Can We Command God (Isa. 45:11)? (Q&A)

Q:  A classmate sent me an online poster titled “You Will Command Me” (Tetzavuni) and said we can command Jesus to do healing, not ask!  The poster has different translations of Isa. 45:11, including the original Hebrew.  Is this true?  How to explain the Hebrew here? –Ruth C.

NOTE:  The poster includes an English translation from the Darby Bible:  “Thus saith Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: Ask me of the things to come; concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands, command ye me” (Isa. 45:11)

A:  It’s certainly true that many translations render the end of this verse as “you command me concerning the works of my hands.” But meaning is derived from context, and so we need to look at the context to figure out what this means.   

The chapter begins with an amazing prophecy about Cyrus, the Persian ruler who defeated the Babylonians:  God will “subdue nations” before him (Isa. 45:1).  And why will God do these great things?  “For the sake of my servant Jacob” (Isa. 45:4).  Not only does the prophecy mention Cyrus by name, it also mentions that he will rebuild Jerusalem and let the Jewish exiles go free, all of which actually happened (Isa. 45:13).  And what is the purpose of all these things?  To let the world know, God says, that “I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5).

Why did God want to kill Moses (Exo. 4:24-25)? (Q&A)

Q:  About Exodus 4:24-25:  Why did God want to kill Moses? And why did Zipporah cut off her son’s foreskin and cast it at Moses’ feet? Why did she say Moses is truly a “bridegroom of blood”? –Ruth C.

A:  The next verse tells us that Zipporah called Moses a “bridegroom of blood” because of the circumcision (Exo. 4:26).  This is in reference to the small amount of blood produced in a circumcision.  But we know little else about this incident. 

It’s especially puzzling that the Lord wanted to put Moses to death, since he was in the process of going to Egypt to do exactly what the Lord had asked him to do (Exo. 4:24).  But something similar happened to the prophet Balaam when he went to prophesy over Israel.  He, too, was on his way in obedience to the command of God (Num. 22:20).  But even though he was obeying God, God was angry with him (Num. 22:22).  In the Balaam story, it’s clear that God wanted to put fear in the heart of Balaam to make sure that he only spoke the words that God wanted him to speak (“and the word that I speak to you, only that will you speak,” Num. 22:35).  So perhaps this is also what God was doing with Moses.  We know that people often go through a big spiritual struggle when God is calling them to do some great thing, and this seems to be what Moses was going through. 

The Lament of the Land (Micah 7)

The judgment of Israel for sin is a common theme that appears throughout the Bible.  But only rarely is the land itself given a voice to cry out concerning the iniquities committed on it.  This is the unique perspective of Micah 7:  in this chapter, the land itself laments the tragedies that it has and will have to suffer.  It's an image that caught the imagination of Jesus.  He quoted a portion of this prophecy in his own prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 10:34-36, Luke 12:51-53).  This heartfelt outcry of the land remains a relevant prophetic picture for us today, when people and nations once again risk spoiling their land through sin and the judgment that follows.

Micah spoke shortly before the devastating Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel.  This was the breakaway kingdom that ruled over the northern ten tribes.  His message came at a time of political turmoil:  The northern kingdom had been ruled by five rulers in the space of twenty years.  Two of these had ruled for less than a year, and three of them had gained the throne by murdering its former occupant.  False prophets filled the land with false hope (Micah 3:5-7).  And this spiritual and moral corruption was spreading south to Judah.  But despite the judgment and destruction that Micah says is coming, in the end, God will restore his people. 

The Lament of the Land is the climax and final chapter of Micah’s prophecy (Micah 7): 

Why was Joseph buried in Shechem? (Q&A)

 Q:  I was rather astonished to realize, in reading Joshua 24, that they buried the bones of Joseph in Shechem instead of in the cave of Machpelah, where Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were buried...  Do a word-search on Shechem and you'll find that it is a rather nefarious place. Why did they bury him there?  I was also a little distressed to realize that Stephen, in the book of Acts, says that Abraham bought the land in Shechem, but Moses wrote that it was Jacob that bought land there. –Sarah P.

A:  Welcome to the tension between the north and the south in Israel.  This tension goes all the way back to the division of Saul’s kingdom in the time of David, a division that reemerged when the kingdom was divided again after the death of Solomon.  It then reappears in the time of the New Testament in the tension between the Samaritans in the north and the Judeans in the south.  Among these tensions were some different and conflicting traditions. 

What does this have to do with Shechem?  Let’s begin with the burial place of the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Jacob, one of whom was Joseph.  Acts 7:16 indicates that they were all buried in Shechem:  “And they [the antecedent of “they” is “our fathers” in vs. 15] were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”*  That the brothers were buried in Shechem certainly makes sense, as the children of Israel under Joshua came into possession of this area before they did of Hebron.  It seems logical that they would bury the others where Joseph was buried (“And they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem,” Joshua 24:32).  However, the Bible only mentions the bones of Joseph being brought along in the Exodus (“And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him,” Exo. 13:19).  Nothing is said, except in the book of Acts, about the burial of his brothers.

If the Philistines were Greeks, why did they worship Dagon? (Q&A)

 Q:  In my devotions the other day I was reading about when the Philistines captured the ark, and how God showed the Philistines that he was greater than Dagon…  If the Philistines were Greeks, why don’t we see them worshipping any of the Greek gods – only Dagon? --Sarah P.

A:  You’re right that the Philistines have now been identified as Greeks of some kind—or at least that they developed from an original core of Greeks that settled in what is today Israel and intermarried with the local population.  This is the result of both DNA analysis, pottery analysis, and the similarity of cultural practices that point to a connection with Greece and/or other areas of Greek influence (such as Cyprus, Crete, and western Turkey).  These include the bronze greaves worn by Goliath, the Philistine hero that was defeated by David (1 Sam. 17:6), and even Goliath’s call to one-on-one combat (representative warfare), otherwise unknown in the area.  However, the connection with the Philistines is at a very early time in Greek history known as the Mycenaean Age (15th-11th cent. BC).  This was long before the Classical Age of Greece (5th-4th cent. BC) with its well-known Greek gods (the Olympian gods).  It was even before the Archaic Period (8th-6th cent. BC) in which the Greek alphabet first appears.  (See diagram)

The Pater Noster Church, Jerusalem

The Unfinished Reconstruction of the Eleona Church (foreground)
in front of the Pater Noster Church (facade at back partially hidden by a palm tree);
the cave is under the platform in the foreground

      ·         The Traditional Location of Jesus’ Endtimes Teaching on the Mt. of Olives 
                 (the “Olivet Discourse,” Matt. 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21)
·         Site of the Byzantine Eleona Church (the “Olive Grove” Church, also known 
           as the Church of the Disciples)
·         Site of a Crusader-era chapel associated with Jesus’ teaching of the Lord’s Prayer
·         Currently the location of the Pater Noster Church commemorating Jesus’ teaching 
           of the Lord’s Prayer as well as the partly rebuilt Eleona Church.

Biblical events remembered here:
(1) Jesus’ Endtimes Teaching (the “Olivet Discourse,” Matt. 24-25),
(2) Jesus’ Teaching of the Lord’s Prayer

The Chapel of the Ascension, Jerusalem

The Chapel of the Ascension and Surrounding Courtyard
  • The Traditional Site of Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven
  • Site of the Byzantine Imbomon Church (Church “On the Hill”)
  • Current location of the Crusader-period Chapel of the Ascension

Biblical events remembered here:  
(1) The ascension of Jesus into heaven forty days after his crucifixion and resurrection;
(2) The return of Jesus with his people at his second coming.

Possible historical site of:  
(1) The Jewish fire signal used to announce the sighting of the new moon,
(2) The burning of the red heifer to produce the ashes used for cleansing from the impurity of contact with the dead,
(3) The burning of the sin offerings offered up on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).