When Tradition and I Part Ways

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“I have to go downstairs and study ‘evil’.” 

I heard myself say those words to my family and laughed when the responses I received were “okay” and “sounds good”.  Only within the context of a Bible Study can someone announce he or she is going to study evil and no one wonders at it!

I am continuing my study of “evil” this week.  In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I create evil”.  I’ve already posted a series of studies on the Hebrew word translated “create” in this passage-which is bara-so will not repeat myself but will say I have learned enough to question what is being said here.  “To make something out of nothing” is not an accurate definition of “create” and bara is used often enough in the OT where something new came into being out of already existing materials that we do not have to automatically assume God is saying He is the source of evil.  What is this passage saying?  In the 45th chapter of Isaiah, God is making it clear He alone is God.  There is no evil power equal to Him so-looking at this passage alone-it could be He is claiming to be the source of evil.  And yet, the text allows the equally valid interpretation that God alone is God and not even evil becomes part of the working out of His will: He will come inside it, make it new, and turn it into His good.

I cannot make a determination based on this single passage of scripture.  I hear that done so often: a single verse or at times a fragment of a verse is taken and entire doctrines are built upon it.  Any passage that refutes the established doctrine is either refuted in turn or utterly ignored.  I have seen the truth of the words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’  For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men-the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things as you do…All too well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:6-9, Isaiah 29:13). 

And so, because I do not want to keep hold of what the traditions I have been part of have told me evil is and how it came into being, I began first by checking which Hebrew word is translated “evil” in Isiah 45:7.  It is ra and the Strong’s number is 7451.  I then checked whether the word was the same in Genesis 2 for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and, when I saw it was, I decided to read each passage containing the word ra and see what I could see.  I had barely begun when I wondered which Greek words the Septuagint had in place of ra in both in Isaiah 45:7 and in Genesis 2:9.  I had read that it was impossible to show a difference between kakos and poneros which are the two Greek words used to translate “evil” most often in the NT, so I checked the two passages in the OT to see if the same Greek word was used both times.  It is not.  Isaiah 45:7 has kaka which is the nominative/accusative/vocative plural neuter of kakos.  Genesis 2:9 has poneros.  I had to ask myself, why use two different Greek words to translate the same Hebrew word?

I mentioned before I had read that it was impossible to differentiate between kakos and poneros.  I read that statement in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.  The first paragraph in the entry for Evil, Bad, Wickedness states: “The two main NT terms for expressing the shortcomings or inferiority of a thing (i.e. bad) and the ethically negative and religiously destructive character of a person or thought (i.e. evil) are kakos and poneros.  In the NT kakos occurs 50 times and the linguistically later poneros 78 times though the LXX uses it only 50 times compared to the 300 cases of kakos.  Unlike the terms dealt with under –Good, it is impossible to show any difference between these two terms.  Both are used even for the personification of evil in the devil or men” (Brown, 561).

Is it impossible to show any difference between the two terms?  Perhaps it is so merely looking up the different passages in our English translations.  It is not impossible if we look up the meanings of the words.  The full definition the Strong’s gives kakos (G2556)is: “apparently a primary word; worthless (intrinsically whereas 4190 (poneros-addition mine) properly refers to effects) i.e. (subjectively) depraved, or (objectively) injurious-bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked.”  The Strong’s defines poneros (G4190) as: “from a derivate of 4192; hurtful i.e. evil (properly in effect of influence and thus differing from 2556, which refers rather to essential character, as well as from 4550 which indicates degeneracy from original virtue); figuratively, calamitous, also (passively) ill, i.e. diseased; but especially (morally) culpable, i.e. derelict, vicious, facinorous; neuter (singular), mischief, malice, or (plural) guilt; masculine (singular) the devil or (plural) sinners:-bad, evil, grievous, harm, lewd, malicious, wicked (-ness).”

 For the sake of clarification, the Greek word under 4550 in the Strong’s is sapros and means “rotten, worthless, bad, corrupt”.  I had to look up “facinorous” and found it means “atrociously wicked: infamous”.  I admit there isn’t a massive difference between the two definitions as I’ve shared them but I found the difference becomes more obvious as I traced kakos through its familial words and poneros to its root.  The root of poneros is ponos (G4190) and it means, “toil, anguish, pain.”  Ponos can be traced further to penes or peno (G3993) which means, “to toil for daily subsistence, starving, indigent, poor.” 

I won’t share every definition of the Greek words related to kakos: they are numbers 2549-2561 in the Strong’s concordance should anyone wish to look them up.  There isn’t a great variation in meaning which is expected.  What I found interesting is the Greek word kakωs (G2560).  This word is the adverbial form of kakos, is pronounced kakooce, and means, “badly (physically or morally), amiss, diseased, evil, grievously, miserably, sick, sore.”

I find it utterly fascinating that the Septuagint chose poneros for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  In Genesis chapter 3, the ground is cursed for Adam’s sake and God says to him: “in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (verse 17) and poneros has the root meaning of “toil.”  Kakos, on the other hand, has the meaning of “illness, affliction.”  It is obvious to me these two words do not mean the same thing and, if word choice by the writers of the New Testament was deliberate, the passages where these words occur were meant to be read with these definitions in mind.  What the different choices in Genesis 2:9 and Isaiah 45:7 mean is something to be looked at in upcoming weeks.

It is a difficult thing to leave tradition behind and look at the scripture without any preconceived bias and be led entirely by the Holy Spirit.  It can be uncomfortable to “test everything”.  I have already come across some difficult passages which I do not want to shrink from nor dismiss out of hand.  They have been recorded in scripture for a reason.  They are important to understand.  I do not want to continue to interpret them as I’ve always been told they ought to be interpreted and I am not satisfied to settle for the vague answers I find in some commentaries.  I want to know the truth and so I continue to pray, “Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Living God, Spirit of wisdom and revelation, continue to teach and guide me.  Renew my mind and open the eyes of my heart that I might see You, Jesus, the One who is the Truth.”

Amen.

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

 Notes:

Whenever I have typed kakos I am referring to the Greek word spelled with an omicron: number 2556 in the Strong’s Concordance

LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint

References:

κακά – Wiktionary

Septuagint | biblical literature | Britannica

Facinorous Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster

Brown, Colin, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume I, Regency Reference Library, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1967, 1986, Page 561

Lanier, Gregory R., and William Ross, Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition, Volumes I & II, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2018

Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Adding Knowledge, Increasing Understanding

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Hello!  Welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman where this week I continue my study of Isaiah 45:7 and specifically look at evil.

If you have read last week’s post, you might be wondering why write anything more on evil if I believe what I wrote is true: that we who belong to Jesus live from His life rather than live our lives determining for ourselves what is good or evil.  I do believe it but I also believe in Jesus’ warning: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

It is important to me to understand exactly what the Holy Spirit meant to convey as He inspired the prophets to speak and the scribes to record.  The world system uses words as it sees fit and rarely do these meanings line up with what was intended in the scriptures.  I hear the word “evil” used to describe a person who simply disagrees with the mindset of another.  I don’t think that’s what is meant by “evil” in the Bible but I don’t know for certain.  Any dissent I may attempt will quickly fail as I have no foundational understanding to strengthen me.  And so, I continue my study.

One thing I noticed while studying “create” and bara was, bara is the only Hebrew word translated “create”.  While bara is translated with other words in other passages (to fatten, to cut down), any time you read the word “create” in the King James Version of the Bible, the corresponding Hebrew word is bara.  There will be prefixes and suffixes attached but the root is always bara.  I don’t know that I’ve gleaned any significant meaning from that but I do mention it as a matter of interest because this is rarely the case.  When I look up a word in the Strong’s concordance, I find that one English word has been used to translate several Hebrew (and Greek) words and thus variations in meaning are missing from our translations.  One such word I’ve already looked at is “darkness” and you can take a look at those previous studies if you like.

Going back to previous studies is not necessary though because “evil” in English has been used to translate several Hebrew and Greek words.  In Hebrew they are: ra, ra’a, ra’ah, roa, dibbah, beliya’al, and aven.  In Greek they are: poneros, kakos (spelled with an omicron), kakopoieo, kakia, kakologeo, kakoo, kakos (spelled with an omega), kakourgos, katalalia, katalaleo, phaulos, adikema, blasphemeo, blasphemia, and dusphemia. 

It is obvious that some of these occurrences are variations of a word rather than a different meaning: both the verb and the noun, for example.  Some of these words have only been translated “evil” in one passage so, as I continue in this study, I won’t focus on them.  These words in the Hebrew are dibbah, ra’ah, beliya’al, and aven.  Dibbah appears in Numbers 13:32 and is translated “evil report”.  The word dibbah means “slander, defaming.”  Beliya’al appears in Psalms 41:8 where it is translated “evil disease.”  The word itself means “without profit, worthlessness, destruction, wickedness.”  Aven appears in Proverbs 12:21 where it is translated “evil” as in misfortune.  The word aven means “trouble, vanity, wickedness, to come to naught”.  Ra’ah appears in Job 24:21 but, since it belongs to the same family as the word in my study passage, which is ra, I may be looking at ra’ah as well.

The Greek word adikema is translated “evil” as in “evil doing” in Acts 24:20 and that is the only time the King James Version used it so.  It might be interesting to see how its meaning contrasts with kakopoieo which means “to be a bad-doer” but I probably won’t be considering it in too much depth.  The same with dusphemia which occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:8 where it is translated “evil” as in “evil report”. 

My point of this study is not for you or me to memorize a bunch of Hebrew and Greek words so we can insert ourselves into situations and point out how much we know.  Neither is it for us to arm ourselves with an extensive vocabulary we then use to bludgeon others into silence.  My point is the importance of words.  Those who wrote both the Old and New Testaments certainly were specific in the words they chose to convey what they wanted to say.  Our English translations were less so.  Two different words are translated as “speak evil” in the New Testament: kakalogeo and katalaleo.  They don’t mean exactly the same things. Kakalogeo means “to revile, curse, speak ill of” and katalaleo means “to be a traducer, slander”.  Traduce means to “speak badly of or tell lies about someone so as to damage their reputation.” 

James speaks of the tongue as being “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” in Chapter 3 verse 8 of his epistle.  The word for “evil” here is kakos spelled with an omicron.  Proverbs 18:21 says, “death and life are in the power of the tongue” but if I were to try and make the point that we speak out of the fullness of our hearts and attempted to use Luke 6:45 to do so, the Greek words translated evil in this passage are not kakos nor are they in any way part of the same family as kakos.  The words here in the Greek are poneros.  So, my point might be valid and I might be able to substantiate it using the English translation, but the Greek words mean different things and my point would not end up being accurate.

I think accuracy is important but it is not more important than our relationship to the Holy Spirit.  Through His indwelling us, we have the very person of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit guides us into the truth that Jesus Himself is our all: our life, our wisdom, our peace, our words, our salvation.  And yet, Paul gave this admonition to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  Peter writes in his epistle, we have been given exceedingly great and precious promises and that through these we may be partakers of the divine nature.  He then writes, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Peter’s list isn’t possible without the Holy Spirit and that includes knowledge.  We can study all we like but, without the Holy Spirit revealing the truth of what we study to us, our study gives us head knowledge only and there is no life to it.  And yet, study is important.  At the beginning of this post I quoted, “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  Some translations have “innocent” and others have “gentle” in place of harmless.  The Greek word is akeraios (G185) and the first meaning given in the Strong’s is “unmixed”.  I like that: I want an unmixed mind.  I want to know what these words meant by the ones who wrote them.  I do not want the world system giving me definitions because then, it will begin to interpret scripture for me and that path ends in death.  And so, in the upcoming weeks, I will look at the different words translated “evil” and their meanings.  I will look at the passages in which these words occur and see if my understanding of them changes.  My ultimate desire is that, through this study, the Holy Spirit will open my eyes and I will know the Truth.  Jesus Christ is the ultimate Truth and my prayer to the Holy Spirit is “increase my understanding that I might know Jesus in a deeper and more intimate way.”

May the Holy Spirit open our eyes that we may know Him!

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

References

The Comparative Study Bible,  Zondervan Bible Publishers, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

No Longer Wretched

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Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman where, this week, I continue my study of Isaiah 45:7 by looking at “evil”.

There is no denying that usage ends up defining a word.  There are words that mean the opposite today of what they meant decades ago.  One example is “let”.  Let was once used to mean lacking or obstruction or hindrance.  Nowadays it is used to mean to allow, to give an opportunity, to free from confinement.  Understanding literature from bygone eras can be difficult unless the reader understands the words used to carry much different connotations than they do today.

If I go to the world for a definition of evil, which is something quite easy to do in this day and age thanks to social media, I find two definitions.  “Evil” is used to describe acts that most would consider are obviously evil-war crimes, humanitarian atrocities, etc.  The second way the word is used is extremely superficial.  Person A is labeled “evil” by Person B because Person A disagrees with Person B.  Or Person A is labeled “evil” because Person A looks and/or sounds different from Person B.  This is not anything new, though it may seem to be more pervasive due to the immediacy of social media, but I have found this to be so in the histories of every era I have read.  This labelling another “evil” because he or she disagrees with what another says is good goes back to our first parents in the Garden of Eden. 

It is important to remember that the tree Adam and Eve ate from was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  I have come across several arguments that speak of it as the “Tree of Knowledge” full stop.  The argument is then made FOR the Serpent because God didn’t want us to use our intellects and the good serpent brought us knowledge.  This argument has no legs to stand on because the Tree was not the Tree of Knowledge (full stop) but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I am going to take a small foray into the Book of Genesis and consider Adam.  The argument that God is a selfish God who wanted to keep us stupid does-in my opinion-utterly collapse when I consider Adam as described in the second chapter of Genesis.  God plants the garden and then puts Adam in it to tend and keep it.  The Hebrew word translated “tend” in the NKJV is one that means “take hold of, bear up, sustain”1 and the word translated “keep” is one that means “to guard, protect, take heed, preserve.”2 Then, God brings every beast of the field and bird of the air to Adam to see what he would call them.  In this single chapter, I see Agriculture, Government, The Art of Defense, Biology, and Zoology.  I can see nothing that would lead me to believe God had no expectation of Adam using his intellect.

 I am also not one who subscribes to the belief that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a magic tree with the power to bestow said knowledge.  I have read many studies which refer to the story of the Garden of Eden as an allegory and these studies have made solid and valid points.  And then, I read in one of my science books that: “In 2016…scientists identified a mutation in a stretch of snake DNA called ZRS.  This one small change was enough to rid the animals of their limbs and confine them to a future of slithering on their bellies” (Pilcher, 117).  Whether you are one who believes Moses wrote Genesis or one who believes the Old Testament was finally written down during the Babylonian Captivity, I think it interesting that the one who wrote “On your belly you shall go” knew something thousands of years ago scientists only recently proved in DNA.  So, perhaps Genesis is a bit more than allegorical…

Allegory or fact, I find something interesting and worthwhile in both points of view and neither agree nor disagree with either.  The point of view I do agree with is that all the Trees in the garden are best looked at as sacraments.  God places decrees on the Trees thus bestowing upon them a sacred character and significance.  He has caused all manner of them to grow and be both pleasant to look at and good for food.  Of these, the Man and (later) Woman can freely eat.  It appears both could have freely eaten of the Tree of Life as well.  It is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil alone which God decrees “you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).  I have a two volume Exposition of Genesis where I read:

“As in the sacraments by virtue of the divine Word the visible means become vehicles of divine grace, so here by virtue of the divine word, which designates the one tree as “the tree of life,” “life” can in reality be imparted by its use when and under whatever circumstances God decrees.  In like manner, the second tree, as its name implies, becomes an agency through which under certain circumstances, divinely appointed, man may come to an experimental knowledge of good and evil.  He may through the presence of the tree be confronted with a choice, he may exercise his freedom to do God’s will in the choice, or he may refuse to make use of his freedom. Had man persisted in his freedom, the experience as such would have wrought in him a knowledge of good and evil analogous to that of God, in this sense that, without having consented to evil, an awareness of its existence and its implications would have been aroused in him.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil would have effectively done its work…So the trees are rightly regarded as sacramental in a sense” (Leupold, 121)

What could have been?  What would our world look like now if a different choice had been made then?  I can’t help asking the question but it is a waste of time to dwell on it.  A different choice was not made and the entire human race now has a day to day experience of good and evil.  What is good and what is evil really doesn’t have a clear definition because something is described as good or evil depending on how it is perceived by the five senses.  What is determined good by one person is evil to another and so it goes moment by moment, day by day, as the world turns round and round.

What can we do?  Even we believers have a problem because we intend to do good and by good we mean do what God declares good but our good is either called evil by someone else or we find we don’t have the wherewithal to do good.  Like the Apostle Paul, we “find then a law, that evil is present with me the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from the body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24)

This is not a question without an answer.  Paul goes on to say “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” We can all give thanks for the day that we live in because Jesus Christ came to earth, lived as one of us, died our death, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father, and carried us with Him!  We are raised up with Him and, because we are in Him, we are seated in heavenly places! (Ephesians 2:5-6).  We who know who we are in Jesus Christ are no longer trapped in the cycle of misery, deciding for ourselves what is good or evil, and seeing our intended good fail.  The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil no longer has any power over us for we are the Bride of Christ.  We have come to that Holy City, the New Jerusalem and there we find once more the Tree of Life (Revelation 21 & 22). 

In Jesus Christ, we are restored to what human beings were always meant to be.  This truth is being formed in us bit by bit, day by day, but the fact that we are still in process doesn’t change what IS.  We have the down payment of our inheritance in the Holy Spirit living within us.  Because His Spirit lives in us, we have the very mind of Jesus Christ.  It is this mind within us that renews and thus transforms our minds. (See Ephesians 1:14-16, 1 Corinthians 2:16, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18). We no longer live deciding what is good and evil but we live by His LIFE.

His promise is certain.  The day will come when all things are restored and our very bodies will be made like His.  We do not know exactly what we will be but we know we will be like Him!  How I pray for the hastening of that day!

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

  1. Strong’s, H5564
  2. Strong’s, H8104

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References

Let Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster

Sacrament Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com

Leupold, H.C., D.D., Exposition of Genesis, Volume I, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1942

Pilcher, Dr. Helen, Mind Maps: Biology How to Navigate the Living World, Unipress, Ltd, 2020

Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

No Matter What May Come

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Good morning!  Welcome to another week and another post on Renaissance Woman.  This post will be my last on bara, the Old Testament Hebrew word most often translated by the English word “create”.  For the sake of this study anyway as there is still a great deal to learn.  As I looked up scriptures containing the word bara, I found many that stirred up questions and opened up avenues for more study.  I am staying focused on Isaiah 45:7 though and thus plan to move on to taking a look at the meaning of “evil” in upcoming weeks.

Regarding bara: I am finally ready to settle on a definition.  I have previously shared how there are some who say bara ought to be translated “to fatten” or “to fill” and have also shared how I find those definitions unsatisfactory for two reasons: 1) because there are other perfectly good Hebrew words used to express those concepts and 2) neither definition encompasses what the word intends to convey in the passages where it is used in scripture.

I don’t believe there is any language where a word means one thing in one place and something entirely different in another place.  I have also previously shared where I plugged the different definitions for bara I’d come across into every passage where the word occurred to see if the definition worked.  An excellent example is in Jeremiah 31:22 where I find: “…For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth–A woman shall encompass a man.”  The definitions “to fatten” or “to fill” simply do not work in this passage.  Neither does defining bara as “to do a new thing”.  I was curious so I looked up the Hebrew words in this passage and it isn’t bara repeated twice.  There is a different Hebrew word translated as “a new thing”: chadash (H2319) and it means “new, fresh.” 

After all these weeks of study and compiling information from different sources, here is what I think is the closest and fullest definition of bara: to cause something new to come into being and grow to accomplish an intended purpose.  It is long and complicated but it is a definition I find fits every occurrence of bara in the Old Testament.  I find it even works in 1 Samuel 2:29 where bara is translated “to make yourselves fat” and in Joshua 17: 15 & 18 where bara is translated “to cut down”.  In both instances those involved had a purpose and caused something new to come into being in order to bring that purpose about.  In the 1Samuel passage that something new was a malformation of something God had ordained and the purpose was the satisfaction of selfish appetites.  It was born out of greed.  In Joshua, the purpose was to make a home and the new thing necessitated the removal of existing trees.  In both of these cases, the purpose did originate in the minds of mankind but the bringing about the new thing was accomplished using processes and material already in existence.  The same is true in the Jeremiah 31:22 passage where God is causing a new thing to come into being in order to satisfy His purpose but, while this new thing is originating in the mind of God and is something only God can do, man and woman already exist.

My point is, I don’t need to think “something out of nothing” every time I read the word “create” in scripture.  This is a point I think is important when I apply my definition of bara to Isaiah 45:7: “I create evil.”  What is God saying here?  Is bara intending to convey the idea that God is the source of evil i.e. He caused it to come into being or does bara mean evil is the thing already in existence God will use to cause something new to come into being and grow according to His purpose?  The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon lists Isaiah 45:7 under the definition “to shape or fashion new conditions and circumstances” so some scholars, at least, do not think the passage is saying God is the cause of evil.   

 The context of Isaiah 45:7 establishes both the Lordship and uniqueness of God.  God says to the future ruler Cyrus that, no matter how great he thinks he is, God alone is God.  God goes before him and has held his right hand (verses 1-3).  The rest of the chapter continues to establish the absolute truth that God alone is God and I find this an important truth to have established when it comes to evil.  There is a prevalent idea among believers, never outright declared but there nonetheless, that God is the God of good and Satan is the god of evil.  God might have had His original intent but Satan got in there with his lie and ruined everything.  God did what He could in Jesus but Satan is still ruining God’s plans.

I simply cannot go into how much the Bible refutes that so will simply use what is said in this chapter: “I am the Lord and there is no other…Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!  They shall be ashamed and also disgraced, all of them; they shall go into confusion together, who are makers of idols…For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God…Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth!  For I am God and there is no other.” Satan is not a god neither does he wield power equal to God.  Evil exists but, drawing on my study of bara, God comes down into it, makes His home in the midst of it, and destroys it forever by causing something new to come into being and grow and accomplish His purpose.  

One of the best examples of this is found in the story of Joseph related in Chapters 37-50 of Genesis.  Just in case someone is reading this who is unfamiliar with the story it is, briefly: Joseph is the only son of Jacob’s most-loved wife.  He is also younger than his brothers, by a great many years in some cases, which makes the special attention paid to him by Jacob something difficult for the brothers to handle.  Worse is the favoritism and elevation of Joseph over the other brothers, including the first-born son, which was something NOT DONE in that culture.  This special treatment does appear to make Joseph act a bit like a brat.  The story records him bringing a bad report of the brothers born to the maidservants to their father and then comes the sharing of his dreams.  You can just imagine how this teenage kid telling his father and brothers one day they’d all bow down to him went over.  I am not surprised that, when his brothers see him coming across the fields to check up on them in his fancy coat, they decide to kill him.

Two of his brothers intervene.  Reuben convinces the others not to kill him but rather to drop him into a pit (or cistern).  Reuben appears to have vague plans to rescue Joseph but apparently he thinks of some pressing task because he isn’t around when a caravan of slave traders comes along and Judah convinces the other brothers that, rather than killing Joseph, a better idea was to sell him to the slave traders.  Joseph is taken down to Egypt and sold as a slave.  I won’t relate all the ups and downs of his circumstances there but worth nothing is how Chapter 39 of Genesis stresses that “the Lord was with Joseph” and noticeably so (verses 2-3, 21, 23).

Joseph is eventually made ruler over Egypt second only to the Pharaoh and the day comes when his dreams are realized: his brothers come to Egypt and-not recognizing him-bow down to him.  When Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers he says an interesting thing: “But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5).  After the death of their father, still fearing Joseph might take vengeance on them, the brothers come once more before him and Joseph has this to say: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50: 19-20).

This is a fascinating story.  Joseph sees God with him and at work in his circumstances so that he says, “God sent me before you”.  But, Joseph does not ignore the fact that the intent of his brothers was evil.  God no doubt could have got Joseph to Egypt a myriad of ways.  Perhaps Joseph’s suffering-and the Bible makes it clear he did suffer (See Psalm 105)-would not have happened.  It did happen and he did suffer because his brothers thought evil thoughts and acted on them.  And yet, while those evil thoughts and actions brought about circumstances I’m sure Joseph would have avoided if the choice had been his; those very same circumstances were the ones God worked in to elevate Joseph to a position where not only the lives of his people were saved but the lives of the people of Egypt as well. 

There is a passage of scripture which states, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).  This passage states what I’ve seen so far in my study of “I create evil” (Isaiah 45:7).  No matter who may come against me with plans of evil, God is with me.  If a circumstance arises which brings evil instead of good, God is with me.  Not just with me-He lives inside of me by His Spirit.  That same Spirit that energized the creating Word is in me still energizing but also transforming and renewing.  In Jesus Christ I live and move and have my being and He not only creates evil but makes peace.

Until next time, let us each one hold fast to the truth that we are the very temples of the Holy Spirit and, as we hold fast, may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Hallelujah! 

Amen.

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

Note: for a comprehensive look at the story of Joseph, I recommend Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness by Dr. John C. Lennox.

References

Brown, F., S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Eighteenth Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 2018, Page 135

Green, Jay P. Sr., The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew, Greek, English, Volume 3, Authors For Christ Inc., Lafayette, IN, 1985

Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Our Increasing Inheritance

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Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman!

This week I continue looking at the Hebrew word bara and, as I have conducted this study on Isaiah 45:7, I found I haven’t been able to look at bara without also looking at bereshiyt.  I’ve felt I could spend the rest of my life just looking at Bereshiyt bara, the first two words of the book of Genesis or the Torah.  The deeper I look the more I find I am in fathomless depths.  There is so much more to be seen and learned and I may never find a bottom.

Which is fine by me.  Being taught of the Holy Spirit is a never ending adventure of discovery.  As my God is infinite and I am finite, I can delight in knowing there will always be something new to discover about Him.  I will grow into Him, come to know Him more and more, and our relationship will continue to grow and evolve.  I find it interesting that the English word “create”, which is almost always used to translate bara in scripture, comes from the base kre which means “to grow”.  We Believers speak of “growing in the Lord” but I don’t think I’ve ever thought of that in terms of create/creating.  This is a truth I do not hear spoken of in Christian circles near enough: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you”.  That’s Romans 8:11 and I do think it’s worth some time to ponder that: the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead lives IN us.  The Spirit we see hovering over the face of the waters in Genesis 1:1, the Spirit who is sent forth creating (Psalm 104:30) dwells inside of us. 

It doesn’t seem possible, does it?  It seems too good to be true and yet this is what scripture tells me is true so all I can do is ask that same Spirit to open my eyes to see it, believe it, and then strengthen me to live it.  The same Word who brought all things into being lives in me-and each one of you-through His Spirit.  How can we help but grow!

I do have to admit I always believed that, while there couldn’t help but be growth as long as I lived here on earth in this body, one day I’d go to heaven and then I’d know everything.  There’d be no more growth: just singing and dancing on golden streets in the presence of Jesus for all eternity.  I used to sing those very words during worship services and yet there’s a passage in Isaiah that always use to frighten me because it seems to say something different.  It’s found in Isaiah 9:7 and echoed in Luke 1:33: “Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end.  Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice, from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” 

No end?  The very idea used to terrify me.  If there was no end to the increase of His government and peace, what about me?  My early-church days had instilled in me the certainty that once I got to heaven that was it.  I would have-both literally and metaphorically-arrived.  This passage appeared to be telling me that wasn’t true.  If there was really no end to His increase, that meant I had no idea what “going to heaven” meant nor what to expect when I got there.  This passage deserves a dedicated study but, as I sought out a definition for bara, found there were some who thought it ought to be translated as “to fatten” or “to fill”, and then learned “create” contained the idea of growth, I couldn’t get this passage out of my mind.  What correlation could there be between bara-as it is translated “create”-and never ending increase?

When it comes to the dictionary definition of “create”, at first glance there doesn’t seem to be any.  The Webster’s dictionary goes on to define “create” as: “to cause to come into existence, bring into being, make, originate, to make or design (something requiring art, skill, invention, etc.), to bring about, give rise to.”  However, there is a further definition of “create” in the Webster’s dictionary that caught my attention.  It is, “to invest with a new rank, function, etc.”  This fascinates me because the Hebrew word for “increase” in Isaiah 9:7 is marbiyth (H4768) and it means “multitude, offspring”.  

I quoted Romans 8:11 before.  It is crucial that each one of us know the Holy Spirit lives within us because it is the Holy Spirit Himself who bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).  Because the Holy Spirit lives within us, we know we are born from above (or born again).  John 3:3 says, “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’”.  What is the kingdom of God?  It is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). 

The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come and He answered them: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For, indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).  Some translations say “in your midst” but the Greek word used is entos (G1787) and it means “inside, within”. 

If we don’t believe what these scriptures are saying is true, if-as some denominations say-the action of the Holy Spirit stopped with the death of the last apostle; what is a Christian life?  Being a moral person?  Adhering to a list of do’s and don’t’s?  There certainly is no life.  Without the Spirit of God within us, there is no heart of flesh given us in place of the heart of stone, His law is not written in our hearts, and there is no enablement to walk in His statutes and do them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). If the kingdom of God is not righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit and we do not know we have that kingdom inside of us now through the witness of the Spirit within us, if everything is indeed reserved until after we die and go to heaven; why do we pray the Lord’s Prayer?  Why say “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth…” if we have zero expectation of His kingdom actually coming and His will actually being done on earth?  I cannot believe when we pray that we pray for a future kingdom because the rest of the prayer is for now.  We ask for our daily bread and we pray to forgive others as we too are forgiven.  If that portion of the prayer is not reserved for some far off future, I cannot think praying for His kingdom to come and His will to be done would be.

While I do believe we have the kingdom within us, I also believe what the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians: “In Him (Jesus Christ) you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory.”  While I believe what the Bible says is true, that the kingdom of God IS righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, I also believe what we experience is merely a down payment on our inheritance, as this passage is rendered in the Common English Bible.  There is coming a time of greater things, what this passage calls the redemption of the purchased possession.  But, we do have the down payment and what a down payment it is!

Every time the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of someone’s heart to see who they are in Christ, who Christ is in them, and the peace of Christ rules in their hearts, they begin to see the kingdom.  I also think it’s fascinating that the admonition is to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15) because it is peace that is juxtaposed to evil in Isaiah 45:7:  “I make peace and create calamity (or evil)”. His government and peace increases.

We are the dwelling place of God.  His peace which is part of the fruit of His Spirit rules in our hearts even in the midst of calamitous or evil circumstances.  Moment by moment, day by day, “from glory to glory”, His life is formed in us.  His Spirit is sent forth and we are created.  I am no longer frightened but rather I delight that “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!

Amen.

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

References

Green, Jay P., The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew, Greek, English, Volume 4, Authors for Christ Inc., Lafayette, Indiana, 1976, 1984

Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, Williams Collins + World Publishing Co., Inc., Cleveland • New York, 1970, 1976

Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990