John T. Willis

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How the New Testament uses the Old Testament

As promised, the next two blogs with attempt to deal with the question: How does the New Testament use the Old Testament? This question is not related to the biblical message of the entire Bible. Essentially, the message of the Old and New Testaments is the same. But the WAY the New Testament uses the Old Testament is a unique question BECAUSE Jesus, Paul, Peter and all the inspired speakers and composers and writers in New Testament used the Old Testament in a WAY VERY DIFFERENT from the way modern people think and use earlier texts.

For over forty years, I have taught and written about the issue of How the New Testament uses the Old Testament. What appears in the next two blogs is a very brief summary of what I try to do over a rather long period of time. I hope this brief study will be useful and helpful.

In order to understand the question of HOW the New Testament uses the Old Testament, FIRST it is essential to address the PROBLEM. Thus, in this first blog, we will sketch the problem. As we examine different biblical texts, I am counting on YOU to read each text carefully. Below I am using CHARTS to emphasize the PROBLEM. The PROBLEM essentially is this: THERE ARE FOUR TYPES OF PASSAGES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT WHICH ARE QUOTED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AND APPLIED TO CHRIST OR THE CHURCH. Here we will look briefly at each of these four types of passages.

1. Passages in which the Old Testament context refers to PAST TIME [NOT a prediction of the future at all, much less the New Testament]. One example is Hosea 11:1, which Matthew 2:15 quotes and applies to Christ. The chart below emphasizes that the specific person or event under consideration differs in these two texts.

In Hosea 11:1 In Matthew 2:15

Father--God God
Son-----Israel Jesus
Event---Exodus from Egypt Jesus' return from Egypt after Herod's death

2. Passages in which the Old Testament context refers to PRESENT TIME [NOT a prediction of the future at all, much less the New Testament]. One example is Isaiah 8:18, which Hebrews 2:13 quotes and applies to Christ.

In Isaiah 8:18 In Hebrews 2:13

"I"-------------Isaiah Jesus
The "children"--Shear-jashub, Christians
Meaning---------Isaiah's children ARE (in Jesus and Christians are "brothers
Isaiah's day) "signs and and sisters"
portents" in Israel that
Isaiah's predictions will
come true

3. Passages which are GENUINE PREDICTIONS in the Old Testament context, but are ALREADY FULFILLED or ACCOMPLISHED in Old Testament times. One example is 2 Samuel 7:14, which Hebrews 1:5 quotes and applies to Christ.

In 2 Samuel 7:14 In Hebrews 1:5

Father------God God
Son---------Solomon, as proved by Jesus
1 Chronicles 22:6-10; 28:3-6
Meaning-----The Davidic dynasty will Jesus took the heavenly throne after he
continue even when Solomon sins ascended into heaven

4. Old Testament passages which are quoted and applied to MORE THAN ONE NEW TESTAMENT SITUATION. One example is Isaiah 6:9-10.

Situation #1: Matthew 13:13-15 uses Isaiah 6:9-10 to explain why Jesus spoke in
Situation #2: John 12:40 uses Isaiah 6:9-10 to explain why the Jews did not
believe in Jesus
Situation #3: Acts 28:26-27 uses Isaiah 6;9-10 to rebuke the Jews who heard Paul
preach Christ in Rome for not accepting Jesus as Christ

Obviously, New Testament composers, speakers, writers used the Old Testament in a wide variety of ways. For many people, this is a very disturbing set of issues when one seriously compares each of these texts. In the next blog as we work through the study of the Book of Jeremiah, we will briefly discuss various explanations of HOW the New Testament uses the Old Testament.

Share YOUR thoughts and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lying, Deceit, Dishonesty, Trickery, Hypocrisy--Part I

Throughout history, dishonesty has been a WAY OF LIFE by all human beings. Subconsciously, we accept this behavior as normal. Each of us feels compelled to be dishonest, to be fraud, to lie, to trick other people, to be hypocritical. Dishonesty is a daily part of speech. This is a VERY SERIOUS HEART PROBLEM. There are many motivations to be dishonest:
Fear Peer pressure Imitation of parents and associates
Strong desire to succeed Inferiority Achievement of a "higher goal"
The motivations go on and on. In the next few blogs, we will deal very briefly with some biblical insights about dishonesty. After doing this, there is still much more to consider and pray.

First, let us consider dishonesty in dealing with close friends and the general community.

Proverbs 6:16-19 enumerates SEVEN abominations to Yahweh. TWO of these SEVEN abominations are dishonesty.

"There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are abomination to him;
haughty eyes, A LYING TONGUE,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
and one who sows discord in a family."

Genesis 25:24-26 report the account of the births of the twins, Esau and Jacob.
"When her [Rebekah's] time to give birth was a hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out RED, all his body like a HAIRY mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, WITH HIS HAND GRIPPING ESAU'S HEEL; so he was name Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them."
These are powerful, meaningful word plays or puns in Hebrew. Esau is a Hebrew word which sounds orally similar to the Hebrew word for "hairy." So, the first little boy of Isaac and Rebekah was "LITTLE HAIRY." Jacob is a Hebrew word which means "supplant," that is, take what rightfully belongs to someone else. So, the second little boy of Isaac and Rebekah was "LITTLE SUPPLANTER, LITTLE TRICKSTER, LITTLE DECEIVER, LITTLE DISHONEST ONE."

Through human history, the term JACOB is inseparable from the chosen people of God. What a travesty!!! What a tragedy!!! The people of God are destined to be cheaters, deceivers, tricksters, dishonesty people. And they certainly were and are. Unfortunately, the same is true of all of us.

The story of Jacob is all about deceit, dishonesty. Jacob stole Esau's birthright by subtlety. Genesis 25:29-34. Jacob stole Esau's blessing from his old blind father Isaac by subtlety. Genesis 27:1-40.

Hosea denounced God's people in North Israel for their deceit and dishonesty. He compared them with Jacob in Genesis 25 and 27. He declares:
"A trader, in whose hands are FALSE balances,
he loves to oppress." (Hosea 12:3-4, 7).

Jeremiah reproves the people of Judah with these words:
"O that I had in the desert
a traveler's lodging place,
that I might leave my people
and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers,
a band of traitors.
They bend their TONGUES with bows;
they have grown strong in the land for FALSEHOOD, and not for truth;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
and they do not know me, says the Lord.
Beware of your neighbors,
and put no trust in any of your kin;
for all your kin are SUPPLANTERS [LITTLE JACOBS],
and everyone goes around like a slanderer.
They all DECEIVE their neighbors,
and no one SPEAKS the truth;
they have taught their TONGUES to speak LIES;
they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent.
Oppression upon oppression,
They refuse to know me, says the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:2-6).

Lying to, being deceitful to, being dishonesty to a friend is one of the most devastating, hurtful experiences in life. Let us all change our hearts and be genuine.

Share YOUR thoughts and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I have loved you with an everlasting love--Jeremiah 30:18-31:14

As we continue our journey through Jeremiah, in the hope oracles in Jeremiah 30-33, Jeremiah 30:18-31:14 relate three hope oracles. The ideas in this section are quite similar to the ideas in Jeremiah 30:1-17. [Consult the previous blog on the Book of Jeremiah]. Note that these hope oracles describe Yahweh as "father" and "shepherd."

I. Yahweh will restore the fortunes of his exiled people. Jeremiah 30:18-22.
a. Yahweh promises he will restore the fortunes of Jacob=Israel, have compassion on his dwellings, rebuild the city [probably Jerusalem], and set the citadel on its rightful site. God's people will be thankful and joyful. 30:18-19.
b. Yahweh will also punish all who oppress his people, and establish a "prince" or "ruler" among God's people. This prince or ruler is probably Zerubbabel. The penitent exiles will be God's people, and they will be their God. 30:20-22.

II. Yahweh promises he will restore the exiles to the land of Canaan. Jeremiah 30:23-31:9.
a. Like several other hope oracles, this oracle begins with a doom announcement. "The storm of the Lord" is approaching, a declaration which originally occurred shortly before the fall of Judah in 587 BCE. 30:23-24 is identical with 23:19-20. There are many doublets throughout the Book of Jeremiah. Yahweh's "wrath," Yahweh's "fierce anger" will take place UNTIL Yahweh has carried out his purposes. "In the latter days," a common term in the Hebrew Bible for the unknown future, the readers will understand what Yahweh is doing. 30:23-24.
b. "At that time," Yahweh will re-unite all his people and they shall be Yahweh's people. See 30:22. Those who have survived the "sword" of the Babylonians have found "grace." Prior to this, the people felt Yahweh was "far away." But Yahweh reassures them:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."
The fundamental message of the Hebrew Bible, in fact, the entire Bible, is God's steadfast love and faithfulness. 31:1-3.
c. Yahweh announces to the Judean exiles in Babylon that he will BUILD his people, make them merry, they shall PLANT vineyards on the mountains of Samaria, and sentinels or watchmen will call everyone to go up to Zion, to Yahweh. 31:4-6.
d. Yahweh through Jeremiah to call on his hearers: "Save, O Yahweh, the remnant of Israel." Yahweh promises that he will bring his penitent people "from the land of the north"=Babylon [see Jeremiah 1:13-16; 25:8-9]: the blind and the lame, women who are about to give birth to children, to return to the land of Canaan. Yahweh will let them walk by brooks of water in a straight path, because Yahweh is their FATHER to Israel, and Ephraim=Israel is Yahweh's firstborn. A common metaphor of God throughout the Hebrew Bible is "father." See Exodus 4:21-23; Psalm 103:13. 31:7-9.

III. Yahweh summons the nations to declare that Yahweh is about to gather his scattered people from foreign nations to be reunited in the land of Canaan. Jeremiah 31:10-14.
a. Jeremiah summons the nations to hear Yahweh's message. Yahweh had formerly "scattered Israel" because of her sins. But now, Yahweh will "gather" Israel "as a SHEPHERD [gathers] a flock" of sheep. 31:10.
b. Yahweh has "ransomed," "redeemed" Jacob=Israel from the Babylonians, who were too strong for God's people. Consequently, God's people will come and rejoice over Zion because of God's blessings of "the grain, the wine, and the oil," the three common terms for plenty (see for example, Hosea 2:8; Joel 1:10; 2:19, 24; Haggai 1:11. Young men and women will rejoice. Yahweh will give the priests his blessings and will satisfy Yahweh's bounty. 31:11-14.

The promises of these hope oracles are the same as those announced in Jeremiah
30:1-17. As already announced, in the next two blogs on Jeremiah, we will discuss the question of How the New Testament uses the Old Testament in preparation for studying the rest of Jeremiah 31 [namely 31:15-40].

Share YOUR aspirations and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yahweh will overthrow Babylon, bring North Israel and Judah back to Canaan, and Heal his wounded people--Jeremiah 30:1-17

The first two hope oracles in Jeremiah 30-33 include four of the six promises briefly summarized in the previous blog in the study of the Book of Jeremiah. These two hope oracles appear in Jeremiah 30:1-17.

I. Introduction of Jeremiah 30-33. Jeremiah 30:1-3.
a. Yahweh commands Jeremiah to WRITE IN A BOOK all the words Yahweh had spoken to Jeremiah [originally orally]. This BOOK is Jeremiah 30-33. 30:1-2.
b. Yahweh declares to Jeremiah that "the days are surely coming" that Yahweh will accomplish many things in behalf of his people who are now living in Babylon.
First, Yahweh declares that he "will restore the fortunes of Yahweh's people ISRAEL AND JUDAH." [Note the emphasis on the unity of North Israel and Judah in
30:3, 4, 7, 10. After North Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 BCE, several spokespersons of Yahweh announced that Yahweh will re-unite North Israel and South Judah into Yahweh's original united people. Hezekiah coordinated a great passover in Jerusalem to unify North Israelites and South Judeans in ca. 700 BCE--2 Chronicles
30, especially verses 1, 5-6, 10-12, 18, 21, 25. Seventy to ninty years later, Josiah again coordinated a great passover in Jerusalem to unify North Israelies and South Judeans in ca. 630-610 BCE--2 Chronicles 35, especially verses 4-5, 12-13, 17-18. Previous blogs have highlighted Yahweh's strong concern for the unification of North Israel and South Judah in earlier chapters in the Book of Jeremiah: see for example Jeremiah 3:6-18; 5:11, 20; 23:13-14.
Second, Yahweh declares he "will bring the Babylonian exiles back to the land of Canaan." This occurred by a series of returns from Babylon to Israel, beginning with Zerubbabel and Joshua and the Jews who rebuilt the Jerusalem temple. See Ezra 2-6; Haggai; Zechariah 1-6. 30:3.

II. Yahweh declares he will overthrow Babylon and raise up a descendant of David to serve God's people. Jeremiah 30:4-11.
a. Like many hope oracles in Jeremiah 30-33, the oracle in 30:4-11 begins as a doom oracle. In Babylon, the Judean exiles were in panic, terror, having no peace, suffering in pain "like a woman in labor," distress. [The expression "like a woman in labor" occurs frequently in the Book of Jeremiah to symbolize the affliction of God's people who were under oppression, destruction, and exile--see 4:31; 6:24;
13:21. Jeremiah borrowed this expression from Micah--See Micah 4:9, 10; 5:3].
b. Yahweh declares he "will break the yoke from of the neck" of Babylon and "burst his bonds." This clearly refers to the story of the conflict between Jeremiah and Hananiah recorded in Jeremiah 27-28; see especially 28:4, 10-14. The penitent Judean exiles will then serve Yahweh and "David their king." David their king is an anonymous descendant of David, but in this context clearly Zerubbabel. See Zechariah 3; 6:9-15. 30:8-9.
c. Yahweh then reassures the Judean exiles in Babylon that they are to have no fear or be dismayed, because Yahweh is going to SAVE them from far away and their offspring "from the land of their captivity," namely, Babylon. JACOB [North Israel] shall return and have quiet and ease, and no one shall make him afraid. Yahweh promises: "I AM WITH YOU" to SAVE you. Yahweh will indeed punish his people because of their persistent sins, but the time will come that he will "make an end" among all the nations among which Yahweh scattered them. 30:10-11.

III. Yahweh will HEAL his sinful people. Jeremiah 30:12-17.
a. Again, the hope oracle in Jeremiah 30-12-17 begins as if it were a doom oracle. As THE GREAT PHYSICIAN, Yahweh examines Israel and declares her hurt is INCURABLE, her wound is GRIEVOUS; there is NO MEDICINE for her wound, NO HEALING for her. Her situation is hopeless, because her guilt is great, her sins are numerous. All her LOVERS [the Baals, foreign nations] have abandoned God's people and care nothing for God's people. The reason God's people is suffering is that YAHWEH HIMSELF has "dealt him the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe." 30:12-15.
b. Suddenly, surprising, Yahweh changes his message. Yahweh will DEVOUR those who now devour God's people, all his foes will go into captivity, will PLUNDER those who plunder God's people, and will MAKE A PREY who had treated God's people as a prey. God's people had been an OUTCAST whose opponents declared: "It is Zion; no one cares for her!"; but NOW, Yahweh will RESTORE HEALTH to his people and HEAL his people. 30:16-17.

Briefly summarizing these FOUR HOPES are:
1. Yahweh will overthrow Babylon.
2. Yahweh will bring the Judean exiles from Babylon back to the land of Canaan.
3. Yahweh will raise up an anonymous descendant of David to support his people.
4. Yahweh will heal his penitent sinful people.

Yahweh is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving transgression, iniquity, and sin. All of us are recipients of God's steadfast love.

Share YOUR insights and aspirations with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, May 22, 2011


A very important aspect of speech is humor. Of course, some humor is inappropriate. At the same time, humor is the very best approach to communicate great truths about God and human beings. Here are a few contemporary humorous statements of Robert Frost, followed by a few paragraphs from the Bible in which Jesus and others used human very effectively.

1. Robert Frost: "A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age."

"A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer."

"A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel."

"A poet never takes notes. You never takes notes in a love affair."

"Education is hanging around until you've caught on."

2. Jesus: Matthew 7:1-5:
"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Whyh do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in yhour own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye. Your hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."
The original audience that heard this paragraph could not keep from bursting out in laughter. A huge log protruding out of a person's eye would look hilarious. And to think that a person who had such a log protruding from his eye trying to examine the eye of someone else who had a tiny speck in his eye is preposterous. What a powerful, memorable message for all of us. It is so easy to see the faults of others, and ignore our own faults.

Mark 10:23-27:
"Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.!' And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' They were greatly astounded and said to one another, 'Then who can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."
When this audience originally heard the thought of a camel going through the eye of a needle would undoubtedly have rolled on the ground erupting with belly laughs. [By the way, a "needle" was a very small bone needle, not a small gate on the walls of Jerusalem. Such a thing just does not exist, and never has!!!]. What a powerful, relevant, memorable message. It is IMPOSSIBLE for rich people to enter into the kingdom of God, but God by his mercy and grace enables such people to do so.

3. Other texts.
Genesis 18:10-14:
"[Yahweh] said, 'I will surely return to you [Abraham] in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.' And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah LAUGHED TO HERSELF, saying, 'After I ahve grown old, shall I have pleasure?' The Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah LAUGH, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.' But Sarah denied, saying, 'I did not LAUGH'; for she was afraid. He said, Oh yes, you did LAUGH.'"
Often in the Bible, the composer, speaker, writer uses a word-play or pun to communicate an important memorable truth. The composer of Genesis 17:15-22; 18:9-14; 21:1-7 emphasize the importance of humor, of laughter. Abraham and Sarah LAUGHED in unbelief over God's promise that He would give them a son in their old age. Yahweh responded by naming this child ISAAC, the Hebrew word for LAUGH. Isaac is "little laughing boy," so that everyone would remember that God gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age--to emphasize that God can do anything.

Psalms 2:4; 59:8.
"He who sits in the heavens LAUGHS;
the Lord has them in derision."

"But you LAUGH at them, O Lord;
you hold all the nations in derision."

Often, powerful nations and people rise up against God as if they could successfully resist and overpower the creator of the universe. Biblical composers reply that our God who lives in heaven LAUGHS at the very idea that human beings could resist him. This is rich humor: "You have to be kidding!!!" "You are out of your minds!!!" How foolish it is for human beings [individually or collectively] to oppose our creator successfully.

As YOU study and meditate on the Bible and on life, be sensitive of the importance of humor, of various types of laughter. This is a powerful communication of speech.

Share YOUR ideas and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis