Posts Tagged ‘blended families’

Deuteronomy 21:15-17

Rights of the Firstborn Son

Man, Moses, you are giving us some hard stuff to deal with here. Why is that we are talking about polygamy here when it is clear from the totality of Scripture that such practices are not condoned by God. Yet, at the same time, it is the standard of our faith that the books of the Bible are written by men but who were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit when doing so. Therefore, is God contradicting Himself here. Is He, God, saying that polygamy is OK? That is the question we must first answer before we proceed. I again think that we must default to our reasoning from yesterday. God is not inconsistent here. He is simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. Israel was still as we know a rebellious people and they were struggling to be God’s people. As we have seen from Exodus forward, they are stubborn people. They have been immersed in Egyptian culture and have seen the cultures of the Middle East as a result. They want to be like everybody else and they struggle with God’s commands. Most cultures of the day allowed polygamy and accorded few rights, if any, to women. Thus, the practice of marrying multiple women was common in ancient Middle Eastern culture. As Israel develops as a culture over time, the practice diminishes among Israel’s men. However, God is saying here that OK so you guys want to do this detestable thing, well, then, I will compensate for this evil and the problems that it causes through laying down some rules for the kids that result from polygamous marriages. God is not condoning the practice and this rule is evidence that the practice is no good for society.

 

The modern day equivalent of this situation is not polygamy. Polygamy is roundly condemned by virtually all societies now and has been one of the positive influences of Christianity globally. However, we do have our equivalent. It is called serial monogamy. That’s a high brow term for our increasingly common practice of marrying, divorcing, and remarrying, sometimes multiple times. The ones that get caught up in the messiness of divorce and remarriage are the children. I have experienced this fact first hand. In my second marriage, I married a woman who already had three boys of her own. I had two girls of my own from a previous marriage. Thank God we did not have any children together. Boy, would that have complicated things even further. I know from experience that the jealousies spoken of in this passage can be a very real thing. My second wife expected that I would only do for my children born of me and my first wife what was legally necessary. She expected me to shun my past including my children. She expected that I would love her children more than my own. The least little appearance of giving my children an advantage was met with rebuke. Even though I had eight years and five years of history with my girls where silent glances created understanding was met with jealousy. There was no recognition that we were a family before this family. God hates divorce and these are some of the reasons why. It creates families that are thrown together not my blood but by marriage only. There are a whole host of social evils created by divorce that are far beyond what I experienced as a dad creating a blended family. However, jealousies are certainly one by-product of serial monogamy. The kids get caught in the crosshairs of a battle for family dominance. Whose kids are going to get the place of favor? It is like Luke 22:21-30 where the disciples were jockeying for position as to who was the greatest among them after Jesus. If my second wife and I had stayed married to the death, I bet the last in the litany of arguments that we had over the years about my kids vs. your kids would have definitely been about inheritance. I can just see it now. In the middle of a godless marriage, we become about things, and rights, and jealousies. I cannot even imagine the years of arguments (beyond the 10 years that we had together) if we had stayed together. Oh my! The tedium of constantly arguing about the rights of our respective children. I could not imagine it for another 20-30 years. But the last one would have been the argument of all arguments – about inheritance.

 

The only way that I could relate to today’s was to move it from an old problem, polygamy, to a new problem in today’s society, serial monogamy, and then think of how real this issue was in my own experience. Then, this passage is spot-on about how a sinful act (polygamy or divorce) breeds a whole ‘nother set of problems that God has to deal with and regulate. With that in mind, let’s read the passage together:

 

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

 

Jealousies about position is just a thing in a fallen world I guess. Because of our fallen nature, God has to set out standards of behavior to compensate for our evil deeds. Here, we see God dealing with a practical problem that results from our sin-filled lives. Kids are always caught in the wake of our sins. God here is saying to the Israelites, you are doing this detestable thing but you cannot let your sins affect your children. My already established rules of inheritance that I handed down to you cannot be thwarted or changed simply because you are practicing a custom that is not condoned by me.

 

I think that is the takeaway for me this morning. Just because we accept a custom of our culture and participate in it, it does not make it right. We as Christ followers are still bound by God’s commands and His expectations of His people. Just because society says something is OK does not mean that it is OK. God will still expect us to honor His Word and His commands even though our culture may be vastly different from God’s view of things. He will expect us to maintain our Christian integrity even in the face of opposition. God does meet us where we are at in our sin and helps us deal with the consequences of it and forges us a path to get through the muck and the mire of our sin consequences. That is the beauty of the Lord, He will show us the way to deal with the results of our sin. God’s truth and His expectations are never changing but He realizes that we live in a fallen world and He will show us the way to deal with it and see our way clear to following His commands in the future.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 19:14-21 (Part 2)

Concern for Justice

Have you ever been blamed for something that you did not do? You see it all the time with kids. They will blame things on other kids and particularly their siblings if it will get them out of trouble with their parents, teachers, or other adults. We learn how to sin pretty quickly as children. Self-preservation is the rule of the day when it comes to kids. I think it was Bill Cosby who once said that you are not a real parent until you have more than one child. He said that with one child, you knew did it. With multiple children, you have weed through the accusatory finger pointing and the not-me’s to get to the truth of who did what.

 

I would see this all the time in my second marriage when we had the kids, all five of hers and mine, living together under the same roof. That did not last long, one year, before I allowed my girls to go live with their mother. It was probably one of the worst years of my life when looking back on it. It was impossible to enforce discipline on the boys even though their behavior was worse and more rebellious. There was this perception that I would not punish the girls but would punish the boys. My second wife fanned these flames with the boys and would confront me with it. The girls were simply better behaved than the boys and they did not intentionally challenge my authority. The boys were jealous of the girls and would blame things on them when they got the chance. Because of the geopolitics of nations that was going on my household, me trying to keep my second wife happy and keep the bedroom approval that I desired and coveted, the jealousies that are ever-present in a blended family, rebellious boys who never were disciplined before I met them, my girls who didn’t want to be living with us, the blame game between the boys toward my girls was an easy, effective way to ensure that nothing that the boys did got punished.

 

When I look back at that “year from hell” now, I cringe to the point of nausea at my lack of being the leader of my home. I ceded my authority in pursuit of my idol, which in the nicest term possible was bedroom approval. How I did not have the kahunas to stand up for what was right and true (because I feared loss of bedroom approval) was the cause of an unruly household. I truly felt sorry for my girls having to live in a house where at any moment they could get blamed for something and the boys would get away with whatever they did without punishment. I should have been more of man. My solution was to let the girls go live with their mom to get them out of the pea soup of accusations and jealousies that existed at my house. I should have. I would have. I could have. These are things that we say when looking back our past as the re-runs of memories pass by in your head. The sad part is that the opportunity of those situations has passed and the actions taken back then are etched in stone now and cannot be changed. Oh, though, to think of how I have matured as a Christian man since then. Knowing what I know now about being the spiritual leader of my house. What I know now about where my value comes from! How I wonder at how I would have responded to these punishment situations where false accusations were being made. May I be able to discern false testimony going forward!

 

Those painful memories of the past where I failed to act against false accusations was the thing that I thought about this morning as we return this passage, Deuteronomy 19:14-21, a second time. Let us refresh our memories and read through it together once more now:

 

14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

 

15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

 

16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

 

Here, we see that a false witness was to receive the same punishment that the accused person would have suffered. When I looked back at trying to raise a blended family, I did a disservice to everyone involved for not ferreting out false accusations and getting to the truth of matters. I was too concerned with my own bedroom approval needs than I was about justice and doing the right thing.

 

Have you ever blamed someone else for something that you did? It’s not just children that do it. We do it as adults and we often get away with it. We either directly blame someone else for what we did or we sit silently and let someone take the fall that we should be taking. We also blame others for our own troubles as if we did not have a hand in the lot that we have in life.

 

We can get away with things such as these here on earth. We can blame others for actions we have taken that were wrong or that hurt others. We can blame others for our mistakes. We can blame others for how we have become who we are. We can spend our whole lives doing that and doing it successfully. But at the end of it all, we will face the Righteous Judge. The Righteous Judge, God on His throne, is the one guy that we can’t BS with. We cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the Creator of All Things. He is full of wisdom and truth. He knows all knowledge. He sees all things. He knows the hearts of men, and women. He knows the truth that we have covered with lies. He knows our sins that we have kept hidden all these years. He knows the truth about who and what we are. He knows your deepest, darkest secrets.

 

Who will you blame then? Who will I blame then? These arguments that we successfully used on earth to cover up our sins will not be valid arguments here. He already knows it all. All the stuff we did. All of it! Alllllll of it! He knows about all the big ugly things we have done down all the way to that box of paper clips that we stole from our office. He knows it all. We cannot BS our way around our sins. They will be on full display before the Righteous Judge. We will not be able to “shuck and jive” Him. We will not be able to explain anything away! We will be condemned before Him. None of us is righteous. Not even one! None of us is pure before the One Who Knows Our Heart.

 

There is only one course of action that we have when our case is heard before God’s throne (and it will be, let me assure you) is to have fallen on our faces before God and asked him to forgive us of our sins (and knowing that God in His purity does not have to do that) and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and is our Savior. When our case is heard, He is our city of refuge. He covers up all of our ugliness, darkness and sin in His purity. Jesus says to the Father, this one is mine. I have taken the punishment for this one already. He is my follower. Jesus says to the Father, this one is most assuredly guilty before you for the past that he has but He has proclaimed Me as His Savior and His Lord and He has been living for me under the direction of the Holy Spirit for some time now. He still sins, yes, but his own sins revolt him and make Him nauseous about himself and that drives him to his knees daily calling out to me to indwell him and make him more holy day by day. Father, Jesus says, this one is mine. Let him pass into heaven.

 

Where do you stand this morning? Are you still covering up your lies? Are you still blaming others? Are you afraid of what will happen when you die and meet whatever comes next? Even non-believers think that there is some karmic justice after death. We are wired by God, believer or not, to believe that there is justice in the afterlife. As a believer, we know that the Righteous Judge is the one-true God who created the universe by speaking it into existence. Ignoring the existence of God does not make Him not exist. Come to Him now and fall before Him. He knows your stuff. All of it. He knows all the stuff that you keep hidden. Fall before Him. Beg for His forgiveness. Ask Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life. So that at this life’s journey is at its end and we face the Righteous Judge, Jesus can say, this one…this one is mine.

 

Amen and Amen.