Monday, December 18, 2017

4 Things God Permits but Doesn’t Like

I decided to put this list together because people will take some kind of sin, usually a sexual one, that the church has historically opposed and point to reasons why it isn’t actually sinful.  Then they will point to things that happened in the Bible and say, “See, God allows this.  Why not this?”  Here are some of those things.

Divorce: Nobody explains this one better than Jesus.  Here he is in Matthew 19 when the Pharisees decided to ask him about divorce.

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?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 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’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Polygamy: Somebody once said that God actually commanded this.  Like if a man and woman married, and the woman produced no child, then the woman was obligated to provide a servant for the man to produce a child for her.  That woman could not marry the man because of her social status and served as a concubine.  Heroes of the Bible such as David had many wives and people loved him.  So this is clearly allowed, right?
No, not exactly.  Like Jesus said, when God created mankind, he created them male and female and they would become one flesh.  Also, what people don’t realize is that the Bible accounts often describe things that did happen, not necessarily what should happen.  I read a Bible dictionary once that said that God did allow this practice, but history shows what a disaster it always caused.
For example, Jacob’s wives always fought with each other over who got to have kids and sleep with Jacob.  Hannah was heartbroken because her husband took on another wife because she couldn’t have kids.  David’s many marriages caused him to take on another man’s wife and kill him and then one of his sons thought he should be allowed to rape his half-sister and another son killed that son, tried to kill David, and slept with all his concubines on a roof in broad daylight.

So what about passages that seem to command men to take on an extra wife to provide for children.  Actually, they never command that.  God simply provides rules for when men happen to do that.

In Exodus 21:7-11 it says:

 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

It did not command a man to either sell his daughter or take on a servant consort; it merely said what to do if that happened.

This leads me to my next thing:


I think in the ancient times, slavery started as a kind of way to pay debts.  If Tim owed Bill some money or had committed a crime that was not punishable by death, he could work for Bill as a servant for an amount of time to pay off that debt.  It would save taxpayers from having to support him in a penal system and he could contribute to society.

Also, women could enter into slavery as a household servant to a woman or as a way to produce children for a man.

Through the years it became the horrifying practice that was finally condemned after the American Civil War at least in America and in England before that.  Human sin changed it into a civil debt system into the brutality that it would become. 

It was so common that Paul commanded slaves to obey their masters and masters to be kind to their slaves.  And when Onesimus was converted to a believer, Paul pled with his master, Philemon, to take him not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.

I think the issue of slavery is one of the most embarrassing things for conservative believers to support when it was the monster that it became.  It fooled even giants such as George Whitfield.  But God hates the idea of a man owning another man and he hates abuse. 

The Crucifixion of Jesus

Not only did God allow this, but the whole Trinity planned on doing this from before creation.  When God created a being in his image called human, he knew that this image would not be as perfect as him.  And he knew that the humans would betray their creator and sin.  So the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always planned on sending the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, to earth to be born as a man and to die for the sins of all the Lord had chosen to believe.  (Acts 13:48, all who were appointed for eternal life believed).

Does God love the idea that people betrayed him and that they could not come to him in their sins on their own terms?  There was no greater injustice than the only perfect human dying on the cross, but people needed a substitute for their sins and they needed his alien righteousness applied to their lives in order to come to God.  We will never quite understand the contrasts between God’s expressed will (what we know he loves and hates) and his secret decrees (what he allows for reasons only he knows).  But we know that he is God, his commandments are right, all he does and plans is right, and that Christ is the only perfect human and God himself who did not want all humanity lost in its own rebellion.  Believe on him, and you will have your sins imputed to Christ and his goodness imputed to you.  And through our perfect permanent priest who needs no replacement can we come to God and have our sins forgiven.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Honesty: the struggle is real

Back in October, I was supposed to give a talk to children about honesty.  It never happened, but here is the main verse in that talk: Proverbs 24:26, An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

The idea is that usually if you love someone, you kiss them on the lips.  If you give an honest answer, that must mean you love that person.

But then I think, I don't kiss everyone on the lips.  In fact, I only kiss one person on the lips: Tim.  I'm married to him and can do that.  Usually, you only save a lip kiss for someone you intend to marry or are married to or have a romantic relationship with.  You are making yourself vulnerable to betrayal and heartbreak.

So, if you don't kiss everyone on the lips, do you give everyone an honest answer?  You must be truthful with everyone yes.  The Lord commands us to not bear false witness.  But just like you don't run around naked in public, you also don't have to reveal everything lest it be used against you.  Be wise with who you tell the truth to.

For example, it is true that I did not give this talk like planned.  But what only a handful of people know is why it got cancelled.  Even fewer know the finer details of that.  And knowing the conundrum I'm having with this verse, it's just as well. 

But in the long run, you must be truthful and loving to everyone you meet, even at risk to yourself and your emotions.  You won't get close to people otherwise.  Just how much you reveal takes much prayer and maybe advice from someone you trust.  It's hard for me to be close to people for that very reason.  I don't know the difference of being truthful and telling too much.  But I'm not alone in that struggle.  How do you go around with that balance?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hosea: the ugly chronicles of Israel following their hearts

As Kelly Needham moves on to chapters 8-9, she highlights four parts that mention people or places from Israel's history referenced by Hosea as he is God's mouthpiece to his wanton nation.

1. First is chapter 8 verses 4-6:
4 They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. 5 I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? 6 For it is from Israel; a craftsman made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.

Hosea references Jeroboam many times.  First, King Solomon joined in wedlock to a thousand foreign women.  They turned his heart away from God to serve false idols.  A prophet came and said that during his son's reign, Israel would split and Solomon's actions would cause most of the nation to fall away from God.  Ten tribes would form a new country and Israel would be two kingdoms.  Then, his son Rehoboam became king.  He was a jerk, and the country split and made Jeroboam king.  Jeroboam knew that people would still go to Jerusalem to worship God, so he set up two golden calves, told the people that they could worship the true God through them, and thus Israel's northern kingdom would not be quite as faithful to God as the south.  Then, Omri set up Samaria as the capital, and his son Ahab, the most wicked king, brought everybody to Baal worship.

It just shows that one sin after another influences many to turn away from the true God and will destroy everybody if God never steps in and causes the people to repent.  

2. But Israel's sin goes back farther than that.  Hosea 9:9 mentions a problem in the time of the judges when everybody followed their hearts:

They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah; he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins.

Where is Gibeah?  Oh yeah, it's the town in Judges 19 where the most horrifying Bible story occurs.  A man and his concubine stay in Gibeah.  Just like in Sodom and Gomorrah, men would go around looking for someone to rape.  And this was in the nation that was supposed to be following God.  The man and his host throw a daughter and his concubine out among those men who do whatever with them all night long.  Then, when the man leaves in the morning, there is the concubine passed out on the doorstep.  He tells her, "let's go."  She doesn't.  Then he sends parts of her to all the tribes of Israel and they make war on Benjamin and nearly wipe out that tribe.  Why would people go so far from the Lord that they would think it is alright to have fun by violating women and also that it's alright to send women into such a fray to protect themselves?  This is where even little sins take you if the Lord does not step in and cause you to repent.

3. But the problem goes farther back even to Moses.  Hosea 9:10:

Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-Peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.

God had set these people apart from all the people in the world to be his prized followers among a world that has turned its back on him.  But then these people get attracted to the world and start following their false gods.  Baal-Peor is the place where in the wilderness, the Midianites send attractive women to the men who seduce them and cause them to worship Baal for the the first time.  Baal is the fertility god who sends rain when he and Asherah consort.  To induce them to do this, the worshipers sleep with prostitutes so that they can have rain and harvests.  So, God sends a plague on the nation, and Moses declares that everyone who has slept with a Midianite woman should be killed.  Then a man takes the chief's daughter, Kozbi, into his tent in front of Moses and the grieving Israelites.  Aaron's grandson kills them both, and then the plague stops.  

Your sins don't just hurt yourself.  It plagues everyone you know.  And Israel's sin starts in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan, goes on through Gibeah and all the judges and then comes to a head long before Jeroboam comes along.

4. Hosea 9:15:
Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels.

Gilgal is where Israel decides it needs a king: just like everybody else.  God was supposed to be their king, but he isn't cool, so they need a king.

How many of our sins start by trying to be like everybody else?  Sure, you heard in church that sex is to be saved for marriage between a man and a woman but all your friends are doing it and you have these strong feelings for someone.  Sure, you heard that you should only worship the God who revealed himself through Jesus and not bow down to stars, but horoscopes are so interesting and harmless.  Sure, the teacher told you to not touch her things, but they looks so inviting and I'll look cool if I touch it.

the solution: Israel's history is one big example of them betraying God who did everything for them and God showing them that they simply cannot follow God without his help because they love themselves so much.  How did he solve this problem?  After he exiled them from the land, he brought them back, and then he sent Jesus to die for their sins.  And not just their sins, but for the sins of anybody, whether Israeli or not.  God does not forgive sins, and if you don't believe in Jesus, then you will be punished for your sins.  But if you believe, then Jesus takes that punishment and then gives you his righteousness so that you can follow him completely.  Only a perfect man could do that, and only a man who was God himself could do that.  Will you believe in him so that he can give you his Spirit and change you?