David and Bathsheba.

Like Jephthah and his daughter, here is another incident in the Bible which causes skeptics and unbelievers to sneer at and to speak against God.  It’s one of the things which make unbelievers say that the Bible is pornographic.  I doubt, however, that you’ll find the Bible for sale on “adult” websites.  It shows the consequences of actions like David’s, not only in this life, but in eternity.

In our post on Jephthah, we said that God doesn’t sugarcoat life.  He doesn’t hide the defects of His people.  David is a classic example of this.  Though “a man after God’s own heart,” his own heart, in common with the rest of us, was “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9.  And he wasn’t a very good father, 1 Kings 1:6.  Maybe he was too busy being “king.”  It’s easy to do that, to get so wrapped up in the trivial things that we forget the important things.Perhaps we can learn some things from this sordid affair, recorded in 2 Samuel 11, 12.

David’s Conduct, 2 Samuel 11.  

1.  David wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

2 Samuel 11:1 says that it was the spring of the year, when kings go out to battle….  Joab and the army was in Ammon, besieging the city of Rabbah.  David, however, remained behind in Jerusalem.  We don’t know why, so there’s no reason to go there.  He certainly wasn’t supposed to be there.

2.  He looked where he wasn’t supposed to look.

V. 2 says it was evening and David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of his house.  Perhaps he had gone to bed and couldn’t sleep.  Perhaps it was later in the evening.  So he got up and went outside to what was probably a deck or porch on the house, to take advantage of the cooler evening air.  We’re not to imagine that he was scrambling around on the roof itself.  From that vantage point, as he was walking back and forth, he could see the surrounding neighborhood.  To his surprise, there was a woman, bathing after the end of her cycle, v. 4.  Apparently, he didn’t just look away.

There have been those who blame Bathsheba for all this.  They say she deliberately put herself where David could see her.  I think that unlikely.  It was evening, so people would be asleep, or at least inside.  She would have more privacy for this very personal action.  We admit, this is all conjecture because the Bible doesn’t give us any detail.  (If this were pornography, “detail” would be the main thing.)  The point is, David saw her, and wanted her.

3.  He did what he wasn’t supposed to do.

V. 4 says that David sent messengers, …and she came to him….  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we believe she came in innocence, not knowing what David had in mind.  It’s unlikely the messengers knew or said anything about it. Beyond that, we really can’t say.  She came to him.  Why or what she was thinking really doesn’t matter as far as Scripture is concerned.  Scripture is concerned with the result of this one evening.  A result which is with us even this very day, as I write or you read.

She became pregnant.

Having satisfied his desire, David probably thought that was it.  She returned to her house, v. 4.  He sent her home.  After all, she wasn’t married to him.  It was just a one night affair.  

I have no desire to turn this into some Hollywood production, some “Fifty Shades of David,” glorifying and exploiting the vile things humans can do.   From here on in, things get really ugly, as if they weren’t already, though in the end, there is a surprising “twist.”  Hollywood has no monopoly on “I didn’t see that coming!”

Trying to cover his sin, David sent for Uriah, her husband, on the pretext of finding out how the battle he was absent from was going.  Really, he hoped Uriah would go home to his wife, so that he would be assumed to be the father of the child his wife was carrying, vs, 4-13.

When that didn’t work, he set Uriah up so that he would be killed in the battle, vs. 14-25.

With the husband gone, there was still the problem of the child.  After the requisite time for Bathsheba mourning her husband,  David brought her back to his house and married her, vs. 26, 27. She bore the son.

But…. In his instructions to Joab about Uriah, it was obvious that David wanted Uriah dead, v.15.  After the thing was done, and messengers had relayed the news to David, he told them to tell Joab, “Do not let this thing displease you [be evil in your sight]….” But….

David was trying to cover up and hide what he had done, but he forgot there was Another who was watching what went on: But the thing that David had done displeased [was evil in the eyes of] the LORD, v. 27.  There are no “cover ups” where God is concerned.

Nathan’s Confrontation, 2 Samuel 12.

David no doubt thought that he had “gotten away with it.”  After all, it was just a little fling.  Folks forget that it was a “little” thing that got our first parents thrown out of Paradise, and plunged the whole race into the mess it’s in.

God sent His faithful prophet, Nathan, to David with a story about a rich man who disdained to take from his own riches to prepare for a traveling visitor.  Rather than do that, he took the one “treasure” belonging to a poor neighbor.  This poor man had a lamb, which was very much the family pet, and the rich man took that to take care of his guest.  A lot of people, I suppose, could identify with the poor man and the animal “family member.”  Strange how attached we can get to a dog or cat or horse….

Anyway, David was understandably upset at the injustice of all this and decreed that the man, worthy of death, should restore the lamb fourfold to his injured neighbor.

Just in passing, OT justice knows nothing of a “debt to society.”  It talks, as here, of a criminal’s debt to his victim.

David likely was completely unprepared for what Nathan said next:

“YOU ARE THE MAN!”

That was one time when “you the man” wasn’t something David wanted to hear.

Telling all that God had done for David and, if that wasn’t enough, He would do even more, Nathan accused David of despising all that and stealing the one treasure of a poor man for his own pleasure.

Unintended Consequences,

David found out that he hadn’t gotten away with it, after all.  Though he wouldn’t die, he would still suffer the consequences of his sins. Unbelievers look down on David, and on God, for that matter, because God forgave these horrific acts simply out of His grace.  There was no sacrifice which could be given to atone for adultery or murder, the things of which David was guilty.  Yet God “put away” David’s sin.  What folks often tend to overlook, though, is the fact that God didn’t “put away” the consequences of that sin.

In writing of Israel’s experience with God, Psalm 99:8 puts it like this: You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds.

In other words, God may forgive the adultery which breaks up a marriage without restoring the marriage.  He may forgive the drunkenness which caused an accident without restoring the limb that was lost because of it,.  There are consequences to every action, good or bad.  Sometimes they are significant, as in David’s case.  In his case, there were several more or less immediate consequences to what he did.  Perhaps some of them weren’t directly related to what he did, but God had taken His blessing off the family.  They suffered because of what David did.

1.  The baby conceived in this union would die, 2 Samuel 12:14.

You might ask, “Why should the baby suffer for what the parents did?”  A lot of children suffer for the sins of their parents:  a drunken father or dissolute mother.  That’s actually nothing new.  There are consequences, and it isn’t always a guilty party who suffers. In this case, Nathan gives us the answer:  it was because what David did gave “great occasion [opportunity] for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.”  If the child were alive, then his very presence would be a continual reminder of David’s sin, and a continual reproach because of it.  The boy was taken away from all that.

2.  The sword would never depart from David’s house, 2 Samuel 2:10.

Two of David’s sons were literally killed.  Amnon was killed by one of his brothers for the rape of that brother’s sister, Tamar.  Tamar was another innocent victim, and, as far as the record tells us, never received justice.  As we said, David wasn’t a very good father.

Though we’re told nothing further about her, it’s entirely possible that she was prevented from marrying because her virginity had been stolen from her.  She had been disgraced.  It’s nothing today, but, back then, a girl’s virtue was her most precious possession.  It’s a shame that today’s society in general places no value on it at all, valuing promiscuity rather than purity.

When Amnon was killed, David though all the royal sons had been murdered, 2 Samuel 13:30-33.  The fact that only Amnon was dead was probably little comfort. The other son who was killed was Absalom, who decided that he would stage a coup and take over the throne, 2 Samuel 15-18.  When he was killed, David was almost overcome with grief.  

Though we don’t know, one of the contributing factors to Absalom’s rebellion might have been David’s refusal to punish Amnon for his sin against Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Another contributing factor might have been David’s treatment of Absalom after he killed his brother, 2 Samuel 13:37 through ch. 14.  Absalom had fled the country and lived abroad for three years.  Though Absalom was finally able to return, thanks to the efforts of his good friend, Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, he was forbidden to see the king.  Joab again intervened, but it seems the reunion wasn’t very cordial.

According to 2 Samuel 14:32, Absalom thought he had done nothing wrong in dealing with Amnon.  After all, he had acted when his father hadn’t.  He had avenged his sister.  He was angry that David hadn’t treated him better.

3.  There would be adversity in the family, 2 Samuel 12:11, 12.

Though there was a lot of trouble in the family, these verses refer specifically to Absalom’s almost successful attempt to overthrow his father.  The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 15-18.  The specific detail of vs. 11, 12 is found in Absalom’s actions in 2 Samuel 16:20-22.

Contrariety,

Here is what I meant by “the twist” at the end of the story.  From this woman, illicitly taken and then married after the murder of her husband, Solomon was born, who became heir to the throne.  We’re not told why.  Cf. Joseph’s experiences and his explanation  of them in Genesis 50:20.

Some might look sideways at this, thinking, “That’s not very fair!”

It’s a conceit of believers and unbelievers alike that God can do and must do only those things which we approve – and only in ways we approve.  But He does what He wants, and He asks neither our opinion nor our approval.

I’d never really thought about it before, but perhaps this, too, is part of the “judgment” on David’s family.  None of his other 18 sons were privileged to sit on the throne.  Only a few of them have anything told about them, but if they’re any example of the rest, none of them were fit to rule.

________

Though, as we said, God doesn’t sugarcoat or ignore the failings and sins of His people, but then, neither does He dwell on them.  In 1 Chronicles 20:1, a parallel account, although there is a reference to David’s staying behind in Jerusalem, there is no mention of what he did there.

When God forgives, He also “forgets,” not that it’s wiped from His memory, or ours, for that matter, but that He no longer holds it against us.  Indeed, He treats us as if we’d never sinned, but had always obeyed.  This is the glory of justification, that He declares righteous in His sight those who are anything but righteous.

Is that “fair”?

Not at all.

If we got what was “fair,” we’d all be in hell.

David would be.

But because of God’s love toward us and His immeasurable grace, He gives us what could never be ours otherwise.

How could He do that?

Because He gave to Christ what could never have been His otherwise – our sins.

Tomorrow is Easter.  I really hadn’t planned it this way, but that’s how it’s worked out.  Easter isn’t about bunnies and clothes and Easter egg hunts for the little ones.  Nor, as some insist, is it a celebration of paganism, though that may or may not be where some current practices come from.  It’s about the resurrection of the One who came to take away our sins, so that they would no longer be held against us.

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Jephthah and His Daughter.

Judges 11:29-40 is one of those puzzling episodes in Scripture, with skeptics wondering how Jephthah could do such an awful thing to his daughter, and believers trying to figure the story out, as well.

To start, we want to focus on the daughter.  Like the servant girl of Naaman’s wife, this young lady was a remarkable person.  She met her victorious dad with a dance of welcome.  She was glad to see him.

She may as well have plunged a dagger into her dad’s heart, even though, in her innocent joy, she had no idea what she was doing.  Regardless of what may have happened afterward, it’s clear what Dad thought when he saw her come to meet him….

He was devastated….

But our focus here is on the girl.

1.  She had a submissive spirit, v. 36, So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the LORD has avenged you of your enemies,….”

This doesn’t mean that she was beaten into submission by her father, or that she struggled against the idea.  When she found out what was going on, she simply said, “Do it.”  We don’t know anything about such an attitude in our willful and insolent society, where parents are mocked and scoffed at by their children, and “children’s rights” have pretty much cancelled out parental rights – until the kid does something “society” doesn’t like, and then, watch out!

Granted, we live in a different time than Jephthah and his daughter did, but the subject of the fifth commandment is still valid today:  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth, Ephesians 6:1-3.

The idea of respect for parents has almost disappeared in our time.

But there was something else, and this is the main thing:

2.  She had spiritual perception, v. 36.  She recognized that it wasn’t about what our society would likely call an abusive father, but about a vow that her father had made to the Lord.  We don’t know anything about this in a culture where “a man’s  word” isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and the saying is, “A contract [a vow] is made to be broken.”  When things get tough, people make promises to the Lord all the time, but how often, when things get better, do they follow through?

And it doesn’t matter if Jephthah’s vow was “rash” or “foolish,” as it’s often described.  Perhaps it was.  It was still binding.  Leviticus 30:2 says, If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  And Deuteronomy 23:21, 23 says, “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. … That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.”  The key word there is “voluntary,” as Jephthath’s was.  V. 22 says, “But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you.”

Who knows what was going through Jephthah’s mind before and as he was making this vow.  Perhaps he felt pressure because of his background.  Judges 11 tells us that he was unwelcome among his brothers, and they had disowned him.  He’d left home and became the head of a band of raiders, vs. 2, 3.  After a time, the Ammonites threatened war against Israel, and Israel’s leaders turned to him to lead Israel against them, vs. 4-11.  He wasn’t too thrilled with the idea, but after some haggling with them, he agreed.

Though Jephthah tried to reason with the king of the Ammonites, the king wouldn’t listen, but went ahead with his plan to attack Israel, vs. 12-28.

One thing I find very interesting is found in vs. 28, 29:  then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and…he advanced toward the people of Ammon.  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD….  Granted, some time passed while he was moving toward the enemy, but he wasn’t just some wild-eyed revolutionary when he made his vow.  As I said, who knows what was going through his mind.  Perhaps just the heat of the moment….

Regardless, he was stuck.

Now the Law did have something to say about the redemption of a sacrifice.  In Leviticus 27:1-8, if the “vow” concerned a person, a certain monetary value was placed on him or her, depending on age.  They weren’t killed, as was an animal.  There were some other provisions in the Law, as well.  However, Leviticus 27:28 says, “Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all he has, whether man or beast…; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD.” Whatever happened, the daughter had become “most holy to the LORD.”  Perhaps this is a key to understanding this episode.

There are those who harshly criticize Jephthah, believing that he went ahead and sacrificed his daughter on an altar.  Perhaps he did.  In v. 40, the phrase, “the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament” her, could refer to her death. Another view, the one which I hold with others, is that she, as “most holy to the LORD,” was given over to perpetual virginity.  This is confirmed, possibly, by the fact that she requested 2 months to go with her girlfriends to lament her virginity.  She could never marry or have children.  To our society, this is no big deal, but back then, it was.

To be barren was almost worse than death, because a woman could never fulfill her destiny as a mother.  If this is the case, then “the daughters of Israel” came to lament her remaining single.  Again, to our society, no big deal.  “Virginity” isn’t considered all that important:  “it’s just sex.”  Indeed, such a view as hers can hardly be understood by the rampant feminism  and/or immorality of a “Fifty Shades of Grey” society.

For the father, either way, this meant the end of his family.  His daughter was his only child.  For something of the importance attached to this, see the post I did on the daughters of Zelophehad, or read their story in Numbers 27.  Indeed, even the sordid action of Lot’s daughters was prompted by the desire to keep their father’s line going, Genesis 19:32.

Jephthah is mentioned later in Scripture.  Samuel remembered him as one whom the LORD has sent to deliver Israel, 1 Samuel 12:11.  Hebrews 11:32 mentions him as one of the heroes of the faith.  It’s interesting that every one of the four men mentioned in that verse was very much less than perfect.

Perhaps Psalm 15:1, 4 gives us an answer.  In v. 1, the Psalmist asks a question, Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  Who may dwell in Your holy hill?  The rest of the Psalm gives the answer.  V. 4 is relevant here:  He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

I don’t really know for certain what happened between Jephthah and his daughter.  Maybe he stands as an object lesson not to be hasty in making promises we later might not want to keep.  Maybe he just stands as a testimony to being faithful to your word, regardless of what it might cost you. In any event, God doesn’t sugarcoat the records of our lives.  He doesn’t photoshop or airbrush the pictures of His people to make them look better than they are. He shows warts and all.

Whether this is a story of “warts” or not is a subject for a lot of discussion. Perhaps only the Judgment will finally clear it all up – along with a lot of other things.  In the meantime…

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.

The Sabbath and Moses

We began our study last time by looking at the origin of the Sabbath and then began to trace its incorporation into the Mosaic Covenant.  We saw that God “rested” after He finished creation.  He was done.  It was all “very good.”  Then, though “tithing” is mentioned before the giving of the Law, there is no mention of the Sabbath at all, even in the book of Job, which predates Sinai and Moses’ writings.

As for its incorporation into the Mosaic Covenant, we pointed out that the fourth commandment served as a “hinge,” or “bridge,” if you will, between the first three commandments and the rest of them.  The first three dealt with Israel’s relationship with God.  Five through 10 dealt with Israel’s relationship with each other.  The fourth one connected them all.  Israel was to believe certain things about God, but, as a result of that belief, and that relationship with God, was to behave in a certain way.  The fourth commandment is a bridge between “theory,” if you will, and “practice.”

“Faith” which isn’t accompanied by “practice” is no better than “demonic” faith, James 2:19.

We continue our study in the books of Moses.

  • Exodus 23:10-12:  More than just a day of the week.

Exodus 23:10 expands the idea of a weekly Sabbath and rest for the people into a year-long Sabbath every seventh year and rest for the land.  There was to be no sowing or harvesting.  The land was to lie fallow and “rest.”  Whatever grew of itself was for the poor of the land to harvest and for the beasts of the field to eat.  “The poor” were to be taken care of in Israel, but they weren’t to sit at home and expect to be hand-fed.  In this case, they were to go out and gather the food.  Indeed, in every harvest season, the rule was that there was to be no “gleaning,” that is, going back and picking up what was missed the first time.  This was to be left for the poor, Leviticus 19:9, 10, Deuteronomy 24:19-21.  There is an example of this in Ruth 2:1-3.  There was no “welfare-state” mentality in Israel.

There’s something else in these verses.  Many unbelievers and skeptics don’t like the idea that the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery, but seems to encourage it.  However, for nearly all of human history, including today in 2014, slavery has been and is a fact of life.  There are people, right now, as I write this, who are slaves.  And probably all of us, when it comes right down to it, are “descendants of slaves,” because every nation at one time or another has been conquered by other people and their citizens forced into subjection.  It is a sad fact of life and history, those for whom it’s become political fodder notwithstanding, who act as if their people were the only people ever to suffer this indignity.  The Bible simply regulates and mitigates slavery.  There’s an example of this in v. 12 in the reference to the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.  Even though they were in servitude, they were still to have time for their families.

Many people don’t like the Old Testament because it seems too stern and unyielding. But there’s a great deal more common sense and understanding of human nature in its pages, for all the things which may seem strange to us, than in any of the “social programs” devised in our day.  In fact, it seems to me that most of these programs, in their attempt to do good, fly in the face of Biblical wisdom and wind up doing evil.

Speaking of “stern and unyielding,” in Exodus 23:13 God says, “And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect,….”   Israel got into trouble because they didn’t pay any attention to this command, as we’ll see.

The world says, “Be tolerant.”  God says, “Be circumspect [narrow].”  And if someone should say, “Well, yes, but that’s Old Testament,” there is Ephesians 5:15, See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.   “Walk” is in the context of walking as “children of light,” v. 8, having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, v. 11, which are shameful even to mention, v. 12.  The Greek word translated “circumspectly” means, “be exact,” and is a superlative, which means that it is something always to be carried out as closely as possible to a standard, not just sporadically, casually or superficially.  That standard is the Word of God.  Not current social or religious viewpoints.

  • Exodus 31:12-17:  The People of the Sabbath.

In Exodus 31:17, God told Israel, [The Sabbath] “is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever.” The Sabbath was never given to “mankind” as such.  Neither, for that matter, was the Mosaic Covenant.  Contrary to a popular school of thought, there was never a “dispensation of the Law.”  There has never been a requirement that Gentiles keep the Sabbath.  It was given to Israel and ONLY to Israel,  It’s not mentioned in Acts 15, especially vs. 15 and 29, which settled, once and for all, what responsibilities Gentiles have toward the Mosaic Covenant, “the Law,” namely, none.  See also Acts 21:17-25.

The Mosaic Covenant was the Moral Law applied to a specific people in a specific historical context.  What is the “Moral Law”?  Simply put, it’s the requirement of a holy, righteous and just God for mankind, to which and for which it is responsible.  That law is indeed universal.  It’s presence is shown in the fact that in every human being there is a sense of “right” and “wrong.”  There might be some disagreement as to what exactly these are, but the idea is still there.

The Sabbath was given to Israel, not simply as a health matter, but that they might remember the Lord God Who delivered them out of Egyptian slavery, the same Lord God Who also created the heavens and the earth.

Israel was God’s object lesson for the rest of us to show how miserably we fail in living as we should.  Also, to show us that there’s no way that we can atone for our failings – our sins.  The sacrificial system showed that, but that’s another post.

It was also a death-penalty sin to violate the Sabbath.  This is mentioned twice in 2 verses.  “The Sabbath” was serious business.  I remember a Reformed pastor saying something to the effect that “if you have to work on Sunday, we understand.”  The Law didn’t.

  • Exodus 34:21:  The Preeminence of the Sabbath.

Six days you shall work, but on the seventh you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest (emphasis added).  The two times of the year where an agricultural people would think nothing could be more important:  sowing and harvesting, yet God says, “No, not even then may you work on the seventh day; even then you rest.”

  • Exodus 35:2-3:  The Proclamation of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was the first thing Moses mentioned when he came down from the Mount the second time – after the Golden Calf incident.  There was to be no work on the Sabbath, even to the kindling of a fire.  Once again, the death penalty is mentioned for violation of this commandment.

That’s all the references to the Sabbath in Exodus.

  • Leviticus 16:31, It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls.  

This verse is in a chapter of instructions about the Day of Atonement, the most important day of the year.  It was during the sacrifices offered on that day that the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.  This chapter is the one referred to in Hebrews 9 and 10.  We’ll have a lot to say about all this when we get to Hebrews.

Note that this “Sabbath” was always on the 10th day of the seventh month.  This means that it could fall on any day of the week, not just the “seventh day.”  This is true of any of the “feasts.”  This leads me to Matthew 28:1, where the word translated “sabbath” is actually plural: “sabbaths”. There seems to have been more than one “sabbath” during the week of our Lord’s crucifixion.  But, like many of the things we mention, that’s another post.

  • Leviticus 19:3, 30, Every one of you shall revere his father and his mother, and keep My Sabbaths:  I am the LORD your God. … You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary:  I am the LORD. 

These two verses seem just sort of stuck in there, but they both have important messages:  reverence not only for the Sabbath, but for Mom and Dad, and for the sanctuary itself.  I think this speaks to the continuous lessening of respect for parents, and for the continual increasing of demand for respect for “the State,” whose “interests” are often seen to be more important than those of the parents.  “Honor” and “respect” for parents are two words which have been lost in society.  As for the “sanctuary,” I admit I have some difficulty with the casual attitude and atmosphere in the contemporary church.  While I freely admit that a suit and tie are no guarantee of spirituality, I think that shorts and flip-flops have perhaps gone too far the other way.  As for after the service, our own children were never permitted to use the sanctuary as a playground.  Nor did they ever attend “children’s church,” when that was available.  It is through the preaching of the Word that the Spirit calls believers to the Lord Jesus, and there is no evidence in Scripture that the message was ever “brought down” to children’s levels.  Children are capable of learning far more than we give them credit for.

  • Leviticus 23:3, 8, 11, 15, 16, 24, 25, 32, 38, 39.

This chapter gives us instructions about the Sabbath itself, as well as the various “feasts” which were to be held at specified times during the year.  There are some things of interest, however, in what many look at as just dry ritual.  For example, in v. 11, in one case, the “feast of firstfruits,” there was something to be done on the day after the Sabbath.  The priest was to take a sheaf of wheat from the harvest and “wave” it before the Lord as the “firstfruits” of the harvest.  This was to remind the people where the harvest came from ultimately, and to show, in a way, that there was more where that came from.  None of the harvest was to be eaten until this had been done, v. 14.  The Lord indeed got “the firstfruits” of the harvest.

Without wanting to get too deeply into what might be the symbolism or typology of these feasts, or seeking to find some “spiritual” meaning in what were plainly actual events in Israel, remember that in 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, the Lord is called “the firstfruits” of the resurrection.

In v. 20, there is a second reference to “firstfruits.”  This occurred 50 days after the ceremony with the firstfruits of the harvest.  The New Testament knows this feast as Pentecost.  James 1:18 says that Christians are a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.   In other words, Christians portray the ultimate restoration of all creation.  Cf. Romans 8:19-23.  We did a post on “Firstfruits” which goes into this a little more.

  • Leviticus 24:8, 9.

These verses gives instructions for the weekly replacing of the Showbread in the Tabernacle, as well as what it was to be used for.  This was part of the care of the Tabernacle.

  • Leviticus 25:1-17.

This portion introduces two unique ideas: the sabbatical year andThe Year of Jubilee.  This latter was the year after the seventh cycle of seven years, or the 50th year.  See Deuteronomy 15:1-11, in which debts were to be forgiven every seventh year – the sabbatical year – in the cycle.  Debt wasn’t to be a lifestyle in Israel.  There weren’t any “30-year mortgages,” either.  And I don’t think credit cards would have been permitted.  Just sayin’.

In case there was a question about what the people would eat because there was no sowing or reaping, God said He had that covered, vs. 20-22.  Just as the sixth day produced double manna to take care of the Sabbath, so the sixth year would be bountiful enough to cover not only the seventh year, but also into the eighth year until harvest.

  • Leviticus 26:2.

Here is another mention of the requirement for respect for the Sabbath and for the sanctuary.

  • Leviticus 26:34, 35.

Actually, the entire 26th chapter should be read to get the context of these verses.  The chapter is a series of promises of blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience. It’s instructive that there are twice as many verses promising curses as promising blessing.  Yet the last 17 verses of the chapter promise restoration.  Verses 34 and 35 indicate that the length of time of the curses will depend on Israel’s faithfulness in following the 7th year Sabbath for the land.  Cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21.

These are all the references in Leviticus.  More could be said about any of these references, here or in other books.

There are only three references in Moses left.

  • Number 15:32-36.

This incident actually happened before the giving of the Law at Sinai.  Numbers is a catalog of the wilderness travels of Israel on their way to Sinai.  This incident happened during those travels.

I’ve done a post entitled “Sticks” which examines this incident in detail, so will just make a couple of remarks here.  Even though the Law itself hadn’t yet been given, the precedent of resting on the Sabbath had been given in the instructions about gathering manna.

Since there were no detailed instructions yet, the man was put “under guard” until it could be found out what should be done to him.  When those instructions came, even such a “minor” thing as gathering sticks on the Sabbath was found to be a death-penalty sin.  For more on this, see the post mentioned above.

  • Numbers 28:9-10.

These were just instructions about some offerings which were to be given on every Sabbath day.

  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

Deuteronomy isn’t just a repetition of the Law.  It’s the refreshing, if you will, of the collective memory of the people of the next generation after those who actually received the Law.  Deuteronomy is the explanation, the application, of that law to Israel. Perhaps it’s based in part on Moses’ experience of nearly forty years of explaining and applying the Law as situations arose in the camp, Exodus 18:13-15.  The fourth commandment as given here is the summation of that experience.  This doesn’t deny the inspiration of the original text.  God used people as they were, not puppets or robots.

 

“The Sabbath” – Required, Routine or Realized?

There’s a lot of discussion is some circles about the Sabbath, sometimes quite vehement.  But what is the Sabbath really all about?  Is it just about a certain day of the week, or might there something else as well?  Something more?  What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.

First, some introductory thoughts.  This is a very controversial subject.  In other venues, my comments on it have brought out a lot of venom.  I’m sorry about that.  My goal is never to offend someone or to be controversial simply for the sake of controversy.  I learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter what you believe the Bible says about a certain subject, someone will disagree with it.  My goal is always to answer the question at the end of the first paragraph:  what does the Scripture say?

Second.  I accept only Scripture (that is, the 66 books commonly accepted as Scripture) as authoritative on all matters of faith and practice.  The writings of human authors may be useful and helpful, but they have no authority in determining what is true or false.    If you follow such a writing, then you probably won’t agree with me. The same is true of confessions of faith and catechisms.  Nevertheless, I hope you will hear me out and be like those of Berea, who searched the Scripture…to find out whether these things are so, Acts 16:11.

Third.  Because this subject is so complex, and controversial, we’re going to have to divide it into several posts.  We will look at the origin of the Sabbath and it’s incorporation into the Mosaic Covenant.  This will cover the books of Moses.  Then we’ll look at Israel’s compliance, or not, with her responsibilities concerning the Sabbath.  This will cover the rest of the Old Testament.  Finally, we’ll cover the New Testament, including Jesus and the Sabbath, as well as the Book of Acts and the other NT books.  I hope you will read all the posts.  I had originally hoped to limit it to just three posts, but that just didn’t seem possible.  We’ll publish them daily, one after the other.

Fourth, I do welcome your comments.  But, please, no venom.

Fifth, “routine” in the title simply means that there are some people who worship on a particular day, Saturday or Sunday, because that’s just how they always done it. They’ve never really given any thought to the subject, but have gone with the flow, so to speak.

Finally, it has been the habit of some to refer to Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath.”  It seems to me that this just confuses the issue.  The Sabbath was given to Israel as a commemoration of her deliverance from Egypt.  Regardless of what application may be made about deliverance from sin, the Sabbath looks back to that event.  On the other hand, Sunday commemorates the resurrection of our Lord. Without that, there would be no deliverance from sin.

Worship on Sunday has been characterized by some as the mark of the beast.  Other scorn the idea of “New Covenant Christianity,” insisting that we must continue to keep the Old Covenant Law.  In order fully to understand this topic, we need to look at what the Bible actually says about the Sabbath, or “the seventh day”.

Note:  Even though we realize it’s largely fallen out of favor, we used the listings for “sabbath” and “sabbaths” found in Strong’s Concordance for the KJV.

Moses and the Sabbath.

  • Creation and the Sabbath.

The very first mention of the “seventh day” is found in the Creation account in Genesis 2:1-3 (NKJV):

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.  And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He had rested from all His Work which God had created and made.

We read in these verses that God “rested” on the seventh day.  Meaning no disrespect, did He rest because He was tired?  He just took a day off?  Perhaps He needed to figure out what to do next – He had arrived at an impasse.  Or perhaps He had run out of material with which to build and needed to resupply.  These are all common things that happen in the plans and building of men.  However, we are talking about God.  The failings, limitations, and imperfections of men may never in any way or for any reason or at any time be attributed to Him.  He is God.

It’s clear that God “rested” because He was finished with creation.  Nothing remained to be done.  It was complete.  May we suggest that the Creation Sabbath speaks of an accomplished work – a finished work – a completed work – a successful work, if you will.  “Rest” in this case means a ceasing of work because there is nothing more that needs to be done, not just a temporary relaxing from it.  There were no “bugs” to be fixed, no kinks to be worked out.  It needed no upgrades or “patches”.  It was all very good.  Adam and Eve thought they could improve on it, and look at the mess they made.

It’s interesting that there is no mention of the Sabbath, any Sabbath, for several hundred years after Creation.  Though “tithing” is mentioned twice, the Sabbath is not seen again until Israel has left Egypt and is on her way to the Promised Land.

  • “Complaining” and the Sabbath.

(There are about 17 occasions in Exodus where God, through Moses, talks about the Sabbath.  Because I have been accused of “cherry-picking” references on this subject in other venues, we’re going to look at all of them.  I’m sorry for the length of some of these posts, but it can’t be helped.  The study of God’s Word shouldn’t have “word-count” restrictions, anyway.)

Exodus 16 gives us the next occurrence of the word “Sabbath”.  There were probably a couple million men, women and children moving through a wilderness area.  Since they were on the move, there were no farms or stores, and what they could find in passing was probably pretty sparse.  As was their custom in almost everything, they soon began to complain, this time about being hungry.

God’s solution was to provide for them supernaturally, with what they called “manna” (literally, “what is it?”) in the morning and quails in the evening.  There were some instructions given as to what was to be done about these provisions.  In particular, the manna was to be gathered and eaten every day, with nothing stored up.  Some of the Israelites were negligent about this, and discovered that the left-over manna bred worms and stank, Exodus 16:20.  Though Moses was angry about this lapse, nothing happened to the offenders.

There was one exception to this daily gathering of manna.  On the sixth day, they were to gather twice as much as on the other days, Exodus 16:22.  On the seventh day, Moses said of this extra manna, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field.  Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none,”  Exodus 16:25, 26.

However, Israel being Israel, some of the people went out on the Sabbath to gather manna, anyway, and found none.  The LORD was angry at this refusal of Israel to obey His Word, but there was still no other judgment.  A pot of manna was to be gathered and kept for future generations to see.  Manna was supplied to the people for forty years, until Israel was in the Promised Land, Joshua 5:1-12.

To me, it seems that this provision for rest on the seventh day speaks of the sufficiency of the provision.  There was to be no gathering because there was no need.  The people were supplied.  We’ll have much more to say about this as we go along.

  • Sinai and the Sabbath.

Exodus 20 gives us the next mention of the Sabbath.   It is here that the Sabbath was included in the Mosaic Covenant as part of the Constitution and by-laws, if you will, of the newly-formed nation of Israel.  Israel wasn’t made a nation in 1948, but hundreds of years before Christ.

The fourth commandment – it isn’t the first one or the only one, as some seem to treat it – the fourth commandment served as a bridge between the the first three commandments about how Israel was to view and respond to their God, and the rest of the commandments, which deal with how they were to view and respond to their society, beginning with their own parents.  The Sabbath Day brought what might have simply deteriorated into “belief” into focus as to how it was to affect everything else every other day of the week, not just that one day.  There were to be no “Saturday Israelites.”

God said to “Remember” the Sabbath because the nation had already been given it, 40 years earlier.

We’ll conclude this portion of the study tomorrow, Lord willing.

Has God Forgotten Our Children?

“What kind of a question is that?  Of course He hasn’t.  Jesus called little children to Himself.  ‘God loves the little children, all the children of the world’.”  It’s certainly true that the Lord Jesus loved children and children seem to have loved Him.

At the same time, it’s a shame that so much of what we believe comes from Sunday School and sentiment instead of from the Scripture.

Certainly, God can’t and doesn’t “forget” in the sense that there become “gaps” in His memory.  There is a verse, however, in which He Himself say He will “forget your children.”

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children,” Hosea 4:6.

This came as a result of God rebuking the people of Israel for their wickedness:  “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed,” Hosea 4:1a-2 (emphasis added).

When God talks about “forgetting” their children, does that mean that there will be a gap in His knowledge, that He actually forgets them and has no memory or knowledge of them?

Of course not.

But read the first part of the verse to get the context of the second part:  Because you have forgotten the law of your God….  Don’t get upset about the second part without understanding the first part.

This verse may be one of those “hard sayings” that skeptics and unbelievers rail against, but, you see,  that’s because, it says actions have consequences.  Every action has a consequence.  Israel, God’s favored, chosen nation found that out the hard way.  We don’t like that; we want things our way, as if God just ran some sort of cosmic Burger King where “you get it your way,” instead of being the King of Eternity.

When God brought the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and made them into a nation, what was one of the main things He told them to do?

In Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, God said, …these words that I command you this day shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (emphasis added)

“Teach them….”

He had already warned them about this earlier in chapter 4.  In v. 9, after reminding them of the great blessing and privilege they had, things not given to other nations, vs. 6-8, he said, “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life, and teach them to your children and your grandchildren (emphasis added).

“Teach them….”  

Talking to the generation that was about enter the land, Moses reminded them of all the things God had done for them, bringing them out of Egypt and sustaining them through forty years in the wilderness, where there was neither grocery story nor Walmart.  “Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years,”  Deuteronomy 8:4.  In Deuteronomy 29:5, he repeated this thought:  “Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.”  In fact, they were still wearing those same clothes and sandals.

When Moses warned them against forgetting the Lord, forgetting what He had done for them in the land of Egypt, and how He had provided for them in their wilderness travels, was he just warning them against a mental lapse of some sort?

No, no.  It was so much more than that.  In 8:11, he said, “Beware that you do not FORGET the Lord your God BY NOT KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, HIS JUDGMENTS, AND HIS STATUTES,which I command you this day” (emphasis added).

Israel never “forgot” God in the sense that she lost the memory of Him.  She just, for the most part, did her own thing and went her own way.  This is what Hosea was complaining about.

The sad thing is, there is never a single time when Moses ever expressed any hope that Israel would actually “remember” the Lord like she was supposed to.  It was always from the standpoint of warning her what would happen if she went astray.  She had already done that before he ever came down from Sinai the first time!

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.”

He “forgot” them by leaving them to the consequences of their actions.

Is there a lesson here for us?  I write of the US, though it’s applicable to other nations and people as well.

There’s a university that does a lot of advertising in various magazines and through the mail.  One time they sent me a sample CD, with lessons which covered the settling of our country by the Pilgrims.  The thing I found striking was that there wasn’t a single mention of the Mayflower Compact.  This was actually the first document of American history, in which some of the passengers on the Mayflower put into writing for the first time in history the idea of self-governance, an idea later formalized by our Constitution.

The interesting thing in this document is found in it’s opening sentences.  After the obligatory reference to King James, of whom they were “loyal subjects,” they referred to the reason for their own coming to the new world:  “….having undertaken [it] for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith….”

Not a word of any of this in this CD.  And this has pretty much become the norm: ignoring the idea that Christianity had any part of the founding of this nation.  Granted, it was never the “established religion,” as it was in England or Germany or other countries.  Some of the founding fathers had suffered under such regimes, a thing which always happens when religion has civil power.  Witness the Inquisition under Rome and the slaughter of tens of thousands, if not millions, of Anabaptists and other nonconformists under the Reformed churches.  The same thing is true in Islam.  So the Constitution was written to prevent the establishment of any religion as “official.” However, the founding fathers did not, by this, intend the founding of atheism as the official viewpoint, nor the preventing of religious observances, as it has developed.

In fact, the first universities in this countries were founded as “seminaries.”  One of the important founders of Yale University was a man named Asahel Nettleton, whom probably not 1 of a 1000 Americans has ever heard of.  He was, however, a successful evangelist and preacher, much used of God in the early 1800s, who opposed Charles G. Finney, his preaching and his popularization of the “New Measures,” which Finney used, methods which were the beginnings of the altar call and modern fundamentalist forms of “soul-winning.”

McGuffey’s Reader, which was widely used until men like Horace Mann and John Dewey urged the secularization of public education, started off teaching the alphabet with “A:  In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”  You can imagine what would happen today if a teacher tried to teach that to her little students.

There has, until the last two or three generations, been a strong Biblical influence in this country.  As time has passed, though, this influence has been challenged and today it is even illegal in schools and government.

And parents have to a large degree fallen by the wayside in the teaching of spiritual truths to their children.  I speak from my own experiences in “church,” but parents tended to drop their kids off for Sunday School and expected the church to give them the teaching they needed.  There was little if any corresponding teaching at home. Any such teaching at school, of course, was, and is, out of the question.

And look at our kids today – generally speaking.  There are still good kids out there, but I fear they are in a growing minority – a minority that will never have government approval. You see kids shuffling down the middle of the street, underwear hanging out, a look of arrogance on their faces.  Drive-by shootings.  Bombings. Schools being shot up.  Drugs. Violence.  Sexual degeneracy.  Gangs.  Nurseries for babies in high schools. Teenage abortion.  Rap “music.”

For the most part, our kids are a mess.

They haven’t been taught the Word of God.  In fact, they have been taught against it. They suffer the consequences of these actions every day.

Though it isn’t just the kids.

There’s a lot of concern in the community about “stopping the violence.”  There’s a lot of church leaders in the lead here, along with the police and other concerned citizens. They want the young people to turn in their guns.  Go to counseling.  Hold vigils.  Light candles.  “Stop the violence.”

But “guns” aren’t the problem.  No, they’re not.  The high school I graduated from was the “tough” school in town.  It’s in what is now probably a hotbed of violence and youthful troubles.  Though I’m sure it’s not still there, in the basement of this school, there was a rifle range (*gasp*) with rifles, locked up, of course, and ammunition.  They were common back then.  I, myself, qualified as a marksman on this range.  But there was never, ever, any trouble with these guns.

Furthermore, most of the fellows carried pocket knives.  No stabbings.  I carried one myself for years, even after I graduated, until the day I tried to make a delivery at the local courthouse and had to go through a metal detector.  Oops.  Why, I was carrying a dangerous weapon!  *sigh*  I had to take it back to my truck and leave it there.

“You’ve come a long way, baby.”

I blame these pastors and church leaders for much of our youth’s troubles.  Instead of preaching the Gospel and requiring repentance, faith, and holy living, they want “social justice.”  “Diversity.”  $15 an hour to fry hamburgers.

They want to take folks out of the slums, without stopping to consider the “slum” that is in folks.  We’re all sinners by nature, preference and habit.

Now, social justice is important.  Even our Lord taught that we’re to treat others as we would like to be treated.  And there’s a great deal more about that in the Old Testament.  However, that’s not the emphasis in these modern times. It’s not at all about how we treat others.  It’s about how they are supposed to treat us.  At the same time, we can treat them pretty much as we like.

But isn’t our God a God of love?  Surely, He wouldn’t do as He might have done in the Old Testament.  Praise His holy name, He is a God of love, but He’s still a God where actions have consequences.  America, and most of the rest of the world, has largely forgotten God by neglecting or denying His Word.  We’ve thrown His Word out and told Him He’s not welcome.

As a result of our actions, He’s “forgotten” us by leaving us to their consequences.

I think we can imagine Him asking, “How’s that working out for you?”

[I’m sorry for the “negative” tone of this post.  It’s just that there’s not much to be “positive” about in this year of our Lord 2014.]

Hebrews 6:4-6: Putting Christ To An Open Shame

[This is the third of 3 projected posts]

In the first post, we saw that, in the phrase if they fall away, the writer wasn’t teaching that Christians could lose their salvation.

In the second post, we saw that the context of Hebrews 6:4-6 deals with the idea that the Christian life is just that: life, and, as such, has the expectation of growth and development into maturity.

There is much more that could be said about these verses.  For instance, even though Christians truly saved cannot lose their salvation, there are many, not truly saved, who do leave “the faith.”  This is evidence they were never saved to begin with, cf. 1 John 2:19.  The writer does have a little to say about them in Hebrews 6:7, 8.

That, however, isn’t the subject for this post.  It’s found in the last part of v. 6.

Thinking about it, I’m not sure that I even know how to write about this idea that the death of Christ on the Cross could somehow be turned into something that shames Him.

But that’s what the writer says – and why it is impossible to be saved a “second” time, …or a third, …or a fourth, because

they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” 

“Put Him to shame,” because one for whom He died, and whom, it is said, He saved through faith, is, nevertheless, lost.  In other words, He failed.

How could this even be considered as a possibility?

It seems to me that even the idea that one could lose his or her salvation, let alone any such thing actually happening – even the very idea that anyone could lose their salvation is highly dishonoring to our Lord and puts Him to an open shame.