John 3:16’s Promise, Recalling a Snake?

John 3:16,  Recalling a Snake?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

John3.14-16-pic

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”   (John 3:14-15)

John 3:14-15 is the foundation for the promise of John 3:16, because the first word [houtôs] in the Greek text of John 3:16, means “like this” (translated “so” in KJV)  — referring back to John 3:14-15, which looks further back to Numbers 21:4-9.

So, how does this provide a “snake connection” to the meaning of John 3:16?

The Bible portrays serpents as sinister and even devilish reptiles, especially the serpent which Satan embodied when he tempted Adam and Even (in the Garden of Eden),  —   so how can serpents (such as the king cobra) demonstrate God’s glory?

Consider the unusual role that serpents have in God’s creation. The first serpent specifically mentioned in the Bible is the one that Satan used, as his mask, for talking with Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  Prior to the Garden of Eden event serpents could walk on legs, but afterwards – as part of the curse God imposed as consequences for that terrible event – serpents were limited to crawling on their bellies (Genesis 3).

Did serpents, and other animals, routinely talk to humans in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall? Does the fact that Balaam’s donkey was enabled to talk to Balaam, later in history (after the Jews exited Egypt under Moses’s leadership), an indication that animals were originally able to converse with humans, but now are not?  Scripture does not explicitly tell us the answer, one way or the other.

Meanwhile, serpents – what we call “snakes” cannot now walk on legs, and they are a continuing reminder of what happened in the Garden of Eden (and the seriousness of sin), thousands of years ago.

Apart from that unusual role that one serpent once had, in the Garden of Eden, we see that snakes are reptiles that God created, cold-blooded (“ectothermic”) predators, capable of great subtlety and viciousness.

Earth has many kinds of snakes today, from huge snakes like pythons of the Amazon River rainforest, to small “harmless” Rough-earth Snakes that live mostly underground (unless heavy rains flush them out of the topsoil).

The King Cobra (a/k/a “hamadryad” snakes) are the world’s longest venomous snake, meaning that this snake puts out a poisonous toxin (which is squired form openings in its fangs) when it bites a victim.  Humans easily die of cobra bites, unless a counteracting anti-venom remedy is immediately applied.  As the victim succumbs to the venom’s destructiveness the snake swallows the victims, if the victim is small enough for the cobra to swallow it. The venom is mostly a mix of painful neurotoxins that destroy the central nervous system, ruining vision, balance, alertness, and the brain’s control of the ability to breathe – quite a metaphoric picture of how sin ruins, cripples, incapacitates, and can ultimately destroy the life of a human, if a sufficient remedy to the venomous snakebite is not timely applied.

For human sin there is only one remedy, the substitutionary death of the Lord  Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross for our sins (i.e., receiving punishment as our substitute) – if, as, and when a human accepts this wonderful fact he (or she) receives God’s saving grace, the antidote for sin’s consequences.

The Bible’s first prophecy of Jesus, as the sin-defeating Messiah, was given in Genesis 3:15, when God was addressing the serpent in Eden:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He Himself [i.e., Woman’s seed = Jesus] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.

This prophecy (called the “Protevangelium”) was fulfilled by Christ when He was crucified, because the Lord Jesus’s substitutionary death on the cross actually defeated the power of both sin and death, as is explained by Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 15.

Interestingly, the comparison that Jesus Himself used, when explaining eternal life to Nicodemus, referred back to an incident involving snakes:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world [literally “like this God loved the world”, i.e., like what occurred in the wilderness with the snakebites and the miraculous remedy that God provided, that involved a copper snake on a pole, combined with snake-bit Israelites believing God’s promise of a cure if they looked at the pole], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16). 

That strange event, which Jesus referred to, is reported in Numbers 21:4-9, which says:

And they [i.e., the Israelites] journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.  

And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.

And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

And Moses made a serpent of copper, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of copper, he lived.

In other words, if we think of Jesus Christ dying on the cross (crucified for our sins) as our substitute, as we believe God’s promise (in John 3:16) that we will be graciously cured of our sin’s consequences as a miraculous gift He generously gives us due to Christ being our Savior   –   we too receive God-given life, but not just receiving an extension of our earthly life (cured of earthly snakebites), but rather receiving the forever-permanent gift of eternal life (forgiven all our sins!).

So, when you think of the wonderful promise of John 3:16, remember that John 3:16 refers back to John 3:14-15, which then looks back to the snake incident reported in Numbers 21:4-9.  

So how is the Lord Jesus Christ, when He was on the cross, comparable to the copper snake-on-a-pole that Moses erected (Numbers 21:4-9), as part of God’s solution to the snakebite crisis in the wilderness?   Christ voluntarily and graciously accepted the curse and punishment of our sin, and was nailed to a pole-like cross, as He exchanged our sin for His own righteousness:

For He [God the Father] hath made Him [Christ Jesus] to be sin for us [human sinners], Who knew no sin [i.e., Christ Himself was personally sinless in His humanity]; that we [human sinners] might be made the righteousness of God in Him [i.e., in Christ]. (2nd Corinthians 5:21)

So snakes should remind us of God’s gracious redemption in Christ, to save us humans from the consequences of our sin, and we should be mindful that God’s first promised this redemption in Genesis 3:15, and it was later explained by the Savior Himself, in John 3:14-15 (which alludes to Numbers 21:4-9).

John3.14-16-alternative-pic

 


 

 

God Stretched Out the Heavens, Like Tent Curtains.

God Stretched Out the Heavens, like Tent Curtains

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

RosettaNebula-galaxy.Pinterest

It is He Who sits upon the circle [i.e., choreographed circuit] of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers;  —  He Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.   (Isaiah 40:22)

God spread out the heavens, stretching them out like a curtain. (See, e.g., Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22 & 42:5 & 45:12.)  The Bible teaches that God made (and organized) the cosmos in an orderly and logical way (including how He organized the cosmos to be ruled by the laws of mathematics), so the created cosmos is neither chaotic nor produced by “accidents” — such as is imagined by the “big bang” myth-makers.  (See Genesis 1:14; Judges 5:20; Psalm 19:6 & 93:1 & 104:19.)

Many secular astronomers tell us that the universe is “receding” from us, i.e., moving away from Earth, as if the cosmos itself was (and is) “expanding”, growing larger in volume, every day!  There are many problems with that speculative notion, most of which are beyond the scope of this philological study.  However, to understand the underlying controversy, consider this quick quote from creation astrophysicist Jake Hebert, which helps to set the stage for examining this cosmological question:

“Light from distant galaxies contains clues that most astronomers interpret to mean that the galaxies are receding away from us. Furthermore, most astronomers interpret this to mean, not that the galaxies are moving through space away from us, but that space itself is expanding, carrying these galaxies ‘along for the ride.’  But what about creation astronomers?  What do they think? Some have suggested that the numerous references to “stretching out” the heavens in Scripture (Job 9:8, Psalm 104:2, Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, and 45:12) refer to this ongoing expansion of space itself —  as if the universe is continuing to expand, every moment, consistent with the idea of a ‘big bang’ explosion eons ago, long before any scientific observations were possible.”  [Quoting Jake Hebert, with James J. S. Johnson, “God Spread out the Heavens, Stretching them out like a Curtain”, ICR-DC Universe Room, TS-A-2/Q-3 (AD2018-08-16 script).]

Galaxy.Tarantula-photo

However, this appeal to Scripture – to promote Big bang “expanding universe” notions — is not only a “stretch”, it is flat-out wrong, because the usual Hebrew word for “stretch” (naṭaḥ) does not denote elasticity (much less ongoing/unlimited elasticity!), as one would expect if these verses were referring to some kind of ongoing and unlimited “stretching out” of space itself, as Big Bang advocates imagine. Rather, these passages are simply referring to God’s initial structuring of the stars, in their respective (and choreographed) circuit arrangements.

In fact, the qualifying phrase “like a [tent] curtain” really refutes the idea of unlimited elasticity, because when Old Testament Hebrews constructed a tent (as Bedouin Arabs frequently do, to this day), they arranged the structural positioning of the tent curtains, upon the rod-assembly scaffolding – but the curtains did not stretch and stretch and stretch forever! Rather, once the curtain is positioned into the desired structure it is maintained by the pole-assembly scaffolding.

Furthermore, the same Hebrew verb (naṭaḥ) used for “stretching out” the heavens [in the 1st paragraph above] is repeatedly used of Moses “stretching out” his arm to hold his staff up in the air (e.g., Exodus 7:19; 8:5; 8:6; 8:16; 9:22; 9:23; etc.), such as when Moses did so at the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. That word “stretched” did not mean that Moses’ arm (or hand, in some contexts) got longer and longer and longer, like a huge anaconda or an unbreakable rubber-band! Rather, Moses repositioned (i.e., unfolded) his arm so that it was fully stretched out from his torso.

Galaxy-w-stars.greenish-tone

In short, when God “stretched out the heavens” He was positioning the stars (and their respective galaxy formations) into the structural arrangement that He intended for them – and it takes God’s continuing maintenance for those stars to “stay in place” due to the otherwise-disintegrating influence of cosmic entropy (see Colossians 1:17).   In fact, if God did not maintain the structure of the universe (and its innumerable parts, in their choreographed circuits), the universe’s order would disintegrate due to unrestrained entropy ( Colossians 1:17).

Solar-System.heliocentric


 

The Genesis Flood was not merely regional; it covered the entire world.

The Genesis Flood was not merely regional; it covered the entire world. 

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.  Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.   (Genesis 7:19-20)

The apostle Peter predicted (in 2nd Peter 2:5 & 3:6) that some people would intentionally ignore the historic fact of the worldwide Flood, because that Flood was a haunting reminder that God punishes sin, especially when His forgiveness is rejected.  Before that the Lord Jesus Himself clearly taught that the Genesis Flood destroyed all of the earth, with Noah’s family being the only humans to survive (Matthew 24:39). Jesus also said that Genesis was authoritative (John 5:44-49), and the Genesis record itself (e.g., in Genesis 7:19-20) chronicles how the floodwaters rose and eventually covered the entire earth, so that even the highest mountains were covered by at least 15 cubits (which is about 24 feet).  Also, using the rainbow as a covenant, God promised to never again send a flood like the one Noah and family survived (Genesis 9:11), yet many regional floods have come and gone since then.

GenesisFlood-Ark-afloat

There are 2 other major evidences that the Genesis Flood was global, not just regional: (1) Flood mega-sequences in sedimentary rock layers, documented by Dr. Tim Clarey, cover multiple continents, not just regions of the world; (2) historical memories of the Flood, such as global flood legends and Chinese pictographs, only makes sense if the Flood was worldwide, since Flood memories are transmitted in the lore of many different peoples (e.g., Chinese, Polynesian islands, Alaskan natives, Mayas, Africans, Greeks, etc.) who are separated by language and geography.

It was more than catastrophic; it was a global cataclysm.  For more analysis of this important fact of Earth’s well-documented Flood history, consider these short articles:

HMM: http://www.icr.org/article/2120

HMM: http://www.icr.org/article/days-noah

HMM: http://www.icr.org/article/lasting-noahic-covenant

JDM: http://www.icr.org/article/providential-wind/

JDM: http://www.icr.org/article/vital-doctrine-global-flood


 

Goyim Origins: Divided Languages Caused Ethnic Differences

Goyim Origins: Divided Languages Caused Ethnic Differences

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

By these were the coastlands of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. … These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations, and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.   (Genesis 10:5 & 10:32)

After the worldwide Flood was over Noah’s family left the Ark, to start a new life in what was really a completely renovated earth. This was followed by more babies being born to Noah’s daughters-in-law.  Those babies eventually grew up and had families of their own, so the human race multiplied as the generations of new descendants of Noah began to fill the earth.  Although God had commanded the human race to “be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1 & 9:7), some people disagreed with that idea – they chose to do the opposite of “filling” the earth – they stayed close together in what is now Babylon (in Iraq, near the Euphrates River).

Tower-of-Babel.PieterBruegel-AD1563

TOWER OF BABEL, painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, AD1563 (public domain)

They built a tower (known as the “Tower of Babel”) and even said that their goal was to avoid being spread out over the earth – showing that they were rebelling against God’s commandment.  So God defeated their rebellious unity by changing their common language into 70 different language categories.  Not being able to talk to each other the rebel confederacy split up, based on the 70 different languages.  (Later these original 70 languages would split further.) Since people usually marry only those who speak their language – for obvious reasons – soon the once-common gene pool was split into 70 smaller gene pools, with dominant and recessive genes (“genotype” characteristics) being recycled only within those smaller gene pools.

The results, after many generations of language-group-based inbreeding, was that people who shared the same language tended to share some of the same physical appearances (“phenotype” characteristics), such as skin color, eye color, shape of cheek bones, shape of nose, etc.).  The 70 original languages groups were originally called “nations”, so the term “nation” in Scripture is primarily a category of language-based family history (i.e., genealogy), not geography-defined political entities, which is what we usually think of when we use the English word “nation” nowadays.  [SeeEvery Nation Under Heaven:  Using Scripture to Understand Scripture“, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/every-nation-under-heaven-using-understand  — explaining how Genesis chapters 10 & 11 are connected to Acts chapter 2.]

Table-of-Nations-Josephus.AiG-CHART

TABLE OF NATIONS based on Genesis 10, with Greek term equivalents used by Josephus  (chart by Answers in Genesis)

 

Being Thankful About the Basics, including the Little Things

Being Thankful About the Basics, including the Little Things

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.  (Luke 10:20)

John14.2-pic

Being secure for eternity, thanks to having the Lord Jesus Christ as my Redeemer, is wonderful (John 3:14-16; Luke 10:20).  Yet I would have no eternity, either good or bad, if God had never created me (to be me) in the first place.

In other words, the most basic gratitude, that we should have, is being thankful that God chose to make us as the unique humans we are (Psalm 102:18).

PaloDuroCanyon-Mastodon-with-JJSJ

JJSJ birdwatching / hiking in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas Panhandle, during spring of AD2018 (photo-shopped Mastodon inserted by my cousin Don Barber)

So here is a limerick about appreciating being a creature (whom God chose to make), plus being grateful for some of the simplest things in life, such as good food (Acts 14:17).

THANK YOU, GOD, FOR BLESSING LITTLE ME

(AND FOR LITTLER BLESSING TOO)

O God, thanks for making little me;

Thanks, too, for littler blessings I can see:

Little gifts, like cherries red,

Liverwurst, dark rye bread —

Thanks mostly, You chose to make me!

Cherries-wild


 

KEEP LIFE SIMPLE: BE HONEST!

KEEP  LIFE  SIMPLE:   BE  HONEST!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

“But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, because He hath prepared for them a city.”   (Hebrews 11:16)

God has promised us a glorious future, a home in Heaven with Him forever — a good destiny beyond our best expectations!   And God is not bashful about His promise because He knows that he is faithful and shall make it happen when the timing is right.  God will never be ashamed of promises He makes, because He always fulfills His promises.

Being made in God’s image means that we should live out moral behavior that is like God — we should be truthful, gracious, kind, caring, appreciative of beauty, etc.

So human merchants should be honest.  Yet the fact that legislatures pass consumer protection/antifraud laws (with names like “Deceptive Trade — Consumer Protection Act”) is a reminder of how fallen the human race is — we routinely fail to live out our mandate of honoring God as creatures made in His image.  So, BUYER BEWARE!

Of course, cheating merchants eventually earn a public reputation for dishonesty — and that reputation eventually punishes a lot of mercantile dishonesty.

Dishonest merchants often end up in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, for reasons like this — this I personally witnessed frequently many such commercial scams and schemes, including many “bust-out” frauds, as a Board-certified specialist in Business Bankruptcy Law, in Texas (active in federal bankruptcy courts, mostly representing creditors), during the timeframe of AD1990 through AD2010.

But this same problem can appear even in trivial scenarios, such as grocery stores dishonoring their own coupons.

Accordingly, a limerick follows.

STORE COUPON: FOR SAUSAGE OR FOR BAIT?

Bison sausage, when grilled, is a treat;
What pleasant, nutritious red meat!
So a coupon we used
Yet at first ‘twas refused
Now why would store clerks try to cheat?

(JJSJ sampling Cod Liver Oil — obviously this is not a photograph of eating Bison Sausage.)

Honesty is the best policy!  (See, accord, Romans 13:7.)

GOD’S HEAVENLY LEIKARRINGEN, AS NOTED IN ISAIAH 40:22

GOD’S HEAVENLY LEIKARRINGEN, AS NOTED IN ISAIAH 40:22

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

It is He Who sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; it is He Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)

What is “the circle of the earth”? Just because an interpretation seems to “help” win arguments does not make it right—it’s the truth that really counts.  (Sad to say, quite a few creation scientists, employing superficial review of the Scriptures, are guilty of this.)

For decades some creation scientists have suspected (and/or assumed) that Isaiah 40:22 refers to Earth’s spherical shape, because Earth is round like a ball.  But is that what the phrase “circle of the earth” refers to, in Isaiah 40:22?  As a matter of Biblical creation apologetics (as opposed to deistic science practices), it is important to take a philological “magnifying glass” to the Biblical Hebrew text’s details, in order to see what this verse is actually describing.

The foundational question — if truth is the priority — is whether the Hebrew noun chûg, used in Isaiah 40:22 (and translated as “circle” by the King James Bible translators), means “round” like Earth’s spherical shape, as opposed to some other kind of “circle”.

The noun “ball” is used to translate the Hebrew noun dûr in Isaiah 22:18. So, if God had wanted to describe Earth as a globe (i.e., a ball), in Isaiah 40:22, why not use the Hebrew noun dûr? Obviously that noun was part of Isaiah’s vocabulary, because Isaiah used that noun (dûr) in Isaiah 22:18.

But, to understand this part of Isaiah 40:22, the most focal question is what does chûg (“circle”) mean? To answer this question, we should compare Scripture with Scripture, i.e., especially by reviewing how that same Hebrew word is used elsewhere within Scripture.

First, consider that the noun chûg is used only 2 other times, in Job 22:14 and Proverbs 8:27.

Job 22:14 says: “Thick clouds are a covering to Him, that He seeth not; and He walketh in the circuit [chûg] of heaven.”  Question: is this “circuit” an orbit-like pattern or a spherical ball?

Proverbs 8:27 says: “When He prepared the heavens, I was there; when He set a compass [chûg] upon the face of the depth.” Question: is this “compass” an orbit-like pattern or a spherical ball?

Next, consider the root verb (that this Hebrew noun derives from), which is the Hebrew verb chûg, spelled that same as the noun (similar to how our English words “report” and “record” are either verbs or nouns, depending upon context).

As a verb, chûg appears in Job 26:10 (“He hath compassed the waters…”), denoting cloud-contained rainwaters, being part of Earth’s water cycle dynamics. The idea here is cyclical or circuitous movements, not sphericity.

Furthermore, we can review other Hebrew words that utilize the consonantal stem CHG (also transliterated ḤG), such as the verb châgag that uses the extended stem CHGG (also transliterated ḤGG). By doing this we acquire more relevant data for identifying the core meaning of chûg. Consider, therefore, these Scriptures that employ some form of the verb châgag, and/or a noun derived from that verb: Leviticus 23:9 (“feast”); Leviticus 23:34 (“celebrate”, “feast”); Leviticus 23:41 (“celebrate”, “feast”, “celebrate””); and 1st Samuel 30:16 (“dancing”).(1) Do the concepts of celebratory feasts—or “dancing”—fit the idea of Earth’s spherical roundness? Or, do “dancing” and cyclical celebrations compare better with Earth’s orbit-motions, while circling the sun, within our solar system that itself orbits within the Milky Way Galaxy?

The best English word, to picture the core idea here, is choreography—an amazingly well-ordered, orchestrated, festive, happy, harmonious DANCE.(1),(2) Like King David, even the heavenly bodies “dance” unto God’s glory!(2)

References

(1)The Hebrew noun chûg (“circle” in Isaiah 40:22, KJV) is related to the verb châgag, which is translated “celebrate” in Leviticus 23:9 & 23:41. The Hebrew noun chûg shares the same root verb as chag, another Hebrew noun, which is translated “feast” (referring to the Feast of Tabernacles) in Leviticus 23:34 & 23:9 & 23:41. The concept of celebratory dancing is illustrated in 1st Samuel 30:16, where the Hebrew verb châgag (in participle form) is translated “dancing”.

(3)See 2 Samuel 6:14 & Psalm 149:3. Notice that the festively cosmic choreography of Isaiah 40:22 is like the mathematically blended and harmonious interactive movements of a perfectly performed Norwegian Leikarringen folk dance (see photograph above), as opposed to a frenzied solo dancer’s break-dancing gyrations.

><> JJSJ    profjjsj@aol.com


In AD1982, at Wake Forest University, Dr. Johnson received the American Bible Society Award for scholarship in Biblical languages, especially Hebrew and Aramaic. However, despite many repeated efforts (and repeated encouragement from Kermit and Glenda Anderson), Johnson has unquestionably failed to learn the memory-challenging choreographic artistry of Norwegian folk dancing.