Monday, November 7, 2016

Why the Bible? (part 3)

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: 2 Chronicles 36
Talk about a downer! This final chapter in 2 Chronicles is NOT the feel good story of any year. Consider the following:
a. King Jehoahaz- exiled to Egypt
b. King Eliakim (aka Jehoiakim)- chained & exiled to Babylon
c. King Jehoiachin- reign of 3 months ends & he's likewise exiled to Babylon
d. King Zedekiah- rejects God's message, watches sons die, is blinded & exiled (1)
e. Royal Palace- plundered, burned & destroyed
f. The Temple- plundered, burned & destroyed
g. The People- killed or forced into exile in Babylon
h. The Land- desolate for 70 years
But even more than a series of unfortunate events, this chapter is really centered on the Word of the Lord. Jerusalem and its kings are suffering the consequences for "mocking the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at the prophets." (2) But the book ends with some hope, because of the actions of the Persian Emperor Cyrus, as promised by the Word of God.
Today marks the end of three blogs dedicated to apologetics, or the defense of the Christian faith. We've been looking at evidence that helps show us the authority, authenticity and uniqueness of the the Bible. There are many reasons why I trust in the Bible and not the Koran or Book of Mormon or any other competing text. Here is the concluding argument. (For the previous ones, look to the October 17th and November 6th blogs.)
Perhaps the number one charge leveled at the Bible, is that it is merely a book of tall tales and legends. It is then placed in the same category as Greek myths or Aesop's Fables, and therefore dismissed as a children's story. Many skeptics claim that the Bible is as believable as say Jack & the Beanstalk. They then congratulate themselves for not believing "fairy tales" and look down on anyone who does.
But in reality, instead of pointing out the ignorance of believers, this line of thinking really points the finger right back at the ones making it. You see, unlike the Hercules, Tweedledum, and the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the Bible is full of real, historical people. Unlike Atlantis, Camelot and El Dorado, the Bible is full of real, historical places. And unlike Cinderella's carriage transforming, Sindbad's seven voyages, and the Siege of Gondor, the Bible is full of real, historical events.
Take today's passage, for example. Pharaoh Neco, King Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah, and Cyrus of Persia are all real, historically verified individuals. We know they existed not only from the Bible, but from other historical evidences. Jerusalem, Egypt, Babylon, and Persia were and are still actual places. You can travel there if you like. (I don't recommend Babylon or Persia seeing as they are currently Iraq & Iran- not a good place to take a hike). We know from sources outside the Bible that Judah paid tribute to Neco, that Nebuchadnezzar first plundered and then totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, that the Jewish people were taken into captivity into Babylon, that Cyrus of Persia issued a decree that allowed the Jews to return home.
Many skeptics and critics seem to make it a hobby to disprove or cast doubt on the Bible. They said that King David was a myth, until they found evidence to the contrary (such as the Tel Dan Stele pictured above). They said that the Bible just made up the Hittites, until they found their ancient capital and records in Turkey. They cast doubts on biblical kings such as Sargon or Belshazzar, until evidence of their lives was discovered. They said that the Old Testament was dramatically altered over the years, until they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. The list goes on, as do the doubters. When you want so badly for something to be untrue (such as the Bible) the parade of criticism will never end. But time and time again, archaeology has verified what we already knew from the Bible.
Several of those who sought to disprove the Bible by examining the evidence have wound up instead converted by it. Lew Wallace was a Union General in the Civil war and indifferent to religion. After the war he had a conversation with notorious agnostic Robert Ingersoll that left him thoroughly confused. Was there a God? Was Jesus real? He spent seven years researching the New Testament and came out not only with an "absolute belief in God and the Divinity of Christ," but with a novel that expressed those convictions, "Ben- Hur."
Sir William Ramsey was an English Scholar who studied under liberal religion professors who assumed that the Bible was not a reliable historical document. Ramsey went to modern day Turkey to prove that idea as he attempted to investigate the travels of the Apostle Paul. Instead of his doubts being confirmed, he found great accuracy in the details in the book of Acts. He himself became a Christian and a Bible scholar.
Ultimately, all these doubts and denials of God's Word are not about evidence or even reason. The problem is not so much an intellectual one, but rather one of the heart and will. "People do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them." (3) Mankind rejects the written Word for the same reason it rejects the Son of God, because of the implications and demands that are made. I want to encourage you to see past the "intellectual" smoke screens that so many around us put up to distance themselves from God. They are arguments of straw that need to be met with the truth of the Word.
But even more, I want to challenge all of us to avoid the more grievous sin of saying we believe the Word and then living like we don't. Perhaps that is the number one charge leveled at Christians, and that one at least has some validity.

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