Saturday, February 28, 2015

Giving God Our First-Borns -- Exodus 22:29-31:

--> “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep.  It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me. And you shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat any flesh torn to pieces in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.”

Interestingly, these three verses follow the one about how we are not to curse God or our rulers (see comments on vs. 28). So it appears not only are we not to curse our leaders (both God and those who rule our people), but also we are to give them what they require from us in a timely fashion.
For the Israelites that meant two things: They needed to present to the priests the first gatherings from their harvests and these were dedicated to God. Secondly, they needed to dedicate their first-born sons to God and His service. The statement is very direct – “The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me.” If you are a parent of a son in particular, have you thought about that instruction of God’s? It reminds me of hearing one parent of our grandchildren saying to them, in a strong tone, Give me that right now!  Well, if we know what is good for us (as my grandchildren do when they hear their mom or dad say that), then we need to hear it just like that from God while recognizing we have a choice not to obey.  So I ask, have you in your heart and mind settled once and for all that your son has been given to God for Him to keep and to use as His very own no matter what that means for you? That is the requirement. We either fulfill it or we do not.
And after we get that hard thing settled, then God says you are to do likewise with your possessions (the first-born of one’s oxen and sheep in the days of the Israelites).  Wait, maybe that is harder than giving our first-born son to God. I mean we are talking about real things here – things I have worked hard to attain. And many will feel exactly that. But God says, “I want your first-born son, and the best of all your possessions. I want you to know they are mine because you have given them to Me and that I am free to use them as I see fit – no ifs, buts, or whys.” In fact, it appears that God is saying, “Go ahead, enjoy them for a few days when you first get them – take that yacht down to the Caribbean, have a party at your cottage, invite friends to your box at the arena, do not let anyone drive that brand new car for a few days, but ultimately, figure out a way to use all of these things for Me and for the Kingdom.”
Then God makes another one of His logical connections: Do not curse God or rulers; give both God and rulers what they require in a timely fashion; and that will go a long way to make you “holy men to God”.  So far so good, I follow the argument.
But then God says “because you will be holy men, do not eat any flesh torn to pieces; give it to the dogs instead.”  Wow, and thus ended the chapter.  But what is the meaning of this last instruction here? David Guzik suggests that this simply is God’s way of saying, “As holy men of God, we are to act differently in all ways of our lives; in all of our behavior.”  Matthew Henry on the other hand seems to be implying that the statement is a call for the Israelites (and those in the body of Christ today) to be different in their diets than their neighbors. He suggests that one mark of our holiness is our distinction from others in what we eat and may I add, what we drink. And if not that, perhaps how we view our ‘food’ and ‘drink’.

[An Aside: I must admit I find it very strange and somehow troublesome when I consider how absorbed many Christians in North America, and perhaps elsewhere in the world, are with food dishes and recipes and gourmet this and that, and vintage wines, etc. I am not suggesting at all that food is to be drab and boring and I really appreciate the special efforts my daughters and wife go to in order for us to have most interesting meals. But I believe we need to do all of this in moderation, keeping in mind others that may not have a thing in their stomachs as they try to sleep tonight.]

The bottom line message in these last few verses of this chapter is clear: Honor God, Give Him what is His, be holy, and be different. How we do that in our personal lives is between God and us unless the Scripture is crystal clear on a matter of behavior or thought.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Cursing Leadership -- Exodus 22:28


“You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”
 
 It is interesting that this verse with its two distinct thoughts consists of only one sentence spoken by God. A closer look is warranted.
I like the Free Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘curse’:
·       An appeal or prayer for evil or misfortune to befall someone or something
·       A source or cause of evil
·       A profane word or phrase; a swearword
·       Ecclesiastical – A censure, ban, or anathema; to excommunicate.
God is saying, “Do not pray or wish for evil to harm Me – that’s a non-starter. And do not use profanity or swear in conjunction with My name. And do not try to excommunicate me from your life as that is not in your power to do.”
Many today try to do some or all of these things. Satan worshippers live their lives trying to defeat God in the power of the Devil not unlike how those of us who believe in God want Him to defeat Satan or to help us defeat him, at least in our lives. Many get very angry at God thinking He is the root cause of their woes and swear at Him.  (You will remember that later on in the Old Testament, Job’s wife encouraged him to “curse God and die” – that is, “Blame Him for all your calamities and then just die.”) And of course, entire societies or cultures have tried to ban God from their presence today – we have taken Him out of our politics, our education system, our legal system, and our moral foundational basis – in short, we have tried to cut Him off.
But God is saying, to use the modern phraseology I hear from my grandchildren, “Not going to happen.”  He is in charge and He has the last word.  Take any of these actions at your own peril.
And then this sole sentence in this verse continues, “nor curse a ruler of your people.”  What may God be saying here by joining these two possible “curses” in the same sentence?  I believe He is making a statement about authority.  He is the ultimate authority. But He has also set up authorities for us down here on earth.
We can debate the grammatical purpose of the phrase “of your people”. Is it that we are not to curse “rulers” (if they are bad) or is it that we are not to curse “rulers of our people”? And does “our people” refer to “the children of God” – the Israelites in those days and those who are part of the Body of Christ today, i.e. the Church?  Or is it the political leaders that we have in place regardless of their own relationship with God?
We do know that in the New Testament, there is more written on this.  In I Timothy 2:2 it is clear we are to pray for kings and all those in authority over us.  There’s no avoiding that.  So while this may have referred to the magistrates and judges and perhaps priests that were in authority under Moses and Aaron during Exodus, today, through the New Testament, God has expanded this to mean all rulers that are in authority over us.
But what if that ruler is our worst nightmare? I honestly do not know. I must admit that we are called to love all men and women and to pray for their salvation. We must separate the individual from what he/she proposes or does. To me that means that I believe I can openly speak out against what a prime minister or a president does or proposes, but I cannot stop loving him/her as an individual sinner, just like me. The more important issue is whether or not I am allowed to say that individual is not suited for his/her position, as one would with an employee’s performance review.  I believe I am.
My wise son pointed out to me that God’s direction in this verse comes in the context of His magistrates and judges acting in good conscience and under His leadership, and thus to oppose them in their actions against evil people or things, would reflect upon God Himself who placed them there – a thought that Matthew Henry shared in his commentary on this verse. And God is warning us against that. 
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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.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lending Money, Terms and Conditions -- Exodus 22:25-27

--> “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.  If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body.  What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.”
 
We note there is no commandment to lend anyone money here.  More specifically the instructions are intended for the times God’s people do lend to God’s people.  And it basically covers lending which is intended to help the poor get up on their feet.  And such lending shall be without interest.  (Some commentators who have studied the Hebrew text carefully argue that this was only a prohibition on “compound” interest, or extortion in lending, as compared to “simple” interest.  I prefer to go with the literal translation of “no interest period”.)
But what about lending to non-Christians?  How about lending to the rich?  This passage does not forbid it, but it appears to leave us at our own discretion of whether or not to charge interest, and how much, and how to deal with the risk and/or consequences involved in any non-repayment.  So, lenders beware.
Returning to our passage, it appears that pledges may be taken in exchange for a loan at no interest. Working much like how a pawnshop works. But here’s the catch – we must not accept a pledge that exposes the borrower in a harmful way.  The example God gives can be thought of us follows: You cannot withhold a person’s coat as collateral for a loan when it is his only outer garment and he would otherwise freeze because it’s cold outside.  If we take that kind of a pledge from someone, we are to realize our mistake and make things right before the sun goes down that same day.
And I love how God reasons with His people here as He does elsewhere in Scripture.  But this passage is special because it gives us another glimpse of God’s character that we do no think of very often – His logical mind.  He basically says, “Look, if you take the man’s coat and it’s cold, and he has nothing else to keep him warm, what else will he sleep in?  How will he survive?”  I love that.  God wants us to be logical too.  We are not to “kick a person when he is down”.  It is sad enough that he is in this state of needing to borrow to survive, so we must be careful not to take advantage of him.
We would do well to think about all our lending activities from God’s perspective.  Lending to our children, our families, the church, and friends.  Under what conditions and expectations do we lend money?  Some of our so-called investments are indeed a form of lending to someone so they can do something that will bring them and the lender financial rewards – commercial ventures.  We need to be careful of how and why we do that.
The last sentence of the passage is related to the logic He outlines just before it.  God is saying three things with it.  First, He cares for the poor.  Second, He will hear their cry for help.  And third, we must remember that we ourselves either have cried, or will someday cry, to God for relief.  We are to treat those in need of borrowing with this in mind.
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Don’t Sacrifice to Other Gods and Don’t Oppress Strangers, Widows, Orphans -- Exodus 22:20-24

-->
Exodus 22:20-24: “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed.  And you shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.  If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”
As strange as it may seem to me, according to most translations or versions of Scripture, these verses do indeed go together as a single paragraph.  But did God have a special reason for linking “don’t sacrifice to any other god” and “do not oppress stranger or afflict widows or orphans”?  Is it possible that the message that God was getting across here in this first verse of our text, “don’t sacrifice to any god other than the Lord” was really meant to go with the idea of the idolatrous acts of the previous verse (19) dealing with bestiality? Perhaps.
Making a sacrifice to a god is indeed worship.  And I believe our God may be saying here, “Look, first of all you are only to worship me.  And secondly, worshipping me is not so much about animal sacrifices as you may think.  It is more about how you live your life with respect to others.  Ministering to others is the worship I really want you to give me.”
So, based on that, God says, “do not wrong a stranger”.   Do not act erroneously, immorally, wickedly, dishonestly, sinfully, unfairly, or criminally towards him/her.  Furthermore, God says, “do not oppress” a stranger.  That means do not coerce, tyrannize, dominate, repress, vanquish, persecute, harass, hound, plague or torment him/her.
No matter what God’s precise intention was, we can be sure of this – strangers in the life of Christian are not to be treated lightly.  There has been much written about that so we do not need to cover it here except to say that perhaps many of us need to do much better in that area than we have to this point – individually, as families, and in our churches.  Each of us can rate ourselves on that score.  God simply reminds the people of Israel, as He reminds us today, we were all strangers at one point – the Israelites were strangers in the land of Egypt, and we were once strangers to the family of God and then being adopted as sons and daughters through the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.
The other group that God tells us not to “afflict” is the group comprised of widows and orphans. That means we are not to trouble, bother, worry, upset, distress, affect, or exasperate them. And we do this, not necessarily so much through our maliciousness, but rather by our sins of omission – the steps and care we do not take to alleviate their distress and exasperation.
God says when we who can, do not help the orphans and the widows, they in their desperation may cry out to Him.  And if they do, He “will surely hear their cry” because that is what our God does.  But guess what?  While we cannot say for sure that when He does, He will address their need in the way we would expect, we do know something else.  We know that if that need could have been addressed by us, God Himself will have His anger sparked against us – the ones who could have met their needs and did not.
And here is the part that is even worse.  It is bad enough for God to be angry with us, but He actually says “He will kill us with the sword” leaving our wives and children to become widows and orphans, respectively, themselves.
What does that say to you and me?  Let me be both blunt and bold.  I believe it says God deals with us based on how we treat orphans and widows and others in need.  I cannot find a way out of that.  There are no ifs, buts, or whys about it.  There are people in the world who have tremendous need through no doing of their own and God says it is our job to “not afflict them” or perhaps it is better read, as “to not let them be afflicted”.  I like the way the Greek Septuagint LXX translates the Hebrew text here saying, “All widows and orphans are not to be injured”.  That is powerful.  God says “I am putting my people in charge of making sure all widows and orphans are not injured in any way – physically, socially, intellectually, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, etc.”  That is your job and mine.
God requires us to do that because they have lost, Matthew Henry suggests, “those that should deal for them, and protect them.”  How often we have an occasion to help someone who is not familiar with the way of business or the law, desperately needing our protection, advice, and help.  They need as Henry says to “be treated with kindness and compassion.”
Matthew Henry also notes that it is a great comfort “to those who are injured and oppressed by men that they have a God to go to who will do more than give them the hearing.  Many of us have been there and know exactly the value of that knowledge.  But Henry also goes on to say that there is another side to this equation. “It ought to be a terror to those who are oppressive that they have the cry of the poor against them, which God will hear . . . God will severely reckon with those that do oppress them. Though they escape punishments from men, God's righteous judgments will pursue and overtake them.”
And it does not end there.  Henry points out that even men “that have a sense of justice and honor will espouse the injured cause of the weak and helpless”, so how much more would we expect the righteous God to do so.  God has every right to pass upon those that oppress the widows and the orphans the ultimate penalty with the poetic justice it deserves – their own wives becoming widows and their own children becoming orphans. 
As Christians you and I cannot simply live with only the head knowledge of this.  We have a major responsibility in this area.  The God of the Old Testament was known by these judgments, and He is the same God today.  He is just as tough and serious about His love for the oppressed and His demand on us to address the situations He allows us to.  How are we doing?
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Law Against Bestiality -- Short But Not So Sweet -- Exodus 22:19

--> Exodus 22:19: “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.”

 
The Sanctuary of Pan at the Head of the Jordan River, Israel

This is a type of verse that you wish you did not have to deal with when doing a study of the Bible.  But it is there and since God does not mince words or speak unnecessarily, we need to fully regard what it says. 

Here is what we do know from various commentaries.  Bestiality was practiced in the ancient world (both in Egypt and Canaan), and it must have been prevalent enough for God to command against it here in the laws He gives His own people.

One of the things we can consider in light of bestiality is the fact that as David Guzik states, “If we reject God's Word when it comes to other areas of sexual morality, there is no other place to draw the line. We cannot say that sex with animals, children, or the dead is wrong if the ethic is ‘if it feels good, do it.’” In fact, based on what’s available on the Internet, we see that the voices of those speaking on behalf of such practices are indeed growing.

Matthew Henry suggests that a human involved with bestiality becomes a beast “in the shape of” a man.  And thus, we have God’s severe punishment for them.  There is strong belief that the practice was common in the days of Exodus in Egypt (why else would God raise it here) and that some New Testament era documents (Sonnini’s for example) refer to it even in the days of Paul and the apostles. 
This practice was ascribed to Baal, the pagan god. There are accounts of the practice continuing in the world and they are brought to light from time to time.  I am reminded of Jesus’s reference in Matthew 16:18 to the Gates of Hell.  Some believe it was a reference to a location in modern Israel at the head of the Jordan, in the caves of the mountainous rock nearby considered today to be the “Sanctuary or Pan”. I had the privilege of visiting there for a while as part of my pilgrimage to Israel.  There, in days past, the repugnant idolatrous acts were committed.  And Jesus was saying to Peter, “When I build My Church, My people, not even that place that is so evil will be able to conquer it.”  How blessed are those that believe His words and accept Him as Lord.

One would think this crime of bestiality is, as John Gill says in his commentary, “so detestable and abominable, so shocking and dishonorable to human nature, that one would think it could never be committed by any of the human species, and that there was no occasion for making a law against it.”

Unfortunately, that is not the case.  People, fallen to depravity and corruption, were the same from the beginning.  And God found this act so abhorrent that He shows them no mercy.  His judgment on them is short, but not sweet.

I believe that the only thing that has changed as a result of the New Testament -- the New Covenant, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins – is that by complete sincere repentance and a total change of life, anyone guilty of such acts today can still make peace with God.

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 [Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

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.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Are Christian Pacifists Misunderstanding These Words of Jesus?


A BRIEF DIVERSION BY SPECIAL REQUEST
Are Christian Pacifists Misunderstanding These Words of Jesus?
Matthew 5:38-48:38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I was asked recently by a friend to comment on Matthew 5:38-48.  My friend knows that I am not a pacifist but like many other Christians believe in what is known as the “Just War Doctrine”.  I believe that my friend struggles with this position of mine.  I struggle with his position that the New Covenant (read New Testament) replaces most of the Old Covenant (Old Testament). As such, he would like me to consider the passage from strictly the New Testament’s perspectives only and to keep away from commentators who actually support the Just War Doctrine.  It’s a tall order but he knows I’m up to a good challenge.  As a minimum, I will avoid the use of commentators.
Let me state up front that I am in no way trying to convince anyone to change their mind on the issue of war and its permissibility for a Christian.  When I study the Word of God I do so as part of my own regular devotions and am only happy to share it with others.  What I end up writing is what I believe the Spirit has me think about a given passage, almost entirely for my own edification.  As such I am thankful for the opportunity to seriously examine the position that my friend holds and whether or not this passage of Scripture supports it.
This passage is part of Jesus’ well-known Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5.  It is generally agreed that this sermon is preached, or the teachings are taught to the masses that followed Jesus – masses which are made up of ordinary people.  He was not speaking to the local Chamber of Commerce, the political rulers of the day, the military generals in the vicinity, or the Sanhedrin.  He was speaking to the masses as individuals.  These were individual men, women, and children.  They were fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.  In His entire ministry, when Jesus preached and taught, and especially when He spoke – He spoke to individuals.  This fifth chapter of Matthew begins with the “Beatitudes”, all the “Blessed are . . .” references.  And all those references are about “individuals”.
I have come to the personal conclusion that what Jesus was saying here was intended for individuals, not collectives.  This is the way Jesus wanted you and I to live our lives as individuals, yet one with another.
Even the part of the Old Testament that He quotes in the beginning of this passage we are studying comes from a law given in Exodus 21:24, a law for individuals.  It actually had to do with two men struggling with each other and in the process hurting a woman with child.  He was not talking about a nation going to war.
In verse 39 of our passage, Jesus instructs us not to resist an “evil person” and equates such as one who may slap “you on your right cheek” in the course of your daily life’s work.  He was not talking about an army of soldiers marching against you.
It is the same with verses 40 to 42 where Jesus singles out those who want to sue you (no one sues a nation), those who want “your” shirt, those whose take you for a ride or ask you for a favor.  None of these examples deal with relations at the national or international level.
It is as if Jesus was leaving that to His Father who taught it to us in (and I ask my friend to forgive me) the Old Testament, or Covenant, as he would call it.  There was no need for Him to reteach it here in Matthew.  No, God created mankind and the world and cared for them, but Jesus came for you and me, the individuals in that fallen world, and He died for each of us as individuals, taking our own specific sins upon Him.  His teachings therefore were to intended for how you and I should live our lives at the individual personal level.
That thinking that I have shared here would lead me to conclude that what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 5 was not to be taken as being contrary to Jehovah God’s practice of leading His people to war against His Enemy and ours.  Jesus stayed clear of that.  His job was to redeem you individually.
Based on that we can, at the national or international security level go with what God did for the children of Israel or we can say that Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 contradicts that or wipes it out.  If we take the latter approach, we are doing it at our peril.
Do you really think it is possible that when Jesus was saying “But I say unto you . . .” He really was saying, “Hey listen, My Father which gave you the law in Exodus was wrong”?  I don’t think so.  I believe He was saying that “I have come to show you another way that is now or soon will be possible because of Me and what I am about to do for you individually on the cross. In fact, that is why My Father sent Me.”
And yet Jesus was silent, at least in this passage we are studying, on the issue of nation against nation, or groups of nations against their enemies.  Jesus was not addressing that nor was He challenging or changing what His Father had said or done about that.
We come next to the latter part of the passage chosen by my friend.  It continues in the same vein.  A single ‘neighbor’ is compared to a single ‘enemy’.  In my opinion, I cannot jump to the conclusion as many have that Jesus is telling me to be a pacifist on a national basis.  He is not.  He is telling me to live my ‘personal’ life that way.  (And that’s why Christians do not take Christians to court.  But even there that is limited to Christians and we are free to take others to court.)
One could argue that elsewhere Jesus in the New Testament tells us to “render unto Caesar the things that are his” and while Jesus was using a coin to teach that, it is clear that He was referring to things in a broader sense, including these days military service.  While David may have loved to have sat down with Goliath and talked him into signing a peace treaty without any further shedding of blood, God inspired him and protected him in taking Goliath on as representative of the enemy’s army and helped him kill him.
Yes, I am to love my personal enemies and to pray for them who personally persecute me.  It is those actions that make me a son of the Father in heaven for God too loves each one of His children equally, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”  But He does not condone all of everyone’s actions.
The rest of the verses in the passage are all references to personal activities – loving those who love us and greeting our brothers as tax collectors and the Gentiles do.  Jesus wants us to personally love those who are not our brothers and those who do not love us.
Perhaps the best example I can give to express what I feel is being taught here is this: Suppose for a moment that God has appointed you as the Prison Warden for one of the top ten high-security prisons in the world (you can Google them if you want to pick one).  As a Christian, Jesus calls you to try and reach every one of the prisoners individually with His love and gospel through your love.  But as a citizen and employee of the nation, when all the prisoners riot, take hostages, and start killing them and your prison guards, your mission changes.  You call out your full force of guards, as well as military reinforcements, and you join them in eliminating the chief trouble-makers, even killing them.  If you disagree with this statement, then I would have to say that a) you should not be a Prison Warden, and b) by extension neither should any Christian, and furthermore c) by further extension, ideally all people not in prison should be Christians, and thus d) no one would take the job of a Prison Warden.  That then leaves the prisoners in charge free to escape and create destruction everywhere they go and killing all that disagree with them in the process.  All because someone felt that Jesus was telling us not to take up arms in Matthew 5.
If one believes that, then we are clearly on two different pages and I would find it unproductive for either of us to try and resolve our differences on this topic.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that Jesus does not require us to refrain from helping others who are persecuted.  Elsewhere He clearly teaches us to defend the widows and the orphans.  In James 1:27 we read, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
While He tells us to pray for those who persecute us, we are also to defend others who are persecuted.
This passage then, in my humble opinion, states nothing to dissuade one from the Just War Doctrine implied elsewhere in Scripture, nominally the Old Testament.  And neither do other peace-making passages in the New Testament, as they focus on “how then I should live” individually and personally.
I hope I have done justice to both the passage and to my friend’s requests of me.  At the very least I am thankful for the opportunity to further crystallize my own thinking on the subject.
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 [Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Seducers and Sorceresses -- Exodus 22:16-18

Seducers and Sorceresses

Exodus 22:16-18: “And if a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife.  If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.  You shall not allow a sorceress to live.”
We come next to three short but very pungent verses describing God’s laws with respect to seducers and sorceresses.
To begin with if a man takes away a young unengaged woman’s virginity, he must pay the appropriate dowry (payment given to the family of the woman one is to marry) and then take her as his wife.  Notice there is no reference to the need to get her pregnant to have to marry her, just to sleep with her.  Getting a woman pregnant when she should not be is just a potential outcome of the wrongdoing of sleeping with her.  It is simply the means by which the matter becomes public.  But God is getting at the private sinful acts we undertake.  There is also no reference here to the case in which the woman is already engaged or even married.  Not sure why except perhaps that such behavior was even more rare in those days.  God does in fact address this situation in even stronger ways later in Deuteronomy 22:23-27 where we read:
“If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
“But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.”
 
Secondly, we note that the woman’s father can refuse to allow the man, who slept with her, to marry his daughter.  So there was no pointing using that as a surefire method of getting the girl you wanted.  The man involved still had to pay for the injury and disgrace he had caused to the single woman.
Matthew Henry suggests that This law puts an honor upon marriage and shows likewise how improper a thing it is that children should marry without their parents' consent: even here, where the divine law appointed the marriage, both as a punishment to him that had done wrong and a recompense to her that had suffered wrong, yet there was an express reservation for the father's power; if he denied his consent, [there] must be no marriage.”  Not sure how far too many fathers would get with that kind of power today.
Two things come to mind as I study this passage.  First, God has never made provision for what so many today call “casual sex”.  Sorry, it may be fun, but do not for a moment think you are in the will of God when you participate in it or any sex outside of marriage.  Pre-marital sex is still a form of immorality even if it may not always be specifically adultery.  I was recently reading Max Lucado’s book entitled Grace:More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine. In it, there is a paragraph in which Lucado so potently describes the feelings that David must have had after admitting his sin with Bathsheba.
“Sin’s reality replaced sin’s euphoria.  David began to see in Bathsheba not a picture of beauty but a symbol of his own weakness.  Could he see her face without imagining the face of her husband, whom he had betrayed?  Most of all, could he look at her and not sense the gaze of God upon himself?”

Lucado goes on to explain how even in that situation, God’ Grace flows just as strong to those that approach Him in a sincere prayer of confession.  Confessors,” Lucado writes, “find a freedom that deniers don’t.”

The second thing that comes to mind as I study this and note the refusal rights of the father to allow his daughter to marry someone we could today call a “cad” [a person whose behavior is unprincipled or dishonorable], is the so-called felt-right of Muslim fathers to force their younger daughters to marry someone they are not in love with, perhaps a much older man, or a man who already has one or more wives, or a real ‘cad’.  You don’t have to look long on the Internet to find pictures of young women who have been doused with acid for refusing to marry the person their father, sometimes with the support of their mother, was forcing upon them.  Much more loving the right to forbid a marriage based on one’s faith, experience, and sheer love for one’s daughter, than to force that same daughter to marry someone she is not in love with for your own selfish reasons, be it money or injudicious honor.

Thirdly this passage lays out the law for the Israelites not to allow a sorceress in their midst to live.  She is to be killed.  Those were pretty strong words and orders.  Until of course we realize what a sorceress was and is.

Here’s what another portion of Deuteronomy says about sorcery and sorcerers:

"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or [spiritualist] who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to The Lord, and because of these detestable practices The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before The Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 18:10-13 NIV)

What we have here is God saying to the Israelites – “These things, these practices, have no room in the lives of my people.  They belong to heathen nations.  I detest those practices.  You are to live purely before me without them.”  The best way for the Israelites to have done that was to eliminate anyone who so practiced among them.

Matthew Henry gives us this insight:

“Witchcraft not only gives . . . honor to the devil which is due to God alone, but bids defiance to the divine Providence, wages war with God's government, and puts his work into the devil's hand, expecting him to do good and evil, and so making him indeed the god of this world; justly therefore was it punished with death, especially among a people that were blessed with a divine revelation, and cared for by divine Providence above any people under the sun.”

David Guzik adds:

The practice of sorcery was almost always associated with "medicinal arts" (the taking of drugs) in the ancient world, and was therefore a connection between drug taking and occultist practices . . . Not permit[ing] a sorceress to live: This was considered a severe enough threat that sorcery was considered a capital crime. The link between drugs and the occult was rightly seen as deadly.

The question remaining for us is twofold: First, why specific reference to a female who is involved in sorcery and second, why introduce this practice in a portion of scripture tied to pre-marital sex?  Good questions, perhaps with no absolute satisfactory answers.

Here is a list of all the references in Scripture to 'witches'.  Well worth looking up.  And here’s the much shorter list of all the references in Scripture to 'wizards'.  Both existed in Bible times as they do today.  So why then do we just have a reference to females here in Exodus 22?  Perhaps Guzik is correct when he talks about sorcery being almost always associated with ‘medicinal arts’ – something perhaps (and I say this at great risk of offending some today), was more associated with females at the time.  After all, we more often refer to a ‘witch’s brew’ than we do to one concocted by a wizard.  Also, one such witch or sorceress that was actually described in Scripture did become known as the Witch of Endor (see I Samuel 28).  She is depicted in the painting pictured above The Witch of Endor painted in 1857 by Dimitri Martynov.  An earlier painting entitled The Shade of Samuel Invoked by Saul painted by Bernardo Cavallino about 1650-1656 can be seen here.

And finally why was this law introduced here as part of the passage on pre-marital sex?  I do not know the actual answer.  But I can only imagine that the writer (Moses) was thousands of years ahead of his time because as we search the Internet for images of sorceresses today, we are presented with pictures and drawings of extremely seductive (in some people’s minds) women – the kind that deep down only have one’s spiritual and moral demise in mind and all through his desire for sexual pleasure.
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 [Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.  

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

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.