Title & Purpose

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.


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Friday, 31 May 2013

The dangerous error of Covenant Succession Part 3

II. The Fallacy of Covenant Succession Examined cont'd
Another area where support for 'Covenant Succession' is drawn from is that of Scriptural testimonies. The lives and the language that surrounds a number of individuals is employed to bolster this fallacy. However, instead of providing support for the concept of 'Covenant Succession', each one of these Scriptural testimonies argue against this fallacy in different ways:

1. Psalm 22:9,10: But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. These words are taken to refer to David and are viewed as supporting the premise that children can be regenerated from infancy and even when they are in their mother's womb.

However, these words do not refer to David at all but to the person of the mediator Jesus Christ. The whole Psalm in a messianic prophecy from beginning to the end. It commences with a subsequent cry from the cross, it concludes with another cry from the cross. This Psalm is prophetic of the sufferings of the Messiah. Verses 9,10 can no more apply to the personal experience of David than the words of v16: For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. Did David also then have his hands and his feet pierced? This would have to be the consistent interpretation if vv 9,10 are going to be applied to David.

These verses therefore argue against 'Covenant Succession' and not for it, in that they show that the Messiah was unique in this regard. Unlike others He will know God from his mother's belly and God will be his hope while He is still upon his mother's breasts.

2. Psalm 71:5,6: For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee. If any words in all the Bible argue against, and not for, 'Covenant Succession' then these are they! The Psalmist David testifies that God has done two things for him, namely: 
[1] God took him out of his mother's bowels and has holden him up from the womb ever since. This should be the testimony of every child born and it is certainly the testimony of every child of God.
[2] God brought him to 'hope' and 'trust' in God from his 'youth'.

It is simply impossible to argue that the Psalmist's 'youth' is to be equated with being in the womb or upon his mother's breasts. To argue such is simply to manifest an ignorance of the Old Testament. Alfred Edersheim in his book Sketches of Jewish Social Life draws our attention to nine different stages of growth and development for a human being outlined in the Old Testament. These nine stages were readily understood by the Jews whose native language Hebrew was. 

These nine stages are outlined in the Old Testament by the use of nine different Hebrew words:
[1] The newly born - the Hebrew word is 'Jeled', Exodus 2:3,6,8; Isaiah 9:6.

[2] A suckling - 'Jonek', Psalm 8:2, Isaiah 11:8.

[3] A suckling asking bread - 'Olel', Lamentations 4:4.

[4] The weaned one - 'Gamul', Psalm 131:2; Isaiah 11:8, 28:9. The end of the period of weaning among the Jews, according to Edersheim, was generally at the end of two years.

[5] Toddler - 'Taph', Ezra 8:21; Esther 8:11. Quite often this word is translated in Scripture as 'little ones'.

[6] Strong one - 'Elem' or 'Almah', Isaiah 7:14. This is the term used of Mary in this prophecy who would bear the Saviour. At this age then a young woman could therefore be betrothed and married.

[7] Youth - 'Na'ar', 1 Samuel 17:33.

[8] Ripened one - 'Bachur', Isaiah 31:8; Jeremiah 18:21, 25:8.

[9] Adult - 'Enesh', Genesis 2:23.

Now, which one of these nine terms do you imagine the Psalmist uses in Psalm 71:5,6 as to when God became his 'hope' and 'trust'? It is not the 'newly born', or the 'suckling' or the 'suckling asking bread' or the 'weaned one' or the 'toddler' or even the 'strong one'. You have to go through the list until the seventh one, out of these nine stages of human development as known among the Jews. David is personally testifying that while God had indeed taken him from his mother's bowels and upheld him all through life, it was not until he was a 'youth' that the Lord became his personal 'hope' and 'trust'.

At the root of every Hebrew noun there is a verb. The verb at the root of this word 'youth' means 'to shake off'. It is an apt picture indeed for a young person reaching adolescence. They are reaching that place where they are shaking off parental authority and the time has come for them to make their own way in life. 

According to the Scriptures someone at this age is old enough to be married. The previous word is used in prophecy of the virgin Mary.

This is the same word that appears twice in 1 Samuel 17:33 and used once of David and once of Goliath: And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a 'youth', and he a man of war from his 'youth'. The use of this word is not referring to David when he was unborn or in his infancy but as he was at that very moment when standing before Saul; nor it is implying that Goliath was a soldier from the womb or even from infancy. That is patently nonsense.

Therefore, neither then can the use of the term in Psalm 71:5,6 refer to David being 'regenerated' or 'converted' in the womb or in his infancy. David does not testify that God was his 'hope' and 'trust' from his mother's womb or even anytime shortly after. He was a 'young man' around the age when he stood before Saul and went out to battle against Goliath when he came to know the Lord. Psalm 71:5,6 would indicate that David sought the Lord sometime shortly before his encounter with Goliath.

To sneer dismissively, as some covenant successors do, at the idea that a conversion experience in a 'covenant child', is no where to be found in the Scriptures, is just to mock at your own ignorance and lack of Bible knowledge. David gives us a time in his life when he, a 'covenant child', came to know the Lord as his 'hope' and his 'trust'. Up until this time David could not testify that the Lord was his 'hope' and his 'trust'. The timing certainly doesn't equate to the concept of 'Covenant Succession'. David is testifying in Psalm 71:5,6 to a conversion experience as a young person. 

3. Jeremiah 1:5: Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. This verse makes no reference to 'Covenant Succession' or even conversion in any sense. It is rather a reference to when God ordained Jeremiah to be a prophet. This is abundantly clear from the rest of the verse. The word 'sanctified' has the sense of being 'set apart'. God had set Jeremiah apart from before he was born to be a prophet. 

This is exactly the same type of terminology that is used of the Apostle Paul and his ordination to be a minister of the Gospel: But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:15,16. Every true minister, called of God, can have the same thing said about them as Jeremiah and Paul had.

4. Luke 1:15: For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. No one can deny that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. The question to address is whether this is the norm for every 'Covenant Child' or the exception with respect to John the Baptist? If it was the norm with every 'Covenant Child' then what is value of these words being spoken by the angel to the parents of John the Baptist? These words are meaningless and superfluous in this context if they are true of every 'Covenant Child'. Did the angel speak meaningless words that were true anyway to Zacharias and Elisabeth? Or did he utter words unique to John the Baptist which would make a tremendous impression upon his parents that he was going to be no ordinary child. 

The mark of this special infilling is observed in v17: And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Is every 'Covenant Child' going to have the 'spirit and power of Elias' as well? The answer is obvious. These words were unique to John the Baptist. The exception cannot be taken and made the rule or else the Scripture here become meaningless. 

5. Samuel's conversion. The life of Samuel is regularly dismissed in this regard and it is claimed that God calling Samuel had nothing to do with his conversion. Yet no clearer example could be given of a 'Covenant Child' needing to be called and converted than that of Samuel. 

Samuel had a privileged upbringing:
1. He was prayed for by his mother Hannah before he was born.
2. Although it does not specifically say so he would have been circumcised when eight days old. He received the sign of the covenant as it was in Old Testament times.
3. He was dedicated to the Lord early in his life, when he was weaned from his mother. Weaning took place among the Jews at around two years of age according to Alfred Edersheim.
4. Samuel lived in the courts of the house of God permanently. It says that he ministered to the Lord while assisting Eli.
5. The Lord blessed Samuel while he doing all this.

Yet for all of this when you get to 1 Samuel ch 3:7 it clearly states: Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. This statement cannot be brushed aside as merely referring to Samuel not knowing that the Lord revealed Himself by vision and dreams. Eli had his faults but are we seriously saying the high priest taught Samuel nothing during his time in the house of God? Our understanding is helped by noticing that the same description is given to Eli's sons: Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD, 1 Sam 2:12. This text clearly sets the context for understanding this phrase with respect to Samuel. Eli's sons did not know the Lord, they were sons of Belial. In the next chapter it is said of Samuel that he did not know the Lord either. Are the two statements in close proximity to be understood differently? Or more accurately, are both of them saying the same thing. Eli's sons did not savingly know the Lord and neither did Samuel.

Despite all the privileges and the blessings bestowed upon Samuel by the Lord he has no saving knowledge of the Lord. This was why he could not utter the words given to him by Eli verbatim: speak LORD for thy servant heareth1 Samuel 3:9.  Samuel left out a very important word ie. 'Lord'. All Samuel could say was: speak for thy servant heareth. Interestingly, he leaves out the part that has to do with the covenant. The name 'LORD' or 'Jehovah' signifies the Lord to be the covenant keeping God of Israel. Remarkably Samuel does not use this name for God in his reply. Surely if he were a 'Covenant Child' he would have no problem using it? 'Covenant Successors' today would have no problem urging their children to use such a term. Samuel was instructed by Eli to do so. Yet when the time came that Samuel heard the voice, for a fourth time, he did not do so. He only said: speak for thy servant heareth.

So much for 'Covenant Children' only needing instruction or nurture! If anything bears witness to Samuel's lack of knowledge of the Lord it is this corroborating fact. So much for Samuel being a 'Covenant Child', regenerated in the womb, whose father's faith is sufficient for him and only needed nurturing! Samuel needed something more. He needed conversion, which every child of believing parents require. 

Furthermore, this same terminology and sentence construction is used of Pharaoh in Exodus 5:2: And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go. The second part of the statement is the consequence of the first part. Pharaoh has an innate rebellious heart and will not let Israel go because he does not know the Lord. Similarly, the word of the Lord was not yet revealed unto Samuel because Samuel did not yet know the Lord. Pharaoh, Eli's sons and Samuel are exactly the same spiritually speaking. All three do not know the Lord savingly.

The story of Samuel is actually a vivid illustration of the doctrine of effectual calling which we will have reason to refer to later. 

6. Saul of Tarsus. As a 'Covenant Child' was he regenerated in the womb? Could he have been? As I have pointed out some, who hold to 'Covenant Succession', actually believe that he was regenerated in the womb being a 'Covenant Child' and then subsequently converted on the Damascus road. So all the threatenings and slaughter breathed out against the disciples of the Lord was actually by a regenerated 'Covenant Child'. Ludicrous in the extreme!

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