Month: February 2014

“In the beginning God created—or was it a quantum fluctuation?” by Dr. Jonathan D. Sarfati

Genesis 1:11

 

 

In one sense, Genesis 1:1 is the most important verse in the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If we can believe this verse, no other verse in the Bible should be a problem. For example, if God can create the whole universe, then raising people from the dead and causing a virgin to conceive would be easy beyond words.

Also, in this one verse, all other false religions are rejected:1

Atheism: there is no God.2
  • God exists, and was present ‘at the beginning’.
  • God created the universe; the universe neither spontaneously appeared nor has it existed forever.
Agnosticism: it is impossible to know whether God exists.3
  • God has revealed Himself in Scripture as Creator.
Dualism: Good and Evil are eternally co-existent (as Zoroastrians believe).
  • God was alone when He created.
  • God is perfectly good.
  • Beings who became evil are part of the created order.
Finite-god views (e.g. Open Theism and Process Theology).
  • God created the space-time universe.
  • Thus He is not limited by anything in the universe,4including the future, since God created time itself.
Evolutionism: that goo became you via the zoo.
  • God created all things.
Humanism: man is the measure of all things.
  • God is the ultimate reality.
  • Man is part of the created order.
  • God created us so He is the measure of all things.
Materialism: Matter (or mass-energy) is the only reality. This is a synonym of:
Naturalism: natural laws describe all things.
  • God created matter (and mass-energy); or, God created nature.
  • God is thus sovereign over the natural world.
  • Thus matter (mass-energy) are not eternal or self-existent.
Pantheism: all is god; god and creation are the same thing.
  • God created the universe.
  • Thus God is distinct from His creation.
Panentheism: “all is in god”.
  • God transcends what He created.
Polytheism: there is more than one god
  • Only one God created all things.
Unitarianism (that God is an absolute unity, e.g. Islam, modern Judaism, Jehovah’s Witness doctrine, classical unitarianism).
  • Elohim is a plural noun with a singular verb, teaching a plurality in the Godhead.
  • The NT reveals this further as the Trinity.

Conversely, if we can’t trust this verse, then nothing else in the Bible makes sense. Since this verse is so foundational, it is not surprising that atheists have feverishly attacked this concept. Some of the attacks are childish, while others have the veneer of philosophy or advanced science.

If God can create the whole universe, then raising people from the dead and causing a virgin to conceive would be easy beyond words.

Who created God?

The Bible doesn’t attempt to prove that God exists—it proclaims this truth as obvious. But a common question from little children (and not-so-little atheists) is: “If God created the universe, then who created God?” Or, “If everything has a cause, then who caused God?” But no serious apologist ever argued that way. As we have pointed out in several articles and books, one of the main real arguments is:

  1. Everything which has a beginning has a cause.5
  2. The universe has a beginning.
  3. Therefore the universe has a cause.6,7

The words in bold are important—it is not everything that has a cause, but only everything which begins to exist. The universe requires a cause because it had a beginning. This can be shown by the Laws of Thermodynamics. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that natural processes can neither create nor destroy mass-energy (mass-energy interchange can occur according to E = mc2, but the total remains the same). But the Second Law states that the amount of energy available for work is running out, or entropy is increasing to a maximum. If the total amount of mass-energy is limited, and the amount of usable energy is decreasing, then the universe cannot have existed forever. Otherwise, it would already have exhausted all usable energy—the ‘heat death’ of the universe. For example, all radioactive atoms would have decayed, every part of the universe would be the same temperature, and no further work would be possible. So the obvious corollary is that the universe began a finite time ago with a lot of usable energy, and is now running down.

In addition, Einstein’s general relativity, which has much experimental support, shows that time is linked to matter and space. So time itself would have begun along with matter and space, an insight first pointed out by Augustine in the fourth century. Since God, by definition, is the Creator of the whole universe, he is the Creator of time. Therefore, He is not limited by the time dimension He created, so has no beginning in time—God is “the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15). Therefore, He doesn’t have a cause.

Cause and Effect

It is a metaphysical principle that things which begin have a cause, but it is also self-evident—no-one really denies it in his heart.

All science and history would collapse if this law of cause and effect were denied. So would all law enforcement, if the police didn’t think they needed to find a cause for a stabbed body or a burgled house. Also, the universe cannot be self-caused—nothing can create itself, because that would mean that it existed before it came into existence, which is a logical absurdity.

Suppose that a banana suddenly appeared on your plate. You would not think, ‘Hume was right after all—this banana really did come into being without a cause.’ No, you would think, ‘How did that banana get there?’ and look for the likely cause.

Despite this, the favourite philosopher of modern atheists, the Scotsman David Hume (1711–1776), disagreed. He taught that one might conceive of something coming into being without a cause.

However, British analytic philosopher (and conservative Roman Catholic) G.E.M. (Elizabeth) Anscombe (1919–2001) argued cogently that no one really conceives of any such thing.8 To paraphrase one of her points, suppose that a banana suddenly appeared on your plate. You would not think, “Hume was right after all—this banana really did come into being without a cause.” No, you would think, “How did that banana get there?” and look for the likely cause. Maybe there was a hole in the ceiling above it, or in the plate below it. If that were ruled out, then maybe you were temporarily unaware of your surroundings, and in that time, someone placed the banana there without your noticing. Failing that, maybe a magician’s trick, or even a miracle, was the cause. Regardless, even an unknown cause would be more likely than no cause.

Further, Anscombe pointed out, we would be less likely to think that this banana came into being than that it already existed and was somehow moved to the place. I.e. the cause was in transportation not in creation out of nothing.9,10

So even though Hume claimed that one could easily conceive of something coming into being without a cause, in reality, he likely never really conceived any such thing. Indeed, it seems impossible to conceive. Hume himself, in more lucid moments, even admitted as much:

But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without a cause: I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falsehood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration; but from another Source.11

Universe from nothing?

Despite the above, a number of atheists have claimed that the universe really came from ‘nothing’. For example, an article about Alan Guth (1947– ), the pioneer of the inflationary universe (see ch. 6), stated:

The universe burst into something from absolutely nothing—zero, nada. And as it got bigger, it became filled with even more stuff that came from absolutely nowhere. How is that possible? Ask Alan Guth. His theory of inflation helps explain everything.12

More recently, physicist and atheistic propagandist Lawrence Krauss (1954– ) has promoted this notion, and even wrote a book, A Universe from Nothing,13 which had a glowing afterword by prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.14 However, Luke Barnes, a non-creationist astrophysicist who is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, University of Sydney, Australia, is scathing about Krauss and those who argue like him:

First and foremost, I’m getting really rather sick of cosmologists talking about universes being created out of nothing. Krauss repeatedly talked about universes coming out of nothing, particles coming out of nothing, different types of nothing, nothing being unstable. This is nonsense. The word nothing is often used loosely—I have nothing in my hand, there’s nothing in the fridge etc. But the proper definition of nothing is “not anything”. Nothing is not a type of something, not a kind of thing. It is the absence of anything.

Some of the best examples of the fallacy of equivocation involve treating the word nothing as if it were a type of something:

First and foremost, I’m getting really rather sick of cosmologists talking about universes being created out of nothing. … What Krauss is really talking about is the quantum vacuum. The quantum vacuum is a type of something. It has properties. It has energy, it fluctuates, it can cause the expansion of the universe to accelerate, it obeys the (highly non-trivial) equations of quantum field theory.—Cosmologist Luke Barnes
  • Margarine is better than nothing.
  • Nothing is better than butter.
  • Thus, margarine is better than butter.

We can uncover the fallacy by simply rephrasing the premises, avoiding the word nothing:

  • It is better to have margarine than to not have anything.
  • There does not exist anything that is better than butter.

The conclusion (margarine is better than butter) does not follow from these premises.15

Does a quantum fluctuation solve the problem?

Some physicists assert that quantum mechanics violates this cause/effect principle and can produce something from nothing. For instance, Paul Davies writes:

… spacetime could appear out of nothingness as a result of a quantum transition. … Particles can appear out of nowhere without specific causation … the world of quantum mechanics routinely produces something out of nothing.16

But this is a gross misapplication of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics never produces something out of nothing. Davies himself admitted on the previous page that his scenario ‘should not be taken too seriously.’ Also, theories that the universe is a quantum fluctuation must presuppose that there wassomething to fluctuate—their ‘quantum vacuum’ is a lot of matter-antimatter potential—not ‘nothing’. So this is another equivocation.

However, Krauss is still resorting to these fallacies, as Luke Barnes points out, explaining in more detail how the term ‘nothing’ is misused:

Now let’s look at Krauss’ claims again. Does it make sense to say that there are different types of not anything? That not anything is not stable? This is bollocks. What Krauss is really talking about is the quantum vacuum. The quantum vacuum is a type of something. It has properties. It has energy, it fluctuates, it can cause the expansion of the universe to accelerate, it obeys the (highly non-trivial) equations of quantum field theory. We can describe it. We can calculate, predict and falsify its properties. The quantum vacuum is not nothing.

This suggests a very simple test for those who wish to talk about nothing: if what you are talking about has properties, then it is not nothing. It is pure equivocation to refer to the quantum vacuum as nothing when a philosopher starts asking the question “why is there something rather than nothing?”. She is not asking “why are there particles rather than just a quantum vacuum?”. She is asking “why does anything exist at all?”. As Stephen Hawking once asked, why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?

We can now see that this question cannot be answered by any of the methods we normally call scientific. Scientific theories are necessarily theories of something, some physical reality. Equations describe properties, and thus describe something. There cannot be equations that describe not-anything. Write down any equation you like—you will not be able to deduce from that equation that the thing that it describes must exist in the real world. Existence is not a predicate, as Kant memorably explained.17

The fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings—if you look at them aright—amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.—Physicist and philosopher David Albert

Barnes’ objections to Krauss’s equivocations are shared by philosopher David Albert, professor of philosophy at Columbia University, NY, who also has a doctorate in theoretical physics. He reviewed Krauss’s book critically in the New York Times, not known for friendliness to orthodox Christianity:

Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics themselves supposed to have come from? Krauss is more or less upfront, as it turns out, about not having a clue about that. He acknowledges (albeit in a parenthesis, and just a few pages before the end of the book) that everything he has been talking about simply takes the basic principles of quantum mechanics for granted. …

Krauss seems to be thinking that these vacuum states amount to the relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical version of there not being any physical stuff at all. And he has an argument—or thinks he does—that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.

But that’s just not right. Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states—no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems—are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields—what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings—if you look at them aright—amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.18

Krauss’s is just the latest in a series of philosophically inept books by the soi-disant ‘new atheists’. It’s hard to disagree with the Thomist19philosopher Edward Feser, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College:

The spate of bad books on philosophy and religion by prominent scientists … is notable not only for the sophomoric philosophical and theological errors they contain but also for their sheer repetitiveness. Krauss’ fallacious account of how something can come from nothing, … is largely a rehash of ideas already put forward by Hawking, Mlodinow, and some less eminent physics popularizers.—Philosopher Edward Feser

The spate of bad books on philosophy and religion by prominent scientists—Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Hawking and Mlodinow’s The Grand Design, and Atkins’ On Being, among others—is notable not only for the sophomoric philosophical and theological errors they contain but also for their sheerrepetitiveness. Krauss’ fallacious account of how something can come from nothing, though presented as a great breakthrough, and praised as such by Dawkins in his afterword, is largely a rehash of ideas already put forward by Hawking, Mlodinow, and some less eminent physics popularizers. Dawkins has been peddling the “Who created the creator?” meme since the eighties.

Critics have exposed their errors and fallacies again and again. Yet these writers keep repeating them anyway, for the most part simply ignoring the critics. What accounts for this? To paraphrase a famous remark of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s, I would suggest that a picture holds these thinkers captive, a picture of the quantitative methods of modern science that have made possible breathtaking predictive and technological successes.20

Conclusion

The Bible presupposes that God began the universe. The fact of the universe’s beginning points strongly to a Creator consistent with the biblical God. Some atheists, following Hume, have asserted that something can begin without a cause, but this is not only unreasonable, it is arguably inconceivable. The ‘New Atheists’ have resorted to quantum bluffing to claim that something really can come from nothing. But they must equivocate about the word ‘nothing’. This really should mean nothingno properties. However, their proposed quantum vacuum is not nothing; it must be somethingwith properties—e.g. the quantum vacuum, which is being bound by the laws of quantum physics, so that it can ‘fluctuate’.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It stands to reason.

“Live With Abandon” by Newsboys

 

Chasing after this world makes me tired
Praisin’ my own name leaves me dry

There’s gotta be so much more to life than this
A higher calling that I missed
I want my life to count, every breath

I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon

Drop everything and follow you
It’s only your hands I hold onto

There’s gotta be so much more to life than this
A higher calling that I missed
I want my life to count, every breath

I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon

I’m not looking back
I’m done with that
Wanna give you all I have

I’m not looking back
I’m done with that
Wanna give you all I have

I wanna live with abandon

I wanna live with abondon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon
I wanna live with abandon
Wanna live with abandon

“Accepting Limitations” Eccelesiastes 3:9-11 by Keith R. Krell

Ecc. 3:11

 

Accept limitations (3:9-11).

Solomon writes, “What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?” This section ends in 3:9 with the same rhetorical question posed in 1:3 (cf. 2:11). This rhetorical question is an example of negative affirmation, expecting a negative answer: “Mankind gains nothing from his toil!” Any profit or advantage that man might gain from his toil is nullified by his ignorance of divine providence.  We say to ourselves, “Why should I work so hard when it’s all going to be destroyed? Why get married when you just end up fighting and hurting one another? Why have a child and deal with the stress and disappointment?”  These are all good questions. Actor Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Solomon continues in 3:10-11 with these words: “I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”  The word “everything” in 3:11 resumes “everything” in 3:1. The point of 3:11 is that God makes everything, even events that occur through human agency, happen in its proper time. Yet, the tension of this verse is that we don’t always understand His purposes. We ask questions like, “Why was I born this way? Why did my father treat me that way? Why did you take my friend? Why am I missing out on this blessing?” Our problem is that we focus our attention on the wrong thing. We see the fuzzy, ugly cocoon; God plans and sets in motion the butterfly. We see the painful, awful process; He is producing the value of the product. We see today; He is working on forever. We get caught up in the wrapping; He focuses on the gift—the substance down inside. We look at the external; He emphasizes the internal. He makes everything beautiful in its time, including your loss, your hospital experience, your failures, your brokenness, your battles, your fragmented dreams, your lost romance, your heartache, your illness. Yes, even your terminal illness…whatever you’re going through. He makes it beautiful in its time. Without Him, life is purposeless and profitless, miserable and meaningless. With Him, it will ultimately make sense.

Solomon also says that God has set eternity into the hearts of mankind. Knowing that gives purpose to life. The phrase “eternity in their hearts” means God has placed a big question mark deep in every man’s soul. We should be asking the question: What is the meaning of life? God intended it that way. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal—that this world is not all there is.

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Egypt and its tombs and pyramids, study what was required to construct some of those monuments. Some studies revealed that it required the efforts of one hundred thousand workers forty years to build just one of the great pyramids. As you tour the area there, you can’t help but ask why. Why so much effort? Why would somebody put that amount of emphasis on a tomb—on the afterlife? The answer is, the Egyptians understood full well that they would spend a lot more time in the afterlife than they would spend in this life. Granted, some of their conceptions of what would happen in the afterlife were a little skewed. But the point is, they understood to the core of their being that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than this life, and so they prepared for the afterlife during this life. God had placed eternity in their hearts.

Since all has been predetermined by God, there is purpose and meaning in the events of life. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you.” Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man that cannot be filled by any created being, but by God alone made known through Jesus Christ.” The truth is: we have an eternal itch. We all long to know the eternal significance of what we do. The Bible says this can only be found in Christ.

A Prodigal Marriage: A Real and Raw Inside Look (Pt. 5, Long Overdue, I know)

So, to pick up where I left off, Ben (my soon to be ex-husband) had called me out to the house to pick up our youngest child because he was having car trouble.  As I pulled up to the house that we had shared for years, I prayed that things would go smoothly and there wouldn’t be a confrontation.  I was hoping he wouldn’t mention the text I’d sent a few days eariler telling him that I still loved him.  But God didn’t forget it, and was using that text to open a door and Ben’s heart.

I knocked on the door, but no one answered.  I tried the door and since it was unlocked, I walked in.  Sarah, our youngest, was eating in the livingroom and Ben was nowhere to be seen.  I called for him and found him in a back bedroom, huddled in the corner crying.  At first I thought about just taking Sarah and letting him deal with whatever he was going through, he probably didn’t want me anywhere near him anyways.  But some still small voice told me not to leave.  I stood in the doorway of the bedroom asked him if everything was ok, if his family was alright, thinking his great-grandmother was sick or something like that.  Again, that still small voice urged me to go over and comfort him.  He still hadn’t answered me by the time I’d gotten to him, and it was still a few minutes before he could calm himself enough to tell me that everyone was okay.  What he said next threw me for a loop and all my inhabitions went out the window.

“I just want to die.”  Here was this man, my man, the strongest man I knew, curled up on the floor and being so brutally honest that my walls fell down immediately.  It began slowely at first, a gentle touch, just to let him know I cared and that I was there for him.  I listened as he told me that he was at the end of his rope and he was ready to either walk away or die.  I began to cry for him and after an hour in that room, something had transformed in both of us.  We began talking about us and where we stood as individuals and as a couple.  I told him about my encounter with God and His fierce love and I could see that Ben was closer with Him too.  So, with a new sense of purpose and promise in our marriage, we prayed together that God would show us His plan.

 

“How to Kill a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Ray C. Stedman (1973)

Read the Scripture: 1 Chronicles 11:22-24
 “There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two champions of Moab. Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it.  Once, armed only with a club, he killed an Egyptian warrior who was 7½ feet tall and whose spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with it.  Deeds like these made Benaiah as famous as the three mightiest warriors.”

I want to do something this morning which I have done only once or twice before in all my twenty-three years at Peninsula Bible Church — to repeat a message I have given here before. I do this for two reasons. First, this has been a very heavy week for me. I have already preached or taught or lectured some twenty-two hours this week, and so have had very little time to work on proper preparation of a message. Rather than present one half-prepared I would much rather do this. Second, I feel this message is much needed. I do not think I have known a time when more people have been going through deep trouble and tribulation and pressure. We have seen a sample of it this morning in the prayer requests over which we have just prayed. And I feel this would be an appropriate message for such a time.

So I apologize to those of you who have heard this message before — and remember that you have — but I hope that, like wine and cheese, it will improve with age!

I have chosen this passage in First Chronicles because it deals with a very practical problem in our lives, one which every one of us wrestles with from time to time. I want to be both practical and helpful — that is what Scripture is for. And this passage deals with the problem of how to kill a lion on a snowy day.

Now, you have had that problem this week, I know! You may not have recognized it, but I am sure you have had it. As we get on into this text I am sure you will agree with me. It deals with that problem, along with a couple of others, and I think we will find it helpful.

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds; he smote two ariels of Moab. He also went down and slew a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. And he slew an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits tall. The Egyptian had in his hand a spear like a weaver’s beam; but Benaiah went down to him with a staff, and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and slew him with his own spear. These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men. He was renowned among the thirty, but did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard. (1 Chronicles 11:22-25)

You notice this is in the days of David the king. There are two groups of men mentioned — the thirty, and the three. These three mighty men, whose names are given in preceding texts, were the leaders of all the armed forces of Israel, the “Joint Chiefs of Staff,” if you like. Then there was another band of thirty men who were the commanders of various divisions within the military. It was among these thirty men, chosen from throughout the ranks of Israel, that our man Benaiah the son of Jehoiada became prominent. He was made captain of David’s bodyguard. He was chosen for that position of honor close to the person of the king because of three great events which had happened in his life, three deeds of valor for which he was widely known throughout the nation.

The first was that he smote two ariels of Moab. If you are reading from the King James Version you will notice that it says “two lion-like men of Moab.” This is because the King James translators did not know what this word meant. Nor, in fact, did the translators of the Revised Standard Version. For this word in Hebrew is one of the very few of which we have lost the meaning. We do not know what it means. The King James translators noticed that it was somewhat similar to the word for lion. So they translated it lion-like, feeling that this would be as close as they could come. But it does not mean exactly that. So when the Revised translators worked on this passage they said, “Well, let’s not translate this word at all. We don’t know what it means, so let’s just admit it, and anglicize it, i.e., take the sound of it in Hebrew and put it in English.” So that is why it is ariel, for that is what it sounds like in Hebrew.

But no one knows what an ariel is. The King James translators made what you might call a “holy guess” at it. If I may take an unholy guess, I would suggest that the word probably is some kind of military term, referring to a troop unit of a particular size, like a company or a platoon, and that this man had won fame because he encountered these two units, whatever they were, of the military of Moab, and single handed, put them down. Whatever it does mean, it was a notable deed. He was widely recognized as a mighty man because he had smitten these two ariels of Moab.

Another deed for which he was known was that he went down and slew a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. That, too, was a notable deed. A lion is a very ferocious adversary. He met him in a very difficult place and slew him, and was recognized as a man of valor because he had dared to face a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. We are going to come back to that incident in a moment.

The third great deed for which he was known was that he met an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits (about nine feet) tall. That is about the same size as Goliath, for slaying whom David won fame. This man had a tremendous spear, like a weaver’s beam. Unfortunately we are not acquainted with that terminology. A weaver’s loom had a tremendous beam on it, usually about six or seven inches thick. That is what this man’s spear was like. We might liken it to a flag pole or a telephone pole. At any rate it was a formidable weapon. And Benaiah the son of Jehoiadah met this huge man with this great spear, and, using only his staff, somehow knocked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, seized it, and slew the giant with his own spear, for which he won great fame in Israel as a man of valor.

“Well now,” you say, “that’s all very interesting. But what on earth does it have to do with me? How does this relate in any sense to me? It is an interesting story, and certainly he was a great man, but I don’t see how this helps me.” But, you see, this is one of the glories of Scripture. Paul tells us in Romans 15:4a (RSV), “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,” and these tales in the Bible are not merely Sunday school stories, or even myths and legends recorded for our entertainment. They have meaning and purpose for us. They apply to us.

For instance, it is interesting to note that these three enemies whom Benaiah overcame are all used in Scripture as types, or symbols, of enemies of the believer today:

“Benaiah smote two ariels of Moab.” Who was Moab? In the Old Testament we find that the Moabites were a tribe living on the borders of Israel who were related to the Israelites. Back in the book of Genesis we are told that Lot, when he fled from Sodom, hid with his two daughters in a cave. There, in a rather shadowed episode, we are told that Lot was made drunk by his two daughters and that, in his drunken stupor, he sired children by each of his own daughters. One was Ammon, and the other was Moab. Ammon, by the way, is the one for whom the capital city of present-day Jordan was named. So the Moabites were closely related to the Israelites and grew up beside them. But they were always enemies of Israel, wherever you read of them. This is used throughout the Old Testament as a picture of something which is true of us. We have an enemy within us, to which we are related. In the New Testament it is called “the flesh.” It is referred to as our “self-life,” the “old life,” and by other terms like that. But it is related to us. It is part of us. We cannot get rid of it. It lives in the back room of the house of our life, like a poor relative. We are ashamed of it, but we cannot get rid of it. And so Moab is a picture of the flesh throughout Scripture.

“And he slew an Egyptian.” Egypt also is used as a type, or picture, of an enemy throughout the Scriptures. Do you know what it is? Egypt was the leading nation of the world of that day, the country which was looked up to as the source of worldly power, with its vast armies and tremendous temples, its pharaohs and their pomp and circumstance, its libraries and accumulated wisdom. All this is a picture of the superficial impressiveness, the empty glory of the world and its ways. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he was taken up on a high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the earth, with all their power and glory. That is what is symbolized by Egypt. The Israelites, many of them, longed to return to Egypt. They had forgotten the bondage, the slavery, the cruelty, the tears and the heartache of Egypt, and remembered only its comforts, its conveniences, the leeks and onions and garlic and melons of Egypt. What a picture Egypt is of the world and its ways — its philosophies, its pursuit of pomp and prestige and pride and status! So this incident is used as a vivid figure of a man who overcame the world.

But then there was the lion. I am sure you have guessed by now what the lion symbolizes. Remember that Peter tells us outright: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8 RSV). Here is an enemy who is sinister, and who, like a lion, has tremendous majesty and authority and power, and is out licking his chops, looking for something to eat, “seeking whom he may devour.” What a picture!

Who among us has not been confronted with these enemies? There they are the world, the flesh, and the devil.” We have felt the pressure of them, seen the attack of the flesh, our relative, Moab, sneaking up on us when we are least aware. We have felt the pull of the world, its attractiveness, and have wanted to be involved in it and thought we were missing something if we were not. We have felt it draw us away as we have longed to go back to Egypt. And at times, I am sure, we have sensed a tremendous dread of the devil, felt frightened, terrified by this powerful adversary.

We don’t have time this morning to deal with all three of these in detail, so I would like to focus on this central story of the killing of the lion, as I think it has great significance for us. Certainly this was the most dangerous of the enemies recorded here, for a lion is the most powerful of beasts, the most ferocious of adversaries. There are several things said about it which we want to note. We read that Benaiah slew a lion — a lion, not a leopard, not a wild hyena or a boar or a buffalo, but a lion.

Why a lion? Well, it is not for nothing that the lion is called the king of beasts, because it is indeed a very powerful animal. I have read that a lion is able, with one blow of his paw, to smash the human skull just as you would break an egg. He would slap you and your skull would cave in. Yet the bones of the skull are among the strongest structures of the body. A lion is able, with his teeth, to bite through any bone of the human body, including even the thigh bone. With one crunch of those jaws he could smash that bone. And to face that kind of ferocious beast at close quarters is a tremendously daring thing to do. That is what Benaiah did.

As a boy I used to wonder what would happen if a lion and a tiger got into a fight. For years I would play that over in my imagination and speculate about the outcome. Until one day I happened to see a movie exhibited by Dr. Louis Talbot. He had been in India on an occasion when a lion and a tiger had somehow accidentally fallen into the same pit. Someone was there with a movie camera and filmed the whole thing. I tell you, I watched with great interest as this battle went on! These cats circled one another, one would lash out at the other, they would spit and snarl and leap about in that light way cats have. Then suddenly they would grapple together and roll about, spitting and biting. It was tremendous to watch! Then, quicker that the eye could follow, something happened, and the tiger appeared to cave in. He simply fell down. The lion had caught it at just the right moment, had slapped it on the side of the head, and had crushed its skull. That was the end of the battle. So that was the adversary Benaiah the son of Jehoiada met on the day when he slew this lion.

Do you know that every one of us has a lion in our life? This, for Benaiah was the worst possible foe he could meet. And you and I have something like that don’t we? You have something — and it flashes into your mind as I say these words — which is the worst possible foe. It is something you have dreaded, something you have been afraid of, something you have thought might happen but have wished would not. It had been there on the horizon of your thinking, always threatening, and you have been wondering if it were ever going to happen. The worst possible foe, the thing you have dreaded more than anything else — that is the lion in your life.

Maybe it is a quite different lion for the person sitting next to you, or for me. Maybe it is a physical disease or affliction — a heart attack, brain surgery, cancer. It may be some terrible, crushing disappointment, some loved one taken from you so that you are left alone. Maybe it is the fear of being financially ruined. Whatever it may be, the lion is the worst possible foe in your life.

Benaiah met this lion, and he met him in the worst possible place. He met him in a pit. If you are going to fight a lion, certainly the one place not to choose is a pit, where you cannot get away, where you are at close quarters with this lion and there is no escape.

If I were to fight a lion, I at least would want to be out on a plain where I could take certain steps — preferably long ones — to get away! I would feel like the man who was caught stealing watermelon out of a patch. The farmer fired at him, and when his friends asked him, “Did you hear those bullets?” he said, “Yes sir, I heard them twice — once when they passed me, and then again when I passed them!” That is the way I would feel about a lion. I would want to be out where I could run. But you cannot run in a pit. Benaiah met the worst possible foe in the worst possible place.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever run into this terrible thing you dreaded to have happen, and found there was no way to avoid it? You could not go home to mother, could not take a vacation, could not do a thing. You had to face up to it. There was no way to get away.

But also notice that Benaiah met this lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. That made it a very treacherous situation — the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances.

You folks who grew up here in California have no idea what snow is like. I grew up in Montana where, as we often said, we have only two seasons: Winter and August! We know what snow is like, and what snow does. I have been in snow up to my chest — cold, numbing snow — just walking out in the back yard. One of my favorite delights, ever since I came to California, is to sit on my patio on a warm winter afternoon and read all about the blizzards back east! Snow numbs the fingers and makes it difficult to handle weapons. Snow makes footing treacherous and slippery. And snow blinds the eyes. You have all read about snow-blindness. The brightness of the sun upon the snow can actually destroy your vision temporarily. All these factors were involved in this battle when Benaiah the son of Jehoiada met the lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. He met the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances.

And do you know, as I speak of this, I think that right now this is where God has me. I am going through something like this right now in my own experience. Something I have dreaded all my life has happened. Something I did not want to see happen, felt would be the most hurtful thing which could happen, has happened. I cannot escape it, and have to deal with it at a time when I have lots of other pressures, lots of problems. It is not an easy time to do it. It is the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances. Are you there too?

Well, the thing we want to know is, how did he win? The whole focus of this story is that Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was able to kill this lion. He slew him! How did he do it? Is that the question you are asking? The passage does not seem to tell us, does it? The account seems merely to give us the incident without telling us anything about how it happened. There again is the wonder of the Scriptures. We are told in the book of Proverbs, “The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search it out,” (Proverbs 25:2). And God never tells us something like this without hiding the answer for us to find, if we will but look for it. And this is what he has done here. He has hidden certain clues in this story which tell us how Benaiah the son of Jehoiada won this battle.

The answer, of course, if you think about it, is that Benaiah was able to do this because that is the kind of man he was. He was indeed a mighty man of valor. It was not the deeds he did which made him that way. He was already a mighty man of valor. The deeds simply revealed what he already was. He had what it took. He was that kind of man. These deeds simply made it clear to everybody else that he was that kind of man.

In the Bible, when you want to know what a man is like, look at his name, because biblical names are deliberately designed to give you a clue to the character of the individual. There is much evidence for this throughout the Scriptures. You know how God often changed a man’s name when he changed his character.

Jacob meant “usurper, supplanter,” and God changed his name to Israel, “prince with God,” when Jacob went through a transforming experience in his life. He changed Abraham’s name from Abram, “exalted father,” to Abraham, “father of a multitude.” He changed Sarah’s name from Sarai, “dominating,” to Sarah, “princess.” Jesus changed Peter’s name. He said, “Your name is Simon, but I’m going to call you Peter, for I’m going to make you into a rock. “Peter means “rock,” (Matthew 16:18). And Saul (which means “asked”) of Tarsus was changed to Paul, which means “little,” when he became a Christian. So God changes names when character changes. If you want to know the meaning of a man, look at his name.

In the book of Isaiah we learn that Isaiah had two sons to whom he gave special names in order to teach the people something. One was called “Shearjashub,” the other “Maher-shalal-hashbas.” Can you imagine calling that boy in to lunch? His name means “hasting (is he) to the booty, swift (to the) prey,” and it was a testimony to the people of Israel that God had declared Israel to be a spoil and a prey to the nations around, and that he was inviting the nations to hasten in, to hasten to the spoil and to the prey. “Now is the time to come in and take this nation.” Ah yes, that was the word of warning. But the other boy’s name was a note of hope. It means “a remnant shall return.” That is what God taught his people through those names.

There is a similar instance in the book of Genesis in a name which God chose to teach a lesson to a whole generation. The whole world was taught by the name of a single man. His name was Methuselah. He was given that name by his father, Enoch, the one who “walked with God, and was not, for God took him,” (Genesis 5:24). Enoch didn’t start walking with God until he was sixty-five years old, when his son was born. He named him because of something God taught him at that time. The name signifies it: It means “when he dies it will come.” What will come? The Flood. Can you imagine how they watched him everywhere he went? “Where’s Methuselah? Keep your eye on him. We don’t want him falling off a cliff, because when he dies it will come.” Everybody knew that. Sure enough, you can see from the account that the very year Methuselah died, the Flood came. And the grace of God is revealed in the fact that Methuselah was the oldest man who ever lived! Nine-hundred sixty-nine years they watched him. But when he died, the Flood came.

What does this name mean — “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada”? That is a clue to the kind of man he was. Well, there is an interesting thing about it. This man was well-known in David’s day, and is mentioned often in Scripture. But in almost every instance, with only one or two exceptions, his name is listed as “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So his father’s name is important too. If you take the meaning of those two names, in the order of seniority, you get the secret of how to kill a lion on a snowy day. Jehoiada means “God knows,” and Benaiah means “God builds.” Those twin truths are the secret of how to meet a lion, the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances, and win. Remember to rest upon the facts that God knows, and God builds.

God knows where you are. He chose that place for you. That is the revelation of Scripture. God put you where you are, and, therefore, he knows. He knows all about you. Jesus said that the hairs of your head are numbered. He knows what you are going through, and he brought it about. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose,” Paul tells us in Romans (8:28 RSV). And he not only knows what you are going through, but he feels what you feel. God knows how you feel. That is one of the most comforting things to realize when you are upset, when somebody has done you dirt. When you are angry, or remorseful, or impatient, or are tempted to be bitter, or have been betrayed, or have been hurt — God knows how you feel. The writer of Hebrewstells us, “We have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,” (Hebrews 4:15a RSV). We do not have the kind of God to come to who says, “Oh, don’t bother me! Your little troubles — what are they to me?” No, no. We have one who “in every respect has been tempted as we are” (Hebrews 4:15b RSV), who has been where we have been, and knows how we feel.

On my way to Europe recently I was reading the story of Corrie Ten Boom, that remarkable Dutch woman who has traveled around the world telling the story of her years under the occupation of the Nazis in Holland, when she and her family were put in a concentration camp. I was reading this account because I was going to visit her home there in Holland. (In fact, I bought a watch at her watch shop.) The Nazis had taken her and her sister and had put them in a concentration camp under horrible conditions, along with thousands of other women. One day, after a terrible series of degrading experiences, these women were marched out single-file and, one by one, were made to take off all their clothes and stand absolutely naked before a group of Nazi doctors, arrogant men, who showed their contempt for them. These modest, refined women had to stand stark naked before these examining doctors, and it was a terrible wrench to their spirit. Corrie says that she turned to her sister, Bessie, and said, “Bessie, remember, Jesus was naked on the cross.” And her sister turned, and her face lit up with a smile, “Oh, that’s right. Oh, that helps!” God knows. He knows how you feel.

Ah, but more than that, he builds. He has a purpose in mind. He knows what is happening and he is using it to work toward an end. That is the glorious thing, isn’t it? Out of all the record of Paul’s heartache and sorrow and privation and pain and suffering, “This light affliction,” he said, “is but for a moment, and is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17 KJV), and, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” (Romans 8:18 KJV). And this is not only in heaven some day, but now. Those who go through heartaches, pressure, problems, tribulation, always emerge, when they are in God’s hand, softened, chastened, mellowed, more loving, warmer, more compassionate. God is building — that is the whole point. This is the secret of survival: God knows, God builds.

In 1895 Andrew Murray was in England suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury he had incurred years before. He was staying with some dear friends. One morning while he was eating his breakfast in his room, his hostess told him of a woman downstairs who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. Andrew Murray handed her a paper he had been writing on and said, “Just give her this advice I’m writing down for myself. It may be that she’ll find it helpful.” This is what was written:

In time of trouble, say, “First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest.” Next, “He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.” Then say, “He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.” And last, say, “In His good time He can bring me out again. How, and when, He knows.” Therefore say, “I am here (1 ) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for His time.”

That is how to kill a lion on a snowy day.

Prayer

Thank you for this truth, Lord, which leaps at us from an obscure incident in the Scriptures, which shows us that all these things have been designed for our instruction, that we may know how to face life and live as you want us to live. May it strengthen us in the hour of trial. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Proverbs 25:20 (Do More Good Than Harm)

Proverb 25:20

 

“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart
is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather
or pouring vinegar in a wound.”

Be careful to do more good than harm. Sometimes putting yourself in their shoes is the best way to be helpful. Telling someone to get over something doesn’t help. God knows when it’s time to move on and usually it’s not days after a major event. Remember that everyone grieves differently and to just being a shoulder can be enough.

A Shameless Plug/ A Call for Help from my Brothers and Sisters

This past year has been a struggle for our family, ever since my husband took the leap of faith and started his own business.

Like every start up company, we’ve had our ups and downs, but the common theme has been “Trust in The Lord, He will provide.”

So, in trying to help ends meet, I went back to school. I will be finished with my first round of classes this spring, and will be going on to get my RN later this year. I also opened an Etsy shop, (hence the shameless plug phrase), selling my Scripture photos.

Here’s where I need your help, Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I’m selling digital copies and prints, all for very low prices, just enough to help pay the bills. Please head on over and check it out! I don’t have a Facebook account, our family has chosen to stay off of the site; but you’re welcome to spread the word about https://www.etsy.com/shop/EncourageTheSoul

Thank you and God Bless,
Amber