All posts by BradleyCobb

O Immanuel

Ask someone who is even vaguely aware of the Bible, “What is Immanuel?” and they’ll tell you the answer is “Jesus.” But what a lot (I’d guess it is close to 99%) of religious people don’t realize is that the word “Immanuel” only appears once in the New Testament, but twice in the Old.

The first instance is Isaiah 7:14 (which Matthew quotes and applies it to Jesus). In that context, Isaiah has gone to the king of Judah, and asks him to select a sign from God so that he can know Isaiah’s prophecy would come to pass (this prophecy was that the two kings—and they are mentioned by name—who were giving Judah trouble would be defeated). The king refuses to ask for a sign, so Isaiah gives him one—again, to prove that the prophecy just given would come to pass. He says that “the virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a child, and shall call his name Immanuel…” and Isaiah adds some other details, showing that by the time this child is just a few years old (if that), these two kings would be gone.

This word Immanuel means “God with us.”

In Isaiah 8, God says that before Isaiah’s son is old enough to say “my father” or “my mother,” those same two kings would be defeated. Then in verse 8, after God shows that the Assyrian will be used to defeat the enemies of Judah, He lets them know that Judah (because of their unbelief and reliance on earthly power) would also be overtaken “up to the neck” (that is, not completely, but close. The only reason they aren’t completely overcome is because of God. At the end of the verse, God says “O Immanuel.”

So, much more than simply being a name/description applied to Jesus, the word Immanuel serves both then and now as a promise that God is there, God knows, God cares, God sees, God punishes, but God also saves.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Jesus’ Salvation is Better than Old Testament Salvation

In the midst of discussing the ways in which Jesus is superior to angels, Old Testament leaders, and the entire Old Testament religious system, a statement is made that shows the absolute supremacy of Jesus over anyone else in history.  Of course, that is perhaps the main theme of the entire book of Hebrews, but it is nowhere stated more succinctly than in Hebrews 5:9.

And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.

“Salvation” in the Old Testament.

The inspired penman writes to religious Jews, men and women who were very aware of their proud (and sometimes not-so-proud) history as a nation.  As people well-versed in the Old Testament scriptures, they understood certain words and phrases in specific ways.  For many of them, it was difficult to comprehend that some of the Old Testament prophecies were talking about things spiritual instead of literal.  This is likely true of the word “salvation.”

Throughout the Old Testament, the words “saved” and “salvation” almost always refer to some kind of physical salvation, whether it be deliverance from sickness (like Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:20), from barrenness (like Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1), or from enemies (most other places in the Old Testament).  Even Joel 2:32, which was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, if you look at the context of that prophetic book, had every appearance of a physical deliverance.  It indeed included that idea, but these were mere shadows of the greater salvation that was coming.

It is important that we understand that throughout the Old Testament, God was giving shadow after shadow of this greater salvation that was to come through Jesus Christ.  He was using these various deliverances—these salvations—from the enemies of Israel to prepare them to accept the eternal salvation—the better salvation—that comes through Jesus Christ.

Read these passages, which are just a sampling, and see for yourself what the primary type of salvation was in the Old Testament.  When the Israelites were standing on the shores of the Red Sea, the Egyptians hot on their heels, scared that they were going to be killed, Moses said:

Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall see them again no more forever! (Exodus 14:13).

After Moses raised his rod, the Red Sea split, and the Israelites walked across on dry ground.  When the Egyptians tried to follow them, God brought the walls of water crashing down on them, drowning Pharaoh’s entire army.  The inspired record then says:

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore (Exodus 14:30).

Forty years later, the Israelites are at the side of another body of water, the Jordan River, and Moses is giving a series of sermons, delivering to this new generation the laws and commands of God, as well as the promises.  Hear what he says to them:

It shall be, when you are come night unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say to them, “Hear, O Israel, you approach this day unto the battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:2-4).

This is the same thread that runs throughout the books of history.  Judges 6 and 7 uses the word several times to describe the salvation that God would bring to Israel by the hands of Gideon and his 300 men.  Salvation from the Philistines is mentioned several times in the books of Samuel.  Here’s just one of those passages:

By the mouth of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies (2 Samuel 3:18).

In the books of Kings and Chronicles, there are instances of the people going to God in prayer, crying “Save us!”  But these are all asking for physical salvation from their enemies.

Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech Thee, save Thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the LORD God, even Thou only (2 Kings 19:19).

What we need to recognize in all of these is that they weren’t asking for salvation from sin; they were asking for physical deliverance from their enemies.  But make no mistake about it, there was a spiritual component to this as well, as we will see.

Old Testament Salvation Based on their Attitudes and Actions

In the book of Judges, we see over and over the rollercoaster of the Israelites—they go from faithful to fallen, then God sends a nation to conquer them.  Eventually, they cry out to the Lord in repentance, and God sends a deliverer, a judge, to save them from their enemies.  In short, God didn’t save them when they continually rejected Him.  This is a constant theme throughout the entire Bible (Old Testament and New Testament).  If you doubt it, just read Hebrews 10:26-31.  Moses, soon before his death, told the Israelites that they needed to learn the lesson of faithfulness:

It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day, that all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. … And thou shalt grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man [literally, “no one”] shall save thee (Deuteronomy 28:15, 29).

Obedience was required if they wanted physical salvation.  But so was humility.  After David had been saved from Saul (The king of God’s people, the Israelites), he was inspired to write:

The afflicted people [“humble people,” NKJV] You will save, but Your eyes are upon the haughty, that You may bring them down (2 Samuel 22:28).

Here is a contrast being made between two people who are in a covenant with God.  On one hand, you’ve got the mighty King Saul, the haughty, high-minded King Saul.  On the other hand, you’ve got the humble servant of God, David.  Being saved physically in the Old Testament was based on one’s attitude towards God.  And brethren, our salvation today is based on our attitude of humility as well—

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).

He will save the humble person (Job 22:29).

The sixth Psalm shows the heart of a humble person before God, including these words:

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak: O LORD, heal me, for my bones are vexed.  My soul is also sore vexed: but Thou, O LORD, how long?  Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: of save me for Thy mercies’ sake (Psalm 6:2-4).

When David’s son Solomon went before the people after the completion of the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, he preached to them and offered a public prayer to God.  In it, he showed the connection between their physical deliverance and their spiritual condition.  Hear his words:

If they sin against You (for there is no man which does not sin), and You be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near.  Yet if they consider themselves in the land to which they are carried captive, and turn and pray to You in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly”; if they return to You with all their heart and all their soul in the land of their captivity to which they have been carried captives, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers, and toward the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name; then hear from the heavens, even from Your dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people which have sinned against You (2 Chronicles 6:36-39).

Without any doubt, the lost people of God, in order to expect salvation, had to repent of their sins against God.  It was a requirement for their salvation.  In short, for them to expect a physical salvation, they had to obey the Lord.

The Eternal Salvation

The writer of Hebrews shows that Jesus’ priesthood is a God-ordained one (Hebrews 5:4-6).  Just as Aaron was called by God to be a priest, so was Jesus.  But the priesthood of Jesus Christ was different, was superior to the Levitical one.  Aaron’s high-priesthood ended at his death, and the next priest was his son—and so it continued more or less for some 1500 years.  But Jesus’ role as high-priest is “forever,” and began at His death, when He offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  Additionally, Aaron (and his sons) required the assistance of another human (Moses) to ordain them to serve as priests.  Jesus was ordained straight from the Father, without any human go-between.

Given the focus of this lesson, we must point out that while Aaron was able to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, Aaron didn’t originate this system.  He simply followed the instructions given to him by Moses (who received them from God).  By way of immense contrast, Jesus is the Author, the Originator, the Cause of eternal salvation.

The salvation offered by Jesus is also universal in availability.  The inspired writer doesn’t say “He is the author of eternal salvation to all the Jews who obey Him.”  It is for all—Jew and Gentile alike (Acts 10-11).

Our Messiah’s sacrifice of Himself for us was a one-time act, not something that had to be done every day (Hebrews 7:27; 10:1-2).  It was not a sacrifice which led to temporary salvation, which was lost upon each subsequent sin (requiring yet another sacrifice).  The Sacrifice of our Sovereign is one which leads to eternal salvation.  His salvation doesn’t require another sacrifice to purge or cleanse sin from His followers; His sacrifice continually cleanses us from sin if we walk in the light (1 John 1:7).  In other words, salvation through Jesus is better than salvation under the Old Testament sacrificial system.

Make no mistake about it, there was forgiveness of sins offered in the Old Testament (see 2 Chronicles 6:39, Psalm 51).  But it, like so much else, was a shadow, which needed the reality of Jesus the Messiah to give it meaning and effectiveness.  The sins of the Old Testament saints were forgiven based on the then-future sacrifice of the Majestic Messiah (Hebrews 9:15).  The sins of the New Testament saints are forgiven based on the death of the Suffering Savior (Acts 2:36-38; 1 John 1:7).  The salvation from sins offered under the Old Testament was one which required faith in something that most of them would never see in their lifetime.  Salvation under the New Testament is based on something that has now actually taken place. It is much like Peter’s words to the church: “We have a more certain word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19).

The salvation offered by Jesus Christ is His.  He is the Author.  He is the Sacrifice.  He is the Judge.  He is the Advocate.  He is the Forgiver.  And as long as one obeys Him, confessing sins to God as they are recognized, that salvation is guaranteed (1 John 1:9).

Father, grant us that eternal salvation, which is far superior to physical deliverance from enemies, and which is certain and solidified for us through the death of Your Son, Jesus the Savior.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Obadiah, Sure… But Which One?

The shortest book of the Old Testament is called Obadiah, and is a scathing condemnation of the Edomites for their treatment of Israel when the Jews were attacked and looted by their enemies.  If we were asked, “Who wrote the book of Obadiah,” the answer would be, “Obadiah, of course.”  But which Obadiah? (Because there are actually several in the Bible.)

In 1 Chronicles, there is an extensive genealogical list (several, actually) that lasts nearly ten full chapters.  Five different men named “Obadiah” are listed in those chapters (3:21; 7:3; 8:38; 9:16, 44).  The same book also mentions a warrior from the tribe of Gad named Obadiah: this man was a fighter who was elevated to become one of the captains of David’s army (12:9-18).  Yet another Obadiah is mentioned as the father of Ishmaiah, the ruler/governor over Zebulun (27:19).  Then there’s a Levite named Obadiah, who faithfully oversaw repairs made to the temple of God (2 Chronicles 34:12).

When a portion of the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity, a man named Obadiah brought 218 men (probably children, grandchildren, nephews, younger brothers) with him (Ezra 8:9).  Later on, one of the priests who helped with the rebuilding project was named Obadiah (Nehemiah 10:5, 8).  Another Obadiah (though it is conceivable that it is the same one) during that time was a protector of the prison (Nehemiah 12:25).

But the two most likely candidates for the writer of the book of Obadiah are not among those eleven men.

One was the governor of King Ahab’s house, but risked his life to hide a hundred prophets of God, and even fed them (presumably with Ahab’s food) during a great famine (1 Kings 18:1-16). This man was also acquainted with Elijah, which was also very dangerous at this time, since that prophet had a death sentence hanging over his head by Jezebel.  But Obadiah remained faithful to the Lord and His prophets.

The other one is a man chosen by King Jehoshaphat to travel around the kingdom as a teacher of the Law, to bring the people back to God—and it seems to have been so effective that the nations around them even feared the Lord as a result (2 Chronicles 17:3-10).

We may never know for certain which man wrote Obadiah, but now at least you know a little bit more about the possibilities.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Simeon the Prophet

Simeon, that was called Niger (Acts 13:1)

Simeon is an alternate spelling of the name Simon (Acts 15:14 spells Simon Peter’s name Simeon). The name Niger means “black.” Some have suggested that this means that Simeon was a black man. If this is the case, then it would imply that Simeon was a Gentile, and would therefore be the first recorded Gentile prophet in the New Testament. If the fact that he was called “black” means that he was indeed of African descent, then that makes the Antioch church look even better, because they didn’t care about skin color.

Others state that in the Roman Empire, the surname “Niger” or “Black” was just as common as the name “Black” is today in the United States.

A third suggestion which is made is that this Simeon/Simon was one of the people mentioned in 11:20, and that the phrase “of Cyrene” applies in 13:1 to both Simeon/Simon and Lucius. If this is the case, then it would identify this man with Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus Christ to Golgotha.1 According to Mark 15:21, he is also the father of two men whose name pop up elsewhere in the biblical record: Rufus2 and Alexander.3

Luke has a habit of rarely mentioning people by name unless they show up elsewhere, are well-known to his readers, or are a main character in the narrative. For example, there are two disciples on the road to Emmaus who meet the resurrected Christ. One of them (Cloepas) is named, the other is not. According to John 19:25, Cleopas (also spelled “Cleophas”) was the husband of one of the women who stood at the cross of Christ. Though this isn’t definitive proof, it points to Simeon being someone who appears elsewhere in the biblical record. For that reason, it seems as though identifying him with the man who carried the cross of Jesus would make the most sense.

But look at the beauty of this: A man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time was grabbed and forced to carry Jesus’ cross. There’s no indication that this man was a disciple of Jesus at this point. But then comes Pentecost, and Simon of Cyrene hears the gospel, and obeys it. He returns home and teaches them. He hears about the household of Cornelius, and he knows the importance of that event. He rushes to Antioch and starts preaching Jesus to the Gentiles there, and watches the church grow and flourish. While he’s there, he meets Saul of Tarsus, the former persecutor-turned-prophet, and gets to know him. And it’s also about this time that his name becomes immortalized, because Matthew—one of Jesus twelve apostles—has published the first official gospel account,4 and it is making its rounds among the Jews and Jewish Christians. And there, near the end of it, Simeon sees the words, “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled him to carry (Jesus’) cross.”

Is it any wonder that Simeon is mentioned in this list?

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 23:26

2 Romans 16:13

3 Acts 19:33

4 Some scholars date Matthew as early as AD 38. It is not within the scope of this work to debate/prove the order in which the gospels were written. However, we would submit that every collection of the gospels in Greek and Latin have Matthew first. We would also submit that it was the universal assertion of early Christian writers (at least, of those who spoke to the order of writing) that Matthew and Luke were written first, then Mark, then John. J.W. McGarvey suggests a date between AD 42-58, while seeming to lean towards the earlier end of the spectrum.

God answered your prayers

To all of you,

Thank you so much for your prayers and messages.  God has answered them greatly!

Yesterday morning, Deserae (our youngest) had spinal fusion surgery, and came through it with flying colors.

Through your prayers, the doctors were quite surprised, because the surgery took a full hour less than they expected (which they said was very rare). She came out from the anesthesia like a pro, talking and joking with us (the nurses all kept repeating how impressed they were with her and how polite and sweet she is).  Yesterday afternoon, she rested.

Her back is now straight, she is at least two inches taller, and she is as sweet as ever!

Today, she starts the process of standing and walking, and Lord willing we will be able to take her back home tomorrow or Saturday.

Anyway, we just wanted to thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.  May God bless you all as He has blessed us this week.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Keep us in your prayers tomorrow

Tomorrow is going to be a stressful day for the Cobb Six.

Deserae, our youngest (she’s 12), will be undergoing spinal fusion surgery Wednesday morning, starting around 7:30.  They will be screwing metal rods to her spine in order to correct a potentially life-threatening case of scoliosis.

Desi (as we call her) is holding up as well as can be expected, though as it gets near, she is getting more and more nervous.  The same thing is true for her parents.

If you subscribe to the Quarterly, you might remember a couple poems that Deserae wrote, which were published in the first issue.  We are including that poem below.  Please take the moment to read it, and then say a prayer for her.

God knows the difference between right and wrong,
We should live for Him, though our lives are long,

We’ve suffered here for many years,
Though Jesus went through more than tears,

They whipped Him and beat Him until He died,
Then they shoved a spear through His side,

But now He’s up on God’s right side,
Up in heaven so fair and bright,

Trust and obey, we can go too,
Lord I will live my life for you.

A Big Announcement (and how you can benefit)

We’ve not said anything about it here, but we’ve been working on shuffling some things around to make TheCobbSix.com less cluttered and easier to navigate.

The biggest part of it is that the store, where you can purchase many of the books from Cobb Publishing, is going to be moved to a brand-new website.

As part of this moving of the store, we are having a massive blow-out sale of all the books we currently have in-stock.  Most of these brand-new books are priced at $5.00 or less until they’re gone.  Even after shipping, that’s cheaper than you can get them on Amazon.

To take advantage of this “while supplies last” offer, just go to the store page.

Our new website, dedicated exclusively to the Cobb Publishing business, is (drum roll, please…) CobbPublishing.com.  It is still under construction, though we’ve got several items there ready for purchase.  And in the coming weeks, our entire catalog of books will be made available.

Lastly, if you’ve written a book, and are interested in seeing it in print, please contact us.  We would be happy to talk with you about the services we offer in that area.

-Bradley S. Cobb

 

Elders in the Old Testament

The following essay was written by Richard Mansel, and was featured in the first issue of The Quarterly (Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

INTRODUCTION

Leadership requires a level of courage that eliminates the timid or vacillating. Some are drawn to the flame because of inadequacy or vanity while others heed the call to makes things better. Leadership exposes the character beneath the surface in a way that bluster and bravado can never deliver.

Church government that is common to the New Testament is somewhat foreign to the Jewish society of former days. They resided in a theocracy led by God and were governed by the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).Those who answer the call of leadership must have the spiritual courage to “stand in the gap”1 (Ezekiel 22:30), ready to face whatever comes. Our faith should be resilient enough to withstand the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16, ESV) and persistent enough to never waver (Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 2:10).

The modern tolerance of the aged is in stark contrast to the respect they received in ancient societies. Accordingly, their wisdom was utilized and expected in moments of urgency and gravity.

THE TERM

Ancient cultures commonly elevated their elders to leadership positions of varying degrees because of their sage advice and keen eye for reading situations. In Genesis 50:7, we read about the elders of Egypt and in Numbers 22:7, the elders of Midian and Moab. As heads of certain family groups, they had accumulated some wealth and influence in their lives and were able to command authority.

The concept of an elder was akin to the senator in Latin and the sheik in Arabic.2 The Semitic root means “to be hoary” which refers to advanced age.3 “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31, KJV). The English Standard Version translates it as “gray hair” and the New King James Version says “silver-haired.”

The Hebrew word for “elder” literally means “beard,”4 so it did have reference to age. However, “In Israel, as among all ancient peoples, the elder is not only a person of advanced age, but also a man of distinct social grade.”5

“In all but a few instances, the elders in the Old Testament appear as a distinct social grade or collegiate body with certain political and religious functions, and not merely as ‘old men.’…but we must bear in mind that the word in actual usage need not by its etymology signify an old man any more than ‘Senator’ or ‘alderman’ does in the United States.”6

Further complicating the picture is the ambiguity of Scripture on this point.

“The Old Testament does not explain who the qualified, leading men of Israel were. Although Israel’s elders are mentioned some 100 times throughout the Old Testament, no detailed description of their organization, appointment or qualification is given.7

We therefore turn to their limited role in Israel’s leadership.

LEADERSHIP

We know that elders were of more than average age and were men of social standing and influence. Above that, we know very little. We don’t have specific passages addressing their qualifications the way we have in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). We just have to tie together a variety of passages and make application.

When we talk about their responsibilities we need to remember that they were performed by human beings subject to sin, weaknesses, prejudices, political alliances, etc. (Romans 3:23). Some will do well and others will fail. Sadly, how the leadership goes, Israel follows.

In Exodus 18, Moses is overwhelmed with trying to counsel and judge the growing population of Israel. His father-in-law, Jethro, is alarmed at Moses’ work load. His tasks included judging disputes and teaching the Law to the people (Exodus 18:16). Jethro says to Moses after watching him judge the people the entire day, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” (Exodus 18:14).

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” (Exodus 18:21-23).

Moses complied and the providence of God instituted a legal system that would propel the nation into the future. Examining their qualifications we see God’s hand. They were “literally men of might”8 who had the “three qualities of piety, veracity and strict honesty, or incorruptness.”9

They were to be “able” or “capable” (NET Bible) men who were undoubtedly able to render decisions on their own without constant supervision. The word “connotes ability, leadership, management, resourcefulness, and due respect.”10

[A form of the word ‘able’] is…used in expressions like “mighty man of valor.” The word describes these men as respected, influential, powerful people, those looked up to by the community as leaders, and those that will have the needs of the community in mind. They will be morally and physically worthy.11

Naturally, they must be men who fear God and exhibit humility and respect for the Word of God (James 4:10; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

From the time of their appointment, the ‘rulers’ were not merely judges, but ‘heads’ of their respective companies, with authority over them on the march, and command in the battlefield. Thus the organization was at once civil and military.”12

While these qualifications are for judges and not elders, we know that elders worked with judges for many years to come. Furthermore, we see the type men God desires for leadership. These points are crucial when we look ahead for men who will be leaders in the Lord’s kingdom. Their vision and sagacity will be crucial as they discern the proper paths to lead the brethren.

Jethro instructs Moses in the art of delegation and elders will fall into their roles, as a result.

Wise, decisive, compassionate leadership is a gift from God that every human community needs. Yet Exodus shows us that it is not so much a matter of a gifted leader assuming authority over people, as it is God’s process for a community to develop structures of leadership in which gifted people can succeed. Delegation is the only way to increase the capacity of an institution or community, as well as the way to develop future leaders.”13

As the nation grew and time progressed, delegation led to the functions of elders. “From earliest times a judicial body of elders was formed to give judgment on certain cases. They gathered in the gates of the city where rulings were pronounced” (Deuteronomy 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Ruth 4:1-2).14

They were tasked to specific kinds of cases. “No professional judgment [was] necessary in such cases: the elders presided over a case, whose consequences [were] clear beforehand.”15 Judges sat for advanced cases where more skilled knowledge was needed.16

Concerning the elders of the city, their “functions [were] best exemplified by the pertinent laws of Deuteronomy.”17 They were usually involved in matters of blood redemption (19:12), rebellious children (21:19), the defamation of a virgin (22:15), and levirate issues (25:9). “All of these cases dealt with the protection of a family and local patriarchal interests.”18

Judges served in local courts (Deuteronomy 17:8ff; 19:17-18; 25:1-3).19 Only once do we find situations where the elders were involved in a legal matter as advanced as a murder case. The elders of the city closest to the site of the corpse had certain responsibilities that had to be performed (21:1ff).

The elders of the people represented the people in spiritual matters and in the teaching of the law (Exodus 19:7; 24:1, 9; Deuteronomy 27:1; 29:9ff; 31:9; Joshua 8:33; 24:1). They appointed leaders (1 Samuel 8:4), declared war (Joshua 8:10) and conducted political negotiations (Exodus 3:16-18; 4:29; Numbers 16:25; 2 Samuel 3:17; 5:3).

APPLICATION

The position of Elder under the Law of Moses is different than the position in the New Testament. Yet, we take what we’ve learned and make a few applications so we can better understand God’s plan for the Church today. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

It appears that “elders” served an organic function. Their society revered the aged and their influence was obvious. Naturally, God used them to accomplish His goals. Yet, in their origins, we find a nugget that the church can use.

Like the elders of Israel, elders in the New Testament aren’t given age parameters. They must be mature in the faith (1 Timothy 3:6), married and have children (1 Timothy 3:2-5; Titus 1:6). Yet, they come from the people. They’re men who are already working and serving the Lord. The respect they have cultivated helps elevate them to the eldership. By wisdom, presence, and example, the people have witnessed their seriousness of mind and soul.

Elders under the Old Covenant were servants and remained within their boundaries. They worked for and with the judges, kings and leaders of the nation. Their responsibilities were limited but important. They were expected to handle them with respect and sobriety.

Elders in the Lord’s Church need to remember that they’re servants called to do the Lord’s work of tending the flock (Acts 20:28). They must know the brethren, their minds, fluctuations, and trends.

The judges, leaders, and kings had their own problems and stressors. They depended on the elders to be the barometer of the nation and to do what needed to be done in that respect. Likewise successful elders today are focused on their responsibilities rather than trying to do the work of the preacher or the deacons.

The elders were numerous and were to be a united front (Psalm 107:32). Their collective nature is of even greater importance today. As men of God stand for truth and against error, there must be complete agreement and commitment to the doctrines of Scripture.

However, just like today, elders sometimes followed their base instincts instead of God and the nation suffered. Because of their influence, their moral integrity was integral.

During the early monarchy, the kings depended much on the elders’ cooperation for successful rule” (1 Samuel 15:30; 30:26; 2 Samuel 5:3; 1 Chronicles 21:16).20

David “knew their weakness and fickleness, especially in their unstable political condition. He also knew that he could shepherd the nation effectively only with their cooperation. In a real way, the elders in each city functioned as David’s undershepherds.”

Of course, they fell for Absalom’s deception and caused great pain to David (2 Samuel 17).

They refused to stand for truth when they served under Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21). During the days of Josiah, the missing Book of the Law was discovered by Hilkiah and was read to the king and the people (2 Kings 22). The elders should have been more diligent to help preserve the Word of the Lord.

Isaiah rebuked the elders of their waste, poor stewardship, abuse of the poor, and for failing to follow God’s will (Isaiah 3:14ff).

The lessons are obvious. Elders today must stand alone if necessary to preserve the way of the Lord. They mustn’t allow wolves into the fold (Acts 20:29) and never back down from those who threaten the Church. Elders must be warriors for truth.

CONCLUSION

Men of God have been indispensable since Adam failed to lead spiritually in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). The greatest problem in the Lord’s church today is a lack of sound leadership. The more we can learn about God’s plan for leaders, the better off we will be.

The qualities God desired in judges, prophets, priests, elders, husbands and fathers have, despite their functions and contexts, been basically the same. Put the Lord first, be men of prayer and the Word. We must show our family and the world that God is the answer we all seek. Godly men of strength will desperately be needed until the end of time.

1 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references will be from the New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984).

2 Moshe Warfield, “Elder” jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0006_0_05737.html

3 J. Conrad, “Elder.” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament edited by G. Johannes Botterwick and Helmer Ringgren. Translated by David E, Green. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), 4:123.

4 F. Charles Fensham, “Elders,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 2:53.

5 Warfield

6 Alexander Strauch, Biblical Leadership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership (Littleton: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1986), 139.

7 Strauch, 137.

8 Exodus 18:21, Pulpit Commentary, e-sword, electronic resource.

9 Ibid.

10 Theology of Work Project; www.theologyofwork.org/old-testament/exodus-and-work/israel-at-the-red-sea-and-on-the-way-to-sinai-exodus-1317-1827/the-work-of-justice-among-the-people-of-israel-exodus-181-27/

11 Note 62; www.christianleadershipcenter.org/exod.32.pdf

12 Pulpit Commentary, Exodus 18:25, e-sword, electronic resource.

13 Theology of Work Project

14 ISBE 2:53

15 Weinfeld

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Strauch, 144.

The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles

The following article is by Kyle Frank and Bradley S. Cobb.  It originally appeared in The Quarterly Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

This sad tale follows a brown satchel. Yes, a brown satchel.  For years, H. Leo Boles served the Lord as a preacher, writer, editor, and debater.  In January 1946, he came down with a bout of pneumonia to go along with the phlebitis (an inflammation of a vein) which had severely hindered his mobility.  However, by February, he had recovered from the pneumonia, and was successfully overcoming the phlebitis, and was expected to make a full recovery.  But early in the morning of February 7, 1946, he awoke his wife and his secretary with a horrible scream of pain. He passed from this life to the next that same morning.

After his unexpected death, his funeral was conducted by N.B. Hardeman, S.H. Hall, and B.C. Goodpasture.  It was soon after this event that the brown satchel came into play, and the story of the lost sermons begins.

H. Leo Boles wrote his sermons in brief outline form, and expanded on them as he was preaching them. They were usually typewritten, and he would often write the date and location where he used the outline at the bottom of the page. After his death, his office was cleaned out, and all of his known outlines were put into his brown satchel.  Mrs. Boles, in a show of appreciation to her husband’s secretary, gave her this satchel.

This secretary’s name was Miss Violet Devaney.  She came from a very wealthy family, and had several sisters, but no brothers.  Growing up, they all dreamed of getting married and having families of their own.  However, their father had other ideas.  He gave them an edict, that if they ever married, they would be completely taken out of the will, and would receive not even a penny of the family fortune.  Perhaps he did this so that his daughters would find men who were more interested in them than in their inheritance.  Or perhaps he was slightly off his rocker.  Only God knows the answer to that.

One of the daughters fell in love, and married.  She was promptly removed from the will, and the father did it with such a vehemence that none of the other daughters ever became a bride.  This married sister comes into play later in our story.

Miss Devaney lived the quiet life of a spinster, her only real male friendship being that which she had with Brother Boles. Then he died. The years that went by were spent in relative solitude.

A couple years after Boles’ death, Violet was approached by B.C. Goodpasture, editor of the Gospel Advocate, who was seeking some of the sermon outlines that he had been informed she possessed.  She gave him several, and those were then published in a book called “Sermon Outlines of H. Leo Boles.”  This book is no longer in print.  Three decades passed, and Miss Devaney still kept that brown satchel.  In the 1980s, Arthur K. Gardner approached her, asking if there were any outlines that he could use in a book on brother Boles.  She gave him some, and they were published, along with a brief biography, in “The Life and Lessons of H. Leo Boles” (available from Gospel Light Publishing, Delight, Arkansas).

But that brown satchel still contained more outlines that hadn’t seen the light of day since that fateful February morning in 1946.

By the mid-1990s, Miss Violet Devaney was a member of the Lord’s church in Russellville, Alabama.  It was here that she left this world behind, having faithfully obeyed her father’s wishes, dying an unmarried woman, and went to be in paradise, the home of the faithful.

After her death, her sister—the one who had gone against her father’s edict and chose marriage and family over wealth—came to Russellville to take care of her estate.  Among her worldly goods was a very old, very worn, brown satchel.  This satchel remained faithful to its duty, caring for the papers and outlines entrusted to it.

When Miss Devaney passed to her reward, Benny Johns was the preacher for the church in Russellville. The sons of Violet’s married sister gave him full access to the outlines to type them up and hopefully make them available to future generations. He typed them all up, but they remained unseen by the almost the rest of world for two more decades.  In the late 1990s, the writer of this article was permitted to see them, and obtained a copy of each of them, which he has kept since that time, unsure of what to do with them, and how to make them available.

It is now 2017, and it has been 71 years since H. Leo Boles took his final breath on this earth.  But through his writings (including his sermons), “he being dead, yet speaks.”  His sermons are no longer “lost.”  By the time you read this, “The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles” will be published for the world to see. Unfortunately, the brown satchel is lost, and probably gone forever.

It is my hope that by putting these sermon outlines into print, they can be used to bring glory to God, who makes all things possible.

The Beatitudes–a Freebie!

Since its publication, The Beatitudes: A Sermon Collection has quietly been one of the most popular books I’ve written (The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts being the most popular).

And as my gift to you, you can download the digital version at no cost.  The link is at the end of this post.

This book contains eight detailed sermon outlines, each dealing with one of the Beatitudes, showing how they all work together, and showing how ultimately, the Beatitudes answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?”

Now, here’s where I ask one small favor of you.  If you read through this book, and you like it, please take a minute to leave a review for it on Amazon.com.

Thank you!

Beatitudes e-Book