Friday, September 24, 2010

Tamar Plays the Harlot - Genesis 38:12-19


Now after a considerable time Shua's daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. It was told to Tamar, "Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep." So she removed her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gateway of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face. So he turned aside to her by the road, and said, "Here now, let me come in to you"; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, "What will you give me, that you may come in to me?" He said, therefore, "I will send you a young goat from the flock." She said, moreover, "Will you give a pledge until you send it?" He said, "What pledge shall I give you?" And she said, "Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand." So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow's garments.

We only know Judah’s wife by her father’s name, thus “Shua’s daughter”. When she dies Judah mourns the appropriate amount of time and then takes off to visit those that were or would be shearing his flocks at Timnah. Timnah is a small town, in the hill country, bordering on the land eventually given to Judah and the land given to Dan. If I read the sentence structure correctly, Judah went with his friend Hirah the Adullamite who you may remember had possibly introduced him to Shua whose daughter he married. So, with all those people knowing about Judah’s visit to Timnah, it was not long before Tamar, now staying with her father, was told about it as well.

Tamar had not forgotten how Judah had set her aside after her own husband died and how he did not demand that his other sons give her children in accordance with the common practice at the time, but rather sent her home to her father’s until his youngest son got older. So, is it time to pay him back? Maybe yes, maybe not. You see Judah had not kept his promise of giving her his youngest son Shelah to provide children for her as he had promised and Shelah had grown up by now. So what does she do? She takes off her mourning clothes which indicated she was a widow, veiled her face, wrapped herself in plain clothes, and went and sat in from of the gate of Enaim, a small city in the lowlands of the land of Judah, on the way to Timnah.

So Judah comes along, sees her, and, as her faced was covered, mistakes her for a prostitute sitting at the gate of the city waiting for customers. Being a widower and seeking sexual pleasure strictly to meet his physical needs, he propositions her. The thought of this being his daughter-in-law never entered his mind.

Tamar of course had a plan that she continued to implement. She asks Judah how he intended to pay her for her services. Judah tells her he will send her a young animal from his flock. In all likelihood, that was very good compensation for the services of a harlot in those days. But Tamar wanted to know what proof of promise she would have until such a payment would be made later. It is not clear whether or he was a bit taken aback by her demand for such proof or whether he repeated her question sincerely asking her to name what she wanted as that proof. In any case, she asked that Judah give her his seal, cord, and staff that he was carrying until the goat he promised had been brought to her. The seal was most likely a signet ring. The cord was likely the fancy twisted thread, which attached the seal or signet ring to his person. The staff was a rod or walking stick that he carried.

Judah quickly (we know not how willingly) agrees to give Tamar who was posing as a prostitute what she requested in order to avail himself of her services and sexual intercourse takes place. The text is very interesting here as it indicates, “she conceived by Judah” prior to even getting up from the actual sex act she had been involved in with Judah. The long-term evident consequences of sin waste no time in starting to appear in one’s life and complicating matters – even if the sinner is not aware of it.

Having delivered her services and having fulfilled her desire to get back at Judah for his failure to deliver on an earlier promise, Tamar now gets up and leaves him. It is later on that she removes her veil and once again dons her widow’s outfit. And she didn’t even know that by having sex with Judah she also met her need for having a child.

So what are we to take from all this? Well for starters, we need to think about any responsibilities to others that we have failed to carry out in our lives. They may well come back to thwart our plans for our own future. Secondly, be sure you know whom you are really dealing with at all times. In my career as a civil servant I was taught early never to say or do anything that I would not be prepared to see in the headlines of the national media the next day. I think that all Christians should live their lives like that. It’s sound advice. Finally, there is a lesson that clearly suggests we would be wise to meet our physical sexual needs in the way that God intended us to. Even for those that are single or widowed, we are to seek God’s will as to whether or not He may want you to marry or remarry as the case may be, and if not, to seek His help and strength in living a life of celibacy, relying on Him for companionship and spiritual intimacy. God bless you today as you live for Him.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Er’s Wife, Tamar - Genesis 38:6-11


Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life. Then Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother." Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also. Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Remain a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up"; for he thought, "I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers." So Tamar went and lived in her father's house.

You have to love scripture. It’s so shocking at times that it makes today’s soap operas look amateurish in comparison when it comes to depicting the drama of life. Here is a story that would normally be beyond belief except for the fact that it is in Scripture and God is the main character. Let’s follow it for a moment.

Judah takes a wife (who is unnamed) and has three sons. Judah gives his eldest son Er a wife whose name is Tamar. But Er was not a good man in God’s sight, so God ended his life, leaving Tamar a widow with no children.

In keeping with custom, Judah goes to Tamar’s brother-in-law (the dead Er’s next oldest brother), Onan, and tells him to sleep with Tamar in order to give his deceased brother some offspring. Later in Scripture, we will see this actually being a Mosaic law required of the Hebrews. Of course, no one knows if anyone asked Tamar about this or whether or not she welcomed it. Most women of that culture, like many Middle Eastern cultures today, simply agreed in silence to what was expected of them by the men in their lives. However, it should be pointed out that as a law of God, there was good reason for it and in this case, this practice did provide widows with children that could later support her. God has a purpose for what He ordains for his children.

Now Onan is no “yes father” type of son. Well, actually he’s an “okay, but it won’t work, cause I’ll outsmart you” type. He agrees to marry Tamar as partial compliance to the custom. Recognizing that any children Tamar has by him won’t be his, he uses the withdrawal method at the time of ejaculation and his sperm is wasted. He did not want to give his brother any children. We can make some notations here.
First, we do not know the real relationship between Onan and his brother prior to Er’s death. We do not know if it was a congenial one or not and that may have somehow influenced Onan’s desire not to cooperate. We do not know if Onan had his own wife. We do not know how Tamar felt about what he did. Neither do we know whether Judah found out from her right away (as compared to finding out months later that indeed she was not pregnant) about Onan’s deed. And if Judah found out, we have no record of what he did about it. All of that is left unsaid and thus to our imagination. What we do know is that God was not pleased with his actions and He ended his life as well. This can be a very emotionally charged portion of Scripture for numerous reasons. Let me explain.

First of all, we have here in just a few verses, not one, but two cases, where God was not pleased with someone’s actions and He took their lives. As some of us have discovered, that kind of action by God does not enamor Him to those who have not yet accepted His Lordship. Why would anyone want to love and worship that kind of God? Every time you mess up morally, you stand a good chance of having your life end. True, the wages of sin are indeed still death today and that was also true back then. God is indeed a Holy God who detests sin. As the Creator, He gets to call the shots. But as God’s letter of love to us unfolds in the rest of the Old Testament and in the entire New Testament, we see how He has provided a way out of this dilemma. I encourage you to skip ahead thousands of studies, verses (and years) to find out about that arrangement.

Secondly, this is the portion of scripture that is used when one is trying to figure out just what the Bible may be saying on the issue of contraception through the withdrawal method and perhaps even masturbation, in which the end result is the same – semen being deposited elsewhere than in a woman’s vagina. I do not purport to be an expert in either of these fields, nor do I wish to get entangled in a discussion on the theological implications of either. What I believe I can say is that scripture is silent on both these topics. Why then did God take Onan’s life? It is possible that God took his life because he was disobedient to what was required of him by custom (or possibly the instruction of God). That is, to provide offspring for his deceased brother. It is disobedience that God will not tolerate. As far as the topics of ‘coitus interruptus’ (the withdrawal method of contraception) and masturbation are concerned, we are best to remain silent on them as the scripture is and allow each family and each couple or individual to determine what he/she should do as God persuades them in their own minds.

But now back to Judah. He has one more son, Shelah, who is too young to marry. He has lost two sons and does not want to take a chance on losing his youngest. Instead he asks Tamar to return to her father’s house and wait until Shelah gets older. Now “what’s wrong with this picture?” you may ask. Well, sending Tamar to her father’s house is the worst thing that could happen to young woman. It is embarrassing no matter what the reason, but especially if she goes there childless after having two husbands and now has to wait for a young boy to grow up before she can get married again. But more importantly, Tamar should have remained as Judah’s responsibility, not her father’s. The onus was on his family, as long as there was another brother living to keep her in the family and supply her sustenance. Instead, he sends her home to be out of sight and out of mind for a while. And Tamar, being left with no other choice, goes.

So again, what are the lessons for us today? I think there are a number. First, we need to realize God does not like man’s disobedience and one way or another He has to deal with it. I know that we are no longer under “the Law” of the Old Testament as Judah and his family was but we still have to be aware of God’s displeasure with our disobedience to what He is convicting us of today in our hearts. And He will address that disobedience. Perhaps it will not be by taking our life because we are His children who have accepted His Son as Lord and Savior. But perhaps it will be by our missing out on a fuller blessing in life today or in rewards in eternity that could have otherwise been ours.

Secondly, I think we need to be careful that we not assume we know exactly why God takes certain action that He does unless He specifically makes that clear to us. Onan died because of disobedience, not because of anything else.

Thirdly, we must realize we have a responsibility to those that come into our family through marriage, even when something goes wrong – like an illness, a separation, or in some cases a divorce where our own relative may be at fault. We cannot just forget about them. That is also true of circumstances where our own blood relative may have died and the “in law” – daughter, son, etc. still lives. And it is especially true where grandchildren are in the picture. One of our good friends had an only daughter who died in childbirth. Her son-in-law has stayed very close to her and allowed her to share quite fully in the life of her grandson. After several years of being a widower, he was remarried to another lovely Christian girl. They now have more children and our friend is still very much a part of their lives. I think that is the way God intends us to respond to the circumstances of life – always loving, always being obedient to God, and always putting others first. Again, may it be so with us.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Judah’s Meanderings - Genesis 38:1-5


And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er. Then she conceived and bore a son and he named him Onan. And she bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him.

This chapter starts with the very general phrase “And it came about at that time”. We have no way of really knowing exactly how much time elapsed between the time Jacob was shown his son’s blood-stained coat, the time Joseph was actually sold to Potiphar, and the time that Judah “departed from his brothers”.

The text could have simply recorded that Judah visited some Adullamite named Hirah. Instead, it specifically states first that he “departed from his brothers” in so doing. This was all about finding a wife. He did not follow the custom of going to one’s father and arranging for a dowry. Judah wasn’t going to go through all that. Instead he leaves home at a young age (some calculate at 15 or 16) and heads out to get a wife himself. He meets up with an Adullamite called Hirah. Adullamites were inhabitants of Adullam, a city of Canaan. It was situated west of Hebron. The name “Hirah” means “a noble family”. We are told he “visited” Hirah although it is not certain as to whether or not he knew him beforehand or simply got to know him on this little trek of his away from his family.

Somehow, perhaps through Hirah, perhaps otherwise, he sees the daughter of another man called Shua that means “wealth”. Here is a beautiful woman who comes from a rich family supposedly and here is Judah who is trying on his own to establish himself. What more could he ask for?

We are not given all the details with respect to meeting her family, if he did, or asking her father for permission to marry, if he did. All we know is that he took this woman (and at this point we do not even know her name) and has sex with her. There is no account of a wedding and associated feast. It is likely that they just decided to live together. How quaint. Through this unconventional, absent of his family’s support, absent of God’s blessing, and rather unwise marriage, Judah fathers three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah, by this Canaanite woman.

What is happening here? The actual writing reminds us of a previous passage we have studied. You will remember Jacob’s daughter going off into town to find out what the rest of the world was all about (Genesis 34) and what ensued from that little trip. Well, in many respects, this is much the same. One could easily see that their Canaanite neighbors were influencing the family of Israel (Jacob) and not for the better. I believe God too was very aware of this.

It is likely that Judah did continue to worship God to a certain extent, as he had been taught. It is also possible that his wife did too; again at least she went through the motions. But there is no doubt that Judah had acted without God’s blessings for his marriage, doing it his way and in his timing. There were bound to be some consequences.

What are the lessons for us today? Simply these: Relationships matter. Good relationships are to be valued; wrong relationships to be avoided. Totally disregarding traditions and the wishes of our God-arranged and God-ordained family is not a wise idea. Doing our own thing totally (without the support of family and more importantly God) is not a good idea.

If we change our friends, we are bound to change our behaviors. We need to know, and somehow convey to our children, that we often imitate those with whom we associate and go totally against the advice of those we no longer respect. Society has been very good at marketing evil to us. Our children have been taught that parents and anyone over thirty is old-fashioned, narrow-minded, ignorant, and so on. For more on this, read The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian, an excellent read. Worse still, we often define our value by our friends’ values. That alone, could be a most costly error.

There may also be a lesson here with respect to marriage. Many are getting into marriages that are not wise simply because they have ignored both God and family. However, simply us saying so here will not change their mind if they are headstrong about taking such an action. The lesson is not for them, it is for us. We have a responsibility to do all we can to nurture an environment for our children where they, while willing to make their own decisions, will not ignore the advice and the role of both God and family in those decisions. What are you and I doing in that regard? It is never too late. Never too late for anyone who has made an unwise decision with respect to marriage and never too late for a parent whose child may have done likewise. I believe in that in some small way, all relationships and family circumstances can be improved, even those where divorce has taken place, if we allow God to guide all of us in doing our part. May it be so with you today.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Jacob Mourns for Joseph - Genesis 37:33-36


Then he examined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” So his father wept for him. Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.

Can you imagine holding your beloved child’s coat in your hands and believing your son or daughter will never wear a coat again? I can’t. On the ninth anniversary of 9/11, I was listening to the various tributes being paid. Many of us live with a memory of that day. A good number of us fear the future as a result. But nothing compares to the feelings of a parent whose loss haunts him or her inside every day in the here and now. How does one live with that? Yet, many do and there but for the grace of God go many of us.

Jacob identifies the coat as Joseph’s and accepts as fact (“surely Joseph has been torn to pieces”) his son’s death by a wild beast. I do not know what I would have done if I were one of the brothers. Would I have thought that this was less painful for my father than telling him the truth? A good question to ask is whether or not the others told Reuben the truth. We have no knowledge of that. So, at best we have nine brothers knowing he was sold and on his way to Egypt, we have Jacob thinking an animal killed him, and we’re not sure what Reuben actually believed. And then of course there is Joseph, not knowing what lay ahead.

Jacob, as Reuben did earlier, tears his clothes as part of his mourning. And to that he adds putting sackcloth on his loins. This, along with throwing dust on one’s forehead, was a common means of mourning for the ancient Hebrews. As a father, his mourning went much longer and all the comfort of his sons and daughters did not help. I believe that this reference here to ‘sons and daughters’ refers to not only his children (we know Jacob had one daughter for sure, Dinah) but also to his grandchildren.

In actual fact, the text says Jacob ‘refused’ to be comforted. I have often wondered how a person actually gets to the point that he refuses to be comforted. What drives us to refuse ‘comfort’ even in a time of sorrow? Is it regret? Is it loss of hope? Is it guilt? What is it? Whatever it is, that is not the way God wants it to be. Jacob’s refusal to be comforted was so intense that he believed he would die a mourner. We need to be careful that our loss and its associated mourning which is normal do not cause us to be hardened for the rest of our lives. For by doing so, we may totally miss any future blessing that God may have in store for us. A good example is one who mourns for the loss of a beloved spouse. However, if they became so hardened by such loss, they may miss the blessing God has in store for them with a godly second marriage.

We may also wonder how Jacob’s family could have tried to comfort him with any sincerity. Some may feel he should have been able to sense their deception. However, when one is so hardened in his mourning and refuses to be comforted, he/she often misses the clues that may indeed bring back some hope or joy in their life. Instead, Jacob not only believes that he will die mourning, but in a sense, the utterance is an expression of a subconscious desire to go where his son is. And for the ancient Hebrews, this was indeed Sheol, the place of departed souls. Only there, with his son Joseph, would he find comfort. What a sad state of affairs, to view our life like that following a loss of a loved one. Where is our God? Where is Jacob’s God? I learned early in life that in circumstances like that, God has not moved or hidden Himself. He is always where He was and will be. It is us that have changed our position.

Jacob had a choice but he continued to mourn. This portion of the text ends by informing us that, in the meantime, the traders who bought Joseph sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s bodyguard. The significance of that is great. He was sold into the highest household of the land. And not only that, he was sold into that part of the household that was very close to Pharaoh. The plot does indeed thicken. But you can be sure that God had an amazing purpose for all of this. Just as He has for what happens to you and me.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Cover-up - Genesis 37:29-32


Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. He returned to his brothers and said, "The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?" So they took Joseph's tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, "We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son's tunic or not."

As Joseph heads to Egypt under Midianite escort to be sold, his eldest brother and Jacob’s firstborn, Reuben, returns to the pit and does not find him there. This begs the question “where was Reuben when his brother Judah talked the rest of them into selling him to the caravan of traders?” Good question for which we are not given an answer. It is possible that, as the eldest, he was off on an errand on behalf of the brothers and their sheep-tending business. Or perhaps Judah, knowing how Reuben felt about Joseph and the plans of the brothers to kill him, waited to share his idea until Reuben had taken a little nap after the big meal they had sat down to (vs. 25, 26).

What matters is that Reuben still planned to rescue Joseph from the pit and not finding him there, he tears his garments. The tearing of garments as a symbol of mourning was a custom of the ancient Hebrews, but also of other groups. Much has been written about it and its significance. In a very simple explanation, I believe it is a strong expression of being “totally beside oneself with grief”.

After gathering himself together, he goes to where the other brothers are and tells them of his discovery and the weight that he personally feels, being the oldest, for Joseph’s disappearance. Reuben felt he could not face his father Jacob with the news. As I watch three of our five grandchildren (the ones we live with), aged nine, seven, and five, I can see the eldest even now taking responsibility for her younger brother while the middle child goes on her merry way in life. That must be an innate sense of responsibility that God places in firstborns.

Of course, the other brothers are quick to come to his rescue with yet another deceitful act and it appears that Reuben consented. They take Joseph’s coat of many colors, kill one of their goats, and dip the coat in the animal’s blood, setting up a “terrible event of death through wild animal attack” and of course, a lie. You will remember that back in verse 23 of this chapter, they had taken Joseph’s coat from him and then in verse 24, we were told he was thrown into the pit.

The next step then is to send the bloodstained coat to father. Now scripture is interesting here as the relevant verse says they “sent” the coat and also “brought it” to Jacob. Perhaps some of the brothers stayed behind to tend the sheep while others took it to Jacob. The lie that was conceived is then uttered, “We found this; please examine it to see if it is Joseph’s.” Oh, the pain that Jacob must have felt at that moment. We do not know how many and exactly who of the brothers went back to Jacob with this news. But no matter the number or the individuals involved, any joy in seeing them was greatly overshadowed by the news they had brought him.

What is the lesson for us from these verses? The dysfunctional family that started with Abraham continues its escapades like a daytime soap opera. Hatred, jealousy, lying are all part of the characters’ lives. Redemptive qualities are sprinkled in as in the case of Reuben but are easily overtaken by the wishes of the immoral majority. Perhaps we need to consider our own contributions to the evidence of any “dysfunctional” behavior that others may see in our own family. And if we do happen to claim being the “redemptive” one in the family, we should consider whether that is only ‘intent’ and others can persuade us into doing things we should not, or whether we will stick with what is moral, honorable, just, and the truth.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

The Marketing of Evil -- Synopsis, Part III - Selling Sex & Rebellion to Your Children


Welcome to number three in a series of blogs providing a synopsis of David Kupelian's book, "The Marketing of Evil", 2005. This segment is on the topic of "Who's Selling Sex & Rebellion to Your Children" -- chapter 3 in David's 'must read' book. Here are just a few of the highlights:

* Kupelian starts the chapter off with an excellent example of peer pressure exerted on his own son. Well worth the read. Many can identify with it. How he handled it is also very special.

* He defines 'hip-hop' as "a multimillion-dollar music industry filled with 'the powerful political and sexual images of rap'". His detailed expose of it is eye-opening.

* He names the corporations that literally send spies to infiltrate young people's social settings to gather intelligence on what they can induce these children to buy next. He exposes MTV and Howard Stern's world for what it truly is, pushing the world of the 'mook' for boys and the 'midriff' for girls. You'll want to check both these terms out with reference to the program "The Merchants of Cool" as found on Google.

* In that same program, Mark Crispen-Miller, a NYU communications professor has this to say about how kids are taught to think of you: "It's part of the official rock world view, it's part of the official advertising world view, that your parents are creeps, teachers are nerds and idiots, authority figures are laughable, nobody can really understand kids except the corporate sponsor" of the shows kids watch (MTV being the leaders). Wow.

* In this chapter, there's a section on the idea of "no limits" especially when it comes to sexual behavior where I learned so much -- stuff I never dreamed of nor wanted to learn about. Find out what "suspension" is all about -- and no it was nothing to do with "school" -- it's a sexual fantasy and more. And then, just when you thought you had it all figured out, you learn about the two ultimate thrills -- splitting your tongue, and wait there's more -- the thrill of living for the chase -- yes, that's right, people who chase the bug. No, not a Volkswagen -- the HIV bug. There are men who spend their lives pursuing getting the HIV virus through the right sexual partners. Kupelian quotes one author who writes, "HIV-infected semen is treated like liquid gold." Motivation, you ask? Well, it's all about doing something thrilling that others see as crazy. Great.

* Kupelian points to a desire or a love with death. For example, self-mutilators are said to pursue their specialty due to one or both of the following: A feeling of mental disintegration, of inability to think, and secondly, "a rage that can't be expressed, or even consciously perceived, toward a powerful figure (or figures) in their life, usually a parent." Got it. It's payback time for us folks. To many, physical pain can be a cure for emotional pain. But wait, there is hope -- at least, hope in understanding this. Read on . . .

* Kupelian suggests that all these pursuits are basically as a result of millions of people who have been "freed" by trauma (drugs, illicit sex, bodily mutilation, and so on) from the pain of their own conscience. Or said another way, he writes, "freed from God and the divine law written deep down in every person's heart. Why? Same reason as always: so they can be their own gods and make up their own rules."

* Now here comes the hope. He writes that parents need to understand this: "Your being any way other than genuinely virtuous -- not perfect, mind you, but honestly and diligently seeking to do the right thing at all times -- will tend to drive your children crazy. Here's how the craziness unfolds. Children deserve and desperately need firmness, patience, fairness, limits, kindness, insight, and a good, non-hypocritical example. In other words, they need genuine parental love and guidance. If they don't get this, they will resent you. Even if you can't see it, even if they can't see it, and deny it, they will resent you for failing to give them real love." That's the first step, but here's what happens with this in mind . . .

* It is that resentment (discussed above) that turns into suppressed rage. "It makes children feel compelled to rebel against you and against all authority out of revenge for your having failed them." Hard words. Everything forbidden looks like a road to freedom. They now embrace what they before avoided in a more innocent time. And all of this usually occurs below the level of consciousness.

* Kupelian does end this chapter with two positive thoughts. The first is, if you still have time, to consider counter-acting all the negative influences with home-schooling, a growing practice around the world and one that is driving secular government educators to try and get the courts to make it illegal. The second positive thought is that even if your kids don't come around, "your honest self-examination and confession as a parent will free you from your own guilts and past sins.

My own thought is that maybe we cannot redeem the entire American or North American culture from its current state, but we may be able to redeem our own children from it, or at the very least, ourselves. I say this because I feel as I look around that those who are baby boomers and younger have much to blame on themselves.

Again, the book is a 'must read'. In the next blog in this series, I'll give you a synopsis of Kupelian's thoughts on the "Multicultural Madness". In the meantime, please share this blog with your friends and do subscribe to free notifications on future blogs from Epistoli.

-- Ken Godevenos, We Inform, so You can do Your thing.

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Joseph is Sold - Genesis 37:28


Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.

Stop and think for a moment. Joseph is sent to find his brothers who were out tending his father Jacob’s flocks and bring word back to him. His brothers plot to kill him, but one of the brothers, Reuben, persuades them to just throw him in a pit. Later, another brother, Judah, persuades them to sell him to some Ishmaelites, and in particular Midianite, traders who are passing buy in a caravan, carrying spices, and en route to Egypt.

The brothers pull him up from the pit and sell him for twenty shekels of silver, or given there were ten brothers with Benjamin still being at home, two shekels for each of them. Not much is known about the value of a piece of silver in those days, likely a small ingot. But surely it was not enough to make anyone rich and self-supporting for the rest of their lives. But one would estimate that it was better than nothing for their trouble of selling Joseph. The deed was done. Joseph was taken into Egypt, likely to be sold. The separation from his brothers, and more importantly his father, was complete. He was totally alone, except for God.

Have you ever been sold by your brothers? Maybe not literally, but have others ever left you to hang, all by yourself? And if so, what was their gain? Likely it was not much. And the relationship was broken. You were isolated. You felt very alone. But you weren’t. God was there. Well, from personal knowledge, I can tell you that that very experience can be one of the best beginnings of a life worth living.

There is no need to feel alone. Instead, we need to know that God is with us even as we are been carried away into our own ‘Egypt’. And though it does not seem like it at all, the best is yet to come, for He is with us. May it be so with you, today.

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The Marketing of Evil -- Synopsis, Part II - Church and State


David Kupelian's book "The Marketing of Evil" is a must read. It presents very elucidating evidence on just how we're being sold a bill of goods that in essence is not what we want. Chapter two, the subject of this particular blog on its synopsis, is about how the separation of Church and State has been twisted to something that was never intended. Kupelian takes us back to the beginning and moves forward to where we are today -- a situation totally contrary to what America's founding fathers had in mind. Take a look at some of the thoughts highlighted in this chapter:

* We need to accept the painful truth that the American Constitution (and thus the very reins of power) has been stolen from the American people while they were too busy going to work, raising their kids, paying the bills, etc.

* Kupelian asks, "do you really believe the Founding Fathers wanted to make kids into criminals for saying 'Merry Christmas' at school? Did they intend for the Supreme Court to outlaw prayer in the nation's learning institutions when all of their own congressional sessions to this very day open with a prayer?" Good questions.

* When judges "create legislation through judicial fiat that no legislature in the nation could, or would, dare enact . . . they are flouting the U.S. and state constitutions, violating their oaths of office, betraying the trust of current and future generations of Americans, and usurping power that's not legally theirs".

* Kupelian shows how judges are now both turning to International Law to establish American Law while at the same time challenging the sufficiency of the American Constitution to govern America in the years ahead. Really!

* The First Amendment reads in part, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." How does 'Congress' doing that translate to "no State, no Municipal government, no school, etc." shall "make no such law"? Kupelian writes, "This is obviously something the original thirteen states would have rejected outright, given that half of them had state establishments of religion." Interesting.

* Kuplelian goes back to the very origin of the concept of the separation of church and state. It is not what you think. It comes from a famous sermon by Roger Williams, the founder of the Rhode Island Plantation colony, and a Baptist. Thomas Jefferson was referring to that well-known sermon at the time when he wrote his words. You'll need to read the book for all the details but clearly, the intent was that the "church" was to be protected from being overrun by "government", and not the other way around. Most interesting. Clearly today we have a twisting of the truth and the facts at to what Jefferson had in mind.

* Perhaps you knew this and I didn't, but we need to keep in mind that in the U.S., Supreme Court justices can also be impeached, just like presidents. Not a bad thought at all.

Again, I strongly recommend the book, "The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom" by David Kupelian, WND Books, Nashville, 2005.

In the next blog in this series, we tackle David's third chapter of his book, entitled "Killer Culture: Who's Selling Sex and Rebellion to Your Children?" Stay tuned. Please share this with your friends and make sure you and others are subscribing to Epistoli using the Subscription box above. It's free.

-- Ken Godevenos, We Inform, so You can do Your thing.

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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

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Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Joseph in the Pit - Genesis 37:23-27


So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it. Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? "Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh." And his brothers listened to him.

Joseph’s brothers plan to kill him and the oldest, Reuben, gets them to revise their plans to simply throw him in a pit. So when Joseph finally reaches his brothers, they take him and strip him of his multi-colored coat that Jacob had given him. They then throw him into the pit. We have no account of exactly what Joseph was feeling at the moment. We can assume that his brothers raged with anger, hatred, and jealously. It is possible they even told him how they felt as he was being thrown into the pit. But what about Joseph? What was he thinking as he was thrown in? Was he afraid? Was he sorry he ticked them off with his dreams? Did he apologize? We do not know.

The next sentence provides us with some critical content with respect to God’s awareness of ‘timing’. It says the pit had no water or anything else in it. Simply put, if a person were to stay down there too long, without food or water or anything to protect himself from wild beasts, he would die. God knew time was of essence.

So, here’s Joseph sweating it out for his life alone in a pit and what do his brothers do? They sit down to have a meal. Isn’t that what happens today? Someone can be struggling in a matter of life or death, and others are having a grand old time. Life goes on as usual. This is true on an individual level as many of us watch those we know suffer. It is also true on a larger scale as we watch whole nations like Haiti and Pakistan suffer through earthquakes and floods, respectively. The reality is that much of our suffering has to be done in solitaire. It is not necessarily the way it should be, but the truth is that it often is.

But God does not forget us even though others seem to. He brings about circumstances that help provide relief of our ensuing danger. Sometimes he uses the very people that have been the cause of our misfortune. Sometimes these circumstances open up entire new and wonderful opportunities for us.

So the brothers look up and see a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants coming along on camels, carrying spices among other things, and heading for Egypt. Those of you that know the ‘rest of the story’ cannot help but marvel at God’s amazing provision in this manner. God must clearly want Joseph in Egypt next in order to carry out His plan for His people and the best way to get him there is via these guys who have an eye for a good deal. But how does God actually bring the transaction about? Well, He uses another brother, Judah, this time. Collectively the group of brothers wanted to kill Joseph. Reuben talks them into just throwing him into a pit. Judah, was the fourth of six sons that Leah bore to Jacob. There is nothing significant about his order of birth, that is the 4th of twelve sons for Jacob, we can tie to his actions here, except that we will be hearing much more about the name ‘Judah’ in the rest of scripture. Anyway, Judah comes up with this idea that killing Joseph or even letting him die won’t gain the rest of the group anything. Instead, he recommends they sell him to the Ishmaelites saving themselves from murdering their own flesh and blood.

Three things to note here. First, God is totally in control of all the players. We can never, never forget that. Second, God uses Ishmaelites to accomplish His purpose. You will remember that Ishmael was the son of Abraham, Joseph’s great-grandfather, who was borne to him by Sarah’s maid, Haggar. Abraham, at Sarah’s request, ended up sending both Ishmael and Haggar away. Many claim that Ishmaelites are the original Arabs and especially Palestinians today. That’s not the point I want to make here. Instead, I want us to be aware that sometimes God uses people that we do not expect Him to use to accomplish His will. We need to be very sensitive to that possibility. But at the same time we need to be careful that we do not translate that use “by God to accomplish His will” into a position that says “they themselves are living in the will of God”. There is a big difference in my opinion.

Third, we see that blood is indeed thicker than water. We are created in a way that says we need to do all we can to protect our kin. God has built into us a sense of guilt that does not allow us to come to their support if we are at all in tune with Him. And that may well have been the case with Judah. For us the lesson is that we must consider our ‘family’ members in a very special way, even those that have sinned against us or caused us grief. Family is family in God’s economy and no argument from us will ever change that before God. It is for that reason that this section ends with the phrase, “And his brothers listened to him.”

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Reuben’s Intervention on behalf of Joseph - Genesis 37:21-22


But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, "Let us not take his life." Reuben further said to them, "Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him"—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.

Reuben was Jacob’s eldest son by Leah whereas Joseph was Jacob’s eldest son by Rachel, Leah’s sister. Four of Jacob’s twelve sons were born to him through Leah and Rachel’s personal maids. Reuben (the first of the twelve sons) was quite a bit older than Joseph (who was number eleven). There must have been some affinity between the two because of these connections. Reuben attempts to save Joseph’s life by talking his brothers out of their plans to kill him. Instead, he talks them into throwing Joseph into a pit. Ruben planned to secretly rescue Joseph later when he had a chance and return him to Jacob. The motivation for that may have simply been he cared for Joseph, he was a nice guy, or he wanted to gain favor in the eyes of his father and this was an opportunity to achieve that.

Although God is not mentioned directly in this portion of scripture, He plays a most critical part. It is God that arranges for Reuben to attempt to do what he does. Unbeknown even to Joseph, God is protecting him from death because He has a task for him to perform. With God there is never a second approach to how He wants to do things. There is never an alternative in place in case His chosen method fails.

That is the message for us from these verses. God is taking care of us even when we are not aware of it. Our job is to make sure we are available to be used by Him. Then no matter what happens, we can rest assured that He will enable us to complete the task He has assigned us. Having said that, we may often have misconceptions about what God wants us to achieve or accomplish. There are plans that God may want us to participate in but never see the completion of. There are occasions when he ‘transfers’ us to another task (part of His original plan in the first place). Sometimes, He even arranges to take us ‘home’ and thus ‘off our assigned duty’. I believe it is critical for Christians to be so resolved as we live our lives every day. Ready to work for Him, ready to be re-assigned by Him, and ready to be ‘honorably discharged’ by Him.

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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.