What were the Urim and Thummim?

In Exodus 28 the Bible tells about a pair objects carried by the high priest of Israel. These mysterious things were called the Urim and the Thummim. The high priest of Israel wore a breastplate that held twelve stones, each one representing a tribe of Israel. Also in the breastplate were the Urim and Thummim. God gave direction to Israel through the Urim and Thummim, but the Bible gives no specifics about what they were or how they were used.

Some ancient Jewish records suggest they glowed (like the Sankara stones in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Others have suggested they were stones with Hebrew letters that spelled out words. No one knows for sure. Some think they were stones, others sticks and others jewels. No one knows what they were made of. The Bible mentions their use a couple times but only in general terms. The most likely possibility is that they were used like lots to determine yes or no answers or to decide between two choices.

Regardless of how they were used, the Urim and Thummim revealed to the leaders of Israel the the will of God. In 1 Samuel 28:6 we are told that God did not answer Saul’s prayer for direction about an army of Philistines. God did not answer, “by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” The only specific instruction about the use of these devices is found in Numbers 27:20. When Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites he was to go before the high priest. The Lord would give direction to Joshua through the Urim and Thummim. “And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” (Numbers 27:21)

One other passage seems to show how the Urim and Thummim were used. In 1 Samuel 23 David is accompanied by a priest while he flees from Saul. David sought the Lord’s direction and, possibly through the Urim and Thummim, learned whether he should attack the Philistines, if Saul would come after him, and if the people of Keilah would betray him. God gave guidance to David through the ministry of the priest and the Urim and Thummim.

After 1 Samuel there is no other reference to the Urim being used. From the last years of Saul’s reign to the end of the Babylonian captivity the Bible makes no mention of the Urim and Thummim. Ezra and Nehemiah contain brief references to these things as part of the return of the high priest of Israel. After that the Bible is completely silent. The increased ministry of the prophets during the days of the kings appears to have ended Israel’s dependence on the Urim and Thummim to find the will of God. With the close of the Old Testament period God no longer reveals His will through the Urim and Thummim.

Where was man during the ice age?

The ice age was a period time during which large portions of the earth were covered in snow and ice. In many places the ice sheets reached nearly to the halfway point between the poles and the equator. In a few places they stretched even farther. In North America much of Canada was under ice. Some glacial fingers crept down into modern day northern Illinois. How did man survive during this challenging time?

The Bible does not specifically mention the ice age nor is it concerned with given a history of all the people of the world. We are not told all the movements of man or all the conditions faced by people across the world. But the Bible’s account of events after the flood provides a solid basis for a plausible explanation of the movement of humanity during the ice age.

The flood of Noah wreaked such havoc on the earth that it significantly altered the shape of continents, the temperature of the oceans and the patterns of weather. The ice age was the result. Climate models have shown that the effects of the flood on the oceans would result in many years of cooler summers and warmer winters in the upper lattitudes. These conditions resultedin the ice age. This ice age lasted only a few hundred years, not the tens of thousands speculated by evolutionists. 

The Genesis account of the Tower of Babel shows that in the decades immediately following the flood most of mankind remained in the Middle East near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. When God supernaturally shattered the single language of man into dozens of languages He also worked to spread men across the globe. Because the ice sheets did not form immediately after the flood the events of the Tower of Babel likely took place early in the ice age. Thus the ice age occurred when the rebounding population of man was spreading out across the world.

The altered climate that made the ice age possible affected the entire globe. Worldwide weather patterns were significantly different, but the entire earth did not experience near-Arctic temperatures. The climates in the lower lattitudes were milder than they are today making them ideal places to live.

After Babel some families settled in and around the Middle East. Most of those who shaped early recorded history traveled south into Palestine and Africa. At the time these places enjoyed very pleasant climates. Even the Sahara desert was a fertile land. Many family groups traveled much farther. Some went south east towards India, southeast Asia and eventually Australia.

Other peoples went northwest towards Europe where the ice age had a profound effect. These effects shaped the housing needs of the people prompting them to live in caves for shelter and warmth during the long winters. The challenges of living closer to the ice sheets probably changed the diet of the people in that area. They may well have had to survive on diets lacking certain important nutritional elements. 

Still others went north east into northern Asia. Like those who went into Europe the ice age presented challenges to their survival. The shorter, cooler summers would have made agriculture difficult or impossible but extensive game could have provided abundant food for the traveling families. The difficulties in raising crops may have been a driving factor in the migration of families across Asia and into the Americas.

Though it seems counter-intuitive the conditions of the ice age would have made travel around the globe easier. Though the average temperatures closer to the poles were colder than they are today the winters were not necessarily more severe. Warmer winters during the early and middle ice age would have made surviving the winter months less difficult than today. Wild game flourished until the late ice age, as evidenced by the large number of ice age animal remains, providing an abundant source of food for semi-nomadic tribes. With so much water trapped in the ice sheets, the lower ocean levels would have facilitated travel between the continents. The Bering Straits may have been traversable on foot or by a short boat journey. The combination of shallower oceans and warmer winters allowed people to walk from Iraq to Texas in a relatively short span of time.

The ice age covered a significant portion of the globe in ice and snow, but it did not make the earth uninhabitable. Many environments on earth were emminently suitable for life, both animal and human. Some men lived near the ice, surviving the cold and adapting to their climate. Some lived in temperate zones and others in equatorial regions. As the post-flood climate stabilized man continued to move around and settle habitable locations. Like the rest of recorded history, during the ice age humanity spread out across the globe. Eventually mankind gained a foothold on every continent but one.

President Washington’s Thanksgiving Declaration

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”
James 1:17

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted’ for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

President George Washington
October 3, 1789

Should Christians pray for America?

With the increase of opposition to Biblical Christianity in America some Christian’s have begun to wonder if we should even be praying for this nation.

Two different rationales are behind this question. Some see the moral corruption of the United States and conclude that it is under the judgment of God. If God is judging America wouldn’t praying for God to bless America be contrary to His will?

Some read the New Testament and realize the world will plummet further and further down in wickedness. The worldwide depravity will increase until it reaches its peak under the reign of the Antichrist. In the end God will bring judgment on the world through  a series of horrible catastrophes. The judgment of God will be completed by the retunring Jesus who will conquer the Antichrist and will then bring all living men before Him for individual judgment. Since the world is on this unalterable collision course with Divine wrath, what is the point of praying for God to stay His judgment?

The mercy of God teaches Christians to pray for America and for the world. God delays His coming so men will have opportunity to repent. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Though God will bring judgment on this world He desires that all should turn to Him. We should pray in accord with God’s delight in repentanceTHe book of Ezekiel says that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. He delights in the repentance of sinners. We should delight in the same and pray for the repentance of our nation.

Christians are commanded to pray for governments and for all men. The Roman Empire of the first century was more wicked and more hostile to Christians than America has ever been. To those living under the rule of debauched Rome God commaned, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) When Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians God commanded them “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7) Enslaved Israel was taught to pray for the peace and prosperity of her captor. God had had already foretold Babylon would be judged but still commanded the Israelites to pray for Babylon’s peace. Christian’s today should pray for the peace, not trouble, of our nation that we might live peaceful lives that further the preaching of the gospel. 

Basic Christian compassion motivates prayer for our nation. All of God’s commands can be summed up in the phrase, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Even those Christians who feel that America has turned again them should be praying for America. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”  Christian’s ought to pray for this nation because we sincerely desire blessing and salvation for those around us.

What’s Happening?

Summer is a very busy time for most people including the pastors who participate in the Everlasting Truths ministry. As a result this blog will be silent until sometime after Independence Day. Though this time of year is busy don’t let the activities of life keep you from asking questions of the Word. May you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18)

Why don’t persecuted Christian’s fight against their persecutors?

Christians around the world are suffering under intense persecution. Christians are being put to death, imprisoned, raped, beaten, driven from home or loosing all their possessions. Why don’t these Christian communities band together and fight against their attackers? 

Many Christians facing persecution have no abillity to resist. Even if these believers wanted to fight back their persecutors have prevented them from being able to offer any real resistance. Several Christian groups hold to policies of pacifism. Pacifism is more than refusing to fight in a countries wars. Pacifism is a principle of non-violence against anyone. Those who hold to pacifistic views usually will not fight against anyone who asaults them. Most Christians do not have pacifistic policies but would never view violent self defense as an appropriate response to persecution. This is because of the way the Bible describes the Christian perspective of suffering for Jesus’ sake. Persecution because one is a Christian is different from being the target of a random attack on the street. Many Christian’s would view as acceptable some degree of self-defense against a random assault but would not defend themselves against persecution.

The Bible describes persecution because of righteousness as a source of blessing. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persectured they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) The book of Acts shows the apostles praising God because they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake. The first letter of Peter instructs Christians to be ready to endure persecution and to do so like Christ- with patience, faith and quietness. The book of Revelation also promises rewards for those who endure persecution and it gives several examples of Christians in heaven praising God because they were persecuted for their testimony of Christ. The New Testament view of persecution is that suffering for the testimony of Jesus is something to be patiently endured not fought against. Persecution and death because of the gospel follows in Jesus’ footsteps and brings great reward from God. 

The Christian does not fight against his persecutors because of the nature of the gospel. Christianity is not spread, strengthened or protected by violent means. The gospel message is one of total transformation that begins in the heart. Spiritual transformation cannot be achieved by violent means. The gospel does not change hearts by coercion. Sin is not forgiven by force. Christianity is spread by influence and persuasion. Conviction of the heart of man is the means by which the gospel conquers, not by threats and violence. 

None of this means the Christian will court persecution. The book of Acts shows many examples of Christians being persecuted and how they responded. These examples offer guidance to any believer facing attacks from those who hate Jesus. Christian’s can and will flee persecution. Christian’s can use legitimate legal means to avoid or halt persecution. Above all else the Christian realizes all persecution and suffering in this world is temporary. Because he is living for eternal reward he will willingly suffer at the hands of men that he might receive the praise of God. 

How is it fair of God to send people to hell who have never heard the gospel?

The previous post addressed the question of the eternal fate of those who die without hearing of Jesus. The real question at the root of the original question questions the fairness and love of God to punish people that have had no chance to be saved. The question seeks to undermine the justice or the goodness of God. Later articles will address the goodness of God towards those who never hear the gospel. This essay will consider the justice of God towards those who have never heard the gospel.

The question is not really about fairness. Fair is that which treats everyone exactly the same. Nothing in the Bible says God is fair, at least in the way we commonly think of it. Everyone does not get an equal slice of the pie or an equal opportunity. Fairness is not the issue. The issue is justice. Justice is doing that which is right and equitable. A just judge does not go easy on the rich man because he has made substantial campaign contributions. A just judge responds to the circumstances of the crime regardless of the benefit he might or might not gain from the accused. God’s justice is that which responds to sin the same regardless of the person and does not overlook a crime because of the personal advantages of the particular sinner. The justice of God responds righteously and equitably to all sinners. Those who say God should not condemn to hell people who have never heard the gospel are asserting that God is unjust and unkind. Is it unjust for God to send someone to hell who never had the opportunity to be saved? Does God respond disproportionately to the sin of those who have not heard the gospel?

Several answers can be given to this. The first answer is that God is Creator. Man is God’s creation and thus God can justly do anything He wants with man. (Romans 9:14-21) A second answer is that given in the previous article. God is just in condemning men to hell because all have sinned. Justice does not require the possibility of escape from punishment. The justice of God condemns all because all are guilty, just as the Old Testament law reveals. These answers are true but emotionally unsatisfying to many. To understand the justice of God one must fully consider all the Bible says about His dealings with men. The justice of God is most evident in this: He condemns none to hell that have not had opportunity to know Him.

All men continually have paraded before them the evidences of the existence and power of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3) Every time the sun rises it shows God’s power. Every time the stars appear in the night sky they show the power of God. Every passing of day to night, season to season, year to year is a declaration that God exists and His glory is great being description. That men refuse this evidence and ascribe God’s glory to lesser beings is not indicative of God’s injustice but of man’s iniquity.

Because the existence of God and sin are self-evident, each person is responsible for how he responds to those apparent truths. It is this author’s opinion that God will send the truth to those who seek to know the truth. The erroneous assumption sometimes found in this and similar questions is those who have no chance to hear the gospel are innocent. Many imagine that people are basically good and would worship God if they had the chance. This is not the case. There are none that are good and there are none that seek after God. (Romans 3) All the world is guilty before God.

The guilty cannot plead their mistaken beliefs as an excuse for acquittal. The thief who believes it unjust for others to have things he does not is still a thief. His mistaken worldview does not eliminate his guilt. A mistaken view of God and salvation does not eliminate guilt. God is not unjust in condemning those who reject the available knowledge of Him and worship a creature instead the Creator.

What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious?

Many today make the claim that they are spiritual but not religious. The one claiming this usually has a good opinion about God, tries to do good works and be kind people. He may pray or read the Bible but does not attend church and doesn’t care to be around people who think you should go to church. The spiritual but not religious tend to pick and choose from many different religions to craft a personalized spiritual experience. They are not people of no faith, but people with their own custom built faith. They have typically rejected Christian institutions and denominations. They refuse to be defined by the beliefs of a religion or restricted by the rules of any particular religious institution. The title “nones” has been applied to this group because when asked on religious surveys what their religion is they select the option “none of the above”.

Spirituality as defined by the nones is the private practice of faith and the personal experience of something greater. Religiousness is associated with the public expression of faith through religious institutions, strictures, rituals, gatherings and official systems of belief. For some of the spiritual Jesus is a guide or a personal guru but is not God. For some being spiritual is about understanding a person’s role in the cosmic scheme of things. The nones cannot be pinned down to any set of beliefs or core tenets, but they do have some things in common. First, and the defining feature, is the personalized crafting of a system of belief that works for the individual. Closely associated with this personalized belief system is a desire for personal improvement that is sought after by means of the spiritual person’s belief system. Often the spiritual accepts some form of mysticism. Mysticism seeks to evoke deep spiritual feeling through a transcendent experience. Mystical experiences can take place while wathcing a sunset, walking on the beach, praying, singing in church, practicing yogic meditation, painting, dancing or drinking a really good cup of coffee. Despite the desire for a spiritual experience the nones are unlikely to participate in any organized form of religion. They will participate in activities with a strong religious undertone, but will not join themselves to any religious system. The spiritual is very tolerant of other religious beliefs.

The nones are the religious embodiment of today’s post-modernism and critical realism. They have rejected any sense of absolute truth and believe the individual is the sole determiner of what is true for himself. The spiritual sees his spirituality as a means of personal development not reconciliation with the Divine, atonement for sin or a means to reach eternal bliss. Much about the spiritual bears strong similarity to the practices of Buddhism and Confucianism. I would describe the spiritual as a particularly American form of Buddhism. The nones try to be good people, seek a spiritual connection, and reject a strict definition of God and of Biblical doctrine.

Will the kingdom of God be an earthly kingdom?

The kingdom of God is a very large topic that would require a substantial multi-week study to even begin to properly address. In brief, the kingdom of God is based on the promise of God given to the descendants of Israel. The promises include a king that rules over Israel forever. The kingdom will begin a new golden age for Israel and usher in worldwide peace, justice and righteousness. The promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 7:16 is one of the kingdom promises, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for every before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.” The prophecies of Isaiah 11 are also kingdom prophecies, “With righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth.” “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the younglionand the atling together; and a littlechild shall lead them.” “And in that daythe Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people.” “He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather togethe the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

The many kingdom promises in the Old Testament are of such a nature that an earthly, future kingdom is necessary for them to have a literal fulfillment. The Kingdom promised in the Old Testament requires a physical fulfillment. The promises of the kingdom are still waiting for fulfillment and will be fully completed when Jesus rules the world from Jerusalem.

One aspect that creates confusion is the relationship of New Testament Christians to the kingdom. Christians today are part of the kingdom. They are citizens of the kingdom that is coming. The citizenship of Christians in the kingdom does not mean the church is the kingdom, or that the kingdom promises will be spiritually accomplished in the church. The church will part of the kingdom when Jesus establishes it on the earth. The kingdom will not exist until Israel has been restored to true worship of God and all the promises made to Abraham and David are fulfilled. The kingdom will be set up exactly as has been promised through the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah. We look forward to the return of Jesus and the inauguration of His earthly kingdom of righteousness and peace.