Posts Tagged ‘God’

Judges 5:1-31 (Part 1 of 3)
The Song of Deborah

Why is it that songs are so important to us as the people of God? Here, in this passage, we see a scene almost out of High School Musical or Grease or something like that where Israel breaks out into song after a battle victory. I always find musicals somewhat silly in that people just all of a sudden break out into song as if it is like the most normal thing in the world to do. Deborah, in Glee fashion, breaks out into song here in celebration of a mighty victory that ends 20 years of oppression of certain of the tribes of Israel.

It got me to thinking about the purpose of songs in musicals and in the Judeo/Christian tradition. In musicals, besides giving songwriters an avenue to get paid, songs break out to emphasize a point in the pathos of the story of the musical. A key issue in the life of one of the characters is brought to the forefront of the audience’s mind through song. It is the same with song in our faith. Songs were sung in the Old Testament to emphasize and memorialize what God had done for Israel. It was a way to preserve the oral traditions concerning the historical highlights of Israel’s history. It is the same today.

We have many great songs today that remind us of the greatness of our God and why we should believe in and trust Him. I have been a big Jesus Culture fan for much of this decade but here lately I have tended toward Elevation Worship. The album they released awhile back, “There Is a Cloud”, is my favorite album right now. The songs on the album are all great and I can listen to the whole album at least twice back to back as Elena and I take long trips in the car. The album title and the basic tenor of all the songs is based on the story of Elijah and his prayers for rain after it had been dry in Israel for three years and then he sees a cloud forming in the distance. That cloud is the hope of God. The idea of the songs is with God we can conquer any circumstances and as well that there are dry seasons in life and we must trust in the Lord to deliver us.

One of my favorite songs from that album is the song entitled, “Overcome”. The lyrics go something like this:

Now the darkness fades
Into new beginnings
As we lift our eyes to a hope beyond

All creation waits
With an expectation
To declare the reign of the Lord our God

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome

Now the silence breaks
In the name of Jesus
As the heavens cry let the earth respond

All creation shouts
With a voice of triumph
To declare the reign of the Lord our God

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome

He shall reign forever
Strongholds now surrender
For the Lord our God has overcome

Who can be against us?
Jesus our Defender
He is Lord and He has overcome

He shall reign forever
Strongholds now surrender
For the Lord our God has overcome

Who can be against us?
Jesus our Defender
He is Lord and He has overcome!

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome

We will not be moved
When the earth gives way
For the risen One has overcome

And for every fear
There’s an empty grave
For the risen One has overcome…

Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the greatness of our God. We get so wrapped up in our own problems. We get so wrapped up in our tunnel vision. We get so wrapped up in trying to control our own lives, even as Christ followers. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of what we believe about God and who He is and who we are in Him through Jesus Christ. This is the God that raised Jesus from the dead. In that fact, we have hope eternal. There is nothing so great that we face that when we trust it to the Lord that we cannot overcome it. What’s the worst that could happen to us? We die and go to heaven. We can overcome through Christ, the victor over sin and death. God’s resolution of our situations may not always look like the way WE want them to but God is greater than we are. His plans are greater than ours. When we trust in the Lord who overcame the grave, we are trusting that His outcome is the one that will benefit us the most. Songs like this remind us that even in our darkest moments, God is working to give us His victory over that which oppresses us.

I could go on and on with songs of hope that have been written in the Christian tradition since the dawn of our faith. The great theological centerpieces of worship that the songs of what we call traditional church music now written back in the 1700’s and 1800’s. These are songs of great hope and wonder at who God is and expound upon why we believe what we believe. The great Negro spirituals of the 1800’s are amazing in their depth and richness of faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable persecution. The camp meeting songs of the 1930’s-1950’s. The campfire songs of the church youth movement of the 1960s. All have evolved now into the music we call modern contemporary Christian music. All of it is the rich tradition of song as the uplifter of the Christian soul. I love modern Christian music and how it reaches people in the music style of our day. All Christian music is adapted to age in which it is written. What we consider traditional church music now was considered radical back in its day. Some of the greatest hymns from the 18th and 19th century were amazing theological treatises set to the music of the day just so as to capture people’s attention with familiar kinds of music so that they would sit and listen to the words and be moved by them. One of the tragedies of modern worship though is that we don’t use these great hymns in their entirety. We may “modern them out” by borrowing lyrics from these as bridges in otherwise modern lyrics of currently written contemporary songs. But we as the modern church do not use these great hymns in whole. It’s just not who we are and would not fit in too well with the style of worship that we have in modern church.

However, that does not stop me from appreciating some of the great hymns of the past. My favorite old, traditional hymn is “How Great Thou Art!” I have already told my wife that although my funeral should have a thoroughly modern worship flare to it, I do want this one traditional hymn sung in its entirety and not modified. You can play it with drums and guitars but the tune and the lyrics are to be left as written. These lyrics are beautiful and I have the version by Carrie Underwood on my playlist. Just love the power of this song and its lyrics:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think of God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
[Album version:] Then I shall bow with humble adoration,
[Live version:] Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And then proclaim, “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Aren’t those lyrics just totally powerful. I am drawn to these words. When sung with power and belief in the words, it is an amazingly moving song. This is why we sing. To move the soul. To honor God for the amazing God that He is. That though He is pure and wondrous and great, He still loves us lowly sinning human beings enough to save us from ourselves through Jesus Christ and through His intervening guidance in our lives. My God, how great you are! We must sing your praises in the temple courts for you are great and you have saved your people. We owe You so much!

Song inspires us to remember what God has done for His people. That’s what Deborah is doing here. Reminding us that it is God who is great not us. It would come across more lyrical I am sure in the original Hebrew, but the feeling is still there. Let’s read her lyrics now as presented in English in Judges 5:1-31:

5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

2
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

3
“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I, even I, will sing to[a] the Lord;
I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.

4
“When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
5
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.

6
“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
7
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
8
God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
9
My heart is with Israel’s princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the Lord!

10
“You who ride on white donkeys,
sitting on your saddle blankets,
and you who walk along the road,
consider 11 the voice of the singers[b] at the watering places.
They recite the victories of the Lord,
the victories of his villagers in Israel.

“Then the people of the Lord
went down to the city gates.
12
‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, break out in song!
Arise, Barak!
Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam.’

13
“The remnant of the nobles came down;
the people of the Lord came down to me against the mighty.
14
Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek;
Benjamin was with the people who followed you.
From Makir captains came down,
from Zebulun those who bear a commander’s[c] staff.
15
The princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
yes, Issachar was with Barak,
sent under his command into the valley.
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
16
Why did you stay among the sheep pens[d]
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
17
Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan.
And Dan, why did he linger by the ships?
Asher remained on the coast
and stayed in his coves.
18
The people of Zebulun risked their very lives;
so did Naphtali on the terraced fields.

19
“Kings came, they fought,
the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
they took no plunder of silver.
20
From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21
The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.
March on, my soul; be strong!
22
Then thundered the horses’ hooves—
galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
23
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord.
‘Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the Lord,
to help the Lord against the mighty.’

24
“Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25
He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27
At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell—dead.

28
“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
29
The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
30
‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a woman or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?’

31
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
But may all who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.”

Then the land had peace forty years.

Music and singing were an integral part of the Israelite culture. It helped preserve the history of Israel so as to pass it along to the next generation but the main point of it all was to give glory to God. This is a victory song of God’s deliverance.

May we all just break out into song when we think of what God has done for us. He has delivered us from many dangers, toils, and snares. He has given us eternal security through our acceptance of the grace of Jesus Christ. We can overcome all things in Christ. We can do all things in Christ who strengthens our every step in times of trouble. Up from the grave He arose with the mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose! He arose! What can hurt us if God is with us! For whatever you are going through He is Lord and He will overcome. I end with part of the song, Do It Again, by Elevation Worship:

I know the night won’t last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus You’re still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 11:16-12:24

Summary of Conquests

 

Last night, I watched a movie that I had last seen in the movie theatre. Now, last night it was on TBS. It was the movie, Interstellar, starring Matthew McConoughey and Anne Hathaway. It is one of those movies that messes with your head. It is well-written but it deals with some heady scientific concepts. The theory of relativity plays a front and center role in the movie. That is a pretty high-brow concept to be the star concept of a movie. The movie does not dumb down the science and the theory and it challenges you to consider the concepts of their being different dimensions of life that we are not aware of outside of time, spatial relationships, and motion.

 

The story centers on Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper, a former NASA pilot turned farmer, who discovers mysterious coordinates to a top-secret government project. He is recruited by his old colleague Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to lead a journey into the nether regions of space to, essentially, find a new home for humanity. While it’s somewhat glossed over in the film, the reason for this mission is because the Earth’s resources are dwindling rapidly, with the “blight” rendering the planet incapable of yielding any crops except for corn, although that will be over soon as well.

 

At any rate, despite the protests of his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), Cooper joins this all-important mission aboard the Endurance spacecraft alongside Brand’s daughter and biologist Amelia (Anne Hathaway), physicist Romily (David Gyasi), geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and two androids known as TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart). Their mission is to enter a wormhole and explore the three planets orbiting the black hole Gargantua, which are named Miller, Mann and Edmunds, after the astronauts who explored them in the previous Lazarus missions. In Interstellar, Cooper wrestles with the decision to join the Endurance, since he knows he will be separated from his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) for an unknown amount of time. He doesn’t know then that years upon years will pass, with Murph (Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Casey Affleck) growing up never knowing if and/or when their father will come back. It’s Murph’s undying faith that Coop will return that provides a heart-wrenching payoff.

 

What a quandry this film proposes, saving humanity (where through the vagaries of the relativity you only age a few years) at the expense of spending time with your family over a period of sixty or so years on earth. Which would you do? Do something that no one on earth will possibly remember that will save their lives or stay on earth, not take the risk and suffer and die with your family as the planet wastes away. Would you rather take the risk of failing in an effort to save humanity for which you may never get credit for and risk alienating and destroying family relationships to save something greater, humanity?

 

Sometimes, we have choices like that to make. We can take the easy way out or we can do the hard work whose fruit might not been seen in this lifetime or, at least, not for many years. We may choose comfort over doing hard work that may take many years to realize. We see this in this passage. Remember, back in the first approach to the Promised Land, the Israelites did not want to do the hard work of conquering the Promised Land. Wandering in the wilderness for 40 years was preferable to having to fight and claw and scratch out the conquest of the Promised Land. Remember, God promised them the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, but they did not want to do the work that was necessary to obtain it. Here in this passage, we see just how hard that work was. Let’s read it together now:

 

 

 

16 So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. 18 Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. 19 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. 20 For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

 

21 At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns. 22 No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.

 

23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.

List of Defeated Kings

 

12 These are the kings of the land whom the Israelites had defeated and whose territory they took over east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, including all the eastern side of the Arabah:

 

2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.

 

He ruled from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge—from the middle of the gorge—to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. This included half of Gilead. 3 He also ruled over the eastern Arabah from the Sea of Galilee[a] to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), to Beth Jeshimoth, and then southward below the slopes of Pisgah.

 

4 And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei.

 

5 He ruled over Mount Hermon, Salekah, all of Bashan to the border of the people of Geshur and Maakah, and half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

 

6 Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites conquered them. And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be their possession.

 

7 Here is a list of the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir. Joshua gave their lands as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions. 8 The lands included the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the wilderness and the Negev. These were the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. These were the kings:

9 the king of Jericho       one

the king of Ai (near Bethel)         one

10 the king of Jerusalem              one

the king of Hebron          one

11 the king of Jarmuth  one

the king of Lachish          one

12 the king of Eglon       one

the king of Gezer             one

13 the king of Debir        one

the king of Geder             one

14 the king of Hormah  one

the king of Arad               one

15 the king of Libnah     one

the king of Adullam       one

16 the king of Makkedah             one

the king of Bethel            one

17 the king of Tappuah one

the king of Hepher          one

18 the king of Aphek      one

the king of Lasharon      one

19 the king of Madon    one

the king of Hazor             one

20 the king of Shimron Meron   one

the king of Akshaph       one

21 the king of Taanach one

the king of Megiddo      one

22 the king of Kedesh    one

the king of Jokneam in Carmel  one

23 the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor)        one

the king of Goyim in Gilgal         one

24 the king of Tirzah      one

thirty-one kings in all.

 

In this passage, we see that much of the conquest of the land of Canaan seems to have happened quickly (we can read about it in just a few pages), but it actually took seven (7) years. We often expect quick changes in our lives and quick victories over sin, over circumstances that oppress us, over obstacles to our successful enjoyment of life. However, our journey with God is a lifelong process and any changes in our lives or victories over that which we want to conquer may take time. It is easy to grow impatient with God and feel like giving up hope because things are moving too slowly, according to our standards. When we are too close to a situation, it is difficult to see progress. But when we get a chance to reflect, we can see that God never stopped working. In this passage, we see that this information is a summary of the first half of the book of Joshua. It lists kings and nations conquered by Joshua both east and west of the Jordan River. The accumulation of evidence here suggests that, even though it takes time sometimes, obedience to the Lord will result in victory and not just some quick fix.

 

That’s the thing that we must grapple with in our relationship with the Lord. If we are to grow in our relationship with Him sometimes we have to put in the work that we may not see immediate results from it. We want quick answers to our prayers. We want a “if I do this Lord, you will do that immediately” relationship with the Lord. Just think of how long Moses had to work in Midian before God called him to lead His people. Just think of Moses leading Israel in the desert for 40 years and not getting to even go into the Promised Land. He never got to see the fruition of the conquest, but without Moses’ efforts Israel would have never made it back to the Promised Land. Just think of Joseph toiling away in prison, falsely convicted of a crime he did not commit, mind you, for 12 years. Twelve years in prison for a crime he did not commit, but he continued being faithful to God (even when there was not immediate results). Jesus lived for 30 years in the flesh before He began His ministry. Was it wasted time? No. It was necessary for Jesus, the God in the flesh component of the Trinity, to know the feel, the touch, the everything of our merely mortal existence. He knows what it is like to cry over loved ones who have passed. He knows the joy of life’s great events in our lives. He knows pain of hitting his thumb with a hammer. He knows the pain of being beaten within an inch of His mortal existence. He knows it all from the human point of view. It took thirty years. Also, think of Jesus from His humanity’s perspective knowing that His death on the cross would give us a way to be reconciled forever with God but He had to endure real human suffering and a gruesome death for that to happen. He even asked the Father to take that cup from Him. What a choice that would be do something that will matter for eternity but you gotta put in the work on the cross that nobody will notice until they understand that you were not just human but you were the fully divine presence of God. Millions of people will ignore what you did. Millions more won’t even recognize that you even existed. But in order for everyone to have access to the Father through your payment on the cross, you must do this.

 

Sometimes, we must do the hard things to grow in Christ. We must do more than just what’s easy. We may suffer hardships as a result of our faith but the rewards go far beyond the here and now. Is God asking you to do something hard that will take a long time to see any benefits of. Sometimes being a Christ follower involves obedience without any tangible earthly results. But we must do them any way because God has directed us to do it. We may have a cushy life and a comfortable life now but God may be calling us to do something that is really hard? Are you willing to trade the here and now benefits of this life but miss out on God’s eternal blessings? What is God calling you to do that is hard and you are shying away from it? What if you miss the real eternal blessing that God has in store because what lies ahead seems to hard? The safety of here and now pales in comparison to the blessings that come from obedience.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Dealing with a Rebellious Son

Have you ever thought in your mind, “Man, I just wanna kill that kid!” Many of us, even as believers, have become exasperated with our children that we have used this term as a hyperbolic statement, though we do not mean it literally. This passage is another one of those harsh Old Testament passages that we, as maturing Christians in the 21st century would just as soon ignore as to have to explain it to less mature Christ followers or, at worst, to non-believers. To stone a rebellious child seems excessively harsh. It is in complete contrast to what we often see today in parenting.

 

Often times today, we see parenting in public or when visiting friends with young children where you see the parents trying to be “enlightened” in their parenting. They want to negotiate their children into good behavior. They treat their child as if to anger the child could be the worst possible thing. They tolerate temper tantrums as they try to reason with their child. You often see children of such parents become just little brutes that are incorrigible. Children of such parents can sense their parents’ disciplinary weakness early on and take advantage of it. Children who do not respect their parents often grow up to be insolent and disrespectful adults. And, watching this enlightened parenting just misses the whole fact that children actually do desire their parents to give them guidance and boundaries. Children are wired to want their parents to be parents to them. It has been statistically proven that children who grow up in homes where they were not disciplined are more likely to become criminals. Children need their parents to be authoritarian and set rules and boundaries that are intended to make them become responsible adults and that there are real consequences for bad behavior. When you see parents try to reason with their 4 year old while he or she is having a meltdown, you just wanna go over to them and just say, “you iiiiidiot!” (reference to Ren & Stempy Show). There are times that we need to discipline our children to teach them that there are consequences for bad behavior. We must teach them to respect us as the final authority in the home.

 

My dad, the man who I could write about his oft-repeated sayings, had a saying about this, “as long as you push your feet up under my table, you will do what I say!” He meant that as long as I am living in his home, I will obey his directions. There was no negotiation. He was dad and I was son. I knew where the limits were. I knew who was in authority. I did not always like and he would make me so angry sometimes with all his rules and consequences. But one thing is for sure when I was growing up in my dad’s house was that I respected him. I knew he was the boss and I was the subordinate. It is ironic that I write about this today. It is my dad’s 78th birthday today. After living these 54 ½ years of my own, I do appreciate that my dad had expectations of my behavior. I do appreciate that he had boundaries for me growing up. I do appreciate that he was consistent in his application of those rules. He was always very clear where the boundaries of behavior were and was consistent about consequences being applied when those boundaries were crossed. I am thankful that my dad was just as much a disciplinarian as he was the dad that would play football with us, wrestle with us, and do fun stuff with us. I have told my dad on several occasions that I had no complaints about how he raised me. He made me into a man who could function and survive and thrive in the world. That’s all a dad wants for his kids – for them to be able function, survive, and even thrive in a rough world out there that is “not all about them!” The world is a no-excuses, suck-it-up-buttercup kind of place and a dad wants his kids to make in that world.

 

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

 

In this passage, disobedient and rebellious children were to be brought before the elders of the city and stoned to death. There is no biblical evidence that this punishment was ever carried out. However, the point of the passage seems to be that disobedience and rebelliousness against one’s parent in the parental home was not to be tolerated or allowed to go unchecked. This passage was not a license to publicly or privately abuse children.

 

Note that it requires the agreement of both the mother and father. Both the father and mother must take hold of the child and bring him to the public place of justice. Have you ever met a mother than would be willing to have her child publicly stoned even in the worst of circumstances? Fathers may have a lower threshold for the disobedience of children but mothers, by nature of how they are wired and by the fact that giving birth to another human being and nursing them, are the unconditional lovers of their children. Therefore, to have a mother who is willing to take hold of her son along with her husband, there must have been some longstanding, longsuffering point that has been reached in the parents’ relationship with this child. And, too, even though dads are often tougher on kids that their moms, would a dad really want to see his son stoned? It must have had to be a really, long series of problems with a son that parents would have come close to even considering this remedy and it took them both being in complete agreement on it.

 

I think back to raising my girls over the years. Often the threat of “the black spirit of power”, what I called my belt (a term I borrowed from the master of sayings, my dad), was as much a deterrent for bad behavior as the actual use of it. I had to whip both my girls on a handful of occasions only. The threat of punishment though was used many, many times. I think this passage acts in that vein. Parent, instead of saying, “you better chill out! You don’t want a whipping, do you?” Back then, they could have said, “You better chill out! I could take you to the city gates and have you stoned, you know!” So, before we start talking about how harsh God is in the Old Testament, let us remember that there is no biblical evidence that this requirement was none other than for deterrent’s sake.

 

God wanted the household to be a model of our relationship with Him. Parents should be the ultimate authority in the home just as God is the ultimate authority in our lives. Rebellion against parents should have consequences, just as our rebellion against God has its consequences. We are destined for hell because we are rebellious children of God. It is only when we accept God’s authority in our lives through accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord that our rebellion is wiped away. In the absence of accepting God’s authority in our lives through Jesus, we are destined to pay the price for our sins – an eternity cast out into the fiery pit of hell. We are cast outside the city gates of heaven. We are willful children having a meltdown when we do not obey God’s commands and submit ourselves to His authority. Let us, as parents remember the consequences of our rebellion against God and how long it took so many of us to come to our senses. Let us then raise our children to respect us so that they will respect God. Let us raise our children to understand that there are consequences to bad behavior so that they will be more readily able to understand the consequences of sin and about submitting to the authority of God in their lives.

 

Amen and Amen.

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.

Numbers 19:1-22 (Part 1 of 3)

The Water of Purification

As Christ followers, we sometimes read the Old Testament and wonder why it is filled with these stories of unclean and clean things. We wonder how that applies to us. How can killing a red heifer without physical defect apply to our daily lives in any way? Atheists, those who loathe God’s Word for whatever their reasons may be, point to things like this as an indication that the Bible is at best good literature but nothing to live your life by. I will have to admit, at first reading, of this passage for this morning, Numbers 19:1-22, that I said to myself, “What am I going to write about this morning?” Then, it hit me.

 

As J. Ligon Duncan, III (who happens to have been a classmate of my at Furman University back in the early 80’s), writes in his sermon on Numbers 19, and which can be found at http://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/with-god-in-the-wilderness-26-the-red-heifer, he says,

 

“…as the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness, death was everywhere. It was everywhere. Death was a standing issue, and so it is a picture of God’s loving, caring concern for His people that He talks with them about how they ought to respond to death. This is especially important in light of the fact that the cultures around them had all manner of wrong responses to death. The cultures around Israel were often involved in the cult of the dead, in the worship of the dead; they would offer food sacrifices to the dead. They would come to the graves of the dead with food and put it there; they would attempt to commune with the dead through occult practices, and God wanted nothing of that in Israel. And so He spends an entire chapter informing the children of Israel of how they need to respond to death. This makes sense because of the context of death in the wilderness. Death was everywhere.”

 

When we visit this passage twice more in the next two blogs, we will take about the similarities of the water of purification to baptism and the similarities of the red heifer to Christ Himself, but for today. Let’s talk about how God was molding His people through some of these regulations that see archane and, at best, odd to us in the 21st century. This regulation that we have here is about death and dead bodies. In the centuries before Christ, human culture was quite different. Death was everywhere. Sickness caused by handling dead bodies was issue. They did not have the technology for preserving bodies for extended periods of time between death and burial. So there were severe health concerns by allowing persons to come in contact with decomposing bodies. In the wilderness of the desert of the Sinai, what to do with dead bodies was a big concern.

 

Other cultures glorified death in bizzare ways as Ligon Duncan indicates in the quote of his that I used. They worshiped the dead. They had bizarre rituals when it came to responding to the dead. What we consider the prohibition against tattoos in Deutoronomy has to do with how other cultures handled death. Some cultures would cut themselves, not symbolically but actual, literal cutting of their skin, and paint their bodies as they mourned the death of person they either loved or knew. God did not want His people to participate is this type of worship of death. God wanted His people to have none of that. Ancient Middle Eastern cultures were, as many cultures around the world, obsessed with death – the curiosity of it, the worship of it, developing ancestral myths over it. No wonder! Death was everywhere. The population of our planet did not start growing exponentially until 400-500 years ago with the advent of modern understandings of medicine and health. Before, then, the world’s population was less than 1 billon people right up until the 1700’s when things started exploding. Earth’s population now is estimated at close to 7.4 Billion in 2016 and is projected to be 11.2 Billion in just 150 more years. The world’s population has will have grown eleven-fold between 1700 and 2150. Mind boggling, even with the advances in birth control that we have now that the earth will have 51% more people than now in just 150 years. However, in the cultures of the ancient Middle East the world had to deal with death on a widespread scale on a daily basis. Death and dead bodies were everywhere. So death was easily something that cultures could become obsessed with and how it could develop into a religious thing.

 

God wanted His people to be a different people. He wanted them to be a nation of priest. He wanted them to be living testaments to the one true and living God. He wanted them to be separate and act differently than the cultures around them. He wanted them to be different. He wanted to be His representatives to the world because it would be through this unique culture of the Israelites that would come the Messiah to the nations. He wanted people of the world to drawn unto God through His people so that they would know the One True God and would be the kingdom of priests who would herald the one true King in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s read through this passage while thinking of how God wanted His people to be uncommon in a world that did not know how to handle dead bodies properly and in a world where the cult of death had become a religion:

 

19 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke. 3 Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. 4 Then Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. 5 While he watches, the heifer is to be burned—its hide, flesh, blood and intestines. 6 The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. 7 After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening. 8 The man who burns it must also wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he too will be unclean till evening.

 

9 “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin. 10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening. This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the foreigners residing among them.

 

11 “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. 12 They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean. 13 If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them.

 

14 “This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days, 15 and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean.

 

16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

 

17 “For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. 18 Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or a grave or anyone who has been killed or anyone who has died a natural death. 19 The man who is clean is to sprinkle those who are unclean on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify them. Those who are being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and that evening they will be clean. 20 But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean. 21 This is a lasting ordinance for them.

 

“The man who sprinkles the water of cleansing must also wash his clothes, and anyone who touches the water of cleansing will be unclean till evening. 22 Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.”

 

 

What’s my takeaway this morning? Sure, all this seems like weird to us in our 21st century sensibilities but so do third world country practices today to us. Let us not dismiss the deeper messages of this passage getting lost in the surface details. The first thing that I notice here today is that God wanted His chosen people to be different from the world around them. He did not want them to assimilate their practices. He did not want them to start chipping away at His prescriptions for their holiness by assimilating the cultural practices of the world around them.

 

How relevant is that thought? We as Christians are being threatened on every side today to assimilate the culture’s practices around us. We are being pressured to accept that which is clearly against God’s Word. We are called old-fashioned, ignorant, and intolerant if we do not dive headfirst into accepting that which the culture has accepted as normal and OK. We are to be a kingdom of priests so that the world will be drawn unto Jesus Christ through loving and compassionate interaction with the world around us. However, if you cannot tell any difference between us and the world, what are they going to be drawn to. We can love the world but not participate in its ways. We can love the world by interacting with them and develop relationships with them but not accepting those behaviors of the world as our own. We can love the world by getting to know them right where they are at and leading them to knowledge of Jesus without buying into cultural norms that are clearly against God’s Word. We must love them and not hate them because we should not wish eternal separation from God in eternal damnation on even our worst enemy. Let us be that different. Let us be the difference. Let us be that kingdom of priests who points the way to the cross to a world that desperately needs it.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 13:25-33 (Part 2 of 2)

The Scouting Report

Have you noticed lately that the herd mentality has taken over America? It no longer matters if you are right or wrong about something as long as you are in sync with the feelings of those with the loudest voices. Just think about the riots that have taken place in the past couple of years. Cities have burned because the proper reaction to a police shooting is to loot and pillage the business district of your city. Then, national pundits justify destruction of property of people who had nothing to do with the shooting as OK because of said shooting. And, think about this whole transgender bathroom thing in North Carolina. It all started with a city council in Charlotte, the largest city in the state, deciding that because of the needs of 1% of the population that we should all abide by their gender identity needs. Then, the rest of the state through the state legislature reacted to that extremely liberal position by passing a state law that would supersede the local, municipal law. Then, the firestorm began. Because one person or group thought it fashionable to say they were not coming to the Tar Heel State because of the state law, everybody joins in from Bruce Springsteen to Bryan Adams to conventions and so on. Often, these people had no clue about the background or reasons for the state law but simply wanted to garner public opinion.

 

Another example, even though I am a Republican, is the disaster that has become our party’s nomination this election year. Even though it is abundantly clear that Donald Trump, particularly as he has aged into his 70’s, is such an egomaniac that is too dangerous of a hothead and is in the game just for the popularity prize to be President, the herd mentality took over there as well. America is in love with celebrity and that is the only reason that Trump is where he is today. It is not because he is the best candidate from our party (that distinction belonged to Marco Rubio), but rather the herd saw the celebrity and jumped on Trump’s bandwagon because it was the cool thing to do. It did not matter that Trump had no policies and it did not matter that his debates were like the watching a child in an argument, “I know you are…but what am I” filled with name calling, half-truths, and outright lies and reversals of positions previously taken (even within the debate itself). Clinton will win the presidential race and it’s nobody’s fault but our own as party.

 

Now, we have the newest example of the herd mentality with Colin Kaepernick, the former starting quarterback, now the 2nd string quarterback, of the San Francisco 49ers professional football team. He decides, because of his recent conversion to Islam not to long after getting into a serious relationship with his new girlfriend, a Muslim, that all of sudden America is an oppressive place and will not stand for the national anthem. Although he lives in an exclusive home in an exclusive neighborhood and currently is the midst of five year, $19 Million contract that he is oppressed and will not stand for our country’s national anthem at recent football games. Although he, prior to this year, had no issue with that. Although he takes his paychecks to the bank and cashes every one of them that results from a society that felt he was special enough to deserve $19 Million over five years, he is oppressed. What happens, the herd mentality takes over. Now, there are multiple equally oppressed millionaire football players who are now not standing for the national anthem. And, you can see where this is headed. Eventually, we will not have the national anthem played at professional football games because it might offend the football players. They are an oppressed lot, you know, where as a benchwarmer with no hopes of making the field you still make a minimum salary is $450,000 per year. I would sit on the bench and be the biggest non-playing football uniformed wearing cheerleader you ever saw for that minimum wage. This is a non-issue that will be made into an issue because no one will stand up to the herd mentality and risk being ridiculed for not being liberal and free thinking.

 

Our nation has become like high school. Remember, high school! Where reputations can be ruined in a day. Where a lie becomes truth because that is what the crowd believes. Remember, girls with good reputations one day are considered whores the next because the rumor mill is taken as fact. Remember, guys being labeled as homosexual and that being held as true in the court of public opinion whether it is true or not. That is the nation that we have become. Truth no longer matters but rather the popularity of the things that we want to believe to be true whether it is true or not.

 

The herd mentality and Caleb standing up and shouting against the wind is what I thought of this morning as I read Numbers 13:25-33, for the second and final time this morning. Let’s read it together now:

 

25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. 26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

 

30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

 

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

 

Imagine Caleb standing before the crowd, knowing that he is right, voicing what was now becoming an unpopular opinion. Caleb was willing to take the unpopular stand so as to be in compliance with what God had commanded him to do. To be effective when you go against the crowd, you must have the facts (Caleb had seen the land himself), have the right attitude (Caleb trusted God’s promise to give Israel the land), and state clearly what you believe (Caleb said, “We can CERTAINLY conquer it!”).

 

Where are you men of courage? Where are you, the Calebs of the world? Why do we live in fear of the herd? Let us stand on God’s Word and God’s promises rather than bend to the herd mentality of the moment. Let us not compromise ourselves to meet the needs of the crowd for the moment before they move on to the next thing oh so important cause de jour. Let us be willing to be unpopular. Let us stand up in the high school lunchroom of public opinion and tell the truth even when it is unpopular. I am not saying that we take the bomb the clinic mentality which is just as wrong as the herd mentality of intolerant tolerance that is so prevalent today but we must have the courage to stand up and say the herd is wrong when we know they are wrong. We must have voice and not silence. We must be willing to rely on God’s power to protect when we voice an opinion backed by the truth of God as stated in His Word and rely on His protection.

 

Let us be a people that stands against the herd because we believe in the eternal truth of God rather than compromising to the crowd and being quiet when we know we should speak. Thank you Caleb for showing us your wisdom and your courage and your faith and your willingness to please God over pleasing public opinion.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 9:1-14 (Part 1)

The Second Passover

As we move on from our nine part review of Numbers 8:5-26, we move into the one of the final preparations before the Israelites leave Mt. Sinai and head for the Promised Land. God asked them to remember the night before they left Egypt and hold a second Passover feast. It reminds me of what we do when we share our testimony.

 

Every so often in the small group that my wife and I lead, particularly when a new couple comes into our group, I ask the whole group to publicly share their personal journey to salvation and what their lives have been like since coming to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is a way for us to make connections with each other. Sometimes when new people enter a church small group, they may think that nobody in the group has a past of which they are not particularly proud, or that they do not have problems in their lives right now. Sharing our stories is a way to level the playing field between those of us who have been in our small group for a couple of years and those who have just entered.

 

The sharing of our stories helps us in two ways. First, it allows the new members of our group to get to know the people in our life group. They get to see that we all have warts and imperfections. It is a way to make them feel at home. There is nothing worse than a group of church people being together acting as if they have perfect lives and that nothing is wrong. The new folks get to see we are just as screwed up as they are. There’s no better icebreaker than that! To find out that people you are going to potentially hangout with for the next few years are just like you – Christ followers who are just trying to make sense of their world and follow Christ as we are doing it. Second, it allows us, those who have had to share our stories within our group several times, to continue to mature our stories. Each time we share our stories, it allows us to see again what God has done in our lives. Each time, God allows us to remember more details about our story of our run-up to the cross and our life since. Each time we share, we flesh out more details that are important to our story. Each time we share, we may bring out or emphasize different things than the last time so that our story becomes more complete. Each time we share, we learn more about our own walk with Jesus Christ and how it truly has changed us from the person we used to be. Each time we share, the Holy Spirit will inevitably make us realize something new about what God has done for us. Each time we share our story, the picture becomes more complete. Each time we share our story, it makes it easier for us to recount our story. Each time we share our story, it helps us remember and solidify the history of what God has done. We can never let ourselves forget what our life was like before the cross, what was happening in our life right around our moment of salvation, and what our life has been like since our salvation. It is important to know and remember our salvation history. It is important to remember what God has done.

 

Passover was the celebration at which God had prescribed for the Jews to celebrate their liberation from slavery in Egypt at the hand of God. There is no other way for them to have escaped Egypt except by the power of God Himself. Passover is the way they remembered these momentous events. God is saying here in Numbers 9:1-14 that they must remember. They must recount and celebrate and imitate the night before their freedom from Egypt. The second Passover was the beginning of this annual remembrance so that Israel would never forget what God had done for them.

 

Let’s read through the passage, Numbers 9:1-14, for the first time this morning and for this morning, let’s concentrate on vv. 1-5:

 

 

9 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

 

4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

 

8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

 

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

 

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

 

The Passover celebration was to celebrate what God had done. It was to help God’s people to give God glory. It was to remind them (because we humans have short memories when it comes to what God has done for us) that it was not by their own power but the miracles of God that they escaped Egypt. It was to remind them of where they had been and where they were going. It was to keep the story of God’s deliverance fresh in their mind. It is remembrance. It is history. It is glory to God. Sometimes, we need to sit back and remember what God has done.

 

In the busy-ness of our lives where we get all wrapped up in ourselves and our little universes and our little first world problems, we need reminding. When the internet is down or the power goes off for a couple of hours, we need reminding. When we have to juggle work schedules and our kids’ dance recitals or football games or cheer competitions, we need reminding. When we have a fight over what show we are going to watch or what restaurant we are going to, we need reminding. When we stress over our first world luxuries as if they are necessities, we need reminding. When we obsess over our investments, we need reminding. When we see the choice between Hillary and Donald as the worst possible thing ever, we need reminding. When we blast people on Facebook for not living according to our own standards, we need reminding. When we are tempted to sin, we need reminding. When we think we have arrived, we need reminding. When church leadership becomes more about checking off things on a to-do list of assignments than it is about giving God glory and reaching people for Christ, we need reminding. When we get so wrapped up in our own problems and our own abilities to solve them, we need reminding. Even for us who know Christ as our Savior for many years, we need to be reminded of just what Christ has done in our lives. We need to be reminded of the disaster that was our lives before we met Him. We need to be reminded of how we cast all pride in ourselves aside and got down on our knees and asked Jesus Christ to come into our lives and take it over (we need to remember that feeling of terror followed by complete release). We need to be reminded how God is continually transforming our lives since that point. We need to be reminded how He has truly changed us. In some areas and then in some areas where His change in us has been swift and painful. In some areas it has been slow and painful. In some areas, His change in us has been welcome relief. We need to remember that at the moment of salvation we are not the person we are now thanks to God! We mature in Christ. We are honed and chiseled by God into more Christ-likeness with each passing day. By sharing our story, we can see how He is maturing us. How the unholy things that we might have accepted as OK and justifiable in our early Christian walk now are things that we are revolted by now. We need reminding of where we were and where we are now. God’s miracles in our lives are so evident when we think about it. That’s why we remember. That’s why we need reminding.

 

Passover was to be the same thing to the Israelites. It was to remind them of God’s power in their lives. It was to remind of God’s deliverance from the dark days in Egypt. As we know from the grumblings of the Israelite people, they surely needed reminding. We smugly read how the Israelites seemingly quickly forgot the great things that the Lord had done for them and think “those ungrateful little #%&*’s” But, are we not the same way. We get all wrapped in how things are not. We get all wrapped up in our stuff that seems so important. We get wrapped up in things that don’t really matter. We whine at God for why we are in the position we are in. We need reminding. Let us recount our salvation stories often. That exercise puts things into perspective. Instead of being ungrateful little #%&*’s, we will see the glory of God in a changed life. We will see thanksgiving for what He has done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We will be gracious because of the grace shown us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that makes us more like Christ each day. We will give glory to the God of all things that is responsible for it all. That’s why we remember. Because we need reminding!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 4)

The Levites Dedicated

Have you ever made a promise to God that you would do something for Him or stop doing something if he gets you out of jam? Many of us do that. Whether it be as crass as a person who, as they say, is “john-hugging drunk” and is, as they say, “making offerings to the porcelain god” where a person swears to God they will never drink again (only to renege on the promise a week later). There are times when we are sober that make deals with God too. If God will stop the pain of a situation such as a broken relationship, where it is simply hard for us to get out of bed in the morning, we may make deals with God if He will just stop the emotional pain that we are experiencing. Other times, we have situations where our lives may be physically in danger and there is seemingly no way out of the situation where we bargain with God. In a lot of this bargaining, we promise to do better. We promise to curtail our bad behaviors. We promise to go to church more often. We promise to read our Bibles more. We generally promise to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in ways that are impossible to maintain. After the crisis, we find it is difficult to be as good as we thought we could be during the time of crisis when we made the promise. When things don’t improve or the situation does not go away, we become disillusioned with the promise that we made to God because we think He did not keep up his end of the bargain. We get angry with God because He did not change our circumstances or we simply find this “churchy” lifestyle more than we are willing to do. Have you ever been there, done that? I know that I have before Jesus became my Savior and Lord.

 

Another example is when we go to church are hear the great music that touches a chord in our souls and the sermon is truly convicting to us and then that final song just creates a well of emotion within us. So much so that we are drawn to come down to the altar at the church during the altar call at the end of the service. We have full intentions of becoming a believer in Jesus Christ but after we leave the church on a spiritual high we find that life is the same. We have the same friends. We have the same lifestyle. Problems still exist. It’s still hard to pay the bills. Your husband, wife, or kids are acting no better. You seem to make the same choices and end up in the same situations. You end up doing the same behaviors over and over again. When nothing seems to have changed you fall away from this spiritual high that you had and the internal promises to do better. These “spiritual warm fuzzies” as I call them are similar to the bargains with God discussed above. The spiritual warm fuzzies are bargains with God as well. It is not a crisis situation often. It’s just a desire to be better and do better. When life doesn’t change the way we expect it to, the bargain we made does not pan out the way we want, we fall away from the Lord.

 

When we go to church for what church can do for us is another example. When we go to church because it is the cool church to be at. When we go to church so that we can work our way into being buddies with the pastor so that it seems that we are holy. When we go to church for the political connections that we can make. When we go to church so that we can get patted on the back for our talents and ingenuity. When we go to church to get praise for the amount of money that we give to the church. When we go to church to have power that we do not have in our non-church life. When we go to church because our best friend goes there. When go to church because the church has programs to that meet the need of my kids. When we go to church because we get to be on a committee or the chairman of a committee. We are bargaining with God. We are wanting payback for living a certain way. We want our needs met. We will always be disappointed when we bargain with God. We have the relationship all out of whack when we bargain with God.

 

It is this idea of making bargains with God that struck me this morning. It was the wave offering that was mentioned in this passage that brought the idea to mind because I got to wondering what’s the difference between bargains we make with God and the wave offerings in the Old Testament. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on v. 11 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

It is the wave offering that caught my attention this morning. What is it? I had never really noticed this concept before when reading in the Old Testament even though it is there in other Old Testament books that I have studied. So, let’s find out what it is and what it means. According to www.gotquestions.org, a wave offering is:

 

The wave offering, part of the offerings of the Mosaic Law, was the symbolic act indicating that the offering was for the Lord. Portions of the things offered were literally waved in the air before the Lord. The wave offering is first seen in Exodus 29:19-28 in the description of the ordination ceremony of Aaron and his sons… A wave offering was a portion of a sacrifice presented to God, then released by God for the use of those involved in the sacrifice. The meat fed the families of the priests. The Levites served first the tabernacle and then the temple, fulfilling the obligation of the rest of the Israelites. Both were God’s provision for those who sacrificed themselves in service to Him.

 

I guess then the difference between our bargains with God and the wave offerings is then a matter of intent. A wave offering was offered up to the Lord when a true dedication was made, when a real sacrifice was made. The Levites gave up all rights to land and the fruits of it to be dedicated to the service of the Lord. That’s the difference to me between bargaining with the Lord and a wave offering. When we are willing to give up those things that are important to us, the gods of our own making, to be dedicated to the Lord it is different. When we do not see salvation as giving something up but rather gaining something, then we are wave offerings. When we see that we have gained eternity and are willing to follow the Lord and not romanticize our pre-salvation past, then, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are sinners before a just and righteous God and are willing to follow Him and obey His Word willingly no matter what happens, no matter the cost to us, then we are wave offerings. When we experience real life change where we are in love with God, then, we are wave offerings. When we see life in Jesus as the beginning of a new and better life rather than trying to maintain a life of do’s and don’ts, then, we are wave offering.

 

When we get down on our knees in realization that we are destined for hell and that there is no amount of good stuff that we can do, no amount of service that we can bring, no amount of money we can give, no committee chairmanship great enough, no goody-two-shoe behavior excellent enough, no being friends with the right people at church enough, no being close friends with the preacher enough, no bargains big enough that we can make, to make us right with God and we fall at the feet of Jesus and beg Him to grant us peace and ask Him to be the Lord of our lives and change us from the inside out, we are wave offerings. It only through true salvation, knowing that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace and that in the absence of Jesus Christ we are simply hypocrites playing a game, that we can become fully dedicated to the Lord. It is only then that we are truly a wave offering. Anything less is just a bargain that we can’t keep. When we sacrifice our desires and make Christ’s desires our desire, we are wave offerings. When there is humility before the Lord, we are wave offerings. When we place God first and seek His ways and not our own, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are not in a position to bargain with the Creator of the Universe and that we are not on equal footing to Him and simply fall before His feet and beg His grace and seek His face and humbly serve Him because He granted us grace, then, and only then are we wave offerings to the Lord. All-in. Fully dedicated. Seeing the sacrifices that we made of our old life as gain rather than loss. Understanding who God really is for the first time through the changing power of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Understanding how lucky we are to have Jesus Christ as our Savior. And we jump full-in, all-out into this life dedicated to the will of God (and realizing that we will still make tons of mistakes and that life will not be perfect), we are wave offerings then and not bargainers who have no leverage to bargain but falsely believe that we do.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:1-4

Preparing the Lampstands

When most of us were little kids, we had night lights in our rooms. Why? Because we were afraid of the dark. There were hysterical fears of monsters in our rooms. When I was a little kids, I would not sleep facing the wall because the monsters that I feared the most would be on the wall. In my mind, if I looked at that wall, those monsters would no longer be the two-dimensional figures on that wall. They would come off that wall and become three-dimensional live monsters who would terrorize me or even kill me. Never laid in the bed facing the left toward the wall. Always sleeping facing the open part of the room to the right. It just so happened, too, that the night light in my and my brother’s room was to right of my bed. In those days, we shared a room (didn’t get my own room til I was 10 years old when we moved to Elgin, SC). At night though, I might as well have been alone. In the dark, we all feel alone and afraid, particularly as a child. But the night light in the electrical outlet right beside my bed gave me comfort. It illuminated a small area of the room. It helped allay my fears of the dark to the point of being able to go to sleep comfortably, but not enough for me to sleep facing that wall, the monster wall. It was not until I grew older that the need for a night light in my room was necessary. When you think about night lights in your bedroom now as an adult, you think, “how childish I was! Why did I think I needed a night light? What was I so afraid of?” Back then, though, those fears were real to us, palpable to us. We could work ourselves into a frenzy over the things that we could not see. We would create dangers where there was none. It was real to us, for sure. The night light was assurance. The night light was comfort that at least in the area that it illuminated that there was nothing to fear, nothing that would attack us.

 

As adult empty-nesters, my wife and I do not require night lights in our bedroom because we are adults, ya know. That would be childish to have a night light IN your room. However, we do leave the small stovetop light that is part of our overhead microwave oven/overhead vent apparatus over the stove. It lights up, softly, a small area of the kitchen. It is NOT a night light, right! We don’t need a night light. We justify it as not being a night light because we say we leave it on so that we will not trip, fall, run into things, and hurt ourselves if we have to get up in the middle of the night. There is a lot of truth to that I will say. A few weeks ago, as we had finished dinner and had settled down in front of the television set for some mindless entertainment for that couple of hours before bedtime, the power just all of sudden went out in our entire neighborhood. We occasionally will have a flicker of a power outage and the power will come right back on. However, on this night, the power went out and stayed out for four hours or so. It was pitch black in the house and our entire neighborhood. You couldn’t see anything in our house. As I was trying to make my way to our laundry/utility room where we stored our high powered flash lights. You know the ones with the big light that screw off to get to the big batteries with the spring loaded contacts on the top them and they have that membrane type on/off switch on the top of them. Yeah that kind. We have two of them in our cabinet in the utility room for just such an occurrence as a power outage. Being familiar with my house, I navigated from the living room past the bar/counter area that separates the kitchen from the rest of the open space that is our first floor. You have to turn to the left to go toward the laundry room in this mini-hallway that has our downstairs half-bath to the left, our coat closet to the left, the door to our master bedroom suite to the right and the door to the laundry room straight ahead. Well, I misjudged, in the pitch blackness of our house without illumination, how many steps I had taken before I made the turn. When I turned left, I took a few steps and caught my forehead on the edge of the beginning of that mini-hallway. Oh man, did that hurt! So, there is truth to the stove light being left on to keep us from hurting ourselves when we have to get up in the middle of the night! For real! I can attest to that truth.

 

In a sense, though, there is comfort in that light being left on at night. Though I am not scared of what’s under my bed or on my walls anymore, it is nice to know in the night if I wake up in the middle of the night and even if I do not get out of bed, I can raise up and see things lightly illuminated in the kitchen and that small hallway. The light not only keeps me from getting hurt if I get up but it also gives me comfort and security. That was the thing that struck me about the passage for today, Numbers 8:1-4, about how God instructed Aaron to fit the lampstands so that the light would shine forward. God is always providing us light in the Bible. Dangers and evil lie in the dark whereas God represents light that exposes the darkness and gives us comfort in His light. Let’s read the passage:

 

8 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.’”

 

3 Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lord commanded Moses. 4 This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold—from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the Lord had shown Moses.

 

The lampstands and their candles provided light for the priests so that they could perform their duties within the darkened tent that was the Tabernacle. The light was made to shine forward so that the light would be brightest forward and no light would be wasted on that which was behind the lampstands. The lamps provided guidance to the priests so that they would not run into things like I did that night in the total darkness of my house and neighborhood without power. We need light to see in the darkness. Psalm 119:105 tells us that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. God is always associated with light because we know that light is good. We can see where we are and where we are going in the light which we cannot do in the darkness. In the midst of darkness we need light to see where we are and where we are going. Without light we are lost and blind. And that is why sin is considered darkness. In the darkness of sin we are lost and blind.

 

In the darkness of sin, we cannot see the ugliness of our sin. In the darkness we think our sins are beautiful. Just think about the sins we commit, we justify them as beautiful and right. We think that the Bible is wrong about our sins, the ones that we lie to ourselves about as being right and just. It is only through the light of the Holy Spirit that we can see and illuminate our sins for the ugliness that they are. The light of God illuminates where we are. It shows us the ugliness of our sin. It shows how “off path” we are when we have the light expose where we are. The darkness caused me not to see how “off path” I was on my arduous trek from my couch to the laundry room and I got a bump on the head for it. The light exposes our sins for what they really are through the light of the Holy Spirit. In the dark of our active sins, we think they are beautiful and right and OK.

 

The light of God also shows of the way we should go forward. It illumines our path forward. The light of God for us is His Word and the active work of the Holy Spirit in our souls. When we do not listen to God we fall into darkness. When we do not study His Word we do not have the light to the path forward. When do not pray, we do not have the light to the path forward. When we do not have Christ as our Savior and Lord, we do not have the light and cannot see the path forward. We mope around in the darkness and bump into things that hurt us. We need the light so that we can see the cliffs that we are headed for. We need the light to realize where we are and where we are headed. We need God’s light to show us where to go from here. Come into the light of the lampstand of God. He will show you where you are and where you are to go.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 5:11-31 (Part 3)

Protecting Marital Faithfulness

Evvvvverybody loves Raymond. It was famous sarcastic line of Raymond’s brother, Robert, when it seemed to him that Ray was living a charmed life compared to him or that he was getting the short end of the stick in life compared to Ray. It was even the title of the show. As most people who watched the show, one of Ray’s most consistent complaints on the show was the lack of frequent sexual relations with his wife, Debra. She complains most often that after a day of taking care of three children all day long and then taking care of Ray, she is frequently too tired for sex. It is a common complaint among mothers with small children and validly so. It’s God form of birth control! Tiredness from taking care of little ones. In an episode recently that I saw that I had forgotten about where the kids are a little older and can more easily take care of themselves than earlier in the show’s run, Debra seems inordinately, how should I put it, “frisky”. At first, Ray is enjoying the extra “attention” but, being a comedy show, his brother and some of his buddies start to put ideas in Ray’s head about why she is so suddenly frisky. They ask him if anything has changed in their routine of life. Ray thinks for a bit and says that Debra had recently been going to an aerobics class at the local fitness club or YMCA or something. After finding a brochure from the class, he sees that the instructor for the class is young, buffed, chiseled looking young dude. The hilarity of the episode is how Ray becomes jealous and busts into her class and, of course, being Ray of Everybody Loves Raymond, he makes a complete fool of himself. The irony of the episode is that throughout most of the series, he complains about not getting enough sex but never questions Debra’s loyalty to him, but in this episode he’s is getting what he always wanted but it makes him suspicious that Debra has designs on the aerobics instructor and is just using him as the release for her desires for the instructor. Being a comedy show though, Ray and Debra resolve the issue where Debra says that getting more exercise and getting back into shape makes her feel better about herself and when she feels better about herself she feels better about other things, if ya know what I mean. They make up and the last thing we see as the episode fades out is Debra and Ray racing up the steps to the bedroom.

 

Everybody Loves Raymond was one of the funniest and most popular shows of its day. It was funny because it made fun of real life situations. The sexual politics of marriage when you have small children was always one of the real life issues that they dealt with in the show and they did so in a light-hearted and funny way. In the real world, sex is a real issue in marriages and it does not always get resolved in a single episode of life. Sexual fidelity, infidelity, and sexual jealousies are real things and real issues in marriages. But let us drift back in time to the biblical era and look at what is happening in our text.

 

To our modern sensibilities this text seems extremely sexist. Twenty-first century American women want to cry foul when they read this text. Even men of today would look at this text and wonder why men were not subjected to the same test. To us, it seems extremely discriminatory toward women. One of the dangers of reading the Old Testament is that we come at it with our 21st century predispositions and worldviews. We must recalibrate when we read this text and read it with an understanding of the culture of the times. Let us remember that in most Old Testament era societies (and in a certain sense all the way up to the mid-20th century), woman were treated with far less respect than they are today. In cultures that surrounded the people of Israel, women were mere chattel. They were treated like possessions that could be treated any way men wanted to treat them. Women had no rights. Men could abuse them in any and all ways without punishment. A woman could be tossed to the street for no reason practically at all. With no rights to property, women were at the mercy of the men of their societies. Women put simply in biblical era societies that surrounded the people of Israel were treated no better than the family’s cattle.

 

However, God, with the people He called to be His own, the Israelites, was establishing a society that lived according to His rules. And, in progressing his people toward a society where women would eventually be considered equal to men, He understood the world as it was and put plans in place to begin protecting women from the ill treatment that they have received at the hands of men.

 

Even though this passage seems archaic and chauvinistic to us, it really was a protection put in place for women. In the absence of God’s law, the Israelites would have assumed the customs of the world at that time. If a man even simply suspected his wife of being unfaithful, he could toss her to the curb and replace her just like that. He could abuse her physically, emotionally and so on simply on suspicion without proof and could get away with it. God put this procedure in place to protect women not single them out. What we must take away is not viewing this as archaic but evidence of God’s desire to protect women, his most beautiful but yet most delicate of His creations.

 

For a man in Israelite society under God’s law, he would have to be really, really sure that his wife was being unfaithful to him to invoke this ritual at the tabernacle. Not only would he be testing God if he was wrong, he would, of course, alienate his wife if she was innocent. Not only would he be putting his family on public display before God and the entire Israelite society, but he would look like a complete and utter fool if his wife was innocent. A Israelite man would then have to think long and hard about this issue before invoking the ritual. This is a far cry from being sexist toward women. God is actually protecting them from unfounded jealousies. Further, the ritual would help control men too. If a woman was found guilty of her husband’s suspicions, the man with whom she was committing adultery would be exposed as well.

 

God’s interest here is not to expose women but to protect them. God’s interest here is to preserve marriage and to punish infidelity. God’s interest here was to produce and orderly society that is not consumed by sexual sin and the destruction that it causes.

 

These were the things that I thought about today when I read through this passage for the third consecutive day. Let’s re-read it again together here:

 

 

11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

 

16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[b] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

 

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

 

23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[c] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

 

29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’”

 

Sexual sin is destructive to society. It is destructive to families. Just look at our world today. Single parent homes and blended families. Each of these types of situations are fraught with problems of their own. Children in single parent homes are more likely to get in trouble at school and with the law. Blended families have destructive forces working against them called my kids vs. your kids that lead to anger, jealousy and destruction. Sure there are marriages that split up for reasons such as physical and emotional abuse but the vast majority of marriages split up over sexual sin. It is considered the norm nowadays to have been married and divorced at least once. Kids with different names than the one on the mailbox. Moms with kids but multiple fathers. Dads with children by multiple mothers. Child support payments. Visitation rights. Whose got the kids this weekend. Kids watching parents battle over them as if they were a car or a boat, a possession. Figuring the logistics of holidays. Kids caught in the middle. It’s all insane. And I have lived it myself. Married. Had kids with my first wife. Divorced. Remarried to a woman with three small boys. Blended family. Jealousies ripping that marriage apart. Divorced again. Luckily, in my third, it is a marriage where we both have decided to live our marriage God’s way. But, I have lived the insanity of divorce and remarriage as the result of the sexual sins of myself and my previous wives. Neither myself or my previous spouses were immune to the rampant sexual sin of our day. And, we accept this as the norm of life now. And, we Christians are no better than anyone else in this regard. The divorce and remarriage rates among Christians are just as high as the general population. I have seen sexual sin destroy families, active families who served and cared, in our fellowship to the point that they no longer are willing to come to our church because of perceived shame.

 

So, to me, this passage is not some sexist, chauvinistic, archaic piece of God’s legislation for a time gone by that no longer applies to us. What we must take away from this passage is that God is serious about marriage and serious about the protection of the marriage estate. God shows us that marriage is His most important institution and that He wants it preserved. He wants us to think long and hard about the curses that come with sexual sin. It should make us think long and hard about marriage. God want our marriages to last so let us think long and hard about whether we truly love someone or are just sexually aroused by them. Sexual sin rips marriages apart. It wears on the fabric of society. It creates problems that destroy societies. The sanctity of marriage is important to God. It is the closest thing to our relationship with Him when marriage is done right by us. God takes marriage serious. So should we. Take that away with you when you read this. Don’t get hung up on reading 21st century sensibilities into the Old Testament era. Really look at what God is saying here. Take that away. Live that.

 

Amen and Amen.