Giving an Answer – Part 7
Old Testament: God Confronts Paganism
1 Peter 3:15; Exodus 4:8-11
1 Peter Lesson #089
May 4, 2017
“Father, we’re so very thankful that we have another day to serve You, that we’ve had some beautiful weather this week—and especially a little bit cooler weather. As we get closer to the summer, every day of cool weather is very much appreciated.
Father, we thank You that we can be here tonight to study Your Word and continue to think about how to give an answer for the hope that is in us. And, Father, as we think through these concepts, study the Scripture, help us to understand. Help us to come to a more thoughtful way of talking with people about the gospel, presenting the gospel, and really making sure that they understand what grace is, what the gospel is, what the need for the gospel is, and not just drive-by evangelism or going through a set procedure.
Every person is different, and we need to learn how to talk to people from where they are, just as You deal with us every time with where we are. We pray that You help us to understand these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Tuesday night we were talking about the will of God. We’re not going to talk about it tonight. I should’ve brought this the other night, but didn’t. It talks a little bit about the will of God. There was a Presbyterian Church in a small town that called a meeting about what to do about squirrels that had gotten into the church. After a lot of prayer and consideration, they decided that the squirrels were predestined and they were there, and so they shouldn’t interfere with the sovereign will of God. See how this just illustrates what we’ve been learning.
At the Baptist Church, the squirrels really liked that baptistery. So the deacons decided to put a water slide on the baptistery and let the squirrels slide into the baptistery and drown, and that would take care of their squirrel problem. The trouble is, the squirrels learned how to swim and they were having too much fun. Twice as many squirrels showed up the next week.
The Methodist Church also had a squirrel problem, and they decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s precious creatures, so they humanely trapped the squirrels and set them free near the Baptist Church. Two weeks later the squirrels were back when the Baptists took down the water slide.
The Catholic Church came up with a very creative solution. They baptized all the squirrels and consecrated them as members of the church, so they only showed up on Easter and Christmas.
Not much was heard from the Jewish synagogue. They caught one squirrel, circumcised him, and no more squirrels showed up.
All right, open your Bibles to Exodus 4.
We’re continuing a study, out of our study of 1 Peter, what it means to give an answer for the hope that is in us. How are we to do it? It’s not just doing it; it is how to do it. A right thing must be done in a right way. And that’s really the issue in what is more broadly known as apologetics.
I gave y’all a handout tonight. I was asked last week if I could put together a glossary for some of the terms that I’ve been using in apologetics. You can look at that and see a definition for apologetics, and you can see definitions for other terms like rationalism, empiricism, mysticism, and presupposition, and a few others. I’ll be adding to it, and I already know a couple of things I need to add to revise a couple those definitions. So that may help you think through things when you hear me use words that aren’t the most user-friendly.
We looked at what happened in Genesis 1. Then we went to Genesis 3; that’s where we stopped last time. Tonight, what I want to do is jump forward a little, talk a little bit about Job. I don’t think I got to Job last week. Job is something we can cover fairly quickly. But I’m trying to take these in chronological order. Of course, Job comes chronologically about the time of the patriarchs. So, around the time of Abraham and Isaac is when the events in Job took place. That would be the third confrontation between God and man. Then the fourth is going to be the Exodus. I don’t think I’ll get past that tonight.
We’re looking at the fact that whenever we are involved in answering somebody’s questions, objections, misrepresentations, accusations about Christianity, we’re giving a reasoned, thought-out answer to expose why Christianity is true and anything other than Christianity is false—biblical Christianity. We’ll see in each of these examples how God confronts paganism.
By way of review, these are the six questions I’m basically trying to work through with us.
1. What is apologetics?
It is, simply put, defending the truth of biblical Christianity. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Some people think that it’s just Christian evidences, but it’s a much broader area than Christian evidences. It involves a lot of areas of how we present the truth of Christianity and how we answer questions. So that leads us to the second question we study,
2. Why should we learn about apologetics?
Because 1 Peter 3:15 mandates it for every believer, that we should be able to give an answer. When we talk about apologetics, sometimes it seems like we’re talking about a fairly sophisticated argument, debate, confrontation, explanation with people who are very knowledgeable and bring up a lot of sophisticated objections and accusations and wrong ideas. If you spend any time watching the Discovery Channel, History Channel, PBS, some of these other channels, you’ll know that they’re … it’s just amazing. I look up the people that they get, that show up; there are people who are on the far left of the left!
They get people who have some of the wackiest ideas about Christianity, none of whom assume presuppositionally. That’s what a presupposition is. Their presupposition is, “I don’t know what happened, but I know it wasn’t what the Bible says happened. That can’t be historically, literally true.” That’s what they bring to the text; that’s how they look at everything in the Bible. Those are the glasses that they put on when they read the Bible. So that is their presupposition; that is the assumption they bring when they start talking about the Bible.
It’s interesting, because you’ll talk to people who may not have more than a high school education, but they spend a lot of time watching the History Channel. They know a lot of stuff about Christianity that “disproves” it; it can’t be what you and I believe it is. They’ll start asking questions. We need to be up to speed on how to answer some of those things, and we’ll get there. Right now I’m dealing with broader issues.
3. Some people object to apologetics, mostly because they’re ill-informed, misinformed, and they’ve been given a distorted view of what apologetics is.
I’ve spent most of the time recently answering the fourth question. It’s what I’ve heard; some people say:
4. The Bible doesn’t use apologetics, why should we?
I’m showing that everything in the Bible has a double edge, almost like it’s a double-edged sword. Who knew? There is one side that is offensive and one side that is defensive. One side that is presenting the truth, and the other is a side that is defending the truth or presenting a case against non-Christian paganism, non-Christian theism. The Bible does that again and again.
Then I’m showing the answer to question 5.
5. What is the difference between apologetics and Christian evidences?
Christian evidences is sort of a subset of apologetics. Then, hopefully, we’ll learn inductively as we’re going through these examples in Scripture how we defend, support, and argue that Christianity is the one and only truth. So that’s where we are.
Last time I put this slide up here, and the only reason I brought it back was because I actually had two people ask me this question, “What’s that at the bottom that says ‘Notaro: 34’?” That’s Thom Notaro’s book I had mentioned in class that’s called Van Til and the Use of Evidence, and it’s on page 34. I’m just citing a source; he points out that these were Van Til’s assumptions coming out of Romans 1:18–23.
Now the reason I’m bringing that up again is because the fourth view that I have in the chart that I’ll show you right now is that I emphasize as the counterpart to a revelational epistemology, or a revelational view of knowledge, that our starting point is revelation. Our starting point isn’t first principles of reason, or axioms of reason. Our starting point isn’t sense perceptions. Our starting point isn’t the inner private intuitive thoughts. Our starting point is revelation. We don’t compromise that. That is predominantly known as presuppositionalism, that we emphasize the presuppositions of Scripture.
But what happens is that the term evidentialism, for the second school of thought, is a little bit misleading for some people, because everybody believes in using evidences. It’s how you use evidences. I’ve used the analogy in the past; it’s like the evidences are our weapons. A soldier can have a grenade launcher; he can have surface-to-air missiles; he can have automatic weapons; he can have a pistol; he can have a knife; he can have hand grenades. How he uses those is determined by strategy.
These schools of thought—Classic Apologetics, Evidentialism, Fideism, and Presuppositionalism—are strategies. Not every strategy is right. A way of going about how you do what you do can be wrong. A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong.
Evidence is important—to look at how evidence is used. We saw that God used evidence when He confronted Adam and Eve. He used the evidence to challenge them to look at what had happened. He used the evidence; He asked them questions, “Where are you?” Making them think about what had happened—the things that occurred historically. For them it was a history that was that morning or the day before; but it was an immediate history, as opposed to history that was 2,000 or 3,000 or 4,000 years ago.
So, evidence is important, and we’re going to see that more in the examples I talk about tonight. We will see it again next week, depending on how fast or how slow I go through this material. I want to definitely get us through Moses and the Exodus tonight. I don’t think we’re going to get into Elijah. But that’s very important: God believes in evidences.
What verse would you go to in the Bible that would substantiate the fact that God believes evidences are important? It’s a key verse in one of the Gospels. You’ve heard me quote it hundreds of times. “These are written.” What are written? That’s John 20:31.
John 20:30 says, “Jesus did many other signs … These are written.” These what are written? These signs—the seven plus the sign of the resurrection in John. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” So, God believes in evidence.
Where does God prove His existence when He is talking to an unbeliever? He doesn’t. See, the Bible presupposes the existence of God, and God presupposes that the unbeliever knows He exists because that’s what Romans 1:18–23 tells us. The heavens demonstrate the power, the invisible attributes of God, so that men are without excuse. The knowledge of God is evident within them.
So one of the things that the presuppositionalist school emphasizes is that we don’t have to go to some neutral area of thought like reason or logic—that’s the first group, or evidences—that’s the second group, or history—that’s the second group. We don’t have to find some common ground that is neutral. The common ground for the presuppositionalist is that that person that you’re talking to, according to the Bible, knows God exists. You don’t have to prove it to them. You may have to do something that tweaks their God consciousness and brings it to the surface; but you don’t have to prove that God exists, because they already know it. That gives us great confidence when we are witnessing. So, evidence is very, very important; it’s how you use evidence.
Let me point out another difference here. Evidentialists believe in the importance of evidence; so do presuppositionalists. But the evidence that the evidentialist goes to, the way he uses the evidence, only gets him to a high level of probability on the existence of God, or the resurrection, or anything else, and they’ll admit that in their writings. They may get 99.99999% probability that God exists, but it’s not 100%.
That’s one of the problems, that if your common ground is logic, or your common ground is evidence, or history, or science, the facts of creation, whatever, if it’s not what the Bible says—that they already know God exists—then all that’s going to get you is a high level of probability. That’s not that the evidence is wrong; it’s that they’re using it wrong. That is strategy.
That’s one area that is important. The other area that is important … I’ve spent a lot of time the last two classes talking about facts—that every fact is what it is because God created every fact. When we look at an apple—or I had an avocado last week—one of the attributes of the existence of an apple is that it’s a creation of God, and it will never be anything other than an apple. It’s not going to evolve into an orange, or a fig, or something else.
For a Bible-believing Christian, you’re never going to compromise on that when you look at an apple. You can agree on 999 attributes, but it’s that 1000th attribute that you’re going to disagree with the unbeliever about. So, the fact isn’t neutral.
Creation. The facts of creation aren’t neutral. Because he has interpreted the facts to be part of a universe that is totally the result of time plus chance; it’s just an accident that happened. You look at things, and they’re not. So, the facts of creation are viewed differently by an unbeliever. They’re not neutral.
But for the classic apologist, and for the evidentialist, and for the mystic, that thing out there is neutral, so you can appeal to it. It’s the same thing for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. Now, the difference is, there are some non-Christians you’re going to talk to who aren’t smart enough to realize that; so you’re going to get away with misusing evidence; you’re going to get away with giving them arguments the wrong way and they’re going to go, “Yeah, that’s right.” That works.
Many of us were saved through really sloppy presentations of the gospel. There are hundreds of thousands of people who were saved by sloppy presentations, but that doesn’t excuse sloppiness. What we’re trying to do is just up our game a little bit to be better in the way in which we handle the Scripture.
Here’s the other slide I’ve been using. Think of witnessing to your neighbor, witnessing to your coworker, witnessing to a family member in the same way that you would witness to somebody in the rainforest of Brazil, or in Columbia, or in Africa, or in India, or in Pakistan. You’re going to a different culture, except instead of an African Muslim pagan spiritist culture, it’s your next-door neighbor who’s a spiritist, animist, New Ager. You have to learn to talk their language, understand their culture, so that you can communicate truth without compromising with their culture.
What’s the common ground that we appeal to? They’re going to view history, they’re going to view logic and experience—they may view it differently than you do. But if they come out of a background where they’ve been taught Sunday School, where they’ve had some church exposure, where their parents were fairly conservative, they won’t think consistently with their pagan presuppositions. There are a lot of people like that. I think that’s what happened.
If you saw The Case for Christ, I think that’s what happens with Lee Strobel. He’s got some real strong modernist type assumptions undergirding his approach so that as he looks at the evidence, it convinces him, even though the evidence isn’t neutral. But it’s interesting. If you saw the film, or read the book, he’s working in a newsroom as a reporter working for the Chicago Tribune. There’s somebody who is sitting at a desk near him—an older guy. Later on you find out that this guy’s a Christian, probably a Baptist.
Strobel’s all upset because his wife’s become a Christian and he doesn’t know what to do. He wants to prove Christianity is wrong. And this other guy says, “Well, do it. See if you can do it. Go out there. I can give you some pointers; go try.” That guy’s functioning like the presuppositionalist, because in that process he knows that what’s going to happen with Strobel is he’s going to realize the inadequacy of his own assumptions about life. Very interesting the interplay of that in that episode.
What we’ve done is looked at Genesis 1. We looked at Genesis 2. We looked at these examples. I finished going through Genesis last week, but I want to point out some of the comparisons between what we saw in Genesis 3 and God’s confrontation with Adam and Eve. Think of it as providing a pattern for how somebody—in this case it is God—gives us an example of how you confront pagan rebellion.
What we learn is that:
- People already knew they were sinners. That’s exactly what Romans tells us.
We also learned that:
- People are not morally or spiritually neutral.
Adam and Eve were not morally or spiritually neutral. So, when you’re talking to somebody don’t make the mistake of assuming that they’re spiritually neutral. That happens a lot. Part of being a sound presuppositionalist is that when you talk to them, don’t expect them to be neutral toward whatever evidence you’re using. Because what happens is that evidence is tweaking his God consciousness and for a long time he’s been mastering the skills of suppressing his God consciousness, and it makes him angry when God starts messing with him.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that they’re neutral. That’s the assumption that you also see in The Case for Christ. Lee Strobel has been an investigative reporter, and he’s just been given a big prize. At the beginning he’s awarded this prize. His motto is: Follow the evidence; the evidence will lead you to the truth. That’s the evidentialist’s motto— just give people the evidence and they can come to the truth on their own because the evidence is neutral! But we know that in the spiritual realm the evidence isn’t neutral. So, they’re not neutral.
Also, we saw that:
- God uses rhetorical questions to expose human flaws.
That’s a good tool. It would take a lot of time to count it, but somebody said that if you go through the Gospels, Jesus asks over 200 questions. Questioning is an excellent methodology. Don’t be in a hurry to answer it for the other person! Because when you ask a question, they may need to struggle with it for a while. The idea in teaching is to help people come to an understanding of the truth for themselves, not just to spoon-feed them.
Then we see that God uses evidence.
- He uses the evidence of creation, general revelation, historic facts, various evidences, to expose mankind’s sin, rebellion, and responsibility.
Something else we have going for us in our favor is what Jesus talks about in John 16.
Remember, John chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 all take place the night He before goes to the Cross. It’s all part of what we pull together as the Upper Room Discourse. Right after this, John 16, He prays in John 17, and then He gets arrested in John 18. So, this is right at that final night before Jesus gets arrested and goes through His trials and goes to the Cross.
He’s giving final instructions to the disciples, and for the first time He’s teaching them about doctrines that will be important in the Church Age. He says, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you [that’s a reference to the Holy Spirit]; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come ...”
See, the Holy Spirit has never functioned like this in all of human history. You don’t see it in the Old Testament. Job doesn’t have the Holy Spirit helping him figure out his suffering. David doesn’t have the Holy Spirit strengthening him spiritually when he’s in the wilderness. He has the Holy Spirit for the purpose of leadership decisions in Israel, but not for the spiritual life.
Jesus says, “And when He has come,” what’s He going to do? “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” So, when you’re witnessing to somebody, I’ve always said that you need to have three things that are part of your gospel presentation. Number one is that sin has separated you from God. You’re a sinner. You don’t say, “You’re a sinner,” because you’re beating them over the head with the fact that they’re a sinner, but they have to understand that they’re being saved from something. They’re being saved from the penalty of sin and from being in a state of spiritual death and corruption. They don’t believe in Jesus—that’s the sin that’s really being pointed out by the Holy Spirit. They have not trusted in Jesus.
“Of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more,” emphasizing that they don’t have righteousness so they can get to Heaven.
“Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” You have the judgment of Satan at the time of the Cross.
So, God the Holy Spirit is the One Who is working in and through our evangelism to convict people of their need of a Savior, their need for righteousness—that they are spiritually dead and they need to have spiritual life. When we’re talking to an unbeliever and they’re asking us a question like, “Why in the world are you a Christian?! I mean, Christians are hateful people. Christians hate homosexuals. They hate liberals. They hate people who are anti-Second Amendment. They’re just horrible people. They just want to impose their morality on everybody. Why in the world do you believe that?!” How do you handle that?
Start asking them questions. “What you think a Christian really is and what he believes? Have you ever read the Bible?” Things like that. Start trying to focus him on some facts. But, in the process, there are two things going on. Number one, as you talk to him or her, that person is in the image of God. And as you’re presenting scriptural truth to them, there is something related to that image-ness that knows that God exists and that is being tweaked. It’s being tweaked by the content of what you’re saying, but also there’s the Holy Spirit Who’s at work.
What that does is it takes all the pressure off of us. We don’t have to convince them of the truth. It’s not our role to convince them of the truth of Christianity. It’s our role to present the truth of Christianity and to do so in a way that enables them to understand what the issues are. It’s really helpful to ask that question, “Do you understand what I just said? Can you repeat it back to me?”
Sometimes I’ve felt like doing that in church. “Okay, we’re going to stop 15 minutes early, and I’m going to start asking you questions about what I just taught you.” But I don’t have the guts to do that, because y’all don’t understand anything I say. I am amazed sometimes what people will say. “Oh, I remember one time when you said X, Y, or Z.” And I went, “I never said that.”
It’s almost like the time when I went with Jim Myers the first time we went to a Kazakhstan. This side of the room were Russian-only speakers, and this side of the room were Kazak-only speakers. I would utter a sentence, and then the Russian translator would translate it into Russian and the Kazak translator would translate it into Kazak. But about the fourth day there was a problem, because the lady who was translating into Kazak was the wife of the pastor of the church and she had to go with some of the students down to the visa office to get their visas straightened out. The only person who could translate was a Kazak speaker who spoke Russian but he didn’t speak English.
I would utter a sentence; the guy would translate into Russian—and he really wasn’t a good translator. He would translate into Russian, and then this student would translate from Russian into Kazak. Only God knows what they heard, probably had nothing whatsoever to do with what I was trying to teach. Sometimes you wonder what is really being heard out there.
We’ve got the Holy Spirit! Isn’t that great? It’s not our job to convince people of the truth; it’s our job to give them as clear an explanation so God the Holy Spirit can use that to convict them.
What we see, again and again, going back to the point of evidence, is God uses evidence. Again and again and again, He doesn’t operate outside of history, He operates in history. We have the evidence of the creation—that it is the heavens that declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Romans 1:18, that by looking at creation people understand the invisible attributes of God. They understand His majesty and his power. There is something communicated nonverbally there. There’s the Fall as evidence of Who God is; there is evidence of His grace. All of that comes through at the Fall. There’s evidence of what Adam and Eve did. Then there’s the Flood. And then there is the Exodus. All of these are acts of God in history provide evidence that He is who He says He is.
It’s how you use the evidence that’s important. It’s not evidence versus presuppositions; that’s a complete misrepresentation.
What’s interesting is, when you go through the Old Testament, how many times God sets up historical markers. History is important to God. Evidentialists will say, “Well, if we go to history, we can prove the Bible.” The problem there is they’re treating history as something that is neutral. But a historical fact, to a believer, is going to be different from that same historical fact for an unbeliever, because he views it from his pagan framework.
But look at these things that happen in the Old Testament. In Joshua 4, God parts the Jordan River, they cross it. “Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.” What does that last line mean? “They are there to this day.” The writer of Joshua is saying, “You don’t believe me? Just walk yourself down to the Jordan, and you’re going to see that pile of 12 stones.” They’re not little stones; they would have been big, 20-, 30-, 40-pound rocks that were set there and piled up in a huge rock cairn. They were there to stand as a historical testimony to what had happened 50, 100, 200, 300, 1,000 years earlier.
God only has to do something once and then the evidence of it resonates through history. God doesn’t have to do miracles every year, or every century, or every thousand years. He can just do it once and it’s good enough for all time.
Joshua 6:25, “And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day …” So we know that the guy who wrote Joshua wrote it pretty close to the events, because Rahab is still alive and he says, “Go talk to her; she’ll tell you what happened at Jericho.” Historical evidence.
Then in Joshua 7:26, when Achan sinned, and after he was executed, “Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day.” Go look for them! This really happened. God works in history, and there’s evidence of it.
In Judges 6:24, “So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” Go look at it! Isn’t that neat?! Now, some of that stuff’s not there anymore, but some of those remains we can go and look—that’s what you do in archaeology. You can find some really neat stuff that shows that God works in history and the stories of the Bible were historically true. The cities were actually there; people lived there; things happened there.
You can’t do that with the Book of Mormon. You can’t find any of those cities, any of those people. They didn’t exist anywhere in the world. There’s no historical archaeological evidence that any of that ever happened. But the Bible’s a book of history, so you can go find those places.
Now we’re going to look at Exodus. Exodus is interesting. I just realized that I didn’t put this definition into the glossary; it’s the word “polemic.” A polemic is a verbal refutation of somebody’s position. It is an argument against another view; it is presenting evidence that somebody else’s beliefs are wrong.
That’s a bit of a problem for a lot of postmodern Americans, because postmodern Americans have been hearing about how understanding we need to be and how we can’t be judgmental toward what other people believe. Of course, if you say something like “Jesus is the only way,” you’ve just made a negative, hostile judgment against everybody who doesn’t believe that. You’ve just said they’re going to hell.
See, when you say, “Believe in Jesus; He’s the only way to Heaven,” people go, “Great! I’m going to believe in Jesus.” The other side says, “You’re so mean; you’re condemning everybody to the Lake of Fire. You’re just so hostile; you’re just a mean-spirited Christian. You just hate everybody!” Because any statement in Scripture has that polemical edge to it. “This is the truth” means anything that contradicts it is a lie and is wrong. That’s what a polemic is.
So, as I pointed out in Genesis 1, if you read that and you were steeped in Canaanite mythology, or Babylonian mythology, or Egyptian mythology, then what you would hear is a refutation of everything you believe about creation and the origins of creation. Creation and origin stories are called a cosmogony.
The study of creation or origin stories is called cosmology. It’s the study of how the cosmos came into existence. But cosmogonies are the stories about how it came into existence.
So one of the greatest polemics in the Scripture is in Exodus. Let’s start off, though, by going to Exodus 4. Some interesting things go on in Exodus chapter 4.
In Exodus 3 Moses sees the burning bush, goes over there, and God begins to talk to him. So he begins to have this conversation with God. Notice he didn’t say, “Well, I didn’t know You existed. Prove you’re really God.” He doesn’t do that. That’s called the self-authenticating voice of God. When God speaks, everybody listens, and they know it’s God because His voice carries its own self-authentication with it. You know it’s God’s voice.
When Isaiah shows up in the throne room of God, he realizes where he is, falls on his face and says, “Woe is me! … a man of unclean lips.” You immediately know. There is no hiding it. There’s no atheists that show up in the presence of God.
So Moses has had this initial talk. God is commissioning him to go to Egypt and to deliver his countrymen. Then in Exodus 4:1 we read, “Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, “The Lord has not appeared to you.” ’ ”
What if they say, “You’re just a liar!” See, maybe you’ve been called that as a Christian in your witness. “You’re just lying. You’re just making this stuff up. Christianity is just a myth. I’m not going to believe you; you can’t convince me of anything.” That’s what Moses is saying, “What if I go there and they say, ‘Prove it. We don’t believe you.’ ”
“So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.’ And He said, ‘Cast it on the ground.’ So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent.” What’s God doing? He is supplying evidence to Moses for his claim that God sent him. See, God does believe in using evidences. It’s how it [the evidences] are used.
The evidence is not going to be treated in a neutral fashion any more than the opponents of Moses—the Pharaoh and his magicians—are going to be treated as if they are morally or spiritually neutral. They are truth suppressors, and they’ve erected a whole sophisticated array of gods and goddesses—a whole pantheon of gods and goddesses—to explain everything in life without referring to the God of creation. So Moses is going to go to confront them.
Also notice in verse 4, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail’ (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), 5 “that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
Notice that the evidence isn’t there to support the thesis that there might be a generic deity. We’re not going to give evidence that maybe there is a god. It is to present the case of the biblical, holy, Creator God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that He is the one.
That’s another problem in the way classic apologists and evidentialists approach and use evidence. It only gets you to probability and only gets you to a god or a deity; it doesn’t get you to the holy Creator God of the heavens and the earth, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
That’s what’s going on. That is what God commissions Moses to do.
Then, God sends him there. As he announces to Pharaoh that he is there, so that Pharaoh will release God’s people, what’s the purpose of the confrontation? The purpose of the confrontation is not to bring judgment on the house of Pharaoh and to destroy Pharaoh, not initially. The purpose of the confrontation is to convince Pharaoh that he needs to change his mind.
The purpose of the confrontation isn’t to prove that Moses is right—Moses has finally one-upped the current Pharaoh. The purpose is to convince the Pharaoh that he’s wrong and to get him to change. So the point of the challenge between divine viewpoint and human viewpoint is to get the unbeliever to change!
So you don’t want to be angry. You don’t want to be argumentative. You want don’t want to be disrespectful. You want to, in fear and in humility, present the truth. It may take time to walk them through the issues; it took 10 encounters with Pharaoh.
Here’s a chart. This is from the Ryrie Study Bible. If you’ve got a Ryrie Study Bible, this is the revised editions that were expanded that came out in the 90s, I believe. What this shows is that you have the 10 plagues. But these 10 plagues weren’t just nasty things God decided would be really good to just create havoc in the Egyptian society. Each one of these is designed to counter Egyptian gods and goddesses.
It’s a polemic. It’s to say, “God says, ‘I’m the God of the Nile. I’m going to turn it to blood. And your god, Hapi, the spirit of the Nile, and Khnum, the guardian of the Nile, don’t have anything to say about it. I’m gonna kick their butt and turn the water into blood.’ ” That’s what’s going on. God is showing He is the One in charge. So you probably can’t read [the slide]; I just wanted to show you that.
I tried to copy a chart, but it didn’t work, so I had to cut-and-paste it. But this is from the Bible Knowledge Commentary. Some of you have the Bible Knowledge Commentary, put out by Dallas Seminary, and this chart comes from that.
1. The Nile turned to blood is described in Exodus 7:14–25 is a direct polemic against the power of the god Hapi (also called Apis), the bull god, the god of the Nile, and Isis, who’s the goddess of the Nile, as well as Khnum, who was represented by a ram and is the guardian of the Nile, as well as possibly some others.
The Nile turning to blood is a confrontation against certain of the Egyptian gods.
2. The second plague, the plague the frogs.
When you watch the Discovery Channel or the History Channel, they try to give a naturalistic explanation for all of this. There is a volcano that goes off up in the Mediterranean, all of that ash goes in the air, it comes down, it lands in the water, and makes it look like blood. Then, because the water is going bad, frogs come out. They have a naturalist strain, because their presupposition is that there’s no supernatural interference in human history. God can’t do that, because presuppositionally they’ve decided that these are just religious stories about the Hebrew deity; they don’t represent truth.
I spent an hour today at lunch watching the Discovery Channel on the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s tough being a pastor and having to watch. They were making really good historical points about crucifixion, but their framework for the whole thing is terrible.
2. Frogs—Heqet is the goddess of birth, she’s represented with a frog’s head; Hapi, the god of the Nile. The frogs come out of the Nile, so this is, again, a polemic against those gods.
3. Gnats. This is Set, the god of the desert. That’s where the gnats came from.
4. Flies. Probably a polemic against the sun god, Re. There is a connection there with the fly, represented by the fly, or the god Uatchit, who’s possibly represented by a fly.
5. Then the fifth plague is the death of the livestock. You have the goddess Hathor, who is represented with the cow’s head, and Apis, the bull god, is a symbol of fertility.
So when the livestock is attacked, the god and goddess of cows and bulls can’t do anything about it.
6. Boils. This would be a polemic against Sekhmet, the goddess who had power over disease, and Sunu, the pestilence god, and Isis, the goddess of healing.
They were impotent against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because He’s the Creator God Who controls the details, and they’re useless, they’re impotent, they can’t do anything.
7. Then there was hail. This was a polemic against Nut, the sky goddess, Osiris, the god of crops and fertility, because the hail wiped out the crops.
If you think about the economic catastrophe in those 10 plagues, it’s a wonder that the Egyptians survived at all. They are not mentioned for 500 years or so in the biblical account, because they have to rebuild their whole civilization. They are just devastated: their military is wiped out; their agriculture is wiped out; their economy is wiped out; their education system is wiped out; the firstborn, who are the cream, the ones who would get all the education—they’re wiped out. So it’s devastating to them.
8. Locusts. This again is an attack on Nut, the sky goddess, and Osiris, the god of crops and fertility.
9. Darkness would be a polemic against Re, the sun god, Horus, a sun god, Nut, the sky goddess, and Hathor, a sky goddess.
So God multitasks; He’s got one plague and it takes out four or five gods or goddesses at the same time.
Then you have the last one:
10. The death of the firstborn, which is an assault on Min, the god of reproduction, and Heqet, the goddess who attended women in childbirth, Isis, the goddess who protected children, and Pharaoh’s firstborn son is considered to be a god.
Pharaoh is considered to be the incarnation of a god, so is his son. So by God taking out the son of Pharaoh, it is demonstrating that he’s not a god at all; God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses, He is God. That’s the point. It is a polemic. God is arguing His case: I am God and you need to listen to Me. It’s not all Pollyanna, feel-good, and feathers.
What do we learned from looking at the Exodus account? First of all, they had a religious system. They had a really sophisticated religious system. They believed there is something higher than man. They believed there’s a creator being—or beings. They have rejected the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the holy Creator God of the universe and substituted something else. They are worshiping, in the words of Paul in Romans 1, “the creation rather than the Creator,” and they are worshiping animals and things that God created; they are truth suppressers.
What God is doing is He is showing, He is not saying, “You’re wrong to worship gods and goddesses—you’ve just got the wrong ones. Your system fails.” And that’s part of what you can do when you’re talking to somebody is asking them questions. I’ve asked this before. People say, “You’re Christian, how can you believe in a good God when all these horrible things happen?” Hmm … I’m not going to answer that. “How do you explain the existence of evil?” You know, let them wrestle with it.
Because they can’t even use the word “evil.” If they don’t believe in a God, they believe everything happens by chance, then everything is good. It may be relative; some things are nicer than other things, some things are worse than other things, but they have no right to talk about “justice” and “good” and “right” because, as far as they’re concerned, everything is just an accident.
And if they believe in the survival of the fittest? If they believe that how you go from a lower order to a higher order is that those who are fitter take out those who are less fit, that’s the struggle for survival. That doesn’t seem to be very fair, or just, or right; that’s going to bring a lot of evil on people. So how can you justify that? Let them wrestle with things, and just ask the right questions.
Second, we learned that people are not morally or spiritually neutral. They’ve already substituted a god. What we can do when we talk to people … Some people don’t need this conversation; other people do. You can help them understand that they have a spiritual commitment to something.
There’s a line towards the end of The Case for Christ, where Lee Strobel has gone to this gnostic atheist mentor that he’s had, an older man, and the guy tells him, “Well, you’ve got to ultimately realize that everything is based on belief: You believe that there is no God. You believe in a natural explanation of everything. Or you can believe in some religion. But, ultimately, it always comes down to belief, and you have to make your choice.” Sometimes what we have to do is help people understand that when it comes down to believing scientific evidence, the evidence doesn’t speak for itself—they’re believing it; it’s ultimately an issue of faith.
Third, we see that the purpose of the confrontation is to change Pharaoh’s mind. The purpose, when we’re having a conversation with somebody, is not to prove that we’re right, or we’re smart, or we have all the answers; it’s to show them the love that God has for them, and they will never see it more clearly than you—or less clearly than you. We are the visible witness to the love and grace of God when we’re talking to an unbeliever.
Fourth, God directly challenges the false religious systems and demonstrates their impotence. Now, that really runs counter in our postmodern snowflake culture, because part of what we do in witnessing is we’re showing that somebody’s wrong. For a lot of people in our postmodern snowflake culture, proving that somebody’s wrong is blowing a whistle and saying, “Everybody go to your safe space. Go hide. The bogeyman’s here, and he’s telling us we’re wrong. We can’t handle it.” Interesting how Satan has developed these cultural trends.
God directly challenges. It is a godly thing to confront somebody with the fallacious of their belief, but we do it in goodness, kindness, and in fear and humility. God can bring out the baseball bat and hit them over the head, but that’s not our role.
Part of what we can do when we’re witnessing is show the inadequacies of their own belief system. That’s what happens with the Egyptians. That’s what’s going to happen when we come back next time and look at Elijah. He is showing that the pagan system ultimately doesn’t work.
Sixth, we see that the plagues provide historic facts and evidence to expose their sin and rebellion against God. In fact, I don’t think there’s any other event in the Old Testament that is repeated and referred back to as much as the Exodus event. God believes in the use of evidence—it’s how you use it.
Then, last, the unbeliever is not in neutral ignorance, but willful ignorance. The bottom line is volition, that he’s got a choice to make. He chooses what to believe and what not to believe, and our role is, we can’t convince him; we can present the truth, but it’s God the Holy Spirit’s role to convince him of the truth.
So, with that, we’ve gone through the Exodus event. Next time we’ll come back and we’ll look at what happens on Mount Carmel with Elijah. From there, what we’ll do is go to the New Testament and look, just briefly, at the Gospels.
I didn’t touch on Job, did I? Let’s go to Job for just a minute. I skipped over Job. Let’s look at Job; I just got distracted with Exodus. But look at Job. Job has all these horrible things happen to him at the beginning of Job. His three friends are all coming with their human viewpoint, and eventually they convince Job that, “Well, maybe God really doesn’t have your best interest in mind.” So Job, basically in Job 37, is arguing for God to come and talk to him. So God shows up at the beginning of Job 38.
In Job 38 and 39, God just asks questions—one question after another—at least 53 questions that I’ve been able to identify. I just went through the text and counted the question marks. It’s nothing more difficult than that, because some of these questions are multi-verse questions. So it’s about 53 to 55 questions.
The bottom line is, God gets pretty much into the details. And He is saying, “How can you even talk? Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who put a thought in your mind? Can you explain any of these things?” Basically, He points out that Job may know a lot, but he doesn’t know much.
God has infinite knowledge, and He’s pointing out to Job that, “Even if I told you all the reasons why I allowed the suffering to come, you couldn’t comprehend it. You can’t comprehend how a thought is formed in your brain; how do you think you can comprehend the reason behind your suffering? You can’t do it.” And it convicts Job.
We get to Job 40, and Job answers the Lord in verse four. He says, “Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. [You have shut me up, God.]”
“Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.” He said, “You’ve shut me down—I can’t say anything. I realize how ignorant I am and that I couldn’t understand it even if You answered my questions. So this was God’s challenge to Job. The only thing to point out there is how questions can be asked to bring people to a point of self-realization.
So far what we’ve done is look at the creation account in Genesis 1. We’ve looked at the Fall, confrontation of God with fallen man in Genesis 3. We’ve looked at the Exodus account where you have the polemic against the polytheism of the Egyptians. And we looked at Job and the importance of asking questions. Again and again we see this—this questioning. Questioning.
Next time we will come back and look at the last event [in the Old Testament] I want to talk about, which is Elijah. Then we will go to the New Testament and look quickly at the Gospels. Everything Jesus does is a confrontation, and it’s really interesting. We’ve done a lot of that in Matthew.
Then we’ll talk about two events in Acts, Acts 14 and Acts 17. Then, when I wrap up, what I want to do is go through and summarize some tight arguments—some tight evidence—that I think is good to know. What’s the evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible? What is the evidence for the crucifixion? What’s the evidence for the resurrection? What’s the evidence for miracles? Just some things—four or five things—that every Christian ought to have a good grasp of in talking to unbelievers that may raise questions in these areas. And that will probably take about three more weeks; then we will be back in forward momentum in 1 Peter.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to think through these things this evening and to begin to realize that there are certain traits, certain characteristics that should be present when we’re talking with unbelievers and we are giving an answer for the hope that is in us. It’s a tool in evangelism to help us more clearly express the truth of the gospel.
We’re not just wanting people to believe in “a god” or a possible resurrection, but we have the confidence that You are the Creator God, the holy Creator God of the universe, Who sent Your Son to die on the Cross for our sins; and He was raised from the dead, a Victor over death, and that that victory is ours if we believe in Him.
And, Father, we pray that You would help us to understand these things and have the courage to go through the process of communicating with unbelievers and help to explain the gospel to them. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”