Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

2 Samuel 23:1-7
David’s Last Words

To hear people call me Pastor Mark these days is just a testament to the grace of God. When I look back at my past, I think how can this be? I grew up as a preacher’s kid. I was at church every time the doors were open. But accepting Christ as my Savior was not part of the deal for me, then. I was numb to the church. I was there all the time. The majesty and wonder of church, of Jesus Christ, of the things of God is was all just part of the “family business” to me. Then, after getting married at age 18, I was in a little family church made of three main families of which my first wife was a part. The church was more of a social club than a church. There was no discipleship. No challenges to be more than just a good person making good choices. I was never confronted with who I am in Christ. Then, in college, at a liberal arts university, all my beliefs were challenged, especially about the existence of God, who Jesus was, and what the Bible was. My faith was so shallow that it blew me away.

Then after college, life happened. My life revolved around not so much about pleasing God but pleasing the women in my life and living the rollercoaster that such a world is. I made poor choices. I bent my morality to the breaking point whenever it was convenient. Life was a series of two marriages, divorces, seeking value in sex and alcohol and never truly finding it. When I look back on the man that I was before I finally came to Christ as my Savior at age 39, it sickens me. What I could have done differently if I had just met Jesus when I was younger. I envy those who accepted Christ as a child or even as a teenager or early 20s. The pastors that I work with are career pastors who have been in Christ since they were teens. Then there’s me. When I think about the mess that my life was before Christ and even in the maturation process in Christ since the cross, it saddens me deeply at the man that I was.

To hear someone call me Pastor Mark is surreal. This is something that I have been aiming for in some way, shape or form since the day of my salvation in December 2001 but specifically since 2011 when I entered seminary. The road from who I was at age 18 when I married the first until that point is a testament to the loving nature of God – how he guided me to the cross, how he guided me toward preparing for ministry, and how he guided me to this day where I am a pastor. But to think of the depths of my sinfulness and to now be a pastor with a desire to go wherever, and do whatever God desires of me is a testament to Holy Spirit sanctification.

To think of the man that I was, the sins that I committed, and to think of how God redeemed all of that and has made me His child and His child who is serving Him full-time is evidence that the Holy Spirit does indeed change us from the inside out. To me, I do not want to ever lose the memories of the man that I was. I want to continually look back and be revolted by the pre-salvation Mark. It will keep me humble. Grace is a wonderful thing but if I ever forget that I was the worst of sinners then I will become prideful and think that I have arrived. It is through my past littered with sins, broken relationships, poor choices, situational ethics, etc. that it keeps me humble.

So, when people at my church lovingly call me Pastor Mark, it almost makes me cry when I think of it. To know that God reclaimed me, a dreadful sinner, and cleaned me up and set me on a high place just makes me well up with emotion. To know that He sees enough usable materials in me to allow me to become a pastor is just, well, an indescribable miracle gift. Now, the thing is to move forward and use my past to help others see the cross and accept Christ as their Savior. Now, the thing is to help Christ followers deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, I have a past that makes me want to throw up but God will make it useful in the kingdom. Yes, I have a past but God has washed me clean and set me free from the penalties of my sins. Yes, I have a past but God makes us useful to Him. Each one of us who is a Christ follower most likely has a past that we are not proud of. Let it keep us humble. The only difference between us and the non-believer is salvation in Christ. We are all sinners granted grace. None of us have a right to be proud. We are sinners who have been granted a reprieve from the penalty of our sins and have been made clean and useful. So, that on our final days on this earth, we can say that we are forgiven, we have been useful and that the Lord sees us as pure and spotless.

I hope that I never get any less emotional to the point of tears when I hear someone call me Pastor Mark. That is just an amazing testimony of what God can do. That idea of how we are made clean in Christ is what I thought of when I read this passage, 2 Samuel 23:1-7, this morning and how David can sincerely make these claims in this passage even though he was a dreadful sinner as king of Israel. Let’s read it now together:

Chapter 23
1 These are the last words of David:

“David, the son of Jesse, speaks—
David, the man who was raised up so high,
David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel.[a]

2
“The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me;
his words are upon my tongue.
3
The God of Israel spoke.
The Rock of Israel said to me:
‘The one who rules righteously,
who rules in the fear of God,
4
is like the light of morning at sunrise,
like a morning without clouds,
like the gleaming of the sun
on new grass after rain.’

5
“Is it not my family God has chosen?
Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me.
His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail.
He will ensure my safety and success.
6
But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away,
for they tear the hand that touches them.
7
One must use iron tools to chop them down;
they will be totally consumed by fire.”
Our text says, “Now these are the last words of David” (v. 1). However, 1 Kings 2:2-9 give us David’s real last words—David’s instructions from his deathbed to Solomon, who will succeed David as king. Those words are quite different from the lofty words of our text from 2 Samuel. In 1 Kings 2, David instructs Solomon to be faithful to God. Then he instructs Solomon to deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai, who had supported David in his hour of need. He instructs Solomon to deal harshly with Joab and Shimei. So, maybe, this is David’s last public words or last written words. Regardless, the words here are pretty lofty when you think about all that has transpired in David’s house since he became king.

Is David’s house really like this? David’s house, where Amnon raped Tamar? David’s house, where Absalom killed Amnon and raised an army against his father? David’s house, where the royal line will proceed through the child of Bathsheba, a woman whom David “took” both before and after killing her husband? David’s house, under which the people have suffered civil war already and under which they will come to suffer conquest? David may be the beloved of God, but is his house really like the sun? However it was intended, the identification of David’s house with the righteous sun in verse 5 includes both an affirmation and a question.

Remember, too, that David was just a lowly shepherd boy. He had no great lineage as the son of Jesse. Much earlier, while Saul was king, God sent Samuel to anoint David as Saul’s successor (1 Samuel 16). We remember how Jesse marched one tall, good looking son after another before Samuel, but God rejected each of them. After Jesse had marched seven sons before Samuel, Samuel had to ask if Jesse might have another son. Then Jesse remembered that he did, indeed, have one more son—David, his youngest son, who was tending sheep in the wilderness. Jesse hadn’t thought of David sooner, because Jesse had so many other sons who seemed better candidates than young David. But God chose David, the least of Jesse’s sons, to become the greatest of Israel’s kings. God often chooses the least likely candidates for the greatest tasks, because that makes it clear that the resultant successes are due to God’s power—not the person’s strength or wisdom.

What we might be inclined to forget is that Jesse was as unlikely a candidate to become the father of Israel’s great king as David was to be that king. Jesse was just an ordinary man—common—undistinguished. God didn’t choose Jesse because he was great, but because he was not great. When our text says that David was “the son of Jesse,” it reminds us that David came from undistinguished stock. Not that Jesse and David would remain undistinguished! Not at all! But Jesse and David became great because God chose them—not because they were inherently great. God exalted David, anointed him, and made him his favorite. As a result, David enjoyed great success as Israel’s king. Now David shows that he realizes that his success was God’s gift. It was God who chose him. It was God who gave him the victory over Goliath. It was God who gave him victory over his enemies. It was God who gave the city of Jerusalem into his hands.

When we look back at our lives and all the stuff that we did prior to accepting Christ as our Savior, it makes us look as though we are unlikely candidates to be the favored ones of God. In my own life, I know, like David, there is so much that I am ashamed of. There is so much in my past that I wish that I could change. There is so much back there that curdles my stomach to know now that I did those things with impunity back then. It was either outright rebellious sin (the “I don’t care if this is a sin” attitude) or sins committed under the influence of others or sins that I committed because I thought of me and God having a deal to suspend His laws in this one area for me alone (because of all I had been through). It sickens me to think of those things. I am sure that David felt the same way about his past as he draws near to the end of his life.

However, true repentance in Jesus Christ washes away our sins and makes us clean and whole and as bright as the noonday sun. Our salvation in Jesus Christ changes us from the inside out such that we become more and more like Him each day until we are made perfect on that day that we meet Jesus in heaven. We still sin along the way but those sins revolt us in our gut as we mature in Christ such that the Holy Spirit moves us away from one sin type after another through the sanctification process. We are made fresh and new like the dew on newly cut grass on a summer morning. Our house is made clean. Our house is made clean through the gift of grace that is an everlasting covenant between us and God. He doesn’t need to give us this gift. We are dead to rights in our sins. But He loves us so much that He gave us Jesus Christ.

So, at the end of his life, David was able to speak with a clear conscience. Though there had been many consequences to his sins over the years that made his reign seem like a couple years in the storyline of your favorite soap opera, he has sought repentance and was granted forgiveness. Just as David was made clean through repentance and forgiveness, so too can we find forgiveness in Jesus Christ through repentance over our sins. That does not change the past and the horrible things that we did and we should feel revulsion and shame each and every time we reflect on our sins but through Jesus Christ we can be made clean and whole again in the presence of God.

May we come to tears when we think of this fact. May we stay humble because of it. May we be brought to the point of tears when someone calls us a Christ follower. What greater compliment can be paid to us knowing what Jesus reclaimed us from than for someone to note that we are a Christ follower.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 4:1-12
Boaz Arranges to Marry Ruth

In this day in age in which we live, if you are single and in your 30’s or 40’s, it is a great likelihood that you have been married and divorced at least once. In you are a woman in your 30’s or 40’s and you are single, you most likely have either small children, pre-teens, or teens at home with you. It is a statistical fact that mothers of children end up with custody of their children in 90% of divorces nationally. Either men don’t want the responsibility of day to day care of children, the mothers don’t trust them to do the myriad of things that are required to get children up and out the door each day, or the men don’t trust themselves. It is also a statistical fact that 27% of fathers see their children only when required by their court order or do not see them at all.

So in the American dating scene out there (not that I am familiar with it anymore myself, but these statements are made based on statistical probabilities), any time a guy meets a gal in her 30’s or 40’s (heck sometimes even in their 20s), there is a high probability that she has kids at home. Somebody’s keeping them while she is having a girl’s night with her gal pals. If you really want to get to know her, the breaking point for any such relationship is going to be about the fact that she has kids or that the kids get in the way of the relationship. There are too many guys out there that just want to have fun with the gals with kids but want none of the responsibilities or the drawbacks of dating a woman with kids in tow. With so many of these men, they are absentee fathers themselves. They feel “tied down” when they have their own kids with them. I know there are some great dads out there but there is a growing majority of dads who disappear from their own kids lives and shy away from any relationship with a woman who has kids. There are a growing number of men out there that just want to have recreational sex with women (even if the woman has kids at home) but split when there is mention of getting to know her kids. These men don’t want women with baggage. They want the fun but not the baggage that comes with most women who are “single again.” With the divorce rate out there where 50% of first marriages fail, 67% of second marriages fail, and 83% of third marriages fail, there is a great possibility of any woman a guy meets is going to have had a past and is most likely to have children at home. But like I said, there is a growing number of men who are baby daddies out there and not fathers. They want the fun of women but none of the responsibility that comes with having a relationship with a woman with kids.

There was a movie out there a while back called “Courageous” that was a faith-based film that was extremely popular even with the secular movie going public. The famous tag line from that movie was “Where are you, men of courage?” It was the story that men are often removed from their kids lives and are even less involved with their kids when it comes to faith issues. The point of the movie was to urge men to take hold of their God ordained place as being the priests of their homes, leading their family in all things but especially in leading their families in the family’s relationships with God. It takes courage to be a man of faith. It takes courage to be a real dad these days when it is so easy to wash your hands of the family your procreated. Where are you men of courage today in this broken world where practically every woman you meet has kids at home? Where are you men of courage willing to accept the baggage that comes with a woman who has kids? In this broken world we live in, it is a simple fact of life that virtually everyone who meet and potentially can have a relationship with is a person who has been married before. It’s not the world that God wants for us. He wants us to examine who we will marry before we marry them. He wants us to think long and hard before we get married the first time because He wants us to stay married to who we married the first and only time. However, in this sin-filled broken world, we will most like be married at least twice in a lifetime. That’s a sad fact but a true one. So, given that, we must be willing to accept the baggage of the person that we are attempting to have a relationship with and potentially marrying any time after the first marriage is done. Men especially must be willing to accept what a single mom is bringing to the table of the relationship.

That’s the thing that came to mind this morning as I read through Ruth 4:1-12 – the difference between Boaz and the unnamed man who was closer in line to be the redeemer of Naomi and Ruth. The unnamed man wanted the property but not the women who came with it. Let’s read through the passage here right now and then we will finish our discussion after that:

4 Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there. Just then the family redeemer he had mentioned came by, so Boaz called out to him, “Come over here and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you.” So they sat down together. 2 Then Boaz called ten leaders from the town and asked them to sit as witnesses. 3 And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”

The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.”

5 Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.”

6 “Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.”

7 Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. 8 So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”

9 Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.”

11 Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.”

In this passage, we see that Boaz cleverly presented his case to the relative. First, he brought in new information not yet mentioned in the story – Elimelech. Naomi’s deceased husband, still had some property in the area that was now for sale. As the nearest relative, this unnamed man had the first right to buy the property (Leviticus 25:25). But then Boaz said that according to the law, if the relative bought the land, he also had to marry the widow, Ruth (because Mahlon, Ruth’s deceased husband and Elimelech’s son, had inherited the property). At this stipulation, the relative backed down. He did not want to add a complication to his own inheritance to his existing children because of the new children he would have had with Ruth. That was the most likely reason, but he could have just not wanted to complicate his life with another woman. Whatever his reason for backing away, it cleared the way for Boaz to marry Ruth himself.

That’s the thing that made me think of today’s messed up dating world out there is because in this story, the unnamed relative wanted the property but not the baggage that came with it – Ruth. He wanted the additional wealth that came with owning more land but he did not want the responsibility of another wife and raising more kids and complicating his financial situation. That so reminded me of how men out there today just want women for recreational fun but they don’t want the baggage that often comes with women in today’s world of divorce. They want the fun but not the responsibility. That’s why men are often divorced anyway is that they could not face up to the lifetime of responsibility that is marriage – kids, mortgages, schooling, kids activities, and no time for themselves.

What if God was like that with us? What if He did not want all our baggage? Our sins condemn us in His sight. He could just throw us away into the pit of hell and walk away and be right in doing so. He could just say I don’t need this and that be it! However, God has greater love for us than that. Even though our first sin condemns us to hell and not to mention the lifetimes of sins that we commit, He could say that you have too much baggage for me to deal with and cast us into hell. But He doesn’t. Boaz represents God’s love for us. Boaz did not care about all the baggage that came with Ruth. He simply loved her. He knew that she had a past and had been married before and knew that she was not originally from the people of Israel. He knew all the baggage she brought to the relationship. But he loved her anyway. He was willing to marry her when the unnamed relative was not. He was willing to set aside all the things that would make Ruth undesirable for marriage and took her in marriage anyway. God is the same with us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to earth to become the perfect sacrificial lamb to take on God’s punishment for our baggage, our sins. In that way, through Jesus, He can set aside the punishment we deserve. He can set aside our sins because Jesus paid the price for them. Through Jesus, we are made clean before God. We are made into marriage material before the bridegroom. We are made new and desirable again to God. We are redeemed by a God who loves us despite our past sins, despite our past baggage. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, we no longer carry around the baggage of our sins that condemns us in the sight of God. Through Jesus, we are made into a beautiful bride ready for the bridegroom. We are made into something beautiful and desirable by God. He loves us that much. He loves us enough to redeem us when we have all this sin baggage. He sets it aside, through Jesus, and welcomes us into His house and makes us His bride with all the rights and privileges that go along with being a child of God.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 3:1-18 (Part 1 of 3)
Ruth Follows Naomi’s Plan

Have you ever had someone to help you out of a jam? I guess in a way my wife and I were recently redeemers for my youngest daughter. I love my youngest daughter to death and want the best for her but it just seems as though she will never want what is best for her – what will secure her own future.

As the youngest, she really did not know much of a life when her birth mom, my first wife (God rest her soul), had a solid marriage. Taylor’s mom and I started final stages of the death march of our marriage not long after Taylor was born and by the time Taylor was 2 ½ years old, her mother and me were splitsville. So, since that time, I guess both her mother and grandmother and my parents had spoiled Taylor a great deal. And, then, there was me, after the breakup of my second marriage when Taylor was a just becoming a teenager. In those years subsequent to the break-up of my second marriage, I made up for a lot of lost time with Taylor during those years. Taylor was so spoiled that she was almost 20 years old before she got her first job. However, at some point, a child must grow up and I thought she had when she finally got a full-time customer service job with a regional pest control company. But because of her mother’s death and her inheriting her mother’s me against the world mentality, she up and quit a good job. Not perfect. There is never one of those. But a good job for a girl who decided not to go to college even though she was smart enough to excel in college. So for the last two plus years she has not worked and has all the excuses in the world why she can’t get a job. However, recently, she had a car wreck because she had a blow out on one of her tires on her beater of a car (being unemployed will prevent you from affording to buy new tires – even if she paid attention to such things).

Now, she was in a real pickle. She couldn’t get a job if she didn’t have a car. On the opposite of that coin, she couldn’t get a car if she did not have a job. After much thought and prayer, my wife suggested that we give Taylor a “hand up” by giving her Elena’s car that. It’s not new. It’s a 2008 model, but it has been taken good care of and being a Mazda it is just a good car! Otherwise, Taylor would just be one of those people operating in the water just below the surface never being able to get their head above water. It was a good idea all the way around. Taylor seemed to positive about getting her life together finally. Finally! So, with some considerable thought and prayer myself, I gave an affirmative agreement to the plan. So, without any evidence of what Taylor would do with her hand up, we did it. We gave her the car for $1.00. We helped her out by putting the title in her name, getting the registration transferred into her name and getting the insurance for the first six months set up.

What Taylor does with this assistance is up to her. We have helped her out so many times and this is one more time. At age 27, this has to be the final big push to get her grow up, get a job, and take life on instead of expecting the world to take care of her. We can’t do this anymore. Here, sweetheart, I love you but this is it. Here is your hand up out of the water. Here is your life raft. Crawl in and get on with your life and make something of it. We cannot make her want a secure life and a career. We cannot make her want to be able to live more than a hand to mouth existence. We cannot make her want to quit living life on the edge of poverty. I can’t make her want to work. I just gave her the opportunity. I gave her a way to get a job. I gave her a way to get out the pit. It is up to her to climb out though.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage for the first of three times that we will write about it. Thinking about Boaz’s decision to redeem Ruth. It was something that he did not have to do, but he did it because of his great care for her situation. Let’s read the passage together for the first time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18:
3 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. 12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops[a] of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he[b] returned to the town.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, 17 and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

In this passage, we see that, as widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times. But when Naomi heard the news about Boaz, her hope for the future was renewed. Typical of her character though, she thought first of Ruth. She encouraged Ruth to see if Boaz would take the responsibility of being the family redeemer. A family redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take responsibility for the extended family. When a woman’s husband died, the law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband. But Naomi had no more sons. Each had already perished. In such a case, the nearest relative the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow. The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow. If he chose to pass on marrying the widow, the next nearest relative could take his place. If no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in desperate poverty the rest of her life. Some were even known to have had to stoop so low as to prostitution to make a living if no one would take on the responsibility for caring for the widow. In Israelite culture, as in many ancient cultures of the Middle East, inheritance of a husband did not go to his wife. It went to his sons (with the eldest son getting a double portion). In the absence of living sons, a dead husband’s inheritance went to the nearest male relative, not to the wife. The laws for gleaning and family redeemers helped take the siting out these inheritance rules.

We have a family redeemer in Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, came to earth as a man in order to save us. By His death on the cross, he redeemed us from sin and hopelessness and has thereby purchased us to be his own possession as Peter states in 1 Peter 1:18-19. This guarantees our eternal future just as the family redeemer guaranteed the earthly future of a widow.

Jesus died for us when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). He did not require that we do certain things or have achieved certain things before He went to the cross for us. He made salvation available to us. It is up to us whether we see the need for it or not. If we want to secure our future in heaven with Jesus and the saints, we must recognize that we had a need for the cross. We must recognize that we are hopeless sinners destined for hell and eternal damnation before we can even recognize the purpose of the cross. However, our ignorance of the cross and its meaning before salvation did not stop Jesus from going ahead to the cross. He died for the sins of all us for all time. He took on the wrath of God for all sinners for all time at that moment on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. He has already done the work. He has given it all even before you recognize that He has done. He has already made your path clear to eternal security in the bosom of God in heaven. However, you must recognize your own inability to get to heaven because of our first sin and our lifetime of sins besides that first one. The first one disqualifies us from heaven much less all the sins we commit in a lifetime. We are hopeless and eternally damned in the absence of Jesus taking the punishment for our horrid sin state. He has already provided the hand up. We must take His hand and crawl out of the pit.

The same is true for my daughter, Taylor. We have done the work to pull her out of the pit. We have made a way for her to find secure employment and a solid future. It is up to her to grab that help and climb out of the pit and make something of herself. We can’t make her want to climb out of the pit. She must recognize that she is in the pit first. She must recognize her need to secure her own future. She must want it worse than anything else. Just as we as sinners must want the hand the Jesus has extended to us from the cross. We must recognize first that we are destined to hell on our own merits. We must take the hand of Jesus and ask Him to save us. We must recognize our need for Jesus. He has already done the work. He has given us the hand up already. We must extend our hand to take his.

Amen and Amen.

 

Ruth 1:1-5

Elimelech Moves His Family to Moab

Recently, this past week, I had someone make a comment on a blog that I had written about two and a half years ago, yeah, that’s right. Two and a half years ago. So, the dude really must’ve been examining my blog space to find a blog from two years ago to take issue with me. This blog from two years ago was about the wonders of the grace offered us through Jesus Christ. I used myself as an example of the wonders of grace and how grace is superior to legalism. In that blog, I noted that according to Scripture that divorce is a sin. The only reason that God gave Moses rules about divorce was to regulate the way that it was handled. Since God’s people were stiff-necked sorts, God wanted to ensure that women were treated properly in this distasteful and sinful marriage breaker. Under the law, divorce is sin. Plain and simple. It is validated by Jesus himself. In Luke 16:16-18, Jesus says,

 

 

 

16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.[a] 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

 

 

 

18 “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

 

 

 

Under the law, I stand condemned as does my wife of the past 7 ½ years, Elena. We both have been married twice before. However, both of our previous marriages (two for her and two for me) each began prior to each of accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord. That does not make divorce any less sinful, but it does go to our motivations for marriage. It does go to the fact that we did not have Christ at the center of our lives at the times that we were choosing our spouses during those years. We were not Christ followers during those years. I did not come to Christ as my Savior until near the end of my second marriage (which crumbled under the weight of her adultery, my mistakes with money, and the death of her oldest son). Elena came to know Christ as her Savior about six months before we got married (as we sat in the small group meeting at our pastor’s house when we lived in California). Under the law, we both stand condemned. Under the law, we are sinners because of our divorces even though the marriages began when we were rebels against God and we chose poorly as to who we should be married to. Under the law, we are condemned as should have no access to God or to worship in the temple. We should be excluded from the people of God because of just this one sin much less a lifetime of other sins committed. According to my commenter at my blog, my mention of how God can redeem a second or third marriage is giving him the thought that he could steal money from a bank, beg for forgiveness from God, and then say that because he begged for forgiveness that it validates the stolen money as OK to spend. I think this fellow missed the whole point of the blog which was that God is in the redeeming business. Elena and I did not steal anyone’s spouse when we met. We were already divorced when we began dating but that does not minimize the sin of divorce for us. We are condemned by this sin alone and, like I said, not mention that we have mountains of sin that convict us as well. On our own merits, we stand convicted before God for the sins that we have committed. We do deserve a sentence to hell on the merits of our divorces alone. We can’t pretty that up or make that right or go back and change. According to the law, yes, we should be excluded from the pleasures of God’s righteousness. We should be excluded from heaven. We should have no claim to enter the gates of heaven on just this one sin alone. Just this one sin. What are we to do? How can we fix this? How can two sinners who have these sordid, sinful pasts that we cannot undo before the Lord before we met one another. How do we reconcile our sinful past to the purity required before God?

 

 

 

Grace is the answer. It is through Jesus sacrifice on the cross for all sins of all time that we can now approach the throne of God. Jesus paid the price and the penalty for our sins, past, present and future. I get the commenter on my blog is afraid that people abuse grace. I get that. But you have to ask the question that if a person claims grace over his apparent and unrepentant practice of sin, then, you may have to question their salvation to begin with. However, those that are truly saved have the Holy Spirit come to dwell in us and changes us from the inside out. Through the Holy Spirit’s working in my soul, I know that my past divorces are sin and it is because of just the divorce sins alone that I stand convicted by God and condemned to hell on my own merits. In the absence of the Holy Spirit, I would see that my divorces were OK and find reasons to justify them just to make myself look good. It is through the Holy Spirit that I am convicted of that sin and it pushes and prods me to make this marriage my last no matter what comes at it. I will no longer duck and run when our marriage hits a rough space. I will work on it and get through it. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross that I stand pure before God and the everyday working of the Holy Spirit that we become more and more like Christ every day. So, just as Peter stood convicted before Jesus for something he could not go back and change, Jesus asked this obvious sinner to feed His sheep. Jesus redeemed Him. Jesus made him useful to the kingdom. Jesus does the same for us through the cross. We can have our marriages that are sinful in the sight of God be made clean and holy through repentance and through grace. That is what makes for the joy of salvation and sanctification. We made free from the penalty of our past. We are given new life. We are made children of God. He can make the foulest clean!

 

 

 

What does this have to do with the passage at hand today? It has everything to do with it. Let’s read Ruth 1:1-5 together now and then I will explain:

 

 

 

1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.

 

 

 

3 Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.

 

 

 

In this passage, we see that Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea. Moabites, who were related to Israel through Lot (Gen. 19:37), occupied parts of central Transjordan at various times. It was one of the nations that oppressed Israel during the period of the judges (see Judges 3:12 and following verses), so there were tensions between the two nations. The famine must have been quite severe in Israel for Elimelech to move his family there. It is a demonstration of how sometimes we compromise our beliefs to get what we want or think we need.

 

 

 

Marrying a Canaanite or anyone who previously occupied the Promised Land was against God’s law. Moabites were not allowed to worship at the Tabernacle because had not allowed the Israelites pass through their land. If an Israelite married a Moabite woman, they would have been prevented themselves, even though they were Israelite, from worshiping at the Tabernacle because of their marriage. Sometimes, when we are in desperate circumstances we compromise our beliefs and that is what we see here. Desperate times had come but as God’s chosen people, these Israelites, even in the land of Moab, should have set the standard for moral living for other nations. However, they mixed in with the culture and even married into it. How often do we compromise our values to just fit in with the culture around us? How many times have you and I stood quiet when people were Christ bashing and we should have stood up and said something? How many times do we commit sins that we try to justify later as being OK? How many times do we ignore God’s Word because we are in desperate circumstances? How often do we do an end around on God’s Word because that’s the easiest way from Point A to Point B. All of us stand convicted on this point. We have all sinned and grieved the Spirit of God. We have all made mistakes that somewhere down the road the Holy Spirit makes us want to throw up over the kind of person that we used to be.

 

 

 

Here in this passage we see that something bad happened that was against God’s law for the people of ancient Israel – to marry outside God’s chosen people, to marry into cultures that did not worship God. And, that is something that Elimelech’s sons did. They marry the wrong kind of person according the law. They clearly did this. There was no hiding it or justifying it. They compromised because of conditions. They went against God’s own law because of their situation. Bottom line, they stand convicted. Bottom line, they broke the law. However, because of the redemptive nature of God’s love and because Naomi and Ruth had such great faith, they were eventually redeemed from the horrid life that they were going to have to live. Because of their faith, they were rewarded. Because of their faith, the bad situation that began with a sin of marriage to the wrong crowd, God actually redeemed it. God made Ruth, who was from the wrong side of the tracks…I mean….wrong side of the Dead Sea, into one of the great women of the Bible. God made Ruth into part of the lineage of King David. She was his great grandmother. She also became part of the earthly lineage of our Savior and our Lord, Jesus Christ. She became part of God’s family and the line through which Jesus’ earthly family came. Her marriage was born in sin but it was redeemed. She would not have come to know God had it not been for this apparent mistake or sin of marrying outside the people of Israel. God used this mistake of the past because of the faithful obedience of Ruth after she came to know God and turned it into something beautiful.

 

 

 

No matter where you are at right now in life. Murderer. Idolater. Adulterer. You name it. God can redeem it and make it part of His plan. Your past you can do nothing to change. All you must do is admit before God that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross as punishment for your sins that you personally deserve. And proclaim with your mouth that He is indeed the rightful one to do this because He is the Son of God and that as the Son of God He arose from the dead to give you victory over sin and death and you will be saved. You will be redeemed. Your sins are forgiven through your repentance and revulsion over your past sins. Your sins are forgiven through the grace that covers them at the cross. You are now redeemed. You are now made new. Through the Holy Spirit, you will come to repent and be grieved over each and every sin you commit from now on and you will be changed from the inside out by Him. Through the Holy Spirit, you can see how we really do deserve hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit process of sanctification, we are made useful to the kingdom. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, we see joy of our salvation as we stand at the precipice of what was our eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Through Jesus Christ, we are pulled back from the brink. Through Jesus Christ, we are made clean. By God’s grace, we are made into a part of the kingdom of priests. By God’s grace, we are made part of those who are useful to God in bringing about His kingdom here on earth.

 

 

 

Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, thank God, I am redeemed. Yes, thank God, he has made my marriage clean. Yes, thank God, He has made two mistake-makers into a couple that is useful to His kingdom. No cheap grace here. Changed lives here. Joy here at what God has redeemed, made clean, and made part of the fabric of His redemptive plan. Joy here at God taking filthy rags and clothing them in the embroidered cloak of grace.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 4 of 4)
As we close out the introductory points about the Book of Ruth, we find that it teaches about God’s redemptive plan for man. As widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times. Boaz took the responsibility of being the family redeemer. A family redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take responsibility for the extended family. When a woman’s husband died, the law (Deut. 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband. However, Naomi had no more sons. In such a case, the nearest relative of the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow. The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow. If you chose not to, the next nearest relative could take his place. In no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in poverty the rest of her life as, in Israelite and most ancient Middle Eastern cultures, inheritance was passed on to a son or nearest male relative not to the wife. The laws for gleaning and family redeemers helped take the sting out of these inheritance rules.

That Boaz went to all the trouble he did to redeem Ruth and take her as his bride is symbolic of what Jesus Christ did for us. He did not have to do what He did for us. He could have easily stayed in heaven and just allowed us to be judged and it would have been just and right for Him to do so. However, Jesus set aside His glory and came down to earth to redeem us from our poverty caused by our desperate state of sin. As John 3:16 famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the absence of Boaz’s redemption, Ruth would have faced a bleak future and may have had to resort to sinful behaviors such as prostitution to simply survive. It would have been a hellish existence. That is no less what Jesus does for us. He redeems us from our prostitution to sin. He redeems us from the penalty of sin. He redeems us from our bleak existence. He cleans us up. He took the penalty of our sin through his taking His Father’s wrath against sin on the cross. His blood shed on the cross is what makes us pure again in the sight of God as Jesus took the punishment for our sin instead of us having to do that ourselves. Therefore, we are made pure in the sight of God when we realize that Jesus died for our sins, that we were destined for hell in the absence of his sacrifice on our behalf, and that Jesus was the only one who could do that for us. He was the only one who could redeem us because He is God in the flesh and He was without sin. When we realize that He was God in the flesh and that He arose from the dead as victory over our sin and death, we are made His bride and we are presented to God as unblemished and spotless. We gain our right to new life through Him.

Boaz similarly redeems Ruth who was destined for hopelessness just as we are destined for the hopelessness of hell without intervention from Jesus. Boaz gave Ruth new life as His bride. Boaz gives her access to all his riches through his redemption act. Boaz gives her access to a new life that she would not have had otherwise. He did so willingly because of his love for Ruth. He gave her a new lease on life through His love for her. Jesus loves us that much too. He willingly made the trip to the cross for us because of His desire that we not spend eternity separated from God in hell. We are locked into a life destined for eternal misery without His redemptive love just as Ruth was destined for an earthly life of desperate poverty in the absence of Boaz’s redemptive love. Be sure that it was not lost on Ruth exactly what Boaz did for her. She knew what he was saving her from – a life of horrible poverty that could have led her to do things that poverty will cause a woman to do. She knew that Boaz’s love for her saved her from a horrid life. Jesus does the same thing for us. His love for us saves us from a life locked in the results and consequences of sin and has us sentenced to hell. Ruth most likely celebrated her husband in Boaz and was thankful every day for what He had done for her. As redeemed Christ followers, we should be thankful every day for Jesus, our bridegroom, has done for us. He has redeemed us from hell. He has redeemed us from our sin. He has redeemed us from our old life. He has redeemed us from our old sin self and has placed us in our spotless bride’s dress, all white and pure before God. He gives us a new life from the inside out. We should never forget and always celebrate the redemption by our bridegroom in Jesus Christ. As Christ followers, we should be the most joyous people on the planet. We know the eternal life that we were destined for and by all rights deserved. We know that hell is real and it is not a pretty place. We know that it is a place of eternal torment and anguish. We know that it is what we deserve for our sins as our just punishment before a sinless, pure and righteous God. That Jesus would redeem us from our deserved destiny should be a source of constant joy and contentment. No matter what we face on this side of eternity, it pales in comparison to the eternity of hell. No matter how bad our life gets, we know that Jesus has given us the keys to the eternal glory of heaven with God. Why then are we often the most morose people on the planet. We have joy unspeakable through Jesus Christ. We must celebrate it everyday. We must let it permeate our being every day. We must ooze out joy from the overflow in our soul. We must tell people the source of our inexplicable joy! We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ!

Boaz also made provision for her even before he married her through allowing her to glean the grain just as Jesus provides for us even before we come to salvation in Him. His death on the cross two millenia ago is the once and final sacrifice for all sin for all time. All we have to do is glean the grain. Jesus does not have to repeatedly be crucified. His act was the once and for all completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system for sin. Since Jesus was complete perfection and lived the perfect, sinless life there is no need for repeated sacrifices. There is no need for Jesus to do it over and over again. It was the ultimate one-and-done. He leaves the grain at the edge of the field. He leaves the grain on the threshing floor. All we have to do is pick it up and take the food that is necessary for our eternal salvation. It is there for the taking. All we must do is believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and proclaim it with our mouth that He died for our sins and that He arose from the dead to give us hope eternal. The grain has been left there for us to pick up and eat. It is up to us to reach for it.

The Book of Ruth is such a beautiful book and a real life example of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. So, let’s meet here at my next blog as we dive into the Book of Ruth.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 16:23-31
Samson’s Final Victory

One of the ironies being a redeemed Christ follower is that often when you seek ministry jobs at established churches is that your past can sometimes be a factor. Isn’t that just the oddest thing? Certainly, I can understand that if you are currently not walking the walk and talking the talk, the church has every right to exclude you from leadership. However, I have heard of churches that will automatically exclude a person seeking to go into full-time ministry if they have been divorced? What if that divorce or divorces occurred before you accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord. What if you had indeed been living selfishly and seeking to please oneself before Christ but have been seeking to please Him since salvation. The Bible is full of people that have made major mistakes but have gone on to become great men and women of the Bible.

Let’s look at the examples. Adam through his wife under the bus when confronted about the fruit thing. Abraham was a liar to save his and Sarah’s lives. Jacob steals his brother’s birthright through grand deception. Joseph was proud and lorded it over his brothers. Moses’ mom sold him down the river. Moses was a murderer and he stuttered. Rahab was a prostitute. Tamar seduced her father-in-law to have sex with her so she could bear a son. Gideon doubted God’s sovereignty. Samson was addicted to sex and it literally cost him his eyesight. David was an adulterer and an accessory to murder. Solomon was addicted to the pleasures of women and married them all. Ruth was formerly a pagan idol worshiper. Jonah ran from his calling and almost caused the deaths of an entire boat of sailors. Jeremiah suffered from depression. Elijah got burned out and went and lived in a cave. Hosea’s wife was a prostitute. And the people of Israel themselves, man! They constantly screwed up even though they were God’s chosen people. John the Baptist was a loudmouth who didn’t know when to shut up and made really poor fashion choices. Mary was pregnant before she got married. Mary’s Joseph wanted to divorce Mary even before they got married. The disciples of Jesus were from professions that were typified by either gruff and rough attitudes and language or by cheating others by overcharging them on their taxes. The disciples were clueless and argued about who was going to be the greatest. They couldn’t stay awake when Jesus was having a moment. They scattered to the wind when Jesus was arrested. They didn’t go the the crucifixion and had to be represented by women. Thomas was a doubter even though he had witnessed everything. Peter flat out lied about Jesus to saved his own skin and had a hot-headed temper. Paul was a murderer. John Mark crapped out on a mission trip and couldn’t take it anymore and when home. Talked about your messed up people. The Bible is full of characters that had checkered pasts.

Each of these biblical men and women ended up being used by God in a mighty way even though they had questionable pasts. They had all failed God in some way or another. It is the character of God to redeem and restore. He will even redeem and restore nature to its original Edenic state when Jesus returns. It is all about that redemption (sorry, that song “Its all about that bass” jumped into the sound system in my head). Who better to be a minister that a person who has been redeemed from his own past. Who better to identify with those who walk through the doors of the church he serves. Who better to demonstrate redemption to those who need redemption that a person who has been redeemed from his own flaws and mistakes and decisions and put to the good work of the Lord.

It was that idea of redemption that came to mind as I read the conclusion of the Samson story. Samson did not deserve anything from God, but God still granted him his desire when he came to the Lord in humility. God redeemed Samson though he had so many, so many character flaws and had made so many mistakes caused by his lust for women. Let’s read the conclusion of Samson’s story here in Judges 16:23-31:

23 The Philistine rulers held a great festival, offering sacrifices and praising their god, Dagon. They said, “Our god has given us victory over our enemy Samson!”

24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy to us! The one who killed so many of us is now in our power!”

25 Half drunk by now, the people demanded, “Bring out Samson so he can amuse us!” So he was brought from the prison to amuse them, and they had him stand between the pillars supporting the roof.

26 Samson said to the young servant who was leading him by the hand, “Place my hands against the pillars that hold up the temple. I want to rest against them.” 27 Now the temple was completely filled with people. All the Philistine rulers were there, and there were about 3,000 men and women on the roof who were watching as Samson amused them.

28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson put his hands on the two center pillars that held up the temple. Pushing against them with both hands, 30 he prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines.” And the temple crashed down on the Philistine rulers and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.

31 Later his brothers and other relatives went down to get his body. They took him back home and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol, where his father, Manoah, was buried. Samson had judged Israel for twenty years.

Here, in this passage, we see that, in spite of Samson’s past, God still answered his prayer and destroyed the pagan temple and worshipers. God still loved him. He was willing to hear Samson’s prayer of confession and repentance and use him this one final time. One of the effects of sin in our lives is not only the suffering of the consequences of our actions, as the blinded Samson here proves, but also that it often makes us feel too guilty or ashamed to pray. But perfect moral behavior is not a condition for prayer. Don’t let guilt or shame over sin keep you from the one means by which we can seek restoration to God. No matter how long you have been away from God, He is ready to hear from you when you approach Him with a pentitent heart and you confess your sins before Him in all honesty. He will restore you to a right relationship with Himself. Every situation can be salvaged if you are willing again to turn to Him. If God could still work in Samson’s situation, He can certainly make worthwhile out of yours.

Do you think that God will not hear you when you repent? Do you think that you are too far gone for God to love you? Do you think that you have done too many things wrong in your past for God to use you in any way? Just know that God loves you. All He asks is that you come to Him and quit lying about your sins and how you can handle it all. He wants your humble heart before Him and confession that you have made a mess of things on your own. And ask for forgiveness through the price that Jesus paid on the cross for you. He will welcome you into the family. He will send the Holy Spirit to live in you and change you from the inside out over the remainder of your lifetime. He will convict you and call you to His service. God can make even the worst into his best servants. Come to him now.

Thinking of that old, wonderful hymn now, O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing, where it says:

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Come to Him now. He has a use for you. He is all about the redemption. God is in the redemption business. He can redeem you. He redeemed me. He has given me my past to be part of my ministry in my future to help bring others to the cross. He will use your past as your ministry too.

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 13:15-23

The Land Given to the Tribe of Reuben

Do you ever think about the legacy that you will leave behind? Do think about how your actions will have ripple effects in your family for generations. But are we not forgiven for our past mistakes by God when we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord.

 

This issue has been on my mind lately because of current events locally. I have had to attend the funerals of the father of a friend and the husband of a church member within the last several weeks. And then there has been an issue of a person that was not a close friend but more than a mere acquaintance that has been accused of crimes regarding dissemination of pornography among people who are less than 18 years old. In all of these things, it had me considering the issue of legacy and its relationship to forgiveness in Christ.

 

In the funerals, I heard stories of great legacy. These two men were honored and revered by their families. You can usually tell at funerals whether people are struggling to say nice things about the deceased or whether they are being sincere. In both cases, those who spoke of the deceased were joyously and sometimes tearfully speaking of the things that they respected about the man, the father, the husband, the employee, etc. that these men were. “He was a good man!” was often said at each of these funerals. These were God-fearing men. These were men who led their families well. These were men of quiet generosity not just at church but in the community with those that needed help. These were men that knew what his sons needed in their father in one case or was perfectly suited to be the father of all daughters in the other case. Respect. Honor. Dignity. Generosity. Christ-following. Humble. Hard Working. Integrity. All of these adjectives were lauded upon these men. I am sure that each had their faults and had their screw ups with their kids and their wives but nothing profound that permanently damaged their overall legacy. Their legacy was one of respect and honor. They were able to pass on that legacy to their children. Each of them appear to people of honor and respect and all of that they are they credit to the leadership of their father. Now, that’s legacy my friends. These men were not internationally famous, nationally famous, famous in our state, regionally famous, and probably were not well-known even in our community outside their sphere of influence of church, work, and friends. But the legacy that they have passed down to their progeny is one that I certainly want to have said of me.

 

What will my children and my wife think of me when they have to write my eulogy after I am gone. What legacy am I leaving to him by my actions during my life? What will they say of me? And how will the actions, mistakes, victories, character, how I acted in crunch moments, how far down the genealogical tree will my actions of my lifetime reverberate and shake the branches of my progeny.

 

That same question of legacy and the impact of our actions is what I thought about in the situation where a person I know stands accused of a crime and the evidence is pretty heavy that he did it (but we will reserve the right here to say that he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law not in the court of public opinion). If he is found guilty of the crime of which he stands accused, what will be the impact of his actions on his family and future generations of his family. What impact will this moment in time have on the generations of his family to come. What will be the legacy of these actions? Sure, we are praying for the redemption of this man from his active and ongoing sin of which he stands accused. We pray that he will be repentant and seek restoration. However, we cannot pray that the consequences of his be removed his life. There are simply some immutable facts of life. Sin has its consequences. We must deal with our sins even after salvation. Sins that we commit before our salvation in the Lord will still visit us in their consequences even after salvation. Just because we accept Christ as our Savior does not mean that we are automatically at that moment absolved of the consequences of our prior sins. God allows those things to play themselves out in our lives as lessons to us as to (1) why we needed Jesus in the first place and (2) as reminders of what sin does to our lives. What will be the far ranging impacts on this man’s life that will be felt for years and decades to come. It will follow him for the rest of his career. He will have to change careers. His earnings potential will be severely impacted by the choices that will be made. These things will happen and cannot be changed. We pray that he will repent, be redeemed from his sin, and be restored to the body of Christ, but his legacy has been impacted. His own life has been impacted. Sin is more than just the moment. It has trailing effects on our lives and the lives of the people we love.

 

My own situation right now in life is impacted by critical path decisions that I have made in my life. These decisions permanently alter the path that your life is on. These decisions effect your legacy. These decisions affect how your children perceive life because of the choices that we make as parents. Legacy. What’s your legacy going to be? We can say that what we do right now does not reverberate down the generations but we are just kidding ourselves. Our sins will visit us upon the next generations after us. Sin has it consequences. We must think about that when we are considering doing things that are in contrast to what the Bible tells us. We must think about the impact it will have not just on us but on the people we love and the generations after us. Because, even though we might be redeemed from our sins through humble repentance before the Lord and receiving His forgiveness through Jesus Christ, our sins’ consequences will play themselves out in our lives. Reduced influence. Temporary setbacks. Lost potential. You name it. Sin has its reverberating and sometimes continuing effects on our lives and those who come after us.

 

That idea of legacy is what I thought of when I read about the land given to the tribe of Reuben. Reuben’s clan was given desert land, basically. That is the lasting impact of the legacy of Reuben himself. It got me to thinking about what was said at these funerals about these two men’s legacy and about the man who stands accused that I know. What is his legacy going to be? And then looking inwardly at myself, what is going to be my legacy? Let’s read the passage, now, Joshua 13:15-23:

 

15 This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Reuben, according to its clans:

 

16 The territory from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the middle of the gorge, and the whole plateau past Medeba 17 to Heshbon and all its towns on the plateau, including Dibon, Bamoth Baal, Beth Baal Meon, 18 Jahaz, Kedemoth, Mephaath, 19 Kiriathaim, Sibmah, Zereth Shahar on the hill in the valley, 20 Beth Peor, the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth Jeshimoth— 21 all the towns on the plateau and the entire realm of Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled at Heshbon. Moses had defeated him and the Midianite chiefs, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—princes allied with Sihon—who lived in that country. 22 In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination. 23 The boundary of the Reubenites was the bank of the Jordan. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the Reubenites, according to their clans.

 

In Genesis 49:3-4, we read, “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” Reuben, the firstborn of the twelve sons, was to Jacob his “might, the first sign of my strength” (Genesis 49:3), indicating that to him were all the rights and prerogatives of a firstborn son. At first, he excelled in honor and power, as is fitting the firstborn son, but Jacob declares that Reuben “will no longer excel” (verse 4) due to his sin of incest with Bilhah, his father’s concubine wife (Genesis 35:22). Although that sin was committed forty years prior, there was left an indelible spot on Reuben’s character and that of his posterity. By committing this uncleanness with his father’s wife, there would be reproach upon his tribe and the family, to whom he ought to have been an example and a blessing. He forfeited the prerogatives of the birthright, and his dying father demoted him, although he did not disown or disinherit him. He would still have all the privileges of a son, but not of the firstborn.

 

Jacob’s sad prophecy for Reuben certainly came true. No judge, prophet, ruler, or prince came from that tribe, nor any person of renown except Dathan and Abiram, who were noted for their rebellion against Moses. Reuben’s tribe chose a settlement on the other side Jordan, a further indication of the loss of godly influence on his brothers to which his birthright entitled him. Although Reuben was the firstborn, the kingdom was given to Judah and the priesthood to Levi, leaving Reuben’s tribe to be small and non-influential.

 

We learn from Reuben that those who dabble in sin must not expect to save their reputation or maintain a positive influence upon others. Although we know our sins were nailed to the cross and we are forever forgiven for past sins, we still have to suffer the consequences of those sins, which include remorse and a loss of reputation and influence. Reuben’s sin left an indelible mark upon him and his family. As Christians, we must understand that dishonor is a wound that will not be healed without a scar. We can been redeemed from our sin and be healed from it but our sins will leave scars on us.

 

What is your legacy going to be? What sins are you committing right now that you are justifying as OK that you don’t want to give up and you are reveling in going to do to your legacy? What are our unrepentant sins going to do to us in this lifetime and what effects are they going to have on our families and the future generations? Is that sin worth all the cost? Repent. Turn away. Wash your hands of it. Seek forgiveness from God. Seek restoration through forgiveness. What’s your legacy going to be?

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Regulations Concerning Divorce

When God called me to the ministry, I come with a handicap. No, other than not being the brightest bulb in the marquee and not a whole lot of experience in public speaking, I do not have any physical handicaps or any emotional ones. However, I do come to full-time ministry with a handicap. I am divorced. Some churches won’t even give me a second glance. No matter how good my qualifications are for any position. I am divorced. In the eyes of many churches, that is a disqualification. Door shut. Resume set on the “throw away” pile.

 

There was a seen from the movie, A Time to Kill, that seems apropos here. In one scene, the prosecuting attorney completely discredits the defense psychologist by attacking him for his own past. The prosecutor, played by Kevin Spacey, found out that the defense psychologist had been arrested for statutory rape in his younger days. The defense psychologist tried to cover it up on the stand but the prosecutor proved it and he had to admit on the stand. It was a devastating blow at that moment to the defense’s case. The defense attorney, played by Matthew McConaughey, in the next day’s action told the jury that he would have never knowingly put a rapist on the stand as a defense witness. He said it should matter that there was a back story to that arrest. The defense psychologist was 19 years old at the time and the girl was 17 years old. It should matter that the 17 year old girl became the man’s wife six months later. It should matter that they were married for 35 years and that she gave the man three wonderful children as a result of their marriage. Headlines don’t always give us the back story. We see headlines and don’t bother to delve into the details.

 

Automatically judging someone without a check under the hood seems unwise to me but that’s what happens in many search committees for pastoral or pastoral related positions. I am being held accountable for actions that I took or were forced upon me before I became a Christian. Shouldn’t the measure of who I am be how I carry myself since I became a Christ follower? I am not proud of my past. It is ugly and has warts. I lived a life not characterized by Christian values. I am not saying that I should not have to explain my past but I am saying I should get the opportunity to do so.

 

My first divorce was squarely before I came to Christ as my Savior. God was never part of the equation in that marriage even though we attended church at her family’s church – more of social club than a church. We were selfishly oriented people seeking to make the other comply with our wishes and we were willing to trash it all because of selfish desires. Although we reconciled after her affair, her drug abuse was my out for that marriage and led to my affair. We were not Christ followers and God was never part of our marriage from the beginning. My second marriage, born while the first one was crumbling, was not much different. It started without God at the center of it and it was not until after the marriage was crumbling under the weight my financial blunders and her affairs that resulted that I came to Christ as my Savior.

 

God has redeemed me from my past. I have now have a marriage, my third and final one, where God is at the center of it all. We are both Christ followers and it is our expectation that if we ever hit a rough spot that divorce will not, no longer or ever, be an option. We will work through those problems when and if they come. We are committed to the long haul. We know that grace has been given to us by Christ in our salvation and that we will give each other grace in our marriage. In our salvation, we have come to realize that the marriage is bigger than both of us. We should be molding ourselves to the ideal of marriage rather than trying to mold the other person into the perfection that we want. We have been through so much in our previous marriages and realize the mistakes that we have made, ourselves, in our previous marriages, that we do actually grant each other grace in this marriage. Our ministry is the redemptive power of God’s grace. Taking two people who have been married twice before and having their third marriage speak of what God can do when He is the center of it all. It speaks loudly to the fact that God redeems. It speaks loudly that God can use even the most flawed person to be a spokesman for His kingdom.

 

It is that handicap, that stigma of divorce, without knowing my story and my wife’s story, that I immediately thought of when I read today’s passage, Deuteronomy 24:1-4. How do we reconcile divorce, the reality that it is in our world, with the Christian worldview (based on the biblical evidence)? Let’s read through this passage and come to some conclusion about it after we have read it:

 

24 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

 

In this passage, we see the only Old Testament law that deals with divorce. The way it is written, with its “if…then” wording, suggests that Israelite society was already accepting of divorce. God is setting for regulations for something that was already a problem. He is not condoning it. He is simply regulating it now that the cat is out of the bag, the horse is out of the barn. This law is intended to restrict a practice that could lead to treating women as a commodity – to be traded like merchandise. Cavalier divorce would rob the Israelite wife not only of her dignity but also of her wealth. By divorcing his wife, an Israelite man would acquire solely the wedding dowry that the wife brought to the marriage. The wedding dowry was the Israelite father’s marriage gift to the daughter. It immediately became the property of her husband upon the consummation of the marriage. Thus, the law protects marriage by imparting a solemn gravity to divorce.

 

As I have stated many times, the laws of the Old Testament were set as a minimum of behavior expected of God’s people. Jesus told us that He did not come to abolish the law but rather to fulfill it. He came to give life to the law and set us free from its condemnation. He also came to teach us that we must obey the spirit of the law and not just the letter of it. He was saying that if we are believers that we must take the law and take it to the next level. For example, with regard to divorce, Jesus says that the law was created as a minimum of behavior. He says that that divorce is only in the law because of our fallen nature and that it is not an expectation of God. He says that the only reason that we should consider divorce is if there has been sexual immorality, nothing else. If both spouses are believers, then, sexual immorality is off the table and thus divorce is off the table.

 

Matthew 19:3-9

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

 

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

 

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

 

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

 

Paul reiterates the higher level of expectation for believers that Jesus set before us. Paul expects us to reconcile our marriages even when the get into a hard place. Divorce simply should not be our first reaction. See what Paul says here:

 

1 Corinthian 7:10-14

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

 

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

 

The only outs that the Bible thus gives us for divorce is if (1) there has been sexual immorality, (2) attempts to reconcile have failed and the non-believing spouse leaves the marriage. Believers are expected to try to reconcile their marriages even when one spouse is not a believer. If both are believers, forgiveness should be the hallmark of our behavior. If it takes a separation for an extended period of time, then, so be it but the idea for believers is to save their marriages. Sexual immorality is our only out for divorce as believers (when our spouse has committed the crime) but even then should we not exhibit grace instead of pride when it comes to our marriage. And if a so-called believer (either the spouse who has cheated or the spouse who was cheated upon) refuses to work on their marriage after adultery has occurred, then, the fruits of the spirit are not evident.

 

These are hard words in a world where we throw away spouses like we throw away soft drink bottles. Divorce is as rampant in the church as it is in the general public. It is a fact of life that we must deal with as people enter our doors. However, once we become Christ followers, we must see marriage as something that we don’t take lightly. Marriage is something that we must try to save at all costs. We must give grace and be given grace in marriage. We must think long and hard before we get married as Christ followers. Because as Christ followers, we are to be committed to our marriages for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts us. No longer can we change spouses like we change underwear. We must see the good in our spouses and pray that they see the good in us. We must seek to forgive their weaknesses and pray that they forgive ours. We must pray for them daily and hope that they pray for us daily. Help us to be humbly in love with our spouses.

 

Yes, I am divorced. I have a past before I became a Christ follower. However, I am redeemed. My wife of 7 years is redeemed. Our marriage is a testament of God’s redeeming, reclaiming power. That preaches. That teaches. That shouts from the mountaintop of the redeeming power of the Lord that makes even the foulest clean.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 23:17-18

Earnings of a Temple Prostitute

 

This passage is pretty straightforward and the Bible in totality is pretty straightforward on its stance on prostitution. Let’s just look at a few of the passages from other parts of the Bible:

 

Leviticus 19:29 “Do not defile your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will be filled with prostitution and wickedness.

 

Leviticus 21:9 “If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she also defiles her father’s holiness.

 

Proverbs 23:27-28 for a prostitute is like a deep pit; a harlot is like a narrow well. Indeed, she lies in wait like a robber, and increases the unfaithful among men.

 

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.”

 

1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 It is God’s will that you keep away from sexual sin as a mark of your devotion to him. Each of you should know that finding a husband or wife for yourself is to be done in a holy and honorable way,

 

So, the Bible is pretty clear here. Prostitution (whether it be male or female) is an abomination to the Lord. Supporting the industry through uses the services of a prostitute is just as sinful as participating in the industry. Therefore, to extend that analogy, the Bible, in this passage, that earnings made from this sinful activity should not be brought into His House and offered to the Lord.

 

One of the main points of my daily blog is to try to relate Bible passages to daily living either through examples from my own life or through the lives of others. So, today, let’s play, “what if…” As the finance director at my church, this is a very potent question that I am going to pose. As you may know from my previous blogs, my church, LifeSong Church, is what they call a “seeker church”. We specialize, it seems, in bringing in people to our church that (1) have been away from church for a very long time, or (2) never have been to church at all in their life, ever. As a result, less mature Christians tend not to get the whole “obedience to the Lord” thing when it comes to money – at least not right away, it comes with time and experience as a Christ follower. Thus, our finances at church are sometimes a struggle. We run a very bare bones operation as a result. So, that sets up the question nicely.

 

What would we do if say the owner of Platinum Plus over in Greenville, or Nikita’s Place right here in the Lyman area, or the owner of Cheetahs down in Atlanta walked into our church and plopped down a briefcase full of cash totaling $500,000 (which would fund about 64% of our budget for the current year)? What if the owner had no strings attached to it? He just says that he had heard good things about our church and what we do in the community. He even mentions that he remembered seeing on our sign by the road a year or so ago that “sinners, thieves, prostitutes, beggars are welcome here!” He liked that! He just wanted to give us some help from the proceeds of his business. No matter what you say to dress up the strip club image, it is a prelude to prostitution (as the recent shutdown and arrests that were made at Platinum Plus over in Greenville). What would you do as director of finance at a church that struggles financially? What would you do if you were the senior pastor of such a church? Would you accept the money and praise God? Would you accept the money and rationalize that in the church’s hands even the dirtiest money can become holy? What would you do?

 

Let’s go to Scripture and see what it has to say:

 

17 No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. 18 You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute[a] into the house of the Lord your God to pay any vow, because the Lord your God detests them both.

 

Male and female prostitution was often practiced in worship centers to pagan gods due to the belief that this type of activity would increase fertility. A portion of the fees earned by the temple prostitutes were donated to the upkeep of the temple. This practice was strictly forbidden in Israel but because the Israelites often strayed from God, they did often participate in the practice.

 

So, here, God says that those that participate in prostitution and earn money from it are not to bring their sinful gains into God’s holy presence. It seems pretty clear that what we should do in the scenario presented. Even though the church could make good use of the money and fund outreach ministries in ways that we struggle to attain now, we would have to refuse the 500 grand. But wait, you say. Are we supposed to be loving and accepting of people who have a past! That’s what our sign by the road will sometimes say when we use the tag line, “Sinners, prostitutes, thieves…welcome here!” Why would we welcome them but not accept their money?

 

It seems fairly clear that we must determine if a person is repentant or just trying to assuage their guilt. Sometimes, people give to the church to sanctify their own sinful behaviors. I made money through sinful means but since I tithed on my gains, then, it must be OK. How much tainted money goes into our offering plates each Sunday? When we see people who participating in sin but refuse to call it sin, then, we must draw a line. If a pimp refuses to repent of his sin and refuses to see that what he is doing is wrong, then, we must refuse his money. I think that God is saying the same thing in this passage, if you are participating in sin and refusing to repent of it but yet you bring your tainted offerings to me, I will not accept it and particularly because you go right back out there and participate in your sin.

 

I think though if that same pimp walks into the church and tells me or my senior pastor that God has convicted him of his lifestyle as sinful, that he no longer wants to participate in it, and instead of living off his gains from his sinful past, he would just rather the church have it and use it to reach people for Christ? I think that’s a game changer there. That’s repentance. Same money, but a repentant soul! Matthew 21:31-32 tells us this: “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.” Repentance is everything.

 

That leads us to a broader question that we can take away today. What are you and I refusing to repent of? What are you and I saying is OK but is really sin? What sins do we justify as OK and then go into the house of God and worship and refuse to repent! What is that thing that you join in with the culture around us and say that it is no longer sin and it is OK when the Bible clearly stands against it? What sins are you and I calling good and wholesome but are clearly against God’s Word? Are you participating in sins that are clearly stated in God’s Word as being an abomination but yet you justify in your mind why it is not a sin for you?

 

We are called to repentance! We are called to humble ourselves before the Lord and repent of our sins and turn away from them! He can redeem the most unholy of behaviors but repentance and a turning away must come first. As Charles Wesley stated in the song, O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing, “He can make the foulest clean!” and “new life the dead receive!”. The Bible tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

 

 

Have you ever wondered why God is not blessing you or blessing your church? What is it that we must repent of? What sins are we participating in that we are saying is not sin? Let us search our hearts for our pet sins that we justify as being OK. Let us bring them out into the light. Let us call our sins as what they are – sins. Let us beg mercy before the Lord. Let us repent of our sins and move forward into God’s grace and God’s blessing.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 21:10-14

Marrying a Captive Woman

When you read the Bible book by book and passage by passage in consecutive order, you are going to come across passages that are hard to deal with and understand, particularly when you are coming at them from 21st century sensibilities. Today is one of those days. This is a tough passage.

 

There is really no illustration that I can come up with from my own life as I have never been to war. The last half of v. 14 is a telling one to me. I don’t think that you can see this passage as to do with anything other than a man having raped a woman during battle. In context of the word “dishonor” as it is used here, it can reasonably be assumed that it refers to forced sexual relations or rape. Therefore, this passage is about how to bring good out of a bad situation.

 

I know that in war and the heat of fierce battle, men see things that they will never see in normal civilized society. Stabbing, gutting, decapitating, blood, guts, and its going on all around you. It is probably the most intense visual, emotional and mental experience that men will endure. It is the ugly side of humanity. Killing and destroying. It is desensitizing. Men do things in war that they would never be allowed to do in civilized society. Often rape, including gang rape, during wartime, even in today’s world, is used as a way to demoralize the vanquished population. It is often seen as part of the spoils of victory. This was particularly true in the civilizations that coexisted at the same time as the ancient Israelites. It was a means of psychological warfare and a way to humiliate the enemy. Having sex with the vanquished civilization’s women and forcing the women to live with that dirtiness and their husbands knowing it would rip at the very fabric of the society. And, as we have seen, throughout the Bible, the Israelites more often than not took on the habits of the nations around them rather than following God’s commands.

 

That’s the only way that I can make sense of this passage is that it is God seeing that it is likely that Israel will repeatedly be like its neighbors and so He must put forth a regulation to help redeem a bad situation. Let’s read through this tough passage:

 

10 When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

 

The footnotes in my Bible discuss this passage in this way. The footnote says this law relates to the previous commands dealing with human life and war. It also relates to the next passage’s command about polygamous marriage. These laws show the importance of respecting human life in compromising situations. Here, this law deals with the perennial problem of rape during war. Rape was forbidden in Israel. If a soldier was attracted to a woman, he had to marry her, as noted here. However, he could only do so after she had lived with him in a state of humiliation and mourning for a month. The shaving of her head and trimming of the nails and the changing of clothes represented not only humiliation and mourning but also of a complete break with her past and starting a new life in the new community. If he changed his mind after they were married, she had to be granted her freedom. Her dignity had to be guarded and she could not be treated like a slave. The fact that female prisoners of war could be taken as wives by the Israelites does not sanction the practice so much as it regulates and transforms an existing evil. Here, in this passage, the Hebrew word translated into English here as “dishonor” occurs 12 other times in the Bible and is when referring to men forcing when to have sexual relations with them (rape). In this sense, the Bible is being realistic about the evils that we commit and figures out a way to take a bad thing and make it good.

 

What biblical truth can we take away from this passage? It think there are two things. Responsibility and redemption.

 

In this passage, I see a requirement about taking responsibility for our actions. We commit acts that are just pure evil sometimes. We must own up to them and not just walk away from them because there were extenuating circumstances. We cannot excuse our way out of evil deeds. We cannot just forget they happened. We cannot just cover them up and hope no one finds out about them. When we commit acts of evil we must address them. We must try to make them right. We must restore honor to those who have been dishonored by us. Also, just because everyone in the world is legitimizing an evil and says it is OK to participate in it, does not mean God’s people have the right to violate God’s commands. Just to fit, we sometimes commit acts that we know directly from the Bible are morally wrong and against God’s commands. We must own up to having fallen short of God’s glory and try to make things right.

 

In this passage, I also see redemption. I see God taking something born in evil and making it new and clean through redemption. There is a certain symbolism of repentance and restoration in the dignity that is allowed to the woman in this situation. The man is required to make the woman he raped his wife. She is given stature of wife instead of being a humiliated victim. She is also given power here. She could exact humiliation upon the man by making him not want to stay married to her. She is given power that she becomes a full and rightful member of Jewish society regardless of whether she is married to this man or not. Usually in context of these societies, she would have been a humiliated sexual slave for the rest of her life with no status and no right to marry the man who raped her. She would be routinely raped for the rest of her life as a slave. Here, though, God redeems the evil act perpetrated upon her and gives her new status. She is redeemed and set free.

 

In that sense, it is similar to what God does for us through Jesus Christ. He redeems us from our own rape of purity through our lifetimes of sin. He redeems us from the evil that we have committed throughout our lives. He gives us clothes of righteousness through His sacrifice. He redeems us from the humiliation that we have before God and sets us free into a new life. We have full citizenship in heaven because He has redeemed us from the rape of our evil. He sets on our feet and gives us rights in His kingdom through the purity and sinlessness of Jesus Christ. He takes what is bad (us) and make something beautiful out of the bad (through the beauty of Jesus Christ).

 

Amen and Amen.