If you have been following these posts, you know that we are currently involved in a teaching series on Dispensations. I am well aware of the fact that many in the Christian Church disagree with, and even take umbrage with, what is referred to as; “Dispensational Theology.” I understand that, and personally I am not going to break fellowship with my brethren who interpret the Bible differently than me along these lines.
What is a Dispensation? According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary: “(Gr. oikonomia, “management,” “economy”).
- The method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation. There are usually reckoned three dispensations, the Patriarchal, the Mosaic or Jewish, and the Christian. (See COVENANT, ADMINISTRATION OF). These were so many stages in God’s unfolding of his purpose of grace toward men. The word is not found with this meaning in Scripture.”
First, yes the Greek word translated, Dispensation, is indeed, oikonomia; I.E. “management”, or. “economy.” In fact the English word, “economy” is really a transliteration of this Greek word, and is pronounced very similarly. Secondly, I would agree that a Dispensation is indeed, “The method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men.” I do not see merely three Dispensations, although this view has been taught in some segments of the Church through the years. I take the approach, as does much if not most of modern Evangelical scholarship, that we can identify seven Dispensations: Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, and, Divine Government.
Interpreting the Bible dispensationally, in my opinion, causes the scriptures to harmonize like no other method that I am aware of. Paul wrote to his young protege Timothy, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [2 Tim. 2:15] Dr. J. Vernon McGee in his, Thru The Bible commentary, gives an excellent insight into this passage. He wrote:
“On and on, questions come our way that cause some who love the Lord to feel embarrassed about parts of the Bible.
The problem isn’t with the Bible. The problem is with our inability to rightly divide it. The Greek word for “divide” means to cut a straight line, to make an incision. In order to rightly divide the Word, we need to understand first of all that the Bible is not simply a book of theology, but rather a drama through which we see the unfolding of God’s redemption of mankind. Viewed as a drama, we see seven scenes, or “dispensations,” into which all of Scripture is divided.” [Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary on 2 Timothy 2:15]
Dr. McGee then goes on to introduce the seven Dispensations as unfolding scenes in the drama of the Ages, if you will.
Easton states in his definition of the word, Dispensation, “… The word is not found with this meaning in Scripture.” Critics of Dispensational Theology would of course pounce on this statement. Let me say this. While it is true that Dispensationalism is not clearly spelled out in scripture, as in, “Now introducing the Dispensation of Innocence, etc.”, I do believe the concept is clearly biblical as again, a method of interpretation of the Bible and the Great Plan of God. Now, if I get to Heaven and the Lord says, “Son, you were wrong about that.”, will I be upset? Not in the least. For now however, as imperfect as my understanding may well be, this is what I believe.
With that bit of introduction, lets dive back into our study, if you will.
We see that human government was instituted first in the days of Noah, following the Flood. The Bible tells us that Noah and his family settled in the mountainous area of Ararat called Armenia. This was a fertile land, well suited for habitation. In this Dispensation we see the establishment of the Noahic Covenant. Every Covenant in scripture contains two basic elements (although there are others): words, and a sign or token. This Covenant is found in Genesis 9, beginning at verse 13:
I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” [Gen. 9:13 – 16 NASB Emphasis added]
We see the words of this Covenant of course, and the sign or token of the Covenant is the rainbow. The Lord said when He looked at the rainbow, it would remind Him of His promise to never again destroy the Earth with a flood. He said, I will remember. This is one of the greatest promises God has ever made to man. What God has stated in His Word, He is faithful to perform! The writer of Hebrews said it this way:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. [Heb. 10:23] God keeps His promises to those who believe Him! This was stated beautifully by John:
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. [Rev. 4:3 KJV Emphasis added] This rainbow seen around the Throne of God is a constant reminder to the Lord of all the promises He has extended to us. Not only does the rainbow in the sky remind God of the Covenant He made with Noah, but the rainbow around His Throne reminds Him of His promises He has made to each believer! Glory!
After the flood, Noah became a farmer and planted a vineyard. This was probably intended to supplement the lack of good fruits and vegetables available to him and his family after the destruction of the Deluge.
Whether it was intentional, or due to his lack of experience with the fruit of the vine, Noah became drunk! While he was in this inebriated condition, Ham, the youngest son of Noah, “…saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.[Gen. 9:22] There is no doubt some back story here, although we are not told what that was. Some scholars are of the opinion that Ham and his son Canaan, and probably Canaan with Ham witnessing the act, engaged in some sort of homosexual act on Noah in addition to seeing his nakedness. I find it interesting that the Holy Spirit through Moses in both verses 18 and 22 calls attention to the fact that Ham was the father of Canaan. Also given the fact that a curse is placed upon Canaan, lends credence to the idea that something more than merely seeing Noah’s nakedness occurred. At any rate,we know that Ham made fun of his father in his drunken and humiliating state, and called his brothers, Shem and Japeth, to come and join him. Ham’s brothers showed a great deal of maturity and respect for their father by not mocking him, but covering him up so his nakedness was not seen. [See Gen. 9:22, 23]
Canaan’s descendants populated Africa and what would eventually be, Israel. We know the Lord commanded the Israelites to completely destroy the Canaanites and to possess their land. [See Deut. 20:17] This was the land originally promised by an everlasting covenant to Abraham. It still belongs to the Jews, and the Lord will see to it that they finally possess all that He gave to them in the coming Kingdom Age, or the Dispensation of Divine Government.
What was it about these people that God would instruct His people to leave no one or nothing that breathed, but rather to destroy them all? Was this an unjust command? Not at all. I want to explore what the Bible says, as well as what we learn from history, concerning these people.
We will do that, Lord willing, next time.