Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Judges: Does God command genocide?

I think since I'm done with the Hosea series, that I want to slowly go through the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings.  Why?  Because nobody seems to really teach from them.  They are rare.  I've studied Genesis and the Torah pretty well, the life of David, the Gospels, Paul's letters and the New Testament, but not much on Judges and the kings.  There are a lot of stories that people just don't know.

Now, these books are gory.  It is true.  I won't say I'm morbid, but these books are in the Bible, so we should study them.  I would say if any book in the bible is R-rated, it would be Judges.  But I don't study it for entertainment.  I study it to know Jesus better and how the Old Testament points to him. 

I also have an OT professor from Erskine who wrote a book on Judges and Ruth.  If he still reads my blog, I know he will say to get his book.  I would love to.  I still haven't yet.  His name is George Schwab and the book is Right in Their Own Eyes.  I've seen the book at LifeWay and everything.  But for now, I'm just going to go by what I read from Scripture and from stuff I see on the Gospel Coalition or in Bible dictionaries.

I think I will start by answering a common question among people who like to denounce conservative Christianity: Does the God of the Bible command genocide?  The Israelites in Judges just came from a command from God to kill all the Canaanites, including women and children, because their sin had reached its maximum point, and he was going to rid the land of them and replace them with Israel.  So, did God command genocide?

Let's think of a modern example.  Imagine a country where the men gang up on women and rape them, they slaughter children and babies for convenience, and even set up pogroms to exterminate people they consider unfit to live.  Would you not want justice done to this country?  Or even imagine the scene from Judges 19 where the man let his concubine out into the streets to get raped all night by a violent gang.  Would you not want justice for these people?  Now imagine a whole country that does all this.  Then you can see God's point of view.

God is holy.  He created all man kind and expects them to be holy.  He told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed him by eating the forbidden fruit that they would die.  They ate.  God had mercy on them by postponing their deaths until they were in their 900s.  He also slaughtered an animal to make clothes for them and told them how to come back to him. 

All their children were born into sin and it got so bad that God said he would wipe out all mankind with a flood.  But he had mercy and sent Noah to build and ark.  It took him about 100 years but he built it as a warning to all the people.  God saved Noah and his family but killed everyone else. 

Then, the survivors had children who build the tower of Babel to make a name for themselves.  There, God gave them all different languages and scattered them.  They began worshiping false gods and creating crass religions.  God saved Abraham and told him to move to Canaan.  He said that land would belong to him and his descendants.  Those people had about 400 years to learn from Abraham and repent of their sins.  But they only grew worse and worse until God finally decided to exercise his right to wipe them out.  And he did that by sending a man with the same name as Jesus, Joshua, to go and kill them all with an army.

Even then he still showed mercy to those who repented.  One was a woman name Rahab who was originally a prostitute.  She saved the spies, came to know the true God, and joined Israel, becoming an ancestor of Jesus.  The other were the Gibeonites.  They deceived the Israelites into thinking they were from far away, so they made a promise to spare them.  And they served the Israelites from then onward. 

And just the same, God gives all the world time to repent of their sins and turn to Jesus.  When Jesus/Joshua finally returns to earth to reclaim his land, those who did not turn to him will suffer all eternity under his wrath. 

Now, the Joshua who conquered Canaan was not quite as good as Jesus.  He didn't finish the job.  There were many pagans who remained for one reason or another.  And they did turn the Israelite hearts to their false religions that celebrated shrine prostitution and child sacrifice.  And later on, God had to shoo them out of the land through exile.  But he kept his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to send a Redeemer for them to look to to save them from their sins and expel all evil.  This Savior is the only reason we can have a relationship with God and not be killed in our sins.  He took the punishment on the cross, and the redeemed ones will be reconciled to God under his blood and his righteousness.

This doesn't answer all my questions on this, but it does show me that God is not a monster.  There is no difference between the OT God and the NT God who sent Jesus.  He is holy, just, and always does the right thing.  He is merciful to people but he doesn't have to be.  And when he decides to act in justice by exterminating sinners, then people are shocked.

I remember one time, Mom and I were talking about suicide and she told me, "Only God gave you your life, and only he has the right to take it away."  Perhaps we can think about it the same way, here.  God gave them life, gave them nearly a millennium to repent, and then finally followed through on his promise for them to die in their sins.  But he had mercy on Noah, Israel, and he has mercy on me even though we are all as wicked as they are.  We should both love and fear him for that.

Further reading would be this.  Also, here is a link to Schwab's book. And here's a verse, Deuteronomy 29:24-29

All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”
25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”
29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hosea: putting it all together

This is the last Hosea post from Kelly Needham's study on inductive Bible study methods.  In it, she takes all the techniques from the previous lessons and puts them together.

Here is Hosea 14:
[a]Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
    Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
    and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
    “Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
    that we may offer the fruit of our lips.[b]
Assyria cannot save us;
    we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
    to what our own hands have made,
    for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
“I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
    he will send down his roots;
    his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
    his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
    they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
    Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I[c] to do with idols?
    I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
    your fruitfulness comes from me.”
Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
    Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
    the righteous walk in them,
    but the rebellious stumble in them.

What does the text say?
“Return to me”
Ask God for forgiveness
Assyria can’t save them.  Other gods can’t save them.
God will heal their waywardness.
I will be like a dew to Israel.
"Cedar of Lebanon" is repeated twice
Also, wine of Lebanon
Specifically references “Ephraim,” the collective name for northern Israel.
"Who is wise and discerning?" Suggesting, it’s not that easy to understand.
This boggles the contemporary mind where most of Americana Christianity teaches how we can freely come to God for forgiveness without really explaining why it's such a big deal.


What does it mean?
Both kingdoms of Israel looked to Assyria.  Assyria eventually took northern Israel into exile.

Lebanon must have had amazing cedars that smelled nice and luxurious.  Their wines must have been amazing, too.  I remember growing up in my parents' home, our cedar chest which still has a wonderful smell that helped keep bugs from its contents.  I suppose one day, Israel will be free from bugs, too.  

How can a wise person discern an offended and holy God wanting to reconcile with the people who offended him?  God is too holy to look on sin and not punish it.  When somebody sins, it is permanent.  God can only look on the sinner through Jesus.  Jesus must die for their sins and impute to them his righteousness for them to have a good relationship with God.

This means that God had already forgiven the people who repented from the beginning of time because he always planned on sending Jesus.

How should it change me?
Worship – God knew I would sin and yet still planned on sending Jesus to take care of my sins.

Repentance – How can God lead me to properly repent of my sins? 

Prayer – Lead me to Jesus.

Are there sins you grew up with that you need to repent?  The Israelites probably grew up thinking that one could worship the God of Israel and still engage in Baal worship which involved ritual prostitution and in some cases child sacrifice.  But if they stopped to truly study God's word which should have been taught by the Levites who had access to it, then they would know that it was wrong and you could not do both.

Growing up, my mother had a Ouija board as a teenager.  She thought it weird that the arrow would move on its own, but she never thought that it was harmful to seek the future from something other than God.  When she became more serious about her faith, she realized that Ouija board involvement is witchcraft and had a male friend of hers from Youth for Christ go burn it for her.  

Growing up, I was in public school where I though that dinosaurs died before man existed and that I could reconcile evolutionary teaching of millions of years with God's creation story.  When I truly read the Bible, I realize that nothing died before man sinned and that the fossil record could be solved by just believing in Noah's flood.  I changed my thinking from doubting God's word to believing with better light.

I think kids these days grow up believing that gender is fluid and nonbinary and that they can be pro-LGBT and follow Christ with a clear conscious.  But God said that he created man male and female, clearly making them binary in a way that is both true and very good.  And he paired his lonely male Adam with a female Eve, not another man, and told them to reproduce.  It was to reflect God's relationship with the church, which is also binary.  God's church and God.  It's even more different than man and woman.  But God commanded sex to be with in a marriage between a man and a woman and nowhere else to bond the couple and to produce children.  So to follow the popular culture would be to not believe what God has clearly revealed in his word.

When you hear God's call to repent, he is doing so because he has sent Christ to die for your sins and the Spirit to change your heart.  You must do so and claim Christ's new righteousness which is alien to you but is the only thing that will make you right before a holy God.  And he will keep his promise in Hosea 14 to change your waywardness.  He is still doing that for me.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A donkey and a bum

Read Numbers 22.

In this part of the Bible, Israel had just defeated two nations that stood in the way of them reaching the Promised Land.  They defeated Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan.  Now they camped next two Moab and Midian who were scared, although not scared enough to turn to the Lord.

Balak the son of Zippor hired Balaam, a mystic, to go curse Israel.  Balaam decided to pray about it, but God told him not to go.  Balak sweetened the deal with more money.  Balaam prayed about it again even though God clearly told him no the first time.  God said to go but say only what he says.

So we now have two individuals being pressured to do the wrong thing: Balaam and his donkey.  Sadly, a mere donkey was smarter than Balaam.  An angel stood in the way of Balaam and the donkey with a sword ready to kill them.  The donkey stopped.  Balaam beat her three times.  The Lord blessed the donkey by giving her speech.  She asked, "why have you beat me these three times?"  Balaam still doesn't realize the real fool in the story.  "You have made a fool of me.  If I had a sword, I would kill you."  Finally, God opened Balaam's eyes to see the angel and that the donkey was right.  He said he would turn around, but God said to go and say only what he wanted Balaam to say.

Balaam tried seven times to curse Israel, but God turned those curses into blessings, including a prophesy of the Messiah (Numbers 24:17-19).

Balaam knew that God would not allow him to curse Israel, but he still wanted Balak's reward.  In the next chapter, Moab sends beautiful women to seduce the Israelites.  And it works.  It leads them into sin through adultery and idolatry combined.  Many people get killed as a punishment.  In Numbers 31:16, it is revealed that Balaam advised everyone to send the women.  By that time, he had been killed in battle against Moab and Midian.

But let's return to the sweet donkey.  She was under pressure to do the wrong thing.  She looked to her Lord and maker to save her from her situation.  Balaam was under pressure to do the wrong thing, and he looked to his own cunning to get him out rather than repent and turn to the Lord.  Israel had no idea that mud was being slung at them from above until it was too late.  They were not prepared for the temptations that Balaam would send, but because God loved them and chose them as his nation, he gave them victory after a severe chastisement.  24,000 people died in a plague.

When it comes to adversity and pressure to sin against God, do you look to yourself or repent and turn to the Lord?  Is a mere donkey more godly than you?

At this moment in my life, I lost one job back in October, moved on to a restaurant job in November, pulled out of children's ministry for the time, and have no clue if or when I can get back to where I was before. I honestly think it was because I moved from an ideal situation from the past three years to seek better pay when I should have stayed where I was.  I looked to my own means for advancement rather than wait on the Lord.  And now I'm in a serious set-back.  To I keep going in my own plans and schemes?  Or do I wait and look for the Lord to vindicate me?  No good dwells in and of myself, so I must learn to look to God and realize that he is enough for me.  I wish I could know he is enough for me before he becomes a last resort.  Can I do that?  Can you do that?