These guys have watched the nations sin and sin and sin and rebel and rebel and rebel, and the carnality becomes compounded upon compounding upon compounding, and the Holy Spirit is addressing the nation, you’ve gone far enough, that’s it, you have broken My covenant.
Just like when the Sinaitic Covenant was given, they were playing games down at the foot of the mountain. When Moses came down, what did he do to the tablets from Mount Sinai? He broke them. Is that because he was mad? Well, he might have been mad but that’s not why he broke the tablets. He broke the tablets because it was an official recognition of the breaking of the covenant. We would say he tore up the contract. That’s what he was doing when he broke the tablets. So it was serious business and it marked a point in a relationship. In other words, a relationship had been tolerated, but when the prophets started talking like this, things had reached very serious proportion, because it meant that if the covenant was broken, what else was broken? All the promises of blessing were broken. Now the nation was on its own, no more blessings. No more promises I’m going to get you out of a military jam. No more promises I’m going to help you out economically. All those go away if you break the covenant. So the breaking of the covenant is a specific event in Old Testament history. It carried a momentous conviction of sin, because it meant basically that God’s chosen people were kicked out of His presence.
Micah 6:1-4, “Hear now what the LORD is saying: ‘Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, because the LORD has a case against His people; Even with Israel He will dispute.  My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me.  Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” Look at the text there, he’s calling on the mountains here, the heavens aren’t there, but learn to see that each prophet is an individual and uses his own terms. It’s like a musician, they have a theme but they their own style. Each of these prophets does have his own style, they’re not just copycats of each other, there is a variety among them because they’re individual men. But still can’t you see the theme is the same. Notice the text carefully, “plead your case,” it’s a courtroom language, this is all language borne of the courtroom. “Let the hills hear your voice,” look at verse 2, “Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, because the LORD has a” controversy, there it is, that’s the word rib.
We’ve looked at three different prophets and we’ve seen all three of these guys are pushing the same theme. Let’s read Micah 6: 9-12, this is the answers to the Deuteronomy section on the indictment. “The voice of the LORD will call to the city—and it is sound wisdom to fear Thy name. Hear, O tribe, who has appointed its time?  Is there yet a man in the wicked house, along with treasures of wickedness, and a short measure that is cursed?  Can I justify wicked scales and a bag of deceptive weights?  For the rich men of the city are full of violence; her residents speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.” Look at this text. Is he mentioning social evils here? He sure is. So the prophets never saw a tension between the first commandment and the other commandments. What they were doing was tracing the social evils to the fruit of violating the first commandment. In other words, people who rebel against the authority of God are out of control. The out-of-control-ness doesn’t come because ultimately I’m disobedient to my parents, or I’m disobedient to the government authorities or something like that. It ultimately comes because I’m out of control with my conscience before God, that’s where the out-of-control-ness starts. And the prophets always bring that conviction back.
There are some specific social evils that he does mention here. In verse 10, “a short measure,” does anybody have an idea what he’s getting at there? Verse 11, “wicked scales…deceptive weights?” What kind of a social crime do you think he’s talking about there? Scales and weights: What was money in that time? Money was metal; it was weighed, gold, silver, and bronze. What the evil is is the manipulation of a monetary system. That strikes home. Currency manipulation. It’s one of the great themes of the prophets. Today you never hear of it. When have you ever heard a sermon against fiat money in evangelical Christianity? In any kind of Christianity you never hear sermons about the manipulation of the monetary system. It goes on all the time but we never hear about it. Yet everybody when they get in the Book of Revelation wonder gee, what’s Babylon… and they can’t figure out what Babylon is when it’s obvious in the text. What activity of man at Babylon is cursed in the Book of Revelation? She has committed whoredom with the nations, they bought and they sold. It’s the international merchants and trading system.
What commandment is this? This is theft. Whenever you manipulate the currency you’re a thief. When you have a dollar and you no longer can buy a dollar’s worth of goods with that piece of paper, you’ve been ripped off. In other words, inflation in the Scripture is a sin. To inflate a currency is to destroy the people’s trust, and yet every nation on earth today makes inflation a habitual policy, it’s official. If you didn’t have inflation the economic implications are enormous. There are profound effects of this. But for our purposes, just understand in verse 11 the wicked scales and deceptive weights primarily are money, but they also carry over to anything else. In many areas our government is very just in verse 11. When you buy gas and look at the gas pump you’ll see there’s a seal from the State of Maryland on that gas pump. It’s supposedly calibrated so when that thing is going around, when it says you’ve got $10.00 worth of gas that you’ve got 10.00 worth of gas, that that little sucker isn’t in there with an extra gear ripping you off, because you’d never know it. That’s an example of a weight and a measure in normal business deals.
Why do you suppose the prophets attacked this sin? They attacked other things, but why do you attack weights and measures so heavily? Why is this put on a plain with violating the first commandment? I think the answer is that every human relationship relies on standards of truth to conduct business or to conduct any relationship. If you’re going to manipulate those you have just ruptured trading relationships, everything goes down the drain because nobody can trust anybody any more. You’ve just destroyed society right there. Yes, the other sins are there but this is a critical form of thievery because its net result is distrust and a rupture of human communications.
In Hosea 4:2 is an indictment again, “There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.” This is going on in God’s nation, just look at the list of sin here. We say that’s God’s chosen people. Yes it is, and they have sin natures like everybody else. That’s the behavior of Hebrew Old Testament people; it’s being attacked in verse 2. I have a friend who gave his dad a Bible; his father was reading the Bible for the first time in his life and he says wow, look what they did back then, this book has sex in it, it’s got violence, it’s got everything. That’s right, because it’s describing the human race the way it is. The problem with it is that we tend to think that now that we’ve got the truth of the Scriptures is that gee, we’ve got a lot of violence and some of it is X-rated material in here. That’s right, but why it’s here isn’t the same reason it’s in pagan literature. The difference is that the X-rated material is in this book deliberately underneath the authority of God. That’s the difference between pornography and truth. The difference is that literature that is honest, that does depict all the sins of the human existence, and interprets it underneath the authority and standard of God is not pornographic. It’s not pornographic because there’s a standard of judgment there.
That’s the point that’s made in Hosea, this is a sin list. They employed violence, this is violence! We talk about we don’t want violence on TV, but if you were to depict dramatically what is going on in the prophets day you would have to have sex and violence, because that’s what they’re talking about. The difference being, however, that it’s being interpreted for what it is. It’s truth in labeling. This is violent and it’s here and it’s destructive and here’s why it is, because men have departed from God Himself.
Now we come back to Isaiah 1:10-15, “Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah.  What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? Says the LORD. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats.  When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?  Bring your worthless offerings no longer, their incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.  I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them.  So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you, Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen.” See how blunt this was. Can you imagine how this sounded if you were to say this in normal language of the street? This is tough stuff here.
Notice now, we hit the theme of monetary manipulation in Micah; we hit the theme of social evils in Hosea. What area of social life are we seeing in Isaiah here? Religious. The temple. The prophets were wide ranging. They took every area of life and could point sin, sin, sin, sin, sin sin. And they had a dramatic way of showing this. This is something very obvious in this passage. Look at verses 10-15 what do you notice different than you would if you just saw: it’s a violation of law 218.5? This is violation of law 613.5. This is a violation of law 2213. What’s the difference, looking at what I just did and verses 10-15? What is the violation against? The way I was just mimicking it’s against a piece of paper that’s written. It’s just a violation of a law, just a violation of a rule. The legal profession has done this one on us, not all lawyers, but the legal profession has basically fallen victim to a pagan view of law, and the outworking of that is that law becomes only what is written or what the judge says it is.
The difference, the powerful difference in the Bible in verses 10-15 is what? What theme takes you away from mere law in verses 10-15? The verbs; who’s the object of the verbs? It’s God, I’m offended, My soul is horrified at this. So what can we say about verses 10-15 to distinguish our biblical view of law from the pagan lawyer today. The pagan lawyer is basically a technician, he wants to see if we’ve violated this law and how far can we go before we violate this law. It becomes a chess game. That’s not what you read in the Scripture. In the Scripture you’ve ticked off God. Never mind the details of the law, that’s all there, and that’s valid because He told you, but the problem is I’m not dealing with a piece of paper, I’m not dealing with what some judge in your court said fifteen years ago in the law books and this is the precedent that’s being applied to the case. Rather it’s a bigger idea, we have angered God and He’s angry at us. That tends to clarify the air, it blows all the smoke away and we get down to the real issue.
Observe this; this is a biblical trait. We mentioned it earlier when we said what was the difference between the Mosaic Law and the Code of Hammurabi? You read the codes of Hammurabi and all the ancient near eastern codes and what do you see? If so and so does this, then we do this; if so and so does this, then we do this. But when you come over to the Mosaic Law, I Jehovah, O Israel, have redeemed you, here’s how I want you to live, for Me, so we can live together, I can be your God, and you can be My people. There’s a world of difference, and as Christians we want to become sensitive to this, because this is the difference between walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh; it’s the difference between grace and law, in a bad sense. Legalism has a pagan view of law. Legalism is I have to fit this rule, this rule, this rule and this rule. Grace says have I got the picture together here, Who’s calling the shots? God is calling the shots and it’s with Him that I have to do. And it’s Him that I’m trying to please.
I’ve often wondered if someone could produce a drama of Jesus walking through the fields on the Sabbath day, with his disciples, flipping the grain, and eating them, right on the Sabbath day. And the Pharisees sitting there, just like a typical lawyer, ooh, that’s a violation of a law, ooh, let’s check this out, man, this is paragraph 31.10 says you can’t do that on the Sabbath day. And they’re telling Him what to do on the Sabbath! Excuse me! He created the world. Who spoke the first Sermon on the Mount? This is why He had such bad words to say for the Pharisees. If you want to see Jesus get hot in the Gospels, He goes after the Pharisees. He doesn’t go after the prostitutes or the crooks; He goes after the Pharisees, the lawyers of the time. Why? Because they had the gall to tell Him what His own law meant.
We want to understand the tension, because we Christians live in this tension because we have a false, false, false view of law today. There’s not one person in ten out there that understands what law is all about. You don’t understand what law is all about until you see it through the eyes of these prophets. These guys had it right; these guys knew what law was all about, because these guys gave us real law in history. It was the law of Jehovah. Law was not the product of man; it was God’s revelation, what pleases Him and displeases Him. That’s why, notice he says at the end of verse 15, you get through all this religion, “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you, yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen.” And what’s that last clause, “Your hands are full of bloodshed.” Why won’t He listen, because you people are violent, you kill people in your hearts and you kill people in the streets, and you dare to walk into My presence and hold your hands up to Me and there’s blood all over them. This is indictment.
What you’re seeing is professional in the biblical godly sense, these guys are the prophets, these are the tough guys, and what you’re watching is the Spirit of God pound away at this, divine chastening until conviction of sin happens. That’s why these prophets… and I urge you to read them if you’ve never read the prophets, pick out one of these guys and look for these themes. Try to pick a modern translation if you can, just so you can get some of the more contemporary every day English. Just feel what these prophets are saying. [blank spot]
… to the announcement of Judgment. Since we’re in Isaiah, turn to Isaiah 1:24, because here comes the judgment theme. Here is the third part of this rib proceeding. Remember Moses said back in the national anthem, okay, the covenant is broken, now God lowers the boom. In Isaiah’s time, verse 24, “Therefore the Lord God of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel declares, ‘Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries, and avenge Myself of My foes  I will also turn My hand against you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye, and will remove all your alloy.” He’s saying I’m going to go get you now. We all agree, you’ve broken covenant, you didn’t want to live under My reign, so now I don’t have to do anything for you. It’s really fierce here. This is the imagery you get when you hear somebody say I don’t like the God of the Old Testament, He’s really a meany. He’s not a meany; He was the One who redeemed this nation, the nation turned against Him. All we’re seeing that makes Him look like a meany is His holiness. This is what holiness looks like when it breaks out and we’re behind the 8-ball, when you’re on the receiving end of His holiness.
Turn to Hosea 4:3, “Therefore the land mourns, and every one who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky; and also the fish of the sea disappear.” In that passage you read about the environment. In other words, when God judges… remember one of the themes we studied last year and the year before, judgment/salvation. I said it’s true in the Exodus; it was true in the Noahic flood. When God judges, He doesn’t just judge man, He judges nature with man. There’s always a duality to God’s judgments. It’s never man isolated from his ecology; it’s man and his ecological environment, both share. Do you know why that’s so? Because what did God say to Adam? Who’s responsible for the ecological environment? Man is. So man and his environment, which represents his domain, are judged; both man and nature are judged in the Scripture, not just man.
Micah 6:13, “So also I will make you sick, striking you down, desolating you because of your sins.  You will eat, but you will not be satisfied, and your vileness will be in your midst. You will try to remove for safekeeping, but you will not preserve anything, and what you do preserve I will give to the sword.  You will sow but you will not reap. You will tread the olive but will not anoint yourself with oil; and the grapes, but you will not drink wine.” Again the indictment. I think we’ve made the point that this is a proceeding, which I hope will give you, an idea of how these guys worked. This is a great depiction of how these guys worked.
I want to go to a passage in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 22:24, we want to look at how far God did discipline His nation; it’s scary. Recall the Davidic Covenant; the terms of the Davidic Covenant were that the royal line would survive. That was promised David. But the problem was David was a king inside the nation. If I’m David and I’m the line, I’m standing in the palace of the king, I’m sitting in the throne of David, I’m a person who’s occupying an office, and the office is the monarchy. The monarchy, according to Samuel, was contingent. What did Samuel threaten the nation with? First of all, you shouldn’t have asked for it the way you did, now you’re got it you’re going to have a problem with it. And if you keep on messing around with God, you and your king are going to go out the window. So here we have a tension again in the prophets between the sovereign promise that the Davidic line is going to survive and the contingency of the monarchy in a sinful nation.
Watch what happens in Jeremiah 22:24, this precipitated a major problem. We’re talking here about the king on the southern throne. Why the southern throne? Because that’s the throne of David. The northern throne was apostate, besides the northern kingdom had gone into captivity at this point. The Holy Spirit, through Jeremiah, makes an announcement that basically shocks the nation like nothing before. “‘As I live,’ declares the LORD, ‘even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pull you off;  and I shall give you over into the hand of those who are seeking your life, yes, into the hand of those whom you dread, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.  I shall hurl you and your mother who bore you into another country where you were not born, and there you will die.  But as for the land to which they desire to return, they will not return to it.  Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known?” It goes on, Jeremiah is a very powerful prophet, look at verse 29, “O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD!  Thus says the LORD, Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days;” and look at this, think of this in light of the Davidic Covenant, “for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.”
It looks like He’s destroyed the Davidic Covenant, because this says that the royal line that was so carefully preserved in the southern kingdom is cut off. No more, this is the end, no more kings in Israel. The next guy that happens to sit on the throne is an uncle, he’s not a son. Coniah is also called Jehoiakin; there are two guys with similar names here. The fellow in verse 24 is Jehoiakim; Coniah’s other name is Jehoiakin; you can always remember the order because “m” comes before “n” in the alphabet. There are two guys and their names are identical except for the last letter: Jehoiakim and Jehoiakin. The curse is on the son of Jehoiakim, who is Jehoiakin or Coniah, that’s the same name. And God says that that’s it, I’m shutting down the monarchy.
How can God do that and keep alive His promise to David? That question is never answered in the Old Testament, ever. That is an abiding mystery, it was a conflict, it was one of those inscrutable paradoxes the Old Testament saints had to live through. In the New Testament it’s answered.
In Jer. 36:30, lest we misinterpreted the first announcement, here’s the same announcement all over again, in all of its boldness. I’m showing you these passages because you want to see how dramatically the Lord took the seriousness of breaking covenant. Right now He is taking His own nation apart piece by piece, brick by brick and He’s taking out the monarchy. “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: ‘He shall nave no one to sit on the throne of David,” he’s sitting but Coniah, his son, is not going to, “and his dead body shall be cast out into the heat of the day and the frost of the night.’  I shall also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I shall bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them—but they did not listen.  Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the son of Neraiah, the scribe, and he wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire,” what had happened was the king didn’t like Jeremiah, so he threw the scroll in the fire. I don’t like the Word of God, I’m going to put it in the wastepaper basket, I don’t like to hear it. Okay, you’ll hear it someday.
The point is this shows the rebellion on the part of the leaders. The leaders were so hardened at this point in their lives that when a prophet from God Himself came into their presence.… Compare this to David. Nathan comes in after David had sinned and David repents within minutes. These guys not only don’t repent, now they’re so angry at God that they burn up the Word of God. So God says okay, I’ll take out the throne then, see how you like that one. And thus endeth the throne of David!
So it sets up a tension. How this is related we won’t cover this year, we’ll cover it next year when we deal with the Lord Jesus Christ, but in the New Testament this is why, if you read in the Gospel of Matthew, and you look in the Gospel of Luke you always have some nitwit professor try this on Christian students in the classroom, they’ll say there are two genealogies in the New Testament and they’re in conflict, see, there are areas in the Bible that contradict, see students, you stupid little fundamentalist students, and ridicule them. One Christian on the University of Texas campus was working with some girls and the girls said the professor started the class with, well any of you students out there who believes in biblical Christianity you can forget it because by the end of this semester I’m going to undo your faith. If it had been a homosexual and he said that, guess what would have happened? The Christians are the targets of opportunity; you can’t attack anybody in society and get away with it except the evangelical Christians.
The idea here is that in the New Testament Jesus Christ has to be related to David two ways or He can’t be the Messiah. Jesus Christ has to be related back to David to fulfill prophecy in his genes. Jesus had no genetic father, so that means somewhere Mary has to carry the genes of David. Mary’s genealogy is in Luke and she gets tracked back to David, through another one of David’s sons, not Solomon. On the other hand, Joseph carries his lineage through the throne side of the David line all the way back; you can trace his genealogy and it doesn’t match the one in Luke, the reason is because there’s two genealogies. The reason is because there are two parents. Jesus has to, at the same time be a physical son of David, able to sit on the throne, he has to carry the royal authority of David, but He can’t be the child of Jehoiakim, because he falls under the curse of Jeremiah 22. It looks like, if you just read Jeremiah, that God has really fouled Himself up here, but as we always say, God is an infinitely finesse chess player; He makes a move on the board and it looks like He’s aced His own position, then all of a sudden you find you you’re the one that God aced, not God.
This is how He did it. He moved here to remove the monarchy, and apparently destroyed His promise and then it comes gloriously true in the person of Christ in the way nobody would ever have dreamed. Who would have thought that Joseph as a teenage boy, and his girlfriend, each of them carried a genetic line back, so intricately interwoven with the Davidic Covenant that this young couple was picked out, in many, many different ways, it’s not just that the angel spoke to them though he did, it was the fact that from the birth of Joseph as a young boy and Mary as a young girl, they were set up in this elaborate structure of cursings and blessings, down through history, mapped out under the sovereign of God, so they could be the perfect couple that would bring the Son of God into the world as the son of David. An amazing story!
Question asked: Clough replies: What’s amazing about the prophets is that they appear to come from all segments of society. The Levites were a priesthood issue, and they were limited. The prophets seemed to be called, Amos and some of the others felt very inferior because they wondered why did God call me, I’m just a businessman, I’m just a lowly person.
Same guy says something: Clough says: They all did, and some of them we would consider somewhat eccentric, some had very eccentric personalities; Elijah was one that had quite an eccentric personality and Ezekiel was another one. Some of them were weird people, others were in high places. If you trace Isaiah’s role, I don’t know the role of his family but functionally in society Isaiah would be today like an advisor to the President, that high. Daniel, who technically you could argue whether he’s a prophet or not, but he did prophecy whether he was technically a prophet or not, Daniel was the foreign minister of what today is the nations of Iraq and Iran. One of our Iranian members always says of his homeland that they screwed up when they fired Daniel. But there’s a case where the prophets were very high up in the order. Then there was the prophet who served under Ahab, because he hid the other prophets. So you had guys in all levels, from the guy in the street all the way up to the King’s court, they could be prophets. I think this probably bothered people because you never could predict through which channel is the Word of God going to come. He always kept people guessing.
Question asked: Clough replies: The judges in the book of Judges also were people called out with no family background and particular tribal allegiance. But their ministry seemed to be more related to what we would call political leader. They had charisma as leaders, some of them were military officers, others were men who were very astute, and some of them were just characters. We often think of a judge as a “judge,” that’s the problem, the word doesn’t connote the right thing, because we think of a judge as somebody in a court with a black robe or something. How would you reconcile the image you have in your head of a judge today with a goon like Samson. It just doesn’t fit, so something is wrong with the way we’re looking at the word “judge,” and I think it’s just these were just charismatic leaders who were able to get a following. It’s interesting, Deborah is considered to be a judge, and what’s her role? She comes in as a very famous Hebrew illustration of a woman in charge of a nation. We see it, like Margaret Thatcher today, and the context that you get of Deborah’s ministry is that she had to do what she had to do because the guy that was supposed to do it didn’t. In fact, it’s so silly that in the text, when they go into battle, the guy that was supposed to lead the nation says I’m not going to go into battle unless you come with me. So there was a problem there.
Question asked: Clough replies: He’s referring to those kings who Omri, the Omri’s were the longest dynasty in the northern kingdom; there were several of them. In fact, they were so long that in archeology there’s on authenticated monarchy reign that we have written in the Scripture about the house of Omri. But he’s addressing past history, and it dates that passage for you, because it tells you when that passage was written. All these prophets, these guys were kind of neat and it’s refreshing if you have never read the prophets, just to get in and read it a little bit. Don’t try to read them all; don’t try to read the prophetic books from one end to the next unless you work that way. The better way is just dip in and try one, just try one, and if you have a Bible background book, read a little bit about the history, or get a chart that shows you which prophet worked in which kingdom, and always think in terms of the fact that those guys are rooted in a contemporary political situation. Even, in fact, the prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ in Isaiah 7 is related to a thing that happened in the king’s court. It was a contemporary thing that happened, and he was not talking, apparently, he was not talking about way off in the future, he was talking about something that was going on then. But he talked about it in such a way that it was a loaded conversation that had fulfillment in the future. It’s quite an amazing situation.
Next time we’ll go into why we stopped reading in chapter 32. I said we’ve gone through two themes of the prophets, that Yahweh rules over the pagans, and we’ve looked at the fact that the Davidic Covenant is broken. Now we want to see the third theme, and this is a theme that tends to resolve the tension, and this will be the theme that sets up the whole prophetic outlook to the New Testament. The rib proceeding is followed up to a point when the Sinaitic Covenant is broken, and then something else happens, and we’ll look at that next week.