Archives For Old Testament

The Briefing

Seminary president sorry for comments ‘hurtful to women’
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, issued an apology May 10 for comments he made in sermon illustrations about domestic violence and the physical attractiveness of women. After the comments from 2000 and 2014 resurfaced online last month, more than 3,000 people signed an open letter from Southern Baptist women calling on Southwestern’s trustees “to take a strong stand against unbiblical teaching regarding womanhood, sexuality, and domestic violence.” Another letter in support of Patterson has garnered more than 500 signatures.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines addressed the Patterson controversy in a statement to Baptist Press, expressing his disagreement with the comments and noting, “The church especially is no place for misogyny or disrespect for anyone.”

The trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will meet May 22 at Patterson’s request.

Sermon stirs up Old Testament debate
North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley’s encouragement to Christians to “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament revved up debate online about its place in the life of modern Christians. Theologian David Prince countered Stanley’s view, writing “Any attempt to sever Jesus from the entirety of Scripture amounts to fashioning a Jesus for your own purposes, one that changes with the times.”

High court ruling permits sports betting in all states
In a 6-3 ruling May 14, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that prevented state authorization of sports gambling. The decision — which reversed opinions by lower courts — means all 50 states may legalize and operate betting on professional and college sports.

Willow Creek elders apologize
The elders of Willow Creek Community Church have walked back their initial defense of former pastor Bill Hybels, saying they owe apologies to women who accused Hybels of misconduct. “The tone of our first response had too much emphasis on defending Bill and cast some of the women in an unfair and negative light,” said outgoing elder board chair Pam Orr. “We are sorry.”

Hybels stepped down from his role at Willow Creek in April.

Americans suffering from ‘loneliness epidemic’
A new survey by healthcare company Cigna found nearly half of Americans sometimes or always feel alone or left out. One possible solution: more frequent in-person interactions.

Sources: Baptist Press (2), The Christian Post, Chicago Tribune, Cigna


Old Holy Bible and the American Flag

As we approach July 4th, many pastors preach about Christians in America repenting of sin and turning back to the Lord so that He will bless His churches. One text they often use is 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NASB):

“[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Is that an appropriate application of this text?

To be clear, these are God’s words spoken to Solomon, King of Israel. Likewise, the “land” referred to was the land of Israel. When the Israelites sinned against the Lord, He would send the plagues mentioned in verse 13. But if they responded by humbling themselves, praying, seeking God’s face and turning from their wicked ways, God would hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.

Can Christians in America find any appropriate application from this text?

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB), “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The word “Scripture” in this text referred to Old Testament Scripture. That would include 2 Chronicles 7:14, rightly interpreted.

Likewise, when the apostle Paul cited Old Testament examples of rebellion in Israel’s history that prompted God’s punishment, he noted that they also served as warnings for Christians living under the new covenant. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 (NASB), “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

Is America Israel? No. Is God an American? No. But can warnings and promises to God’s people in the Old Testament be applied to Christians today? Absolutely.

Regarding 2 Chronicles 7:14, it is very appropriate for any Christian to obey the spirit of this text by endeavoring to humble himself or herself, pray, seek God’s face and turn from wicked ways, trusting that God will hear, forgive and heal.

The apostle Peter, speaking to a group of first-century Christians, said this: “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10 NASB). Today, followers of Jesus are God’s people. Christians are those who are “called by [His] name.” Therefore, it is appropriate that we apply the timeless truths of 2 Chronicles 7:14. How suitable for all Christians in America, and in any other nation, to humble ourselves, pray, seek the Lord’s face and turn from our wicked ways, asking Him to graciously hear from heaven, forgive our sin and bring spiritual healing to the ailing, impotent churches in our land.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we note three precepts that are consistently called for by God throughout Scripture: humility, hunger and holiness.

The first requirement for such spiritual healing is humility. “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves.” It is always good for Christians to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). God will share His glory with no one because God alone can handle His glory. Every redeemed human being should give all glory to Jesus for salvation and every benefit it brings.

Frankly, modern Christianity is marked by far too much arrogance and condescension. For instance, all of us need to use great caution and wise deliberation when posting on social media. The Bible says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29 NASB). The word “unwholesome” is the Greek word sapros, meaning “rotten.” Here it refers to speech that is likened to “garbage” or “trash.” Frankly, there is too much “trash-talk” on social media. Humility is always becoming in any child of God.

The second requirement for spiritual healing is hunger. We see it in 2 Chronicles 7:14 in the words: “(If) My people who are called by My name … pray and seek My face.” Jesus urged His followers to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 NASB). All Christians in America — and other nations — would do well to increase our hunger for godliness. We should taste and see that the Lord Jesus is good (cf. Psalm 34:8).

The final requirement for spiritual healing is holiness. “[If] My people who are called by My name … turn from their wicked ways.” Holiness comes by means of repenting from sin. Repentance means to confess our sins and turn away from them. That leads to true holiness.

These three emphases from 2 Chronicles 7:14 — humility, hunger and holiness — are much needed among Christians today, whether we live in America or not. Just because 2 Chronicles 7:14 was not written to Americans does not mean that Christians in America cannot benefit from its admonitions by obeying its precepts. Again, “all Scripture is profitable.” The warnings in the Old Testament “were written for our instruction.”

Many Christians in America are praying for a fresh spiritual awakening and revival among those of us who know Jesus Christ. I for one am praying for American Christians to embrace genuine humility, hunger and holiness. I am also praying that the Lord will graciously see fit to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and send His much-needed healing.

When I think of it that way, I don’t know of a verse in the Bible that serves as a better guide for praying for revival than 2 Chronicles 7:14.

–Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church. This column originally appeared at

Editor’s note: We think this column by Greg Smith, which first appeared at, is especially timely as many Christians start a read-through-the-Bible plan – beginning in the Old Testament.

Greg_Smith_0120COMMENTARY | Greg Smith

Marcion of Sinope lived in the second century during some of the most formative years of the early church. The son of a bishop, he was also active as a teacher in the region of Asia Minor. In 144 AD, Marcion parted ways with the Christian community by starting his own movement; by doing so, he encouraged thousands through his teachings to better appreciate the Bible.

There was just one problem.

In 144 AD, Marcion was excommunicated from the church for heresy. What was his crime? Marcion taught his followers to reject the Old Testament entirely. His reason? Marcion thought that the Old Testament represented a god different from the New Testament. One cannot have two gods. Thus, Marcion and his followers read only selective books from the Bible and rejected the 39 books of the Old Testament entirely.

Callout_0123Is the cult of Marcionism still alive and active in our churches? It has become apparent to me over the last seven years of teaching Old Testament Survey that students come to my class with an under-appreciation for the text and history of the Old Testament. This stems from the fact that most of their exposure to the Bible, through teaching and preaching, has come largely from the New Testament. For many of my students, the stories of the Old Testament have served as illustration material and have rarely been allowed to speak theologically. This situation falls dangerously close to what the followers of Marcion practiced in the second century.

So what can pastors and teachers do to help their congregations and classrooms grow in their appreciation for the entire Bible?

First, ground your people in the truth that all Scripture is under the inspiration of God and beneficial for preaching, teaching, correction and spiritual growth (2 Timothy 3:16). For Paul and the other authors of the New Testament, the Bible of their day, the Bible that they read and used in the writing of the books of the New Testament, was the Old Testament.

Second, preach and teach from an entire book of the Old Testament and cover every verse. Will this require a few good commentaries and other resources that assist with understanding the culture, background and history of Israel? Yes, most definitely. But as you preach and teach the text and incorporate that information into what you say, you will make the Scriptures come alive for your people. You will also give them a context for reading the Old Testament on their own, with confidence, and with the ability to draw appropriate application for their lives.

Third, model life-changing application from the Old Testament in your teaching and preaching. While it is true that some things have changed over salvation history, the Old Testament still contains timeless truths that need to be incorporated into the life of the faithful.

Finally, inspire your flock with the simple but profound truth that God is always the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The “old” of the Old Testament cannot mean that God is somehow “updated” in the pages of the New Testament. Help make the pages of the Old Testament come alive for your congregation as you focus on the gracious and loving God who has revealed Himself throughout the entire 66 books of the Bible.

Greg Smith is associate vice president for academic administration and associate professor of Bible at The College at Southwestern, the undergraduate school of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This column first appeared at

When God says no

Meredith Flynn —  August 6, 2012

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

Have you ever run across something in Scripture that you’re pretty sure wasn’t in there before? Like maybe it’s new since the last time you read that particular book? I know the Word of God is a two-edged sword, and dynamic in the ways it applies to our lives depending on the season, but I recently ran across a story that was completely new to me.

It’s in Deuteronomy, when Moses is reviewing with the Israelites all that God has done for them. He takes them through their history, pausing for this one moment of personal reflection:

“And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’

But the Lord was angry with me because of your and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and life up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan.'” (Deuteronomy 26: 23-27, ESV)

How disappointed Moses must have been. Not only does God say no, He closes the subject – forever. This is Moses’ last request, after a lifetime of service to God’s people, and the answer is still no. I can think of three possible (and probable) responses:

1. What he could have done: Go and die, probably in bitterness. I imagine the disappointment was heartbreaking, and Moses was at the end of his life anyway. He could have let it end with God’s no.

2. What I probably would have done: Kept on going, but without the energy and purpose I had before. How easy is it to do just that? To meet disappointment, be disappointed by it, and then call yourself moving on, but all the while you’re still wallowing in it.

3. What Moses did do: In the very next breath (well, the beginning of the next chapter), Moses completely changes his posture. After this very personal confession about his conversation with God, he’s back as the authoritative, instructive leader of the people:

“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rulesthat I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1, ESV)

How incredible is it that Moses is able to muster that reaction? Granted, we can’t quite tell from the text when all of these small events and conversations happened in relation to one another, so it could have been a while since the initial disappointment of God saying no. But still, he has just described a wrenching moment, when he asked God for the thing he wanted most and was denied it. And still, God is good, and Moses knows the people’s best course of action is to follow the plan He’s laid out for them.

When I run into disappointment, I want that reaction. And I think it starts with a knowledge and a remembering of how God has forgiven and redeemed before. Moses had seen God love and renew and forgive His people (and then do all of those things over and over again), and he also understood how God had forgiven him personally. So that even when God said no, Moses trusted Him enough to move forward. With Him.