troop?

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troop“So all who were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers’ households, from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go forth for military service in Israel, even all the numbered men were six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty” (Num. 1:45-46). These verses record the total number of men who were eligible for military service that came out of Egypt at the Exodus. If we add women and children to this number, many biblical scholars estimate that perhaps two million Jews made the Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. There are several problems with such a large number, outlined by Professor Colin J. Humphreys of Cambridge University.

First, there are some internal inconsistencies with the numbers in the book of Numbers. As an example, the number of firstborn males a month old or more was 22,273, according to Numbers 3:43. That being the case, and given about one million males (assuming that half of the two million Jews were males), this means that the average mother must have had about 100 children—very unlikely! Second, it is hard to imagine such a massive number of people moving and surviving in the desert for forty years, even given the manna, quail, and water. Another problem with such a large number arises when we read Deuteronomy 7:7—“It was not because you were more numerous than all the peoples that Jehovah has set His affection on you and has chosen you, for you were the fewest of all the peoples.” Two million is a very large number, yet the Scriptures indicate that the Jews at that time were the fewest of all the peoples.

Humphreys has discovered that one little word in the ancient Hebrew may have been mistranslated, and that is the word for “thousand.” It turns out that this word can also be translated as “troop” (i.e. military unit). It would certainly make sense to translate this word as “troop,” since Exodus 13:18b says, “And the children of Israel went up arrayed for battle out of the land of Egypt.” When the word is rendered thus, as “troop,” then seventy-four thousand six hundred (those men numbered of the tribe of Judah, for example—Num. 1:27) would read 74 troops and 600 men [total]. When the word “troop” is used, all the numbers in the book of Numbers match up beautifully (with the exception of a few minor deviations for which Humphreys gives very thoughtful and reasonable explanations—see P.S.S. below), and the total number of men of military age is 5,550 rather than 603,550. This translates to roughly 20,000 Jews exiting Egypt instead of two million, and internal inconsistencies, both with the numbers in the book of Numbers and the numbers elsewhere in the Bible, are resolved. Humphreys published his amazing work in the leading Old Testament journal Vetus Testamentum (1998, vol. 48, pp. 196-213).

If Humphreys’ work is correct, he will have to figure out how to explain the numbers in Exodus 38:25-26, where the number of men again is mentioned as 603,550, but where the amount of silver given (100 talents and 1,775 shekels, which was given as a half shekel per person) is a far more reasonable match for 603,550 men than for 5,550 men. I will email him and get back to you with his response.

Once again we see that one word can potentially change everything!

P.S.—Professor Humphreys, by the way, has also published a very fascinating book entitled The Miracles of Exodus (2003, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York) in which he presents very sound scientific explanations of all the miraculous things that happened in the Exodus story, including the identification of the real Mount Sinai—a volcano in Saudi Arabia.

P.S.S.—Anticipating some questions about how the numbers of the tribes add up according to Humphreys’ work, let me briefly outline it here: Reuben had 46,500 men or 46 troops and 500 men; Simeon had 59,300 men or 59 troops and 300 men; Gad had 45,650 men or 45 troops and 650 men; Judah had 74,600 men or 74 troops and 600 men; Issachar had 54,400 men or 54 troops and 400 men; Zebulun had 57,400 men or 57 troops and 400 men; Ephraim had 40,500 men or 40 troops and 500 men; Manesseh had 32,200 men or 32 troops and 200 men; Benjamin had 35,400 men or 35 troops and 400 men; Dan had 62,700 men or 62 troops and 700 men; Asher had 41,500 men or 41 troops and 500 men; and Naphtali had 53,400 men or 53 troops and 400 men. Thus, current Bibles record 603,550 men, whereas Humphreys’ numbers add up to 598 troops and 5,550 men. Humphreys suggests that the original readers would have understood that there were 598 “troops” (instead of “thousand”) and 5,550 men, but that at a later date the original meaning of “troop” was lost, and a scribe conflated the numbers and recorded it as 598 “thousand” and 5 “thousand” 550 men (i.e. 598,000 + 5,550 = 603,550).

seed

The following is a guest post by Don.

In the Bible one word can change everything. In Galatians 3:16, one letter changes everything. “To Abraham were the promises spoken and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to the seeseedds,’ as concerning many, but as concerning one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.”

Here God’s promise was not spoken to a multitude of individuals but to one specific descendent of Abraham, Jesus Christ. Certainly He is qualified to receive God’s promised blessing, but where does the singular word “seed” leave us?

Fortunately Galatians 3:26-29 answers this question: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ….you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are of Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.”

Faith and the reality (not the ritual) of baptism bring us into an organic union with Christ. Thus we become men “of Christ” and hence we are part of the corporate “Abraham’s seed.” As a result, in Christ we inherit God’s promised blessing!

also

The following is a guest post by Don.

Knowing a person we recently met or have only heard about is a difficult matter. Nevertheless, a number of people in the gospels recognized something special about Jesus. Some called Him a prophet (e.g. Luke 7:16) and others sensed His wisdom despite His apparent lack of education (e.g. Matt. 13:54).

A centurion in the Roman army (Matt. 8:5-13) recognized and spoke something important about the Lord Jesus. For a person in any army to say “I am a man under authority” is trivial. Every soldier is under authority. But this centurion added one word. In speaking to Jesus he said, “I also am a man under authority” (v. 9).

The “also” clearly indicates the centurion recognized Jesus as a man under authority, the authority of the heavens. Because the centurion knew Jesus was under authority, he also knew that Jesus could give orders, as he himself gave orders to his soldiers.

Therefore the centurion asked Jesus to speak a word, to give a command, to heal his servant (v. 8). The Lord spoke the word and the servant was healed (v. 13). The Lord also said that the centurion had great faith (v. 10).

May we be like this centurion in speaking out what we see in Jesus and in exercising faith to trust what we see in Him.

Look now toward the heavens

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Stars

Abraham was old and his wife was barren. Looking at his situation and environment, he had no hope of having any descendants. At this juncture God stepped in and spoke a very encouraging word to Abraham: “…Look now toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your seed be” (Gen. 15:5). That exhortation by God changed Abraham’s whole perspective. Instead of looking at himself and his pitiful situation, he looked away to the universe and its Author! Verse 6 continues, And he [Abraham] believed Jehovah, and He accounted it to him as righteousness.”

This morning in my quiet time with the Lord, I was feeling sad and depressed about a particular situation in my life. The more I considered it, the more depressed and helpless I felt. I opened my daily devotional, and this Scripture was there for my prayer and fellowship with the Lord. As I began to chew on verse 5, the Lord was speaking these same words to me today—“Look now toward the heavens!…Look now toward the heavens!…Look now toward the heavens!” I cannot express how liberated I became! The weight of depression and oppression quickly dissipated due to a precious word from the Lord.

A is for Adam, and C is for Christ

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abc-blocks-300x133The New England Primer, the first textbook printed in America, was the beginning textbook for school children for about the first 200 years of our country (1690 to 1900). The initial lessons of the Primer introduce the alphabet with a biblical rhyme for each letter:

A—In Adam’s fall / We sinned all.
B—Heaven to find, / The Bible mind.
C—Christ crucify’d / For sinners dy’d.
D—…

On several occasions when I was in graduate school, I heard a certain older Christian brother use the particular expression “A is for Adam, and C is for Christ” when he was speaking to college students. He was obviously playing off of the children’s rhyme from The New England Primer and applying it to our pursuit of good grades in school. He would share with the college students that Christ is our life and the church is our living, and that, as students, we should not develop a habit of letting our education get in the way of us giving ourselves to morning revival, Bible reading, attending the regular meetings of the church, or even attending the conferences. Otherwise, later in life we will have many more excuses for missing the meetings with the Lord and with the church, and we will be robbed of the experience of Christ and the church life.

Some student might argue, “I have a paper due tomorrow, so I cannot attend the prayer meeting tonight.” Another may claim, “I have two exams next week, so I cannot attend the college conference this weekend.” This older brother’s phrase was addressing this kind of thought or attitude without mincing words: “A is for Adam, and C is for Christ.” In other words, if you study all weekend (and that is a big if), you might get an “A” on your exams, but you missed Christ. Would you rather get an “A” and miss Christ, or get a “C” and gain Christ? Old Adam will always have a good excuse, a valid excuse, an excuse that no one can argue with. No, this older brother was not promoting that we neglect our human responsibilities, but he knew full well that the college years were a person’s golden years. A person has more free time in his college years than he ever will for the rest of his life. If he makes excuses for missing morning revival or Bible reading or the meetings of the church when he is in college, do we think that he will have fewer excuses when he is working for IBM, when he has a wife, when he has children? Surely the excuses (and very good and reasonable excuses) will be endless then. But if the college student develops the habit of giving Christ the preeminence, then the impact on the rest of his life is far-reaching indeed. Incidentally, we heard many stories of students who, despite having exams the week after the conference, went to the conference and gained Christ and also did well on their exams. They did their best to organize their time and study beforehand, and the Lord really honored their consecration.

I will never forget the summer of 1993. That was the time I was wrapping up my PhD dissertation and preparing for the defense. It was also time for a semi-annual training on Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (28 messages). The training would last for two weeks and end on July 19th. My defense was scheduled for the morning of Monday, July 20th. Should I forego the training this year and study like crazy for these two weeks? By the Lord’s mercy I chose Christ and registered for the training. The initial impression I had in the first messages is unforgettable: “Moses My servant is dead; now then arise, and cross over this Jordan, you and all this people…. And the waters [of the Jordan]…stood and rose up in a heap a great distance away” (Joshua 1:2; 3:16a). On July 20th, 1993, something almost unheard of occurred. I stepped into the “Jordan River”, the waters rolled back in a heap, and I walked through on dry land—the oral defense in front of the faculty of that Department took about 15 minutes, and I walked into the full-time service of my Lord.

“A is for Adam, and C is for Christ” is an expression that is absolutely full of rich meaning for me. Having been married now for more than two decades and in the process of raising two children, I can testify that the habits I developed in college (because of the kind of speaking outlined above) are still paying dividends today. I have never regretted giving Christ the preeminence in my life in many practical ways.

Colossians 1:18—And He is the Head of the Body, the church; He is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that He Himself might have the first place in all things;

Christians on Campus is not a cult

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Christians on Campus cult rumor

When I began my graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, I encountered a wonderful Christian group called Christians on Campus (I’ve mentioned this in my very first blog post entitled “Christians on Campus”). I learned so much about the Bible every time I met with them, and my experience of Christ grew. However, I was advised by an acquaintance to beware of this group. She said she had heard from someone else that Christians on Campus was a cult. That one word “cult” evoked in me all kinds of negative feelings and thoughts. I even stopped meeting with the group for a period of time in order to sort through this matter. I compared what I heard from this “concerned” person with what I had experienced of Christ and learned from the Bible during the previous six months of fellowship. In the end, I realized that what I had heard from this acquaintance did not match with what I had actually experienced with Christians on Campus. I decided to dismiss the so-called warning as a rumor and continued to fellowship with the group. Yet that one, little word “cult” nearly caused me to miss out on real and meaningful Christian fellowship. Unfortunately, many young Christians have been totally derailed in their pursuit of Christ because of some loosely tossing around that one word, “cult.”

The story behind the rumor

The word “cult” is a powerful, emotionally-charged buzzword. It evokes suspicion, fear, and distrust. How could a Christian group which rendered me so much help be casually referred to by others as a cult? How could a Christian group which has been on a major university campus for over 30 years come to be called a cult?

Although “warnings” like the one I received may be innocently passed on by fellow Christians with a good intention, it turns out that the source of these rumors is intentionally harmful. These rumors about Christians on Campus being a cult originate from an article published by Rachael Alterman in a UT magazine entitled UtmosT in 1991 (which went out of business a couple of years later). I was a graduate student at UT then, and was very much aware of the situation. Prior to this, a friend of hers (L. Wimberly, a member of Campus Crusade for Christ), had published in The Daily Texan campus newspaper on May 1, 1990, a very damaging article about Christians on Campus being a cult. Within a week, both the editor and managing editor published an apology, stating that they deeply regretted the many errors in Ms. Wimberly’s story, especially the use of the word “cult” (The Daily Texan, May 7, 1990). After the apology was printed, Ms. Wimberly, intending to get revenge for being “called on the carpet” for seriously unprofessional journalism, prompted her friend Rachael Alterman to publish an article in UtmosT magazine.

Persecution among Christians

The sad truth is that name-calling and mudslinging often occur between fellow Christian groups. Obviously, this is extremely detrimental to the unity of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10; John 17:21). What’s worse is when this happens without any attempt to meet face to face and discuss perceived issues. Or still worse, when it is purposefully done despite knowing the facts are different. It turns out this is the case with the article that was written about Christians on Campus. All of the information in Rachael Alterman’s 1991 UtmosT article was a rehashing of material from the 1970’s when the cult frenzy in America was at its heyday (please see http://christiansoncampus.us). The original material itself was judged false and libelous on June 5, 1985 in the Superior Court of the State of California. Judge Leon G. Seyranian concluded that every single accusation in that material was false, defamatory, unprivileged, and therefore libelous. Thus, the charges Alterman levies against Christians on Campus are simply unwarranted.

Christian Research Institute claimed “We Were Wrong”

In contrast to the UtmosT article, Christian Research Institute (CRI) took the time to reassess Christians on Campus and their supporting churches and reached a very different conclusion in 2009. They decided to look into these rumors for the same reasons I did—things just weren’t lining up. President of CRI, Hank Hanegraaff, put it this way:

“What happens when someone looks you in the eye involved in a ministry and tells you point blank, ‘No, what you say we believe is not really what we believe?’ So we started six years ago, now almost seven years ago, a primary research project, and out of that we ended up doing an article in the Christian Research Journal which ended up encompassing the entirety of the journal. The words on the cover of the journal were ‘We Were Wrong.’ The reason that we overtly communicated we were wrong is because truth matters.”  (Watch Hank Hanegraaff speaks at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ6GUTbkHkE)

CRI was the original source of the research that was used to write the material back in the 1970’s. However, after six years of primary research and extensive dialogue they concluded that Christians on Campus and their supporting churches are not only not a cult theologically or sociologically, but have much to offer. At a club meeting at the University of Southern California in October 2011 where he was a guest speaker, Hank Hanegraaff stated that “in the case of Christians on Campus, for example, this is an organization that holds to essential Christian doctrine.” (For the whole video see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws0zrzWp2Qo.)

Gretchen Passantino, who participated in this dialogue, described the group in 2009 as “orthodox but startlingly vibrant” and that Christians who meet with them will find “sound theology, enriching worship, challenging discipleship, and enthusiastic evangelism opportunities.” This resonates with the deep joy and meaningful fellowship I experienced from my own years at UT with Christians on Campus.

More on CRI’s assessment can be found in the entire issue of Christian Research Journal they devoted to the topic entitled, “We Were Wrong: A Reassessment of the ‘Local Church Movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee,” 2009, Vol. 32, No. 6.

Jesus a serpent

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Everyone is familiar with JohBronze serpentn 3:16—“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life.” But, who ever remembers that in the context of this verse Jesus refers to Himself as a serpent?: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believes into Him may have eternal life” (vv.14-15). What?! Jesus a serpent?! To get the light on this startling statement, we must go back to Numbers 21 and study the account there.

After the children of Israel had been led by Moses out of bondage in Egypt, it says that they became impatient on the way and spoke against God and against Moses. God’s reaction was to send fiery serpents among the people, which bit the people so that many people of Israel died. Realizing they had sinned, the people repented to Moses and asked him to pray for them that God would take away the serpents. God then instructed Moses to fashion a serpent out of bronze and set it on a pole so that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Now, in John 3:14, Jesus indicated that Moses’ bronze serpent was actually a figure of Himself. In the same way that the bronze serpent had the likeness of a poisonous snake but not the poison, Christ came in the likeness of the flesh of sin (Romans 8:3), yet He did not have the sin nature (Hebrews 4:15). And as the bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole, so Christ was lifted up on the cross. All who look upon Him, believing and thus receiving God’s way of redemption, shall live!

It is amazing how one word can shake us out of our comfort zone (or what we think we know) and propel us into the depths of the truth.

signs

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WineIn the Gospel of John, chapter 2, one finds the famous story of Jesus changing water into wine. It was during a wedding in Cana of Galilee, when the original wine had run out, that Jesus performed this miracle. Interestingly, the Bible does not refer to this wondrous event as a miracle, but, rather, as a sign. Verse 11 says, “This beginning of signs Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee.” If it were just a miracle, then we could quickly dispense with that story and move on to the next chapter. But, because the Bible refers to this as a sign, we are compelled to slow down and consider. That one word causes us to linger and ponder over the SIGNificance of this event. And, in so doing, we come to realize that nearly every word or phrase in this story is full of meaning.

A very brief explanation of the significance of this story, found in the footnotes of the Recovery Version Bible, goes something like this:

Jesus comes in resurrection (the third day) to weak and fragile people (signified by the name Cana, which means a land of reeds and refers to a place of weak and fragile people). The people are in the enjoyment of their human life (wedding feast). Wine, signifying the human life (which is the source of man’s enjoyment), runs out. This means that human life comes to an end as man, signified by the number six (man being created on the 6th day) and stone water pots (pointing to man being a vessel), gets filled up with death (filled to the brim with water—stagnant water in the Bible signifies death). Then Jesus changes the water (the death which fills man) into wine, the best wine, signifying the new life, the divine, eternal life.

Indeed, we discover that the life we receive through regeneration is much better than our natural life. Such is the man (or woman) who is born again!

whosoever

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Because the last two months have been so demanding and hectic, I was not able to post anything for July and August. But a 21-hour transit back to Texas from South Africa provided opportunity to consider a series of posts inspired by a recent reading through the Gospel of John.

Crowd in IcelandJohn chapter 1 is the introduction to the biography of Christ that shows Him to be the very God Himself incarnate. Our human, religious concept concerning approaching the Almighty God of the universe and being accepted by Him may be one fraught with trepidation or anxious hesitation. Thus, when our eyes come to verse 12 and read the word “as many as received Him,” we may be taken aback with bewilderment. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name” (John 1:12). “As many as received Him” means “anyone who received Him” or “whosoever received Him.” This is absolutely astounding! One need not climb the highest mountain, or accomplish some nearly impossible feat, or be better than all the rest. One need only receive Him! It is as though He has done everything and is simply waiting for us to receive. And the rest of the Scriptures do unveil that, indeed, Christ has done everything, and He is, in fact, waiting for us and even prompting us to turn and take Him as the cup prepared for our salvation (Psa. 116:12-13).

mansion

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The King James Version of the Bible (which was translated in 1611) renders John 14:2 as follows: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Today, many pastors use this verse to helpMansions in John 14 describe to their congregations what heaven will be like when they die. Well, what if you discovered that, according to the revelation in the Bible, the believers do not go to heaven when they die? What if that one word “mansion” should not be translated as mansion after all (at least in the way we think of mansion)? Indeed, one word could change everything!

Firstly, the Bible reveals that there is only one Man in heaven right now, and that is Jesus (Acts 1:11; 7:56)! Peter tells us in Acts 2:34 that not even King David, who was a man according to God’s heart, has ascended into heaven, but that he still remains in Hades, which is somewhere in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40; Acts 2:31). And consider the parable in Luke 16:19-31 which indicates that Abraham is there in Hades right now, and two others who died in Luke 16 also ended up in Hades—one in torment and the other in Paradise with Abraham (c.f. Luke 23:43 with Acts 2:31).

Secondly, the term “My Father’s house” has already been used by the Lord in the Gospel of John to refer to the temple of His body (v. 2:14-22), which was raised from the dead after three days as the mystical Body of Christ—the church—having all the believers as members of this Body (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 2:6).

Thirdly, a more accurate translation of John 14:2 renders the KJV word “mansions” as “abodes”: “In My Father’s house are many abodes; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (Recovery Version). This translation is consistent with the rest of the revelation in John 14 and 15—that through His death and resurrection Jesus would prepare a place for us to abide in God. In John 14 Jesus said that He was going to the Father (v.12) as He was about to be crucified. And in verse 20 He said, “In that day [(the day of His resurrection)] you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”  In 15:4 the Lord said, “Abide in Me and I in you….” If the believers are in Christ, and Christ is in God the Father, then surely the believers are in God!

The abiding place (not mansion in the sky) that Christ prepared for us through His death and resurrection is in God. God, of course, is a heavenly Being, and through regeneration (divine birth) the believers now abide in God and have a citizenship in the heavens from which they eagerly await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20), though they are physically on the earth. But what a huge difference one word can make in our understanding—talk about paradigm shift! To say the least, the destiny of the believers in Christ is far more profound than the stereotypical view of going to heaven!