Saturday, October 17, 2009

Randall Gleason and The Moderate Reformed View, Part I: The Redeemed Status of the Exodus Generation

“Because of their typological relationship to the Exodus generation, I consider those warned in Hebrews to be genuine believers in danger of forfeiting covenant blessings and of undergoing the PHYSICAL DISCIPLINE of God while escaping final judgment. The basis for this understanding is that despite their unbelief and rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea, the Exodus generation was a redeemed people.
The evidence for this begins with Moses and Aaron’s first report that the Lord would deliver them. Upon hearing Aaron’s report confirmed by miraculous signs, ‘THE PEOPLE BELIEVED’ and ‘bowed low and worshiped’ (Exod. 4:30-31 NASB). The significance of this initial act of faith by the people should not be overlooked for several reasons.
First, the Hiphil form of ‘amen’ (vay-ya-amen), translated ‘believed,’ became a technical term to express genuine faith in the Old Testament”
(Randall Gleason, “A Moderate Reformed View,” from “Four Views On The Warning Passages In Hebrews” by Herbert W. Bateman IV, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007, pages 344-345).

The above statement made by Randall Gleason shows that Gleason believes that the discipline the Hebrews would face by the Lord would be physical. Although I don’t agree, I respect his position.

But what interests me most about Gleason’s position is not his stance on the discipline, but instead, his argument that the Exodus generation was saved. His first reason is because of the word “amen,” which is translated meaning “to believe.” Let’s look at Exodus 4:30-31:

“And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people.
So the people BELIEVED; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped” (New King James Version).

I’ll get into the significance of the word “believed” as we progress through Gleason’s statement.

“Second, the six occurrences of ‘believe’ (amen) in Exodus 4 MARK THE PEOPLE’S FAITH AS A CENTRAL THEME OF THE CHAPTER.
Third, the genuineness of the people’s faith is evidenced not only by their immediate worship (4:31; 12:27), but also by their obedience. In response to the specific commands regarding the preparation of the Passover sacrifice, the author emphatically declares twice that all the sons of Israel ‘did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron’ (Exod. 12:28, 50)”

Notice that the Israelites “worshipped” and “obeyed.” These are the signs of those who really believe. Therefore, the faith of the Israelites was, initially, a genuine faith. Their actions follow faith which is genuine. There is no way we can rule out the genuineness of their faith and say that they “never believed.”

Let’s read Gleason’s next reason:

“Fourth, in response to their fear of attack by the Egyptians, the Lord promised them ‘salvation’ (Exod. 14:13). Here ‘y(e)shuat’ is used only for the second time in the Old Testament to promise their deliverance. Following their rescue, the author declares that the Lord indeed ‘saved’ (vayyosha) Israel that day’ (Exod. 14:30)” (345).

The use of the word “salvation” in the Hebrew text alerts us that the Israelites were “saved.” They were truly God’s people—and God demonstrated that to them through the Red Sea event, when He drowned the Egyptians before their eyes while allowing them to cross on dry land.

“Fifth, in response to their deliverance, the text again declares, ‘They believed (va-ya-aminu) in the Lord and in His servant Moses’ (Exod. 14:30-31 NASB). Here the Hiphil form of ‘amen’, with the preposition ‘in’…denotes THEIR ENTRANCE INTO A RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST IN YAHWEH as it did in Genesis 15:6, ‘[Abraham] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness’ (NASB)” (346).

To believe in the Lord means to come to a saving faith. If the word “believed” in Genesis 15:6 is the same word used here in Exodus 14, then the Israelites came to a genuine, saving faith in the Lord. There is a footnote at the bottom of page regarding the word of “amen” along with the preposition “in”: “Other examples…with the preposition (‘believed in’) used to express genuine faith in God include 2 Chronicles 20:20; Jonah 3:5” (346).

“Sixth, the Song of Moses that immediately follows the account of the Red Sea crossing offers an important interpretation of the event and confirms the faith response of the people. The song describes the event as their ‘salvation’ (Exod. 15:2) by which they were ‘redeemed’ (v.13) and ‘purchased’ (v.16)” (346).

Let’s look at Exodus 15:

“You in Your mercy have led forth the people WHOM YOU HAVE REDEEMED; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. The people will hear and be afraid; sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; the mighty men of Moab. Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O LORD, Till the people pass over WHOM YOU HAVE PURCHASED. You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands have established” (Exod. 15:13-17, NKJV).

We see that Moses records the people as being “redeemed” (v.13) and “purchased” (v.16). This language points to more than just the physical deliverance itself. After all, how did the Lord “redeem” Israel? And how did He “purchase” them?

He “purchased” Israel by the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts. The apostle Paul makes this connection in 1 Corinthians 5:

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed CHRIST, OUR PASSOVER, WAS SACRIFICED FOR US” (1 Corinthians 5:7, NKJV).

As Paul shows us, Christ is the “Passover lamb” given for us. Let’s examine what the Lord told the Israelites to do on the night that the death angel visited:

“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you” (Exod. 12:21-23, NKJV).

The Israelites were to take a lamb, slaughter it, mix the hyssop with the blood of the lamb and place it on the lintel (beam) and the two doorposts. The death angel would see the blood and “PASS OVER” the group. This is why the celebration became known as “Passover.”

So this is how the Israelites were redeemed and purchased—their salvation from death was not just physical, it was also SPIRITUAL!

To sum up this post, I’ll leave you with words from Randall Gleason himself:

“Later in Hebrews 11 the author confirms the redeemed status of the Exodus generation. With the events of Exodus 14:30-31 clearly in mind, he commends them for their exemplary faith, declaring ‘By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land’ (v. 29 NASB). Hence, like Noah, Abraham, and Moses, the author includes the Exodus generation among those who had ‘gained approval through their faith’ (v. 39 NASB)” (346).

What this shows us is that, when the Lord redeemed Israel and brought her out of Egypt, she was a “saved” people, both physically and spiritually. However, something went wrong out in the wilderness. What was it? Well…that’s a question I won’t entertain until next time…

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