In the eNews from MMS this week, Victor Kubik writes in more detail about the reasons for the church-wide fast this weekend in his article "Redeem the Time--Draw Close to God." While the weeks drag on, it is important that we don't get complacent or relent in asking God for His mercy!
The church-wide prayer requests for this week were sent by email as well. In addition to these, many are suffering in ways other than health - including many of our brethren locally. Remember to pray for those with financial burdens from being unable to work or operate their businesses, meaning they have little or no income, as well as many who are feeling the weight of isolation, especially who are themselves or have loved ones who are in nursing homes and care facilities which are not allowing visitors.
Faith Grounded in Truth
Before the pandemic hit, I was writing each week about the foundations of our faith - I'd like to get back to that!
(For those who missed the previous letters, they are available on the local congregation websites under the Posts tab: https://www.ucg.org/congregations/columbia-md/posts).
In my letter on March 6, we left off discussing the systemic bias against the Bible that has gripped the intellectual elites of the world, causing many of them to unfairly dismiss and reject it. We zoomed in on Tim Mahoney's careful evaluation of the Exodus in his Patterns of Evidence films as a case study in what it takes to cut through the mistaken assumptions of experts and uncover the poor and often circular reasoning at the heart of it.
Where do we set the bar for evidence that the Bible is a legitimate historical document? An extreme skeptic of the Bible would set that bar unreasonably high, saying that not one word of the Bible should be trusted unless it has been independently verified by outside sources. Many archaeologists and historians have exactly that mindset and take that position. They disregard the bible as a historical source and claim that it is simply a collection of myths that is not any different from the mythologies of other ancient civilizations. However, the bible IS different in quality and character from any other document that claims to explain how mankind got here - we'll save that for another time!
At the heart of the denial of the bible is the denial of the supernatural altogether, and this is a starting assumption in most criticism of the bible - they do not believe in God, and so it makes it very difficult for them to trust the Bible. However, God has given us more than enough reasons to believe He exists! If God's power and existence can be proven beyond doubt, then the historical arguments are merely an afterthought. If the basic substance of the bible is true - that it was written by a Being who is BOTH all-powerful AND supremely loving - then of course we can trust it as history!
God Himself set the bar with a challenge to mankind over 2500 years ago. He pointed to the fulfillment of prophecy as the specific evidence of His power:
"Remember the former things of old, For I am God and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'... Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it."
God was telling them (and US!), "You've seen me do this before! I tell you way in advance the unbelievable things that I'll do, and then I do them just like I said. And I'm going to keep doing that until you get it!"
God made an incredibly bold claim in the above verses, but it's one that He has fulfilled over and over again through history. Notably, God fulfilled His word to Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land and then be powerfully delivered and brought out (Genesis 15:13-16), which we reviewed going into Passover.
However, the greatest prophetic fulfillment (so far) began to be revealed long before Abraham was born and did not come to pass until thousands of years after he died - the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah to die for the sins of the world. Along with those prophecies are still more yet to be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God at His second coming. Taken together, Christ's coming in the flesh and His future 2nd coming are THE main focus of prophecy, of which "God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21).
The sheer number of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the gospels is staggering - I look forward to sharing some of them with you in detail in the coming weeks - but first, we need to briefly intersect with archaeology again.
The usual route of denying bible prophecy hinges on the argument that the scriptures were not written until after the events had already taken place. From a historical standpoint, it is very difficult to verify the original date of the biblical writings outside of its own claims because of the ravages of time.
Think about the oldest book you have ever seen in person - some of you may have books at home even that are nearly 100 years old, and it really starts to show! Imagine what condition that book might be in 100 years from now... then 2000 years from now. And especially if not kept in ideal conditions with preservation in mind. Without extreme care, it's hard to imagine that most books wouldn't wind up - at some point - exposed to the elements and totally disintegrated into nothing.
What about all the billions of bibles that have been printed? Even though it's a book that we have great reverence for, when a bible gets old and is falling apart, we discard it for a new one. This has been the case throughout human history, even before the printing press made it easier to do so.
It is no wonder that it is so rare to find copies or even just fragments of ancient bible scrolls. It is actually REMARKABLE what has been found - fragments of New Testament scrolls have been dated back to the second century AD, less than 100 years from their original writing! And the entire world was shocked when the Dead Sea Scrolls were dated as early as 400 years before Christ! Remarkably, fragments of every Old Testament book except for Esther were found in the collection, including a complete scroll of the prophetic book of Isaiah. There are fragments of Old Testament scrolls and passages dating back even further, but the wear and tear of history makes the record more and more scarce - and this is to be expected. Even the remarkable Dead Sea Scrolls were mostly found having been dashed to pieces, and matching them together literally took decades.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are of particular significance when it comes to establishing that God did indeed fulfill legitimate prophecy in the coming of Christ. They answer the first criticism of bible prophecy by showing that the prophecies that the gospels claim Christ to have fulfilled did indeed exist centuries prior to His life.
We'll pick up the thought next time and consider just how specific bible prophecy was regarding the Messiah and what it would demand in from someone claiming to fulfill it - and how, ultimately, that strengthens the case for the God of the Bible beyond any reasonable doubt.
My family and I look forward to joining you all for the local webcast tomorrow. May God bless you all on His holy Sabbath rest!