Reftagger

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 50

זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם

He created them male and female

It is hard to escape the biological truth reiterated in this verse. Mankind originates in the center of a man. The idea of the seed crosses all forms of life. The male (Heb. זָכָר zakar) is the sower of the seed. The adjective/noun is from זָכַר, to remember, bring to mind. Generally, it is the male of a species that is dominant.

Conversely, the female (נְקֵבָה nĕqebah) is the fertile receptor of the seed. The knowledge of the role of the egg was unknown in ancient times, though infertility was a great concern. The word nĕqebah is from the verb נָקַב (nakab) which means "to pierce, perforate, bore" and by extension, "to appoint". This is purely an agricultural term, as thoroughly appropriate with animals as it is with plants.

The fact that the sexual differences were "created" means that these differences are essential to life. The mere "making" of organisms might work for a generation, but not for the propagation of the species.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 49

אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ

Mankind in Our Image

The apex of creation was mankind (אָדָ֛ם adam). So far creation has been filled with with phenomena, objects, and living things. Though it all demonstrated the majesty and creativity of God, the earth was had no one who could understand it. This required a special feature that could show the mind of God. He called it His "image" (צֶלֶם tselem).

"Adam" comes from the verb אָדַם which means "to be or make red". The word for "ground" also comes from this root. The color red represents blood that is essential for life.

As seen earlier, life had been given to animals of the sea, air and land. The blood flowing in the veins of mankind represented more than mortality. It represented the life that is in God as an attribute. Mankind had life at the pleasure of God Himself, as will be seen in Gen. 2.

The inherent life in God, imparted to mankind, made it resemble the creator in a special way--the image (צֶלֶם tselem)--of God. Though animals could be clever, mankind would be truly creative. Like God, they would be builders. Most of all, they would make decisions that changed the world.

The word tselem is from a root that denotes a shadow, or shade. Trees and structures cast an outline upon the ground when light is blocked from going through them. Metaphorical use of this concept can illustrate only a glimpse of what "cast" the shadow. In this way, the communicable attributes of God can be seen in mankind.

כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ

According to our likeness

Not only was mankind to think like God, the species was to "be like" Him. The word דְּמוּת (dĕmuwth) is from דָּמָה, meaning to resemble, or to be like.

To the first readers, or hearers, of this account, the concept of being godly was more palatable than being in his image. But when one respects the authority in place, and acts according to the desires of that authority, he or she will become like that authority. God, as creator, had made mankind with the capacity to follow rules. It follows, then, that being like God means godliness, not divinity.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How to Store up Treasure in Heaven



You’ve probably heard the saying that we should “store up treasures in Heaven” instead of focusing on earthly possessions. This phrase is used by Jesus numerous times and once by Paul, but is first and most famously used in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not lay up [treasure] for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”- Matt 6:19-21 ESV
The question then becomes, “How do I seek treasure in Heaven?”. There is great news. We do not have to speculate or even infer wisdom from the Bible indirectly. Did you know the Bible tells us directly how to store treasure in Heaven? Let’s take a look directly at how we “lay up treasure in Heaven”.

Paul’s Instruction

 So how do we acquire this treasure that Jesus referred to? Well Paul gives us an explicit how-to in his First Epistle to Timothy:
“[The rich Christians] are to do good, to be rich in good works[:] to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life”- 1 Tim 6:18-19 (slight grammatical modification for exegesis)
Very specifically, Paul tells Timothy that rich Christians (and all believers) can store up treasures in Heaven by being generous and sharing.
There is a direct correlation between earthly generosity and heavenly treasures. Notice, this is not saying that the more generous you are on earth, the more earthly treasures you will have (like the prosperity gospel). This is representative of a financial transaction or exchange- earthly wealth is put aside for the future wealth of Heaven. Much like one invests money for retirement, incurring a present loss that will bring future value, so one who is generous will establish a foundation in rock for the future (1 Tim 6:19).
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It is very clear in Scripture that heavenly treasure is only brought about by earthly giving. When Paul’s instruction to Timothy is understood grammatically, the “generous” and “ready to share” are specific examples of the good works. Only the generosity and sharing are described as an activity that creates a heavenly investment, not good works in general. This is supported through Jesus’ practical examples.

Jesus’ Practical Examples

So Paul gives a “how-to” for creating treasure for Heaven, while Jesus gives us practical examples. Luke’s Gospel features very similar language to the Sermon on the Mount, but in a different place and different order. Jesus tells his disciples,
“Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure, there will your heart be also.”
Both Matthew and Luke focus on the importance of investing in Heaven’s treasure, so as to not become attached to Earthly wealth (Luke 12:34, Matt 6:24). Here, Jesus tells us exactly how to gain this treasure- sell your possessions and give to the poor. This does not mean we all have to sell everything we have, but it does mean we must be sacrificial and do whatever it takes to be generous and invest in Heaven (investments require present loss for future value).
There is one other example that Jesus gives us, which is featured in all three synoptic Gospels. In his conversation with the rich young ruler Jesus tells him:
“Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…”- Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22, Matt 19:21
The rich young ruler had faithfully obeyed all of God’s commands, but he desired eternal life. For him, he had to give up what was most important to him- his material possessions and wealth. Again, Jesus gives the practical example of storing up heavenly treasures by selling possessions and being charitable to the poor. The emphasis, once again, is on sacrificially providing for those in poverty and forsaking earthly goods (what we often value most) for heavenly goods (which we do not benefit from, yet). To store up Heaven’s treasure, there must be some personal loss. The same principle of investments applies here: the higher “risk” creates a higher reward. Therefore, the more we are willing to “risk” our earthly wealth, the more we will reap in Heaven.

Conclusion

Every single use of the phrase “treasures in Heaven” is somehow related to money. This means that heavenly treasure is a specific kind of reward for a specific action and is not referring to general rewards in heaven. Treasure in heaven is used as an analogy for some sort of reward in Heaven, as a result of financial activity on Earth. We cannot know what this reward will be exactly, but we know that:
“...God will repay each according to his deeds” (Rom 2:6, Matt 16:27), so a heavenly treasure will somehow correspond to earthly generosity.
So how do we lay up treasure in Heaven? We must physically invest our money and material possessions, by sacrificially giving to others to receive Heaven’s dividends. By doing this, we will prepare ourselves for some future reward that will be better than money on earth. While on Earth, our reward will be blessing the needy and having a mindset that realizes the temporary nature of this life’s goods and that earnestly awaits the rewards of the next life.