Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

We began last Friday a consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to lust as long as you didn’t commit adultery? (Matthew 5:27-30)

The 10th commandment says otherwise (Exodus 20:17). “Do not covet.” Just replace that word with lust. Do not covet (lust for) your neighbor’s wife.

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
(Proverbs 6:23-28)

Job 31:1 – Job made a covenant with his eyes. He honored his marriage vows even with his eyes.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to play semantics with your promises in order to weasel out of keeping your word? (Matthew 5:33-37)

The 9th commandment says otherwise (Exodus 20:16). Don’t bear false witness.

The 3rd commandment also says otherwise (Exodus 20:3). Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Don’t invoke God’s name, including when making a commitment, unless you are dead serious about honoring His name by keeping that oath.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 – Don’t be hasty to utter promises…God is in heaven and you are on earth, let your words be few. If you are going to make a commitment, keep it!

As you can see from the Old Testament passages, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to keep from lust and to keep his word. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

More to come later..

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

During what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus said many times “You have heard that it was said…” and He followed it with “but I say unto you…” Was Jesus teaching new concepts and new morality?

The impression that is left when some talk about the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus was teaching an entirely new standard of morality that wasn’t part of the Law of Moses. That’s just not true. What Jesus did was correct how the Scribes and Pharisees had incorrectly interpreted and applied the Law because of the hardness of their hearts.

Here are some examples from the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate that Jesus was correcting the hypocritical interpretation of the Law:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:20)

In Matthew 6, when Jesus was talking about prayer, charity and fasting, He compared true righteousness to how the “hypocrites” (Scribes and Pharisees) were behaving (Matthew 6:2,5,16).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about lust, anger without a cause, keeping your word, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile and loving your enemy. Are those uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses?

Let’s look into the Old Testament and see.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to be angry without a cause as long as you didn’t kill that person?

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
(Matthew 5:21-22)

You can’t read far into the book of Genesis without seeing God correct someone about anger. Genesis 4 shows God calling out Cain about his anger toward his brother Abel. Cain’s anger was without cause, and God said he needed to “rule over it.”

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
(Psalms 37:8)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
(Proverbs 14:29)

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
(Ecclesiastes 7:9)

You can see that Jesus was not instituting a new ethic. This is the heart that God always wanted from His people.

More to come later..

Trust – Not Knowing

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
(Heb 11:8)

Trust. In order to trust another, it by definition means you don’t have all the answers and information. You don’t possess all the details and you are going on the word of someone else.

Abraham was told to take his family and his corporation and go. Go where? Go where God told him to go! That’s not a lot of information to go on, is it? But it was all the information Abraham needed.

Sometimes we really geek out on the details and have to know all the information. God doesn’t work that way with us. He wants us to trust in Him and His promises without having all the facts. You will not be able to know how everything is going to turn out in specificity. The Lord isn’t going to send us a spreadsheet with charts.

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Exodus that tells of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. They didn’t have all the information and details. Their job was to be silent and go forward. Trust God and let Him take care of the rest.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
(Exodus 14:13-15)

Holy Ground – Marriage

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view marriage.

But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
(Malachi 2:14-16)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
(Hebrews 13:4)

Do we look at marriage, and our wives as holy ground?

The very idea of marriage is to be held in high honor (Hebrews 13:4). Why? Because God is in it. He serves as witness to the covenant between the husband and the wife. As you read in Malachi, a portion of His Spirit is in the union.

Your wife is to be treated in high honor (1 Peter 3:7). She is created in the image of God. Her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and she was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). The way we think of her, touch her, talk to her, etc., should all be in harmony with the truth that she is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4).

The marriage bed is to be undefiled. Marriage is holy because it is set apart for a union that is dedicated to and governed by God. Only a husband and his wife can be holy while participating in sexual relations. Any other sexual behavior is called fornication and adultery and will be judged by God. Also, husbands, we must remember not to defile the marriage bed by bringing in worldly thoughts and defilement into our minds that will corrupt and pervert our marriage bed (Titus 1:15). God said, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

God’s marriage relationship that He created for us is a beautiful and very special thing. Just as Joshua was told to remove his sandals to recognize the holy presence of God, we must transform our lives and thinking to recognize God’s holy presence in our marriages.

For The Place Where You Are Standing Is Holy

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:13-15).

As the people of Israel were preparing to conquer the Promised Land of Canaan, God met with Joshua. Just like Moses, Joshua was told to remove his sandals from his feet because where he stood was holy ground. Before Joshua could effectively lead the people of Israel, he had to be reminded of and impressed by the holiness of Almighty God.

Here are three simple observations about Joshua standing on holy ground:

  1. God is Holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

#1 – God is Holy

Whenever mankind was put in the presence of God and shown His glory, they immediately were brought to their knees and they trembled. But why? Because of the holiness of God. Isaiah, for example, the moment he saw the vision of the Lord, he knew right away that he was a sinful man with a dirty mouth (Isaiah 6).

Here is a passage about Jesus that I believe helps to explain holiness:

Hebrews 7:26 – For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

Innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted. This is why as man we tremble in the presence of the glory of God, because He is sinless and completely pure. Adam and Eve, before sin, did not fear and tremble before the presence of God. Sin brought fear and separation. Through the blood of Jesus, we can be reconciled and made pure so that we can dwell in the presence of God without fear and boldly come to His throne.

#2 – Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.

Was there something special about the dirt by the Jordan River? No. It was holy because God was there. Another example is in 2 Peter 1:18 when Peter was reflecting upon his experience during Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Peter called that mountain a “holy mountain.” It was no different than any other mountain, but what made it holy was the presence of God.

Think for a moment on just a few places the Bible says He dwells. God dwells in the heart and spirit of the Christian, we are His temple and dwelling place (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). He also dwells within the body of Christ, the church; collectively we are His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Marriage is to be regarded as holy and undefiled, because God’s presence is there as well (Hebrews 13:4; Malachi 2:14-16). Where the holy God dwells is to be counted by us as holy.

#3 – Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Remove your sandals, in other words, take off the defilement of this world before you meet with God. When people were going to meet with God, there were preparations that had to be made. They had to purify themselves, wash themselves, change their clothing, and put away the wickedness/idolatry of the world (Genesis 35:1-5; Exodus 19:9-15; Isaiah 1:10-20). We can’t be unholy and meet in fellowship with a holy God. Just like Moses and Joshua had to remove their sandals, we have to take off the filthiness of the world, wash ourselves in the blood of the Lamb, and put on a new man (Ephesians 4:20-24; Revelation 7:13-14; 22:14).

2 Corinthians 7:1 – “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

This week, we are going to focus on this passage, and use the concepts from today to apply to our various relationships in life.

Let Them Measure the Pattern

“According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exodus 25:9).

Moses was commanded by God to make the tabernacle according to the “pattern,” God’s pattern (See also Exodus 25:40; Numbers 8:4; Acts 7:44). Everything God told Moses to do had a specific point, because God was looking forward to Christ and His church. The Hebrew writer taught that the things of the Mosaic law, tabernacle, sacrifices and priesthood served as a “copy and a shadow” of the heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5).

This same expectation of building after the pattern was placed upon King David as he began all the preparations for the temple which his son Solomon would build.

“All this,” said David, “the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19).

In contrast to the obedience of Moses and David in following God’s pattern, there was a king years later named Ahaz who disobeyed God by seeking another pattern. He traveled to Damascus, and met with the King of Assyria. He came back with a pattern for a different altar and had it built (2 Kings 16:10).

During the days of Ezekiel the prophet, God’s people were in complete defiance of His laws, and because of it God punished Judah through the kingdom of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple and took thousands of the people of Judah into captivity. God looked forward, though, to the days of their return and the days of the Messiah. Through Ezekiel, God called His people back to the “pattern.” If they would examine the words of God which contained that pattern, they would hopefully be ashamed of their sins and turn back to God (Ezekiel 43:10).

Let Them Measure the Pattern

“Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern” (Ezekiel 43:10).

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul served as a pattern for us in many ways:

  • In his salvation (1 Timothy 1:16). The longsuffering and grace extended by Jesus to Paul serves as a pattern for all who will believe in Jesus Christ.
  • Through his life and character (Philippians 3:17; 4:9). Men like Titus and Timothy were also to serve as a pattern in their behavior (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).
  • The doctrine and sound words he taught (2 Timothy 1:13). These were to be taken by men like Timothy and taught to others so that the pattern of sound doctrine would be repeated for generations to come (2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17).

God has a pattern that He wants us to follow. How we are saved. The way we behave and talk. Our worship to God. It is important for us to examine the Word and to find that pattern of sound words and follow it. As men and leaders in homes and churches, we are to have the courage and love for Christ to lead others in following God’s pattern, which first and foremost comes by living the pattern ourselves.

Like Yesterday

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away (Psalms 90:4-6).

For all our days have declined in Your fury; we have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away. Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom (Psalms 90:9-12).

Like yesterday

Time, space and matter are all things God created. He created them all at the same time. “In the beginning (time), God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter)” (Genesis 1:1). In order for God to create them He must be outside and independent of space, time and matter. That whole concept simply blows my mind, I just cannot fathom a Being like that. I believe it, but I just don’t comprehend it.

Since God is outside of time and independent of time, He has a completely different perspective of time. Moses said that 1,000 years are “like yesterday” to God. It is just a blip on the radar, it is the same as one day to God. Peter also repeated this concept in his second letter (2 Peter 3:9). A millennium to God is like grass that springs up and is cut down and withers.

In contrast to God, we humans are all about time. Have you stopped recently to ponder how obsessed we are with time? Sometimes we are just so impatient and in a hurry because of our mixed up earthly perception of time. It affects our decision making at work and school, we get in a hurry and make mistakes. Our lack of perspective on time gets in the way when it comes to how we deal with others. Instead of giving them time to grow and develop, we want instant change…this minute! We also at times lose sight of how brief our time is on this earth.

This Psalm of Moses is there to help sober us up a little bit. Moses’ prayer to God in this Psalm was for God to help him and all of us to have a wiser perspective on the brevity of life and to see time how God sees it. Hopefully we will become more patient because of this renewed perspective. With God’s help we can see how precious each moment is and to “number our days.” Make the most of the very brief time God has given us.

According to this Psalm, we generally live 70-80 years. Think about that for a moment. If 1,000 years is like a day to God, then 70-80 years is like the blink of an eye.

“Making the most of your time…” (Ephesians 5:16).

 

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health (Proverbs 12:18).

The focus for this week has been complaining. Words as we all know, have incredible weight and influence. The above proverb provides a great contrast. A stab wound doesn’t promote health, does it? My words can be a sword thrust through someone or I can promote health. Our words at work and school today can promote health: healthy attitudes, healthy dialogue, healthy teamwork, etc. Or, our complaining and criticizing words will just bring everyone down in the dumps.

Here are a couple of examples:

10 of the 12 spies sent by Moses to look over the land of Canaan brought back a bad report. They were faithless and their words discouraged the hearts of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:28). Caleb, one of the 2 faithful spies, said decades later that the discouraging words of those 10 spies “made the heart of the people melt” (Joshua 14:8).

In contrast, consider King Hezekiah. When surrounded by the powerful army of Assyria, Hezekiah took his stand in faith with God. Not only did he prepare the people militarily, he spoke words of faith and encouragement to the people and directed their hearts to God’s power. “And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:6-8).

See the contrast? I think we all, that means me too, sometimes lose sight of how powerful and influential our speech can be. That’s probably why there is so much in Scripture about our words and their power. Hezekiah strengthened his people while the 10 spies made the hearts of Israel melt into discouragement.

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

I found an interesting passage in Isaiah where the Messiah (Jesus) is speaking in the 1st person about what He is coming to do. In that section there is this statement:

The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary (Isaiah 50:4).

Jesus, the Messiah, has the tongue of the learned (educated, trained, wise). He knows how to speak a word in season (at the right time) to him who is weary (considering the audience and what is appropriate).

May the Lord give us this same tongue today! Let us train and educate our tongues and hearts. Consider what would be the right thing to say, not what would be the easy thing, or sarcastic thing or funny thing to say.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).

Past articles that might be helpful to you in connection to this topic:

 

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4-6).

God provided manna, bread from heaven, for the children of Israel. Every day was a miracle. Their food was miraculously provided for 40 years. Do the math. 6 days a week (extra manna provided on Friday for the Sabbath day) for 40 years. That’s a myriad miracles, and a gazillion tons of manna. They called it “worthless.” On top of that they said, “our soul loathes” it.

I was reading 1 Corinthians 10 yesterday where Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians about the Israelites in the wilderness. The sins they committed were recorded for us as examples, Paul explained, so that we do not repeat them. One of those sins Paul specified was complaining.

It just reminded me of how serious God takes complaining. If you haven’t done this lately, look through the Bible and do some word searches for words like grumbling, murmuring and complaining. See what God says about it. Look at the consequences. Lots of people died at God’s own hand because of it.

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

So, here we are, living under Christ, walking in His grace, and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 to remember how God views complaining. It is still a serious thing to God, just as serious as sexual immorality and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Sometimes we are tempted to think that the big sins are sexual immorality and murder, but complaining is just a little sin. We would be well served to take a walk through Exodus through Deuteronomy with the children of Israel to refresh our memories of God’s view of complaining.

Today, let us take a moment to thank God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If we recognize that we are living an ungrateful life, and have a complaining spirit, we should get down on our knees and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. We also should ask the Lord to teach us to be more thankful. May God help our hearts to be content, and may our words express that daily. It is helpful for us to take regular inventory of how richly God has blessed us. That old song still rings true, “Count your many blessings.”

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Psalm 103:2).

Not A Hoof Shall Be Left Behind

“…not a hoof shall be left behind…” (Exodus 10:26)

I’m sure a lot of you reading this are involved in or have been involved in negotiations at work. It might have been for your own salary and contract or a labor dispute. Maybe it was with a parts supplier. Regardless, negotiations are part of our everyday life. Give and take. Compromise. “Meet in the Middle” as the Diamond Rio song says.

We are used to seeing this around us, even on television shows like American Pickers. Frank and Mike go around the country and the world haggling to get some valuable piece of history they can resell later for a higher price.

Even the Proverbs talks about it. “It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; but when he has gone his way, then he boasts (Proverbs 20:14).

There are even men who successfully negotiated with the Lord. Abraham was one of those examples who pleaded for God’s mercy upon Sodom and Gomorrah because of his nephew Lot (Gen. 18:22-33; 19:29).

But there are other times, like the one we will consider today with Pharaoh and Moses, that negotiating is out of the question. Pharaoh kept trying to negotiate the terms of release for the children of Israel, but God wasn’t going to bargain.

When Pharaoh was first approached, he arrogantly declared, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). As the plagues progressed however, Pharaoh began his attempts to negotiate. After the plague of the flies, Pharaoh said, “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land.” Moses replied, we are not going to do that. The response of Pharaoh was, “I will let you go…only you shall not go very far away” (Exodus 8:24-28). Of course, Pharaoh changed his mind after the plague was removed.

When Moses warned Pharaoh of the coming locust plague, the servants of Pharaoh reasoned with him to let Israel go. At least someone had some sense! Once again, Pharaoh attempted to cut a deal by saying, “only the men can go” (Exodus 10:8-11). No deal…the terms are the same, everybody leaves together (Exodus 10:9)!

Eight devastating plagues were followed by the ninth plague of darkness which debilitated Egypt for three days. Pharaoh still tried to set terms with God and Moses. Ok you can go, “only your flocks and your herds shall be kept back” (Exodus 10:24).

Pharaoh just didn’t learn, did he? There was not going to be a meet in the middle compromise. God wasn’t going to give a little. Pharaoh was given the terms of release, and with great pain and sacrifice he had to submit to the conditions. Everybody in Israel goes, “not a hoof shall be left behind” (Exodus 10:26).

Not a hoof shall be left behind

In order to apply this to our lives today men, let’s do some comparing. Consider Pharaoh to be like Satan, and Moses to be like Jesus. We are like the children of Israel, and the slavery in Egypt is like our slavery and bondage to sin (John 8:32-36; Hebrews 2:14-16).

Here are a few observations:
  1. God didn’t negotiate terms with the Devil. He crushed Satan through the cross of Jesus Christ. Our Lord doesn’t want any part of His people in “Egypt” (sin) under Pharaoh (the Devil).
  2. Satan will hold on to any part of you that he can, even a hoof. Remember the rich young ruler? He kept “all” of God’s commandments, at least so he thought. But Jesus knew part of him was still not out of Egypt yet, and the “hoof left behind” was the young man’s attachment to money and things.
  3. You and I are not to leave a “hoof behind” in that old world of sin. God wants to deliver us completely from sin. If there is still a part of us that we have not completely given over to God, then we need to stop trying to negotiate terms. Stop flirting with Egypt, and get out of there, not a hoof shall be left behind. Don’t be like Israel and leave your heart in Egypt (Acts 7:39). “Resist the devil,” James says, don’t try to negotiate with him.

Not a hoof shall be left behind…