Why Would You Do That to Your Wife?

There are any number of things that this question might rightly asked about:  violence of any kind against a wife, cheating on her, etc., etc.  However, they aren’t the subject of this post about “puzzling or ‘problem’ passages.”  This question is about two Bible verses recently mentioned by an atheist as reasons why we should reject Christianity.

I will admit that these verses are very hard to understand, especially in the loose and promiscuous times in which we live.  However, as I’ve thought about them, I’ve decided they might have something to say to our degenerate society, even though I may be lighting a fire.

These verses are found in Deuteronomy 25:11, 12:

If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her. 

What in the world is that all about?  …cutting off her hand??

The question that heads this post was asked by an atheist who was using this and other verses as reasons why we shouldn’t follow Christianity.  The action in these verses wasn’t to be done by the husband, lest some take that as an excuse.

I don’t normally do this when writing a post, but I checked some commentaries and study Bibles about what others might have said.  MacArthur pointed out that this is the only case of mutilation in the Bible.  It certainly gives no excuse for the wholesale mutilations we hear about from ISIS.  Some thought it might have something to do with harming the reproductive process.  Some commented that it follows the section on Levirate Marriage.  This was an arrangement in which a brother was to marry his brother’s widow if there had been no children.  This was in order to insure that the dead brother’s line would continue in the first child that would be born of this second union.  The Pharisees challenged Jesus with this practice in Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-39.

Because it follows the section on Levirate Marriage, some thought that perhaps these verses were intended to prevent women from thinking they have a disproportionate amount of freedom.  I really don’t see that at all.  The Geneva Bible (1599) taught that it was to reinforce the idea of “shamefastness” in women.  This word means that the “shame” of doing something would hold women “fast” against doing it.  Kind of like “stand fast” against evil.  Some have suggested that that’s actually the word that should be used in 1 Timothy 2:9 (KJV), In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness [shamefastness] and sobriety,… Newer translations translate it as “godly fear” or “propriety.”

“Modest apparel”.  At the risk of “chasing rabbits,” let me say that women have nothing to be ashamed of.  God made them as they are.  At the same time, I wish they would read the words at the beginning of this paragraph.  And follow them, in church and everywhere.  Short skirts, tight clothing, cleavage.  I think you know what I mean.    And  we men aren’t exactly champions of coverup, either, especially this time of year.

Even at the beginning, after the Fall, God clothed Adam and Eve with coats [tunics] of skin.  I doubt very much “showed.”  And they were married!  No longer did they have the liberty to run around naked.

Feminism has convinced women that they have the right to be as vile as men think they have the right to be.  The point is that God set some boundaries around intimacy.  There are many, many things said about who and who may not be intimate with each other.

And Paul has something to say about this, as well.  In the chapter on marital rights and responsibilities he wrote, [before or outside marriage]it is good for a man not to touch a woman, 1 Corinthians 7:20.   He followed this up in v. 4, The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

What this basically means is that there is only one person in the whole world who has the right to satisfy a person sexually, or to be intimate.  For the man, it is his wife[female]; for the wife, it is her husband[male].  Not any other person, period.

That may not be popular with our society, but I think it’s part of the message of our verses.  Even for such a good reason as defending or protecting her husband, a woman could not stray over the line of propriety.

“Who’s Minding the Store?”

There’s a story told of an old merchant who was nearing the end of his days.  Family were all gathered around his bed to be with him at the last.  Finally, he struggled to raise himself on one elbow and asked, “Who’s minding the store?”

Probably not the best story ever told, but as we look at the chaos surrounding us in this world on all sides, we might be tempted to ask the question, “Who’s minding the store?”

In other words, where’s God in all this?

There are, of course, those who say there is no God – so there’s nothing to worry about there.  It seems to me, however, that if there really is no God, then there’s everything to worry about.  If there’s nothing more to this life than this life, then “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  Paul had something to say about this in 1 Corinthians 15:32.

Then there are those who say that God wants to be involved in things, but we won’t let Him.  Really?  Please!  As well might a grain of sand on the beach tell the ocean that it won’t let the ocean get it wet as for us to think we have to “let” God do something.  I understand our responsibility to do the things needed in order to get something done.  For example, a farmer who wants a harvest without plowing and planting will have an empty barn.  At the same time, hear the words of Mordecai to his niece Esther when she was hesitant to go before the king to plead for her people:  “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance WILL arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14, emphasis added.

Mordecai was confident that what regardless of what Esther might do, God would deliver His people, but perhaps she was in the King’s palace in order to be the instrument God used to do that.

Scripture says that God works all things according to the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11.  In other words, there’s nothing in “the store” that He’s not minding.  This means God is sovereign in the affairs of this world.

The idea of God’s sovereignty raises lots of questions and objections.  A brother recently posted that he believed that the sovereignty of God was the greatest hoax Satan ever put over on the church (!)  So sad.

Yes, there are questions and difficulties, but God is certainly able to work within the context of His own creation to bring about what He wants.

Besides, if God isn’t “in control” in every single situation, how can we be certain that He’s in control of “this” particular situation, whatever “this” may be?

“Yes, but I don’t understand….”

No, we don’t.

My wife and I have a grandson who’s about six weeks old.  He probably “understands” very little of what his Mom and Dad are doing to take care of him.  He has no knowledge of what Dad does when he goes to work.  He has NO IDEA what his mother went through at his birth.

That’s probably about what we’re like in relation to God.

In effect, Mom and Dad are saying, “Trust us,” when they take care of him.

That’s what God says:

“Trust Me.”

 

A Soldier’s Prayer

(found in the notebook of a dead U.S. Soldier – France, 1918.)

OUR FATHER

to whom all praise, all honor should be given, for Thou art the great God

WHO ART IN HEAVEN

Thou, by Thy wisdom, rulest the world’s whole fame, forever, therefore

HALLOWED BE THY NAME 

let, nevermore, delays divide us from Thy glorious grace, but let

THY KINGDOM COME 

let Thy commandments opposed be by none, but Thy good pleasure and

THY WILL BE DONE 

and let our promptness to obey ever be the very same

ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN 

then for our souls, O Lord, we also pray Thou wouldest be pleased to

GIVE US THIS DAY 

the food of life, wherewith our souls are fed, sufficient raiment also, and

OUR DAILY BREAD 

with every needful thing, do Thou relieve us, and in Thy mercy and pity

FORGIVE US 

all our misdeeds, for Him Whom Thou didst please to make our offerings for

OUR TRESPASSES 

and forasmuch, O Lord, as we believe that Thou will pardon us

AS WE FORGIVE 

let that love teach, wherewith Thou dost acquaint us to pardon all

THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US 

though Thou sometimes find’st we have forgot this love to Thee, yet help

AND LEAD US NOT 

through souls and bodies wont to desperation, nor let earth’s gain drive us

INTO TEMPTATION 

let not the soul of any true believer fall in the time of trial

BUT DELIVER 

yea, save from the malice of the devil and in both life and death keep

US FROM EVIL 

thus pray we, Lord, of Thee from Whom this may be had

FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM 

this world is Thy work, its wondrous story to Thee belongs

THE POWER AND THE GLORY 

and all Thy wondrous works have never ended, but will remain

FOREVER AND EVER 

thus we poor creatures would confess again, and thus, would cry eternally

“AMEN”

Yearbooks, Memories and Such.

One of our grandsons was over at the house recently and we got to talking about chess.  This led to the attic and a search for a beautiful granite chess set one of our daughters brought from Mexico several years ago.  In the course of rummaging around up there, I came across a box with a bunch of yearbooks:  mine from college, one of my wife’s from high school and some of my mom’s from high school and college.

I got to looking at my mom’s yearbooks and was struck by the fact that almost every page was filled with autographs, well-wishes and mysterious sayings, which I’m sure made perfect sense to her and her friends.  My own yearbooks? – pretty vacant in comparison.

One of her college friends prophesied that Mom would become a famous biology professor at Harvard (her nickname was “Bugs”) and that she would marry a President of the United States.  Well, she did teach nurses, but she married a truck driver.  A good thing for me, otherwise someone else would be writing this.  My youngest son was born in a hospital where she worked as a nurse, and while my wife and I were there, this lady probably in her 60s (she seemed old to us at the time!) came and asked if I were related to ? – and she named Mom.  I was.  This lady had been one of her students in the hospital, and she told me what a wonderful teacher and woman Mom was.

It’s hard to believe that the yearbook with the prophecies is 80 years old.  It’s from 1933.  I doubt if Mom ever thought about her 73-year old son one day looking at this book.  There’s probably only one or two of all those girls still alive – they’d be around 100 now.  She herself would have turned 100 last year.  But she’s been gone for more than 40 years.

The books served as an interesting snapshot of an earlier, much different, time.  The fashions and hairdos looked funny.  But then, ours would probably look funny to them as well.  Probably embarrassing.  The interesting thing about her high school yearbooks was that two of them mentioned this club of boys whose goal was to advance Christian values in the school.  One of the books mentioned the Bible studies they held.

This is certainly in stark contrast to the internet article two days ago about a high school student who was suspended for saying, “bless you,” when one of her classmates sneezed.  Seems this expression was on a list of several “religious” words forbidden by the teacher.

TImes have certainly changed.

But they do that.  Children grow up.  Fashions come and go.  Some may come back, others may become a laughingstock in the future. Today’s treasure may become tomorrow’s trash.  The only thing that doesn’t change, I guess, is that things change.

If our focus is on this world, it’ll change.  That may be good; it may be bad.  I have some ration books from WWII.  Very precious at one time, but just an historical curiosity now.  I have a work history which goes back to 1961.  I can tell you every job I’ve held in that time and how much I made.  Interesting (perhaps only to me!), but pretty useless now.  I remember the first job I had making a buck an hour!  I was rich!

One of our children will have been with her employer 20 years next January (my! – where has the time gone! 🙂 ).  Some of our grandsons are thinking about college and what they want to do in life.  I kid my daughter that in just a few years, she can look forward to be a grandma!  I don’t think she’s ready for that 🙂 .  I think it would be great to be a great-grandpa. 🙂

The point of all this rambling?  There’s really only one thing in this life that never changes.  (And yes, I know you can think of exceptions to that generalization.  But you’ll see what I mean.)  In praising God, the Psalmist said, Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed.  But you are the same, and Your years will have no end, Psalm 102:25-27.  The writer to Hebrews quotes these verses in Hebrews 1:10-12.  Then he wrote, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, 13:8.

I really don’t know how to end this.  Just, I guess, an encouragement not to put all our eggs into one basket.  Better – we should put them into His basket and let Him take care of them.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Revelation has always been a puzzle to its readers.  Though I may do a series of posts on it some day, it’s not my intent here to enter into a discussion of the meaning of the book, or of how to interpret it.

The book is often divided into three parts, based on our Lord’s instruction to John in 1:19, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are, and those that are to take place after this” (ESV).

Using the same three divisions, but keeping in mind that the book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” not just from Him, but about Him, I divide the book like this:

1.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Reader, ch. 1
2.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Churches, chs. 2, 3.
3.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the World, chs. 4 – 22.

I was struck one day by the significance, if you will, of the first chapter.  Though I’ve been thinking about doing a post on this for some time, it was brought to a head, so to speak, by an exchange I recently had with a fellow-blogger about “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  Her point was that Jesus was indeed gentle and mild.  And she’s right.

He was gentle to the downtrodden, the outcast, the tax-collectors and publicans, folks on the bottom rung of the ladder – or not even near it.  He stopped a funeral procession in its tracks and turned unbearable grief into unspeakable joy.  He could hold His own and then some with the scholars of His day, but spoke so that the common people heard Him gladly, Mark 12:37 (NKJV).  He fed thousands of people with a boy’s lunch, and saved the day at a wedding.  He prayed for the men who drove the spikes into His hands and feet.

We never read that He laughed.  We do read that He wept.  At the same time, we mustn’t think that He was a sourpuss.  We read in John 15:11 that He was concerned that His joy might abide in His disciples.

So the Lord was like sunshine on a warm Summer day.

Oh, but He could also be lightning and thunder!  Hear His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves, Matthew 23:15.  He called them fools and blind, v. 17.  He berated them for loading people with heavy burdens of rigid legalism, but never giving them anything to help them carry those burdens, v. 4. He called them serpents, brood of vipers! and asked them how they thought they could escape the condemnation of hell? v.33.

This didn’t serve to make Him popular with these religious leaders!  As a result of His rebuking them on another occasion, Luke 11:53 records, the scribes and Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently…. There was no such thing for Him as “dialogue” with the enemies of truth.

Our culture pretty much ignores this side of our Lord.  He had no time for those who actively opposed His ministry and preaching.  And Scripture says that when He comes again, He will do so in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.  When was the last time you heard a sermon on that text?

The people to whom John wrote his book needed to know they served a Christ Who was greater than what they were going to go through.  They needed to know that what they were suffering, and were going to suffer, wasn’t just some “accident of history.”  They needed to know that when Satan did his worst, he was still a defeated foe and that his would not be the final word.

We need this today, as well.  We live in terrible times.  I was going to write “unprecedented times,” but that’s not true.  The rivers of Christian blood shed down through the years bear eloquent testimony to that fact.  Other times have been much worse than these times, but I think we’re getting there.

There may yet come a time when Christians – indeed, in parts of the world the news tells us that it’s already here – when Christians are led like sheep to the slaughter, Psalm 44:22; Romans 8:36.

We’re going to need to be settled as more than just a nice thing to believe, or good verses to memorize, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:38-39.

When we’re kneeling, waiting for the sword to sever our head from our body….

Acceptance

(This post was originally published April 24, 2013 under the title, “Accepted”.  Thought it might be time for a “summer rerun.”  I changed the title in order to distinguish the two posts though they are the same, except for some minor corrections.)

One of the “traumas” of later teen years is the ordeal of trying to get into college.  Applications are sent in and their answer is anxiously waited for.

Aspiring authors send their manuscripts in to publishers and anxiously await their answer.

The answer can be found in one word – the same word.

Even professing Christians sometimes or often struggle to find this same answer.

That answer, that word, is “accepted.”

Prospective college students are elated finally to receive that answer to their application.

Authors rejoice to get that answer about their manuscripts from a publisher.

Strangely, Christians are reluctant to receive that answer from God.

I wonder why this is.  Perhaps it’s because they don’t understand the basis of “acceptance.”

Let me tell you a story which may help.

When our firstborn son was still an infant, I was someplace where there was a crying baby (not him!)  He was having a fit about something, as babies know how to do!  I had never liked crying babies, but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son – and it was alright.

Too many professing Christians have been taught or believe that in order to be accepted by God, you have to do this or that, or don’t do this or that.    There’s a whole litany of things people think they have to do or not in order to win acceptance and the favor of God.

But there’s another word which comes into play here.

Grace.

A lot of people talk about grace, but have never really thought about it.

Grace isn’t something we deserve.  We can’t earn it.  We can’t merit it.  It’s not some kind of reward for what we do.  We can’t buy it.  And we can’t obligate God to give it to us.  It’s not a result of anything we do, or can do.

It is grace.

As I looked at that crying baby, my “acceptance” of him had nothing to do with him.  It was because of my own son.

Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) says that God has made us accepted in the Beloved. He looks at our sorry selves, but He sees His Son – and it’s alright.  Not because of us, perish the thought, but because of Him.

Books could be written about this, and have been.  Very simply put, Jesus lived a perfect life – the only One Who ever did.   He died a death that paid for sins, though He had none of His own.  The only One Who ever did that, too.

That perfect life, that punitive death.

It is on the basis of these that God accepts those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Not the Church.  Not the sacraments.  Not through works.  Not the liturgy.  Not baptism.  Not the Catechism.  Not communion.  Not confirmation.

Through Christ.  Faith in Him, Who He was and what He did.

If you want acceptance with God, quit looking to or at yourself.  You’ll find nothing there but reasons for rejection.

The Psalmist rejoiced in the truth of acceptance, if not in those words:  Psalm 103:10, He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.

The reason for that is because He did deal with Christ according to them.

Our acceptance before God rests in the perfect life and complete payment for sins by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The whole section of Ephesians 1:3-14 deals with the Lord Jesus and the blessings, by grace, we have in Him.

How do we know this “acceptance” is ours?  Paul tells us in vs. 12, 13 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  In Him you also trusted….

Oh, if you’re having trouble with this, look to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Trust Him.

Because

We are

accepted

in the Beloved.

“No Longer A Canaanite in the House of the Lord.”

Our last post finished with our title statement from Zechariah 14:21.

Why this strange statement, seemingly out of harmony with the rest of the chapter?

The Canaanites were the original occupants of the land.  Israel displaced them.

There’s a lot of angst over “the poor Canaanites.”  However, Moses and Joshua didn’t just arbitrarily decide to invade Canaan on the spur of the moment.  Almost from the beginning of Biblical history, the land of Canaan has been singled out for special attention, long before there was an Israel.

In Genesis 9:18 and 10:6, Canaan is listed as the son of Ham, one of Noah’s children.  Ham is brought to our attention in Genesis 9:20-27 as a result of some indiscretion against Noah.  We’re not told what that indiscretion was, only that it happened.  Nor are we told why Noah “cursed” Canaan instead of Ham.

Genesis 10:6 lists the children of Canaan and the territory in which they settled.  This is the only “nation” so described.

Genesis 15 is the famous chapter in which God promises Abraham a son and foretells something of the future of his descendants.  Our post, “Look Now Toward Heaven,” gives more detail about this event.  For now, we’re interested in the last part of v. 16, where, after telling Abraham of the sojourn in Egypt and that Israel will come out with great riches, God tells him that this will happen in the “fourth generation…, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 

“The iniquity of the Amorites,” who stand as representatives of the Canaanites.

The Canaanites were not an innocent and childlike people.  Archaeology has confirmed that.  Scripture describes some of their depravity.  Leviticus 18 gives a long list of the degenerate acts committed by the Canaanites which were not to be committed by Israel.  God warns Israel in v. 18, “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things, for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.  For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity on it.”   In v. 29, He warns of punishment for anyone who engages in these acts.  Israel paid very little attention to this, and did indeed suffer much as the nations before them had suffered.

In addition to this, the Canaanites were idolaters, to the extent of burning their own children as sacrifices to their false gods.  They engaged in witchcraft and spiritism.  Israel really was no better fundamentally than these other nations and her dissolution by Nebuchadnezzar was because of all these very sins, cf. 2 Kings 21:1-16. But nobody worries about “the poor Israelites.”  See also Exodus 34:11-16 and Deuteronomy 12:29-32.

The Canaanites were to be destroyed as a punishment for their sins.  Many find this difficult to accept.  We’ve so diluted the idea of “the love of God,” that we have totally dismissed the idea of His holiness and justice.  It is true that the Christian has no such command or right.  But the Canaanites were also to be destroyed as a protection for Israel and to prevent her from being tempted to follow their degenerate ways.  The Old Testament bears sad testimony to how badly Israel failed at this.

The only reason Israel and the Jewish people have not completely disappeared from the pages of history like so many other nations and peoples is because God isn’t finished with her.  Our last post dealt with that.  Israel’s continued existence is inexplicable apart from that thought.

So then, how did Canaanites get into the house of the Lord?

Joshua 9 gives us the story.  Realizing they were doomed, the Gibeonites sent men who pretended to be from a country a long way away and who wanted to make a treaty with Israel.  Taking the men’s statements at face value and not consulting the LORD, cf. Numbers 27:21, Joshua made a treaty with them.  It wasn’t until three days later that Israel discovered she had been fooled.  There were those who wanted to destroy the Gibeonites, anyway.  Joshua prevented this from happening, saying that the treaty must be honored, even though falsely obtained.  King Saul got Israel into trouble many years later for violating this same treaty, 2 Samuel 21:1.

Let this be a lesson to us.  We often get into trouble because we “take things at face value,” and don’t “inquire of the LORD” about what to do in a specific situation.

As a result of their deception, the Gibeonites were sentenced to a lifetime of serving the Tabernacle.  They would be woodcutters and water carriers for the house of…God, Joshua 9:23, 27.

They got into the house of God, even unintentionally because they were idolaters, by deception.  That’s not how we’re to enter God’s presence.

Our Lord addresses a somewhat similar situation in Matthew 7:22, “Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” 

These are solemn words.  We live in a time when there are professing Christians who are all about the casting out of demons and the performing of signs and miracles.  This isn’t to say that they’re not sincere in what they believe and do.  The men in Matthew 7 were sincere, and were no doubt dumbfounded when the Lord rejected their works as “lawlessness.”

The Lord also predicted a time when “every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted,”  Matthew 15:13.  In a time of “tolerance,” this isn’t a message that people want to hear.  But it’s important.  Eternity is just around the corner for all of us, young or old, and what seems so great in this life might turn out to be not so great in the light of “forever.”

The message for us is that not everything in “church” is of God.  Where there are sons of the kingdom, there are also sons of the wicked one, Matthew 13:37-39.  Even the Lord had His “Judas.”  Paul went so far as to say, in effect, that if you want to find the Devil, look for him behind the pulpit, 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15.  After all, what is more important than what one believes about eternity?  The Devil doesn’t care how “right” or how “orthodox” we are about anything else if he can get us to be wrong about eternity.

According to Matthew, four separate times our Lord predicted that there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,”  Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30.  “Weeping” because people have done what their preacher or priest or rabbi or imam or guru or whoever has told them to do, but they’ll find out when it’s too late that it’s not what God told them to do.

Everything we read or hear, including this blog, is to be measured according to the rule of Scripture, cf. Acts 17:11.  It doesn’t matter if everybody in the entire world says, “A”, if God’s Word says, “B”.  There is no greater responsibility than our hearing or ministering the Word of God.

Oh!  to be students of the Word.  To find it of more importance than anything else in the world.  Way back in the early days of history, Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food,” Job 23:12(ESV).  When we step on the scale, more than likely we see that we’ve had plenty of food.  If we could weigh them, I wonder if our souls would say the same thing?