According to Pattern

“According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings, just so you shall make it,” Exodus 25:9 (NKJV).

The tabernacle wasn’t a ramshackle affair.  It wasn’t something made up as they went along, but every part of it, down to the clasps which held the sides to the frame, was set forth and described.  There were no revisions, no “TabernaclePlan.02”  It was complete as it came from the mind of God to the hand of Moses.

That’s equally true of everything in creation.  Many may believe that this world came into being as the result of a chance event, but someone has calculated the odds of such a thing happening as 1 in 40 to the tenth power, or as 1 followed by 40 zeroes.  That is a lot of zeroes: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  We probably don’t even have a name for such a number.  It seems to me that it’s a lot easier to believe Genesis 1-3 than it is to believe in such a throwing of the dice, as it were.  Of course, that does get rid of God and any obligation mankind might have to obey Him.  We think we’re so smart, but all things considered in perspective, an amoeba may be smarter than us.

The truth is, God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, or order, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33.  While Paul wrote primarily to correct some serious problems in the Corinthian church, what he wrote is applicable in a lot of places.  No matter where one looks, whether through a microscope or a telescope, he sees order and design.  Even in the so-called random movement of atoms, there is a discernible pattern.

This is true also of life.  He has not left us on our own, as it were, but has given us instructions about pretty much every area of life.  Whether individually, in our church, in our family, our neighborhood, our city, our country or our nation, there are principles and practices either commanded or forbidden, the doing of which in either case will have discernible results.  We do reap what we sow.

55 years ago, a woman decided we should ignore what God says, so she went to court.  We see the results around us today.  True, she wasn’t the first publicly to oppose God, but she was the most outspoken and successful.  I’m old enough to remember “back then,” what it was like before Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her atheism permeated society.  People left their front doors unlocked.  Cars were left unlocked – we can see this in the old TV programs.  Women could walk down the street at night without worrying about it.  I’ve mentioned this several times before, but the high school I attended was in a “tough” neighborhood.  I hate to think what it’s like today, 59 years after I graduated.  This “tough” school had a rifle range in the basement, with rifles and live ammunition.  I qualified as a marksman on that range.  People today get all upset at the very ideas of “guns” at all, let alone around or in schools, but there was never any problem at that school.  Young men carried rifles in a rack in the back window of their pickup trucks.  No one thought anything about it.  Was there crime?  To be sure.  But nothing at all compared to today.

But now….

To paraphrase Hosea 8:7, “We have sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind.”  Or, in the immortal words of Pogo, for you “old-timers:”  “We have found the enemy and they is us.”  I don’t mean to minimize the problem or make fun of it, or to imply that Walt Kelly, the author of Pogo, would agree with my views.  He probably wouldn’t.  But he was right in this case, whether he meant it as I take it or not.

“We” are the enemy.  Having decided that we’re too sophisticated for those old-fashioned “Puritan” ideas, we’ve thrown them all out in the name of “freedom.”

Having rejected “order,” we have opened the door to “confusion”.

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“no ransom”

In these last few posts, we’ve been looking at some of the provisions of the Mosaic Law, provisions which aren’t as familiar as the Ten Commandments.  Some of these things seem strange or harsh to our modern way of thinking.  The society of that time and nation was largely agricultural and rural, without any of what we consider “conveniences”.  It was what we might call a “basic” society:  people growing up, gettting married, having and raising kids, and taking care of their basic needs – without all the stuff we have to have today.

It gives us a much different view of “justice” than we’re accustomed to.

In our previous post, we looked at a little of what the Old Testament says about what was to happen to those who accidentally, without premeditation or animosity, killed someone.  Though there were still serious consequences to such an act, care was taken to protect such persons from those who would seek revenge.

This brings up the question, “What about those who killed with premeditation and/or animosity”?  The Scripture is clear.  Exodus 21:14 says, “If a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, then you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.”

(“from My altar….”  Though we have no Scripture telling  us it was to be used like this, apparently the bronze altar at the entrance to the Tabernacle was also a place of safety, though within prescribed limits.  We have an example, centuries later, of one who tried to use it illegally, 1 Kings 2:28-34.  Notice there the reference to “innocent blood,” v. 31.)

Numbers 35:9-34 gives a detailed explanation of things to be considered in deciding “guilt” or “innocence,” and who could or could not claim protection in a city of refuge.  Nor was there any way that a person who could live in a city of refuge would be allowed to leave before the death of the high priest, v. 32.  We’ve seen what could happen if they tried.

And there was no way a person found guilty of premeditated murder could escape the penalty: you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death, v. 31.

Our culture has gone a long way from such thoughts.  People who give little thought to the plight of victims will get very upset at the idea that the one who hurt them should actually pay for what he did.  A few years in jail, maybe, or even a “life sentence,” but no death penalty.  Of course, it’s important that the criminal show “remorse.”   So the victim and their family have the privilege of paying taxes to support a bloated, over-grown penal system in which the “constitutional rights” of murderers, rapists, and other felons are of paramount importance, while they themselves suffer the results of those crimes, endure the costs of their own recovery and healing, or while they have to live with the absence or suffering of a son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, brother or sister, or other family member.

Prison is no picnic, but then neither is being a victim of someone who in a system of true justice would not live to go there.

There were no prisons in the Mosaic Law.

We’ll have some more to say about this in the next post.

Hebrews 12:12-24, Continue….

[12]Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, [13]and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated,but rather healed.
[14]Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:  [15]looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; [16]lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  [17]For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
[18]For you  have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, [19]and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.  [20](For they could not endure what was commanded:  “and if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot through with an arrow.”  [21]And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceeding afraid and trembling.”
[22]But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, [23]to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, [24]to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. 

Scripture tells us that every true believer experiences trouble of one kind or another.  It’s God’s way of weaning us away from the world and bringing us to Himself.  As someone has said, whether or not trouble is a blessing to us depends on where it is in relation to us and God.  If it comes between us and God, then it’s not a blessing, because it acts as a wedge, driving us away from God, but if God is between it and us, then it brings us closer to God.

I think it’s this latter idea that the writer has in mind in our text for this post.  We’re to strengthen that which is weak and straighten out what is crooked.  We’re to look at trouble as something designed to bring us closer to God.  In our vernacular, I think the writer might be saying, “Take a deep breath.”

The trouble with trouble is that it tends to make us contentious.  To counteract this tendency, the writer says to pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.  Trouble tends to make us self-centered, forgetting not only those around us, but He who is above us.  We’re to “look carefully,” or be diligent, in this matter, because becoming absorbed by our troubles tends to make us bitter, and this leads to nothing good.

Bitterness acts as a poison, corrupting not only ourselves, but our interactions with others.  It doesn’t just affect us; it affects others – and not in a good way.

Self-absorption also opens the door to sin to enter.  The writer mentions Esau as a classic example of this.  The incident he refers to is in Genesis 25:29-34.  As the firstborn son, his was a double portion of inheritance, as well as a priority in blessing.  When the father died, the firstborn became the leader of the family.  Esau threw all that away because he was hungry.  His brother Jacob was at fault here, to be sure, but the responsibility was Esau’s.  He was supposed to be the leader.  Esau might have had other faults, as well, since the writer describes him as a fornicator and profane.  This latter word doesn’t mean that he swore or used bad language, though that may be included.  It simply means “common,” as opposed to “sacred.”  Esau had no thought for the things of God.  In the words of Philippians 3:19, his belly was his god.  He set his mind on earthly things.  And, because of this, he lost heavenly things.  He sold his birthright, Hebrews 12:16.

Earlier, the writer had mentioned that there is an “afterward” for the believer, v. 11.  But there is an “afterward” for the unbeliever, as well.  In v. 17, he says, For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears, emphasis added.  This incident occurs in Genesis 27:30-40.  And this “place of repentance” wasn’t in himself; it was in his father.

Isaac’s family was a mess.  Several chapters in Genesis tells us this, but when the dust was settled in this event, Isaac realized that it was Jacob who was to receive the blessing, not Esau, though Esau was his favorite, and Isaac had intended to give him the blessing.  That Jacob deceived his father in this matter in no way cancels out the fact that God had said, “The older [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob],” Genesis 25:23.  (There was an “afterward” for Rebekah as well.  After Jacob’s deception came to light, she sent him away, hoping that he wouldn’t have to be gone too long, Genesis 27:41-45.  She never saw her favorite son again.)

Notice here also that the writer says of the blessing that Esau sought it diligently, v. 17.  It didn’t matter.  It was too late!  His father confirmed this.  After Esau had begged him for the blessing, Isaac said, “I have blessed him [Jacob] – and indeed he shall be blessed,” Genesis 27:33.  The time for Esau to have been diligent, to “look carefully” [v.15], would have been when he was hungry!  I wonder how many blessings we lose because we’re careful too late.  We get “hungry” for the wrong things!

The rest of our text, vs. 18-24, might seem strange.  What do they have to do with how we’re to handle trouble?  I think the answer lies in the main difference between the two covenants alluded to.  Vs. 18-21 describe the scene at the giving of the Law, or the Mosaic Covenant.  This was when Israel officially became a nation.  The things given to her on Sinai were her constitution and bylaws.  Vs. 22-24 have to do with the New Covenant, which the writer has already mentioned in 8:7-13.

There’s probably a lot we could say about these two covenants, but we’ll try to restrict ourselves to only one.  The Mosaic Law had no provision to help the OT Jew fulfill his obligations.  In Deuteronomy 29:2-4, Moses referred to this.  He said to the crowd gathered before him, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land- , the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs and those great wonders.  Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day (emphasis added.)  This explains why Israel was so slow to obey and so quick to rebel.  The Law has no provision to help the sinner obey its commands and can do nothing about the sinner’s condition.  Israel was on her own.  It was up to her to make herself righteous.  That’s why Israel failed so miserably.  That’s why those today who believe they can keep the Law fail so miserably.  They’re on their own.

Work and run, the Law commands,
but gives me neither feet nor hands.
But sweeter sounds the Gospel brings;
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.

The New Covenant, on the other hand, is all about remedying the plight of the sinner.  In chapter 8:7-12, the writer quoted an extensive portion from Jeremiah 31:31-34 describing the provisions and benefits of the New Covenant:

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.  None of them shall teach his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Under the Mosaic Covenant, Israel was on her own.  Under the New Covenant, Israel will have divine assistance.  And be sure that it is Israel the nation that is in view here, not some “spiritual” Israel, not some convoluted idea that “the church” is really what is meant here.  Under the Mosaic Covenant, God gave no assistance to Israel.  Under the New Covenant, God will put His laws into their hearts and minds.  Every single Jew alive at that time will know God, regardless of their state in life.  This will be the fulfillment of Romans 11:26, So then, all Israel will be saved, a verse where Paul quotes Isaiah 59:20, 21.

But, if all this refers to Israel, then what good does it do us?  God never made any promises to Gentiles in the OT, only about them when He promised Abraham that in him all families of the earth shall be blessed, Genesis 12:3.  I don’t know that the OT, being concerned mainly with Israel, particularly tells us how this will be accomplished.  It’s not until the NT that we find that out.  It is in the NT that the Lord Jesus introduces a new player, as it were, into this thing we call salvation.  In Matthew 16:18, He said, I will build My church, or “My assembly,” emphasis added.  This was to distinguish what He was going to do from every other “assembly” in the world.  The word translated “assembly,” – ekklesia – means a group of people.  It was used to refer to any group or gathering, whether sacred or secular.  In the NT, it’s usually translated, “church,” though it’s used in Acts 19:40 of the riotous crowd which gathered because of the preaching of the gospel in Ephesus, that disorderly gathering which was offended at it.

The Lord’s assembly was to be unique.  It wasn’t like any other “assembly” or gathering or group of people in the world.  It wasn’t just to be a continuation of the nation of Israel or her replacement.

It was, is, His.  He builds it and He rules it.  He will come for it.  It is through Him that Gentiles – us – are able to receive the blessings of salvation.

Some people believe that it’s through the church itself that salvation is received.  Not so.  Not so.  There is no salvation in any church or denomination, but especially not in those who claim that it is.

At the same time, the church – a group of people, not a building – is important.  It’s through her that the gospel is to be preached.  It’s through her that missionaries are to be sent around the world.  It’s through her that the corruption of this world is to be hindered and countered.  Not through politics, not through legislation, not through any of the things men have foisted on her over the years, but through the preaching of the Gospel, and Christians living as if they believed what they say they believe.  Not through the latest social contortions, but through the Scripture.

The strength of the church – the strength of the individual believer – doesn’t come from personalities or programs or promotions.  These should have no place in the church.  It’s a shame that they do.  It’s the reason the church has no power in this increasingly wicked and corrupt world.  Indeed, things have gotten so bad that her voice, that is, the voice of those who say they belong to her, sometimes is heard in favor of that wickedness and corruption.

The strength and success of the church, the true church, the church our Lord started, not this thing called “the church” in our day, comes from her Founder and Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s a telling thing in the Book of Revelation that the Lord describes Himself as standing at the door, wanting admission to His church, Revelation 3:20.  It’s true that this verse is usually thought of as the Lord patiently waiting at the door of the sinner’s heart, waiting for that sinner to open the door and let Him in.  However, Revelation 3:20 has nothing to do with sinners and salvation.  In v. 22, He says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, emphasis added.  Incredible though it may seem, the Lord has effectively been shut out of that place where He should be honored and obeyed.  That’s why the world’s in the mess it’s in – the church is in the mess she’s in.

Things won’t get better until the Lord Jesus is given His proper place, the place of preeminence and honor, and that probably won’t happen until He comes back and physically takes it.  And Christians are only able to “continue” as they follow the counsel of the writer in v. 2:

Consider Him.

 

 

Hebrews 12:3-11, Consider…

[3]For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  [4]You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.  [5]And you  have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as sons:  ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; [6]for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’
[7]If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  [8]But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  [9]Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect.  Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live.  [10]For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  [11]Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  (NKJV)

In turning their attention away from those who had gone before, and our attention as well, and turning that attention toward the Lord Jesus, the writer repeats and amplifies what he said in v. 2, “Consider Him….”  Not just “look,” as in v. 2, but “consider.”  Not just a casual glance, a passing interest, but spend some time looking at Him, thinking about Him, who He was and what He did.

In the verses before us, what He did was to endure the hostility of the leaders of His culture.  Or, as the KJV has it, the “contradiction of sinners against Himself.”  The word translated “hostilities” is “antilogia,” literally, “to speak against.”  I think “contradiction” sums it up nicely.  And it’s the first word in the sentence, emphasizing this action of sinners against the Lord Jesus.

This focus was to be for them an encouragement and strengthening, as it took them away from what they themselves were suffering.  They were to look to that One who had suffered with and for them, who had made it possible to look ahead to a day when suffering would be a thing of the past.  Where their suffering in this life would bring them great reward in the next.  They were to do this to prevent themselves from becoming “weary and discouraged.”  If we have any understanding at all of human nature, that’s always the problem when we spend too much time looking at ourselves.

Our Lord warned His disciples along this line while He was with them.  In John 15:18-20, He said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

But there was something else the writer wanted them to remember:  a reason, at least, for their suffering, vs. 5-8.  It’s a form of discipline.  God understands what happens when we get too comfortable.  We tend to forget our need of Him.  He also understands that this world is in opposition to Him and if we get to following it, then we’re not following Him.  So trouble comes to us in various forms to remind us of important things.  And this trouble may have nothing to do with “persecution.”  It may be sickness or financial difficulty.  Whatever it is, actions, whether ours or someone else’s, have consequences, and it’s sometimes the innocent who pay the price.  So it’s true, we may not “deserve” a lot of what happens to us, but sometimes it’s also true that a lot of the trouble that comes our way is simply the result of our own doings.  David found this out the hard way after his “affair” with Bathsheba.  His life was never the same after that.  Whatever the source, trouble comes our way to remind us not to get too comfortable in what someone called “these tenements of clay.”

The writer uses the example of earthly fathers in his teaching, v. 9.  In our day and time, this probably doesn’t mean as much, because “father” is almost a curse word, and it’s up to Mom to raise the kids – single moms and all that.  “Dad” skates by either as a non-entity or a simpleton.  And the idea of discipline that the writer uses is most certainly frowned on in our society:  For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives, emphasis added.  Any real idea of discipline, or making a child “mind,” is frowned on.

Let me tell you a story.  I don’t think I’ve ever posted it on the blog.  My grandmother was a teacher.  When she was just starting out, she applied for a job at a particular school.  This school had been through three teachers very quickly because of a certain student in the school.  He simply drove them out by his actions.  Now, the school board was honest with her and told her of the problem and asked if she were still interested.  She asked if they would back her up.  They would.  So she took the school.  Remember, this wasn’t a monstrous structure like what passes for “school” in our day, where kids are herded together like cattle.  Sure enough, this kid began to make trouble.  I don’t remember exactly how she told the story now, but she grabbed him by the arm and took a yardstick to him.  When the student got home, and his parents found out what happened, they wore him out, too.

Fast forward about 25 years.  Grandma and Grandpa are on a vacation trip through New Mexico to visit Carlsbad Caverns.  This was in 1946 or ’47.  Out in the middle of nowhere – no interstate highways, no “rest areas” – the car began to overheat, so Grandpa pulled into a little service station to get some water for their ’39 Studebaker.  He walked around to the back of the building – and fell over, dead.  As it turned out, the assistant district attorney in this little town – out in the middle of nowhere – was this same fellow.  He thanked Grandma for straightening him all those years before, because if she hadn’t, no telling where he would have wound up – certainly not on the right side of the law.

Now…

you can imagine what would happen if Grandma were a present-day teacher and tried that with a “troubled youth” in her class…!

We’ve gone so far away from any idea of raising kids to be respectful and obedient that we’ve brought about the mess we see them in today.  Not all of them are troublesome, to be sure, there are still some who are raised right, but the majority of them, to varying degrees, live lives that wouldn’t have been tolerated in my youth, let alone in Grandma’s!  She had 10 or 11 brothers and sisters and when folks came to visit her parents, all the kids were required to sit quietly on the sofa until the visitors were gone.  “Children should be seen and not heard” is a dictum that’s gone the way of the dinosaur.  They certainly weren’t allowed to scream and carry on in the restaurant or grocery story like we see two- and three-year-olds doing so today!  These little monsters run the family, and their parents have no idea about what to do, and indeed, are powerless to do anything about it.  I see these little ones around today and wonder what their parents are going to do when their kids get old enough to really do damage.

We see what’s going to happen with the rampages and shootings done by young people that are so in the news today.  Liberals, who’ve rejected Scripture in every area of life and who are responsible for the chaos in our society, believe that “gun control” is the answer – the only answer.  While this post is not a defense of the Second Amendment of our Constitution, it might serve as a rebuttal to this simplistic non-solution.

Let me tell you another story – one I may have used on the blog before.  When I was a teenager – and not a model one by any means – the high school I went to in a large city out West was in a “tough” neighborhood.  Years later, one of my friends characterized it as a “ghetto” (although I suppose that’s too harsh an assessment in this day of political correctness).  Most of the times I walked to school, about a 45 minute trip (and no, it wasn’t uphill both ways).  If it was bad weather, my Mom, who had to be at work at 7:00 AM, would take me to school, and I would be the very first one there – even before the lunchroom staff.  In the basement of this “tough” school was a rifle range – with rifles and live ammo (locked up, of course).  I qualified as a marksman on that range.  But there was never – ever – any idea of trouble because of the presence of those guns.  It just wasn’t thought of.  You could buy rifles at the local dime store.  I don’t remember ever hearing of a “drive-by shooting” or of a rampage like we hear so often about today, even when we lived in an area of town which now suffers those.

The trouble today isn’t the presence of guns, in spite of the rantings of liberals, but the abandonment of our youth to their own devices and the rejection of Scriptural principles for life and living.  Perish the thought that we damage their “self-esteem”!  But the problem is that they’ve got too much self-esteem.

God told Israel something about this.  In Hosea 4:6, He told a rebellious and wicked Israel, “Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”

We don’t like this idea of God.  We want a God who is all loving and soft, a kindly grandfather-type who smiles at the foibles and follies of His children.  The God of the Old Testament is characterized by unbelievers as a monstrous bully, but even Hebrews, a few verses from where we are, describes Him to those who thumb their noses at Him: For our God is a consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29.

Israel had been given clear and strict instruction about the raising of their children.  These kids were to be grounded in the Scripture Israel had, which had a great deal to do with how God had delivered her from Egyptian slavery and how she was to live in light of that.  She was warned about forgetting God.  In Deuteronomy 8:11, Moses warned Israel about this, “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 hadn’t “forgotten” God in the sense that He had slipped their minds; they were very aware of His existence, they just didn’t pay any attention to what He said.  As a consequence, they didn’t raise their children right, and their children went further astray even than they did – with all the consequences of that.

In the same sense, we have forgotten God in our day, and we see the consequences all around us.

But, the writer tells us, there is an “afterward.”  By the grace of God, my wife and I raised four children to mature and productive adulthood.  It wasn’t easy for my wife, though.  She was able to be a stay-at-home mom for fourteen years, until the kids got a little older.  I worked long hours and even when I was home, I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t a very attentive father.  I still had some growing-up to do, too.  But now, we’re able to rejoice in grandchildren and have watched four of them grow to the stage where they are getting ready to leave the nest, so to speak.  It’s been a joy to watch them grow from infancy to where the boys are taller than we are.  I kid our daughter that in a few years, she might be a grandmother herself and she tells me that she isn’t ready for that!

The point is, the troubles of life may be hard to go through.  Compared to what our Lord suffered, though, they are nothing.  One of the Reformers said that his sufferings were but chips and slivers compared to his Lord’s cross.  And if I understand Scripture what we see today is nothing compared to what lies ahead, though it’s very difficult to see that sometimes.

The writer makes an interesting and challenging statement in the middle of his thought.  After saying that chastening is simply God disciplining His children, he says, But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons, v.8.

“Illegitimate.”

That doesn’t mean anything today, but it was a big deal back then.  And, spiritually speaking, it doesn’t seem to mean very much today, either.  According to some, we’re all children of God, so there aren’t any illegitimate children.  Others seem to have a very broad definition of the term, “children of God.”  Our writer has his own definition: enduring chastening, or discipline.  This seems counter-intuitive to our time, in which many think that trouble should be the farthest thing away from the Christian life.  Health, wealth and all things good – these are the Christian life, not trouble.

It’s true in this country that we’ve enjoyed a long time of freedom in spiritual matters.  This country was founded with respect for the Bible and Christian principles, regardless of what the revisionists tell us.  Though it’s always been around in some form or another, it’s only within the last decade or so that opposition to the Bible and Christianity has really become public policy.

I don’t know what the future holds in the short term.  I do know there’s coming a time when, in the words of Daniel 12:2, many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament.

Until then, consider Him who endured such hostility of sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged….

 

Violence Against Women

A lot of attention has been paid recently, and rightly so, to the video of the despicable brute who knocked his fiancee against the railing of an elevator and then dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator.  This “man” (I can’t think of a word that as a Christian I can use to describe him otherwise) is a sports figure and a lot of discussion has centered around what should happen to him.  My own opinion is that at the very least he should be banned from participation in any sport at any level and in any way, for the rest of his life.  And to be held up to disgust and revulsion as the scum that he is.  Probably, neither will happen.  In fact, I understand that there’s some talk about making him a “mentor” to younger players on the team.  *sigh*

Unfortunately, he isn’t the only perpetrator of violence against women and there have been several incidents since then in which men have been asked to resign for their positions because of it.

What does one expect in a society where women are referred to as “bitches” and “hos”?  Where there is no respect whatever for them as women?  Where they have no respect for themselves, but have been persuaded by feminism that they have a right to be as vile as men think they have the right to be?  Violence against women is only a small part of the price of “free love”.  And I’m not blaming them for what happens to them.  It should never happen to them.

There was a time, not so long ago, when such violence was generally unthinkable.  It happened, to be sure, it’s always happened, but there was an overriding understanding that a man does not hit a woman.  Women were to be protected, to be cared for, to be respected.  They were the wives we swore to love, honor and cherish, the mothers of our children, the heart of our home.  All this has pretty much been relegated to the trash heap of history.

There’s an Old Testament incident which, in my opinion, illustrates perfectly one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, why there is so much violence against women.  It’s found in 2 Samuel 13.  Though I won’t quote it here, you should stop and read it.  It won’t take but a couple of minutes.

Briefly summarized, the story is this:  David had several sons by different wives, as well as at least one daughter, a beautiful girl named Tamar.  One of her half-brothers began to lust after her and it began to affect him physically.  One of his friends noticed this and asked him what was wrong.  The brother confessed his desire for his half-sister.  This friend gave him an idea about how he could satisfy that desire.  Well, he did so and there is a telling verse which is the verse I’m thinking of for this post:

Then Amnon hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her, 2 Samuel 13:15.

When she protested against this treatment, he had her bodily removed and the door locked after her.

This OT incident speaks perfectly to one reason for violence against women today.  When the main thing a couple has is their sexual experiences, when that’s gone or diminishes, there little or nothing left.  They have nothing else in common to keep them together.  Often, as we saw in Amnon’s case, “love” quickly turns to hate.  The man feels cheated or disgusted or something, so he takes it out on the woman.

Sexual fulfillment was meant to be the consummation of a marriage, not the commencement of a “relationship.”  That word in itself speaks volumes.  No longer is a couple “courting,” though that phrase went out before I was born.  They’re in a “relationship.”  They’re not married; they’ve just moved in together.

Life consists of so much more than what happens in the bedroom.  Make no mistake; God created us as sexual beings, but because of what happens when it all goes sideways: violence against women, among other things, He also created the situation in which it’s to be enjoyed.  If there’s nothing but sex in a “relationship,” when that goes, then there’s nothing left.

As long as the attitude prevails that “it’s just sex,” the situation will never improve.

This no doubt is a complex problem, but the main cause is the promiscuous and immoral attitude so prevalent in our society.  Until that improves, the situation will remain the same, or get worse.

The few words of this post won’t solve the problem, but they propose a starting place.  Nothing physical without or apart from being married.  And it doesn’t deal with the problem of abuse of the wife in marriage.  My own view is that such men ought to be shot, but then I tend toward an Old Testament view of justice.

This would also mitigate the situation with rape.  The current discussion about “when does yes mean yes?” etc., would be greatly reduced if there were no sexual expectations apart from marriage.  I understand, as things are currently going, that this will never happen again.  It would, however, be a start.

 

Why Should Men Get Away With It?

This is the flip side, so to speak, of my post: “Why Would You Do That to Your Wife?”

Ladies sometimes get irritated by what they see as a double standard in moral issues in the Old Testament.  Men seem to get away with a lot more than women.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but men could have many wives and concubines, a woman might have to prove she had been a virgin on her wedding night, nothing gets cut off if a man messes around, and, last, but not least, there’s “the water of jealousy.”

Though we’re not going to develop it, Numbers 5 describes a ritual in which a jealous husband can prove or disprove whether his wife has been unfaithful to him.  There is no such ritual for the husband.  A woman might ask, “Why not?”

Though it might not seem like an answer to the question, was it a matter of being “unfaithful” to her if her husband was intimate with his other wives?  As for “messing around,” we’ll have more to say about this in a moment.

As for the multiple wives, but only one husband, there have been societies where a woman could have multiple husbands, but Israel wasn’t one of them.  Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that lineage was of paramount importance to the Old Testament Jew.  Since it’s unlikely that the Old Testament had DNA tests, it would have been very difficult to know who the father was in a case of multiple “fathers” in a family.  Besides, thought this answer won’t satisfy some, that’s the way God ordered it.

In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam one wife.  At that time, He said that a man was to leave his parents and be joined to his wife (singular).  The Lord Jesus affirmed this, Matthew 19:5.  In addition, Paul taught this.  In teaching about marriage, he said, let each one of you in particular so love his own WIFE as himself, Ephesians 5:32, emphasis added.

Taken overall, the Old Testament doesn’t paint a very good picture of the idea of multiple wives.  It reveals a lot of trouble and jealousy between the various wives and siblings.

As for “getting away with it,” Leviticus 20 lists several sins for which a man was to be killed, the woman also, or, in the case of homosexual acts, the other male as well.  In the case of bestiality, the animal was also to be executed.

Our society has largely rejected these ideas.  Indeed, certain sexual sins have now been given “protected” status by the “judgocracy” which has taken over the laws in our country.   “Living together” is commonly accepted and practiced.  Heterosexual marriage has to a great extent been relegated to the trashcan in favor of “domestic partnerships,” etc., etc.

It may seem like we’re “getting away with it,” but even a casual glance at the paper, or the TV or the computer, indicates that’s not really so.  Child abuse, spousal abuse, infanticide, disease, degradation, rampant crime and violence – these are just a few of the costs of “free love.”

This says nothing of the eternal cost of such practices.  When all is said and done, there will be no “getting away with it,” no matter how much that seems to be the case today.

However, there’s no use pointing the finger at those whose lives we might not agree with.  They’re not ultimately the ones with whom we have to do.  Scripture says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.  Other folks’ sins won’t get us into heaven.  Other folks’ sins aren’t an excuse for our own.

There’s only one way any of us will ever stand uncondemned in the presence of God, and that is if we have been forgiven through faith in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.   He willingly took the place of sinners, took their sins upon Himself and paid the price – the cost – of what it would take for them to be saved from their sins.

Even those sins for which there was no OT sacrifice – murder and adultery – will be forgiven that one who comes to God through the Lord Jesus.

Oh, that some might read these words, consider their lives and turn to the Lord Jesus for cleansing.  Is there such a one reading these words who feels like he or she needs a shower because of how they live?  Oh, listen, there’s only one “bath” that can cleanse away the filth and stain of sin:  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 2:9.  …the blood of Jesus Christ [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin, 1 John 2:7.

This means that we have faith in the death of the Lord Jesus.  He alone is able to take away sins.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…, Acts 16:31.

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.