Marriage & Divorce

Introduction

I submit this humbly. I truly don’t mean this to be the FINAL word on the matter. I’d love others to present Scriptures / principles / concepts that seem missing or off here, and I’d be eager to change it.

Further, I know there are a million different scenarios, many of which I can’t imagine and my heart goes out to you–truly. I think we all have to be careful not to carry on a Pharisaical stance on either side. This could look like jumping on an “opportunity” to exit a marriage when a spouse isn’t living up to their part in serving their spouse. This could also look like people slavishly following the “letter of the law” of staying married when the heart/spirit is in defiance and divorce-mode already.


My Brief Statement on Marriage and Divorce

Marriage is a covenant between man and woman that represents God’s covenant with His people. It is not a contract. A covenant says: “Till death do us part,” “I will never forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) “Even when you’re faithless, I’ll remain faithful.” (2 Tim. 2:13). A contract says: “You do your part, I’ll do mine.”

With this definition of marriage, the God-honoring reason for divorce would ultimately be when your spouse refuses to stay committed, even though you continue to love and serve them in the Lord (see 1 Cor. 7:10-15). This is akin to God’s covenant with us: “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” (2 Tim. 2:12).


Q & A

Question: If someone says their spouse has denied them, is it right for them to initiate divorce?

Answer: I’d turn the tables. How soon would we want God to leave us? There are times where we’ve been unfaithful, and may have looked like we denied Him (look at Peter who literally did so). Aren’t we glad that He doesn’t “jump” on such an opportunity to leave us? I think we need to mirror God in this. I don’t think there’s is a magic formula for when denial takes place, but I think we should hold out and try all we can to reconcile until/unless denial is clear and inevitable in the other party.

Question: Did God divorce Israel?

Answer:

For Israel (Northern part): Their Assyrian captivity was a divorce (see Jeremiah 3).
For Judah: Their Babylonian captivity was seen as temporary discipline (perhaps separation), but not divorce.

I’d add the caveat that the “divorce” to Israel seems more akin, in type, to divorcing a betrothal than a marriage.  But in practice I don’t think that changes anything for us today when we marry/divorce.

When God Divides

God longs for unity among His people, and His children’s heart should long for the same:

  • Psalm 133 – “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”
  • John 17 – Jesus prays that the church may be one as He and the Father are one
  • Eph. 4:3 – “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace
  • 1 Cor. 1 – Paul admonishes the Corinthians for dividing over issues other than the gospel
  • 1 Cor. 11 – In fact, God disciplined the church with sickness and death BECAUSE they were being divisive and creating factions.
  • Heb. 12:14 – “pursue peace with all men”

But God desires this unity where the true Jesus is Lord, and the true gospel is believed. Any unity that does not honor the true Jesus and true gospel is false unity, and doesn’t please the Lord.

Consider:

  • Romans 16:17 – Paul warns them to separate from people who have a different gospel/doctrine
  • Gal. 1:6-10 – Paul says anyone preaching a different gospel is eternally condemned
  • 2 Cor. 6 – just as light CAN’T fellowship with darkness, so there is no fellowship among Christians and non-Christians
  • 2 Cor. 11:1-4 – Paul rebukes them for “putting up” with people teaching a false Jesus and false gospel.
  • 2 John 10-11 – John warns that the church must reject any fellowship with people who teach a different Jesus than the Biblical Jesus
  • Rev. 18:4 – Jesus warns his true church to come out of fellowship with a false church, “so that you will not share in her sins”

Trying to maintain such “false” unity is condemned and warned against.

Along these lines, there are times where God actually initiates division. These are times where God’s people have compromised on true worship of Him and His gospel.

  • Luke 12:49-53 – Jesus says He came to bring fire and division upon the earth, based on how people honor Him
  • 2 Chron. 11:4 – “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not go up to fight [for a united kingdom] against your fellow Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this [division] is my doing.'”
  • Haggai 2:20-23; Heb. 12:25-29 – Here God is initiating a shaking that happens to his professing people “by the sword of his brother”
  • 1 Cor. 11:18-19 – God says there must be factions among you (even though he deplores them), “to show which of you have God’s approval”

In fact, God’s original priests were established based on their willingness to slay their brothers (Ex. 32:27-29). To state the obvious: this was not a great act of unity!

Again, God does want unity, but He wants it on His terms, under his Lordship and true gospel. Where this is not present, He wants separation. In fact, it grieves me to say this, but I wonder if this is part of the division and polarization we are seeing today. It’s part of God’s refining to show who are truly His.

Consider further:

  • Psalm 133 – unity is pictured as garments brought together UNDER the HEAD of the HIGH PRIEST. This is a clear picture of Jesus, the “head” of the church, and her “High Priest”. Unity under Jesus’ Headship/Lordship is key.
  • Heb. 12 – “pursue peace…AND HOLINESS”
  • John 17 – the unity Jesus prays for is for “those who will believe in me through their word” (17:20). And it is based on God’s glory, and a unity centered around that (John 17:22)

Thus, when Israel rejected Jesus and His gospel, Jesus weeps that true peace was hidden from them (Luke 19:42), then actually upends their “temple service,” leading ultimately to them killing Him (Luke 19:45-48). Thus there is no unity even among the very religious Jews, because they reject the true Jesus and His gospel. Meanwhile, Luke tells us that Herod and Pilate UNITED in their killing of Jesus (Luke 23:12).

Again, unity was never the goal for God. It has always been unity under Jesus as Lord. Something Israel rejected, and thus peace left them.

The same thing is seen in Matthew 18. Jesus says He will be with gatherings of 2-3 SO LONG AS they are gathered under the name of Jesus. This means they are gathered under Jesus’ authority and Lordship. Where people do not worship the true Jesus and receive the true Gospel, there is no promise of blessing (no matter how many people are together in “unity”).

The purpose of God-ordained division centers around Jesus and the Gospel. God wants the revelation of Jesus and his true gospel to remain pure. He stands on no side, but is seeking those who will firmly stand on the side of the true Jesus and the true Gospel. See Joshua 5 where the angel of the Lord says he takes no side, But he is seeing if Joshua/Israel will submit to God’s side.

Thus, God allows division to happen to see who will follow Jesus to the end. It’s his way of refining, and pruning, so those who are truly dedicated to Jesus will thrive and be shown for that, while those who reject Him will be exposed.

Further, do not too quickly assume you are the party in the right, while the dividing party is in the wrong. In the case of the God-ordained division of 2 Chron. 11, for instance, we are told that THE REASON for the division was idolatry in the Southern kingdom (Judah), see 1 Kings 11:26-40. But then we read that the Northern kingdom ALSO commits gross idolatry after they split (see 2 Chron. 11:13-17). Thus, both parties were guilty of idolatry when God brought the division.

What is our only hope?

Thankfully, God isn’t silent in telling us how to proceed. Look at Jeremiah 3:11-18. Here were told that IF ISRAEL REPENTS:

  1. God will give His leaders to His people (Jer. 3:15)
  2. God will cause multiplication (Jer. 3:16)
  3. God’s presence will return (Jer. 3:16-17)
  4. Nations will come to worship God (Jer. 3:17)
  5. Israel will be RE-UNITED (Jer. 3:18)

Notice all those promises. If only we repent.

Choose this day where you will fall. Because division has been catalyzed. Unity may not currently be an option with some people and some situations.

1 K 18:21 – “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Choose a side! Is Jesus Lord or not?

“Silent in the churches” – 1 Cor. 14:34 Examined

There are clearly lots of opinions and emotions around 1 Cor. 14:34: “women should keep silent in the churches.”

Personally, I’ve adjusted my own view on this over the years.

Initially, I thought it was just reciting what the Corinthians were doing (wrong) by forcing women to be silent, and Paul is dismissing it and encouraging women to speak freely (see 1 Cor. 11).

But my view now is that 1 Cor. 14:34 reflects Paul/God’s own thoughts on what should happen. It is not meant to be an absolute that women never speak in church meetings (for just a few chapters before that, Paul/God explain how women are to speak in church meetings!). Instead, the text is describing a specific type of speech women shouldn’t do. That is, women are to be silent in matters of the ultimate judging of doctrinal purity and discerning God’s word on behalf of the entire congregation. In fact, this is a role spelled out for elders to do:

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:9)

And since elders are spoken of as males in the Bible, it is actually very consistent that the role of guarding the doctrine in 1 Cor. 14:34 is entrusted to men. This doesn’t diminish the woman’s place in prophesying, exhorting, speaking faithfully, and giving Spirit-led input in general. God forbid–we need more women doing this! But it does show that it should be within the oversight of the elders who are ideally men (according to Scripture).

All that to say, a VERY GOOD treatment on this subject (that ultimately persuaded me) is: “Silent in the Churches”: On the Role of Women in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36 (by D.A. Carson)

It’s long, but well worth the read, in my humble opinion.

Brian

Antichrist & Revelation

Scriptures

  • 1 John 2:18-22; 4:3; 2 John 7: ANTICHRIST
    • “Antichrist is coming…many antichrists have come”
    • “from us…not of us;” “denies…Jesus;” “false prophets;” replaces God (cf. 1 Jn 2:26-27)
  • Dan. 7:7-12, 17-27: LITTLE HORN
    • Emerges in 4th kingdom, when 10 kingdoms arise (Rome); plucked up three horns; “eyes like the eyes of a man” (false prophet/seer); “made war with the saints and prevailed over them”; a “different” kingdom; “speak words against the Most High;” “the saints…shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time;” defeated by Jesus’ return
  • 2 Thes 2:3-12: MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
    • “Rebellion;” “opposes and exalts himself…proclaiming himself to be God;” “in the temple of God;” “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work…he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way;” “the Lord Jesus will kill;” “power and false signs and wonders;” “deception…strong delusion”
  • Rev. 13; 17: LAMB-BEAST
    • “like a lamb…spoke like a dragon;” “exercises all the authority of the first beast;” “great signs…deceives;” “his number is 666”
    • “False prophet” (Rev. 19:20)
    • Connected with earthly-harlot-Babylon / false church (Rev. 17); contrasting heavenly-bride-Jerusalem / true church (Rev. 21)
  • Book of Revelation
    • 1; 21-22: Jesus & Pure Bride
    • 2-3: Seven existing churches = “things that are” (1:19)
    • 4-5: “things that are to take place after this” (1:19; 4:1)
    • 6-7: Seals (Secular Rome – “Christian” Rome?)
    • 8-9: Trumpets (Rome & Islam?)
    • 10-11: Church’s witness reduced; Word & Spirit present
    • 12-13; 17: Beast of Sea, Earth (Secular Gov’t, False Church?)
    • 14-16; 18-20: Bowls & final judgments

Historical Records

Daniel 7; 2 Thessalonians 2 & the Papacy

  • Arises after Rome Falls: “The early writings of the [church] fathers tell us with remarkable unanimity that…on the fall of Caesar, he [Antichrist] would arise.” (Guinness, as qtd by Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies of the Bible, 1989, p. 130)
  • Rome split into 10 kingdoms: “Macchiavelli, the Roman historian, described the [Roman] Empire as being divided among the [10] various Gothic tribes.” (Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies of the Bible, 1989, p. 136)
  • Rome takes 3 kingdoms: “The ‘three kings’ which he [the Papacy] displaced…are thought to refer to Lombards, Ravenna and Rome, which were handed over to the Popes as the beginning of their Temporal Kingdom, (A.D. 754).” (H. H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965, p. 346). They could also be: Heruli (493), Vandals (534), Ostrogoths (553) (Elliot, as qtd by Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies of the Bible, 1989, pp. 136-137)
  • “a time, times, and half a time” (1,260 days/years): “The Papacy dominated the world for approximately 1260 years, 6th to 18th centuries A.D.” (H. H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965, p. 348)
  • Boastful words against God: “It is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Bull of Pope Boniface VIII promulgated November 18, 1302) “Union of minds, therefore, requires…complete submission and obedience of will…to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself.” (SAPIENTIAE CHRISTIANAE ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON CHRISTIANS AS CITIZENS) “We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.” (Encyclical Letter Præclara Gratulationis Publicæ of Pope Leo XIII JUNE 20, 1894)
  • “War with the saints”: “Untold millions” of martyrs died at the hands of popes (H. H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965, p. 793). “It has been estimated that fifty million Christians were killed during those centuries of Papal persecution.” (Ralph Woodrow, Great Prophecies of the Bible, 1989, p. 139)

Notable Christians Endorsing the Papacy as Antichrist:

Eberhard II (1200s); Michael of Cesena (1300s); John Wyclif (1300s); John Huss (1369-1415); Martin Luther (1483-1546); Philipp Melancthon (1497-1560); John Calvin (1509-1564); John Knox (1505-1572); Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531); William Tyndale (1484-1536); King James Bible translators (1611); Nicholas Ridley (1500-1555); Hugh Latimer (1490-1555); Roger Williams (1603-1683); Westminster Confession of Faith (1647); Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727); Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758); John Wesley (1703-1791); Albert Barnes (1798-1870); Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Joshua Reflections

These are notes collected from studying Exodus with Matt Lantz and Matt Roefer. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Jordan Baptism

As Israel passing through the Red Sea is a type for Christian baptism (1 Cor 10:1-2, 6)…
So Israel passing through the Jordan (Josh 3-5) also seems a picture of this water baptism…However, the Red Sea passing, I believe, shows what we pass OUT OF. While the Jordan passing shows what we pass INTO. Thus they are like 2 sides of the same coin.

Red Sea:

  • left Egypt
  • Sin/oppressor was buried
  • It was on Passover

Jordan (Josh 3-5):

  • enter Canaan / Promised Land
  • New people (this is the 2nd generation, because the first sinned)
  • Happened in conjunction with circumcision
  • Day AFTER Passover they entered Promised Land
  • Now they are following Joshua (the Hebrew name is identical to Jesus’ name)
  • “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” (Josh 5:9)

Baptism is depicted in the NT as a burial of our old self unto a resurrection of a new self that now follows Jesus. It is also compared to circumcision wherein the flesh (our old/sinful self) is cut off / buried in the waters. In baptism Egypt (old self) is buried and we come out to follow Joshua (Jesus) into the Promised Land (ultimately a picture of heaven).

Israel Conquering Canaanites

A thought on Joshua thus far…
We read about how Joshua and Israel utterly destroyed the different peoples in Canaan. They did this by the sword, oftentimes, and by God’s power and help.

I think for many reasons, people today bristle or even show revulsion for what they did here. But there is a LOT of context that skeptics (and even Christians) miss in all this.

For instance:

  • God waited 400 years before kicking the people out of the land. Why? So that “the sin of the Amorites” would be “complete” (Gen. 15:16). In other words, God waited a long time before doing this. He needed the sin to be at “full measure” so to speak. And then it had to be removed without hesitancy.
  • How bad was the sin? Leviticus gives some ideas of it when we read that the residents were practicing homosexuality, bestiality (sex with animals), witchcraft, killing their children as sacrifice to idols, hosts of other sexual idolatry, and just general pagan practices. It was really bad.
  • Further, as we read in Joshua, their heart was hard toward God’s people and God’s ways. They were ready to kill (and not co-exist with) Israel without hesitation. So Israel had to for survival in some ways, as well.
  • If you remember from Gen. 6-9 (the flood), God had to send a flood to judge the sin of the earth. How bad was it? “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. ” (Gen. 6:5). Consider that language: EVERY INCLINATION was ONLY EVIL ALL THE TIME. Not just their actions were bad, but their heart was bad. Every inclination of their heart, in fact, was bad. Every inclination was ONLY evil. How often? ALL THE TIME. That is some extreme language. And, sadly, it’s true of the human heart in general, outside of God’s regenerative work. Thus…
  • Instead of using a flood to judge this “new crop” of wickedness in Canaan, God used His people to execute His wrath. A similar concept is seen in Rom. 13 regarding God using governing authorities to execute His wrath today.
  • There are other reasons He did it this way. And there are reasons why Christians reading Joshua today would be gravely mistaken to think this is a call to kill people who don’t follow God (hint, hint: The gospel really changes everything along these lines). But hopefully this is helpful for now

I’d also add that God warns Israel that if they continue in these same sins that the residents of Canaan did, then God would “vomit” them out of the land as well (Lev. 26, and elsewhere, talks about that). So it wasn’t God taking 1 side over another. He wants His glory to be known in the earth, which includes his purity and holiness…or I guess it is Leviticus 18:28 that talks about “vomiting” out…but I think Lev 26 also walks through all the warnings toward Israel in not following the sins of the residents.

quick neat testimony:

FOCL (Forum Of Christian Leaders) is a ministry I’ve really respected (based in Europe). I was looking at their annual conference teachings this year (happening now), and decided to listen to 2 teachers I’ve really grown from: (1) Albert Mohler, (2) Peter Williams.

And guess what they were talking about (out of all topics they could talk about)?:
(1) Albert Mohler – focused on Deut 6 and how to stay devoted to the Lord in the midst of a post-Christian culture (the very thing that has been so moving from me for the past 2 weeks…since I read it in Deut)
(2) Peter Williams – goes through the entire book of Judges in quick teachings. I started queuing it up right after I finished Joshua! The timing couldn’t have been better.

Don’t want to make more out of this than is there, but I did see it as a potentially slight confirmation that the Lord is stirring his people back to His word similarly to how He’s stirring us in that direction. Press on!

Something else…last night when putting the kids to bed I read them Psalm 73 where it says God holds us by our right hand. They asked, “why the right hand?” I talked about how it is a generally dominant hand, so it shows strength. In the back of my mind I wondered about Ehud (left-handed man used by God)… I thought about how that story broke the norm, and wondered about it fits in with the whole of Scripture. After putting them down, I started listening to Peter Williams on Judges, and wouldn’t you know it, he talks about the significance of Ehud being left-handed in light of the rest of the Bible. You can’t plan these sorts of things! I love the Lord weaving all these things together!!

Assigned Territories

Quick Question:  For us a 21 Century Believers in Christ, what do we do with all the territory descriptions and locations in Josh 18-19?  It seems boring.  I guess we could map it out. Just wondering anyone’s thoughts.

I actually do have a couple thoughts on this:

  • when I wrote through the book of Joshua years ago, I did take out a map and try to draw out the territories…it was fascinating
  • I also think of the application in terms of ministry — their territory parallels the ministry God gives us…you can see how faithfulness leads into more territory/ministry (like with Caleb)

Be Strong and Courageous

As someone who has struggled with anxiety for some time (thankfully much improved as of late by the grace of God) I really appreciate the book of Joshua. Specifically his call from Moses to take over for him and from the Lord over and over to be “strong and courageous” and he leads his people into the promised land. There were so man chances for him to cower in fear but he was truly strong and courageous. And then His famous call at the end of the book “As for me and my House we will serve the Lord.” Basically telling them you do as you choose but I have seen all the Lord has done and how faithful he has been and I will follow Him the rest of my days! Powerful.

God As Our Portion

Also I was really struck by how the 11 tribes were all getting their portion or “inheritance,” and the Levites who have been set apart now for some time were not getting property. Instead, their inheritance was to be the Lord (Joshua 13:33). I found this to be incredible.I have had some really terrible, gross thoughts lately about somehow being entitled to an inheritance here on earth as I see others on my life getting money, houses, etc from their families. Of course, this is the kind of stuff that tears up families. I do not want to be entitled or need one dime from anyone though. Rather, for only the Lord God of Israel to be my inheritance. This is my prayer today and has been through this week as I came across this passage. May I be more like a Levite- only desiring the Lord.

Deuteronomy Reflections

These are notes collected from studying Exodus with Matt Lantz and Matt Roefer. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Deut 6

Deut 6 has been really speaking to me:

“These words that I command you today shall be ON YOUR HEART.
You shall TEACH THEM DILIGENTLY TO YOUR CHILDREN,
and shall TALK OF THEM WHEN YOU SIT in your house,
and WHEN YOU WALK by the way,
and WHEN YOU LIE DOWN,
and WHEN YOU RISE.
You shall BIND THEM AS A SIGN ON YOUR HAND,
and they shall be as FRONTLETS BETWEEN YOUR EYES.
You shall WRITE THEM ON THE DOORPOSTS OF YOUR HOUSE
and ON YOUR GATES…
“And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.” (6:6-25).

So much could be said here! But let me give a quick take, rephrased for today:

Get God’s word in your heart. Actively teach them to your children (if you don’t someone else will teach them false things). When you sit, walk, lie down, and rise up–basically all parts of the day–talk about these words with your family and friends. Meditate on them, work them out, keep going back to them. Make it what you think about and what you work towards. Write them anywhere you can. On Slack channels…at your house…on pieces of paper…in your text messages…in your e-mails…everywhere. If you don’t, you will unwittingly end up taking in the words of the world and the Enemy…and before you know it you fell for Satan’s way of thinking about things, instead of God’s. And if you are careful to do all this…you will see goodness and be filled with life. You will walk in true righteousness.

Deut 13

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Deuteronomy 13:1-5

What a contrast — God’s Scripture has authority over signs/prophecies, etc.!

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people.”
Deuteronomy 13:6-9

Gods word is greater even than close relationships! It’s greater than what those around us think/do.

Threes

There are some interesting things I keep coming across

  • why were there (3) cities for accidental murders?
  • why were men to go before God 3 times per year (at the 3 feasts)? 
    • what did they say/give an account of?
    • should we do this as elders of a community 3 times a year? 
  • Deut 14:28: “At the end of every three years…” – why 3 years?

Deut 14 & Tithing

Deut 14 speaks to different uses of our tithe (which I think speaks to all of our possessions this side of the cross):

  • feed ourselves
  • feed the helpless (widows, fatherless)
  • Feed guests (“sojourners”)
  • Feed those ministering Christ

I’m amazed at how much this parallels uses of the church’s funds in the NT!

I was also amazed and struck how much Deut. speaks of the sojourner. So very close to the heart of God! Guests could also include foreigners to our neck of the woods.

Deut 17

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
Deuteronomy 17:18-20

Boom!

  1. I find it amazing that God speaks prophetically about kings a couple hundred years before they came into being…and even when they came, it wasn’t how God wanted, but He was still willing to work with it.
  2. I love—again—the emphasis on knowing and meditating over EVERY word of God.

Deut 18

  1. love that those who minister the Lord (Levites) had no inheritance on earth, though their needs were met (dependent on their community, the fellow Israelites). What a picture for us!—being detached from this earth frees us to minister heaven (our true inheritance) to others
  2. the “prophet” who was coming like Moses seems to point squarely and ultimately at Jesus, Acts 3:17-26, though other (lesser) prophets did come first

Should Christians Follow the OT Law?

See Blog Post: Should Christians Obey the Old Testament?

Also, I see 3 general categories of law:

  1. RITUAL (eating foods, washing clothes, feasts, Sabbath, etc.) – these are external things that have been fulfilled in Christ; our faith in Him and being led of the Spirit means we fulfill all these and go beyond them in terms of righteousness before God. You can do them if you want, but it makes you no more righteous than the one who doesn’t.
  2. MORAL (sexuality, remove idols, don’t murder, don’t covet, etc) – these carry on for us today. But even these are lived into in a greater degree as we follow the Spirit within us, and obey these from the heart.
  3. GOVERNMENTAL (rules on murder; slavery; marriage-divorce; etc) – these can be helpful in making policies on a governmental/civil level, but aren’t meant for the church alone (for instance, I believe in capital punishment based on Scripture, but that would need to happen by elected officials of the State; it would be wrong for the church to kill anyone by their own decrees).

In ALL of these categories:

  • Jesus/ The Spirit within wants to lead us into a greater righteousness than what is communicated by the “letter of the law”
  • principles should be given more weight than the “letter of the law” see 1 Cor 9:8-10

Yes, the NT repeatedly differentiates moral from ritual of the OT. Hebrews, for instance, says we are in sin to look for a priest, temple, animal sacrifice, Sabbath observance, eating kosher, etc. as part of becoming righteous or sanctified in Jesus. Similarly, Paul says in Col 2 how we are not judged by the ritual anymore.

Yet Paul also quotes from 10 commandments in saying parents should obey masters (Eph 5), or we shouldn’t covet (Rom 7).

Mark 7:14-15, 17-23 says: “And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

I think that passage shows this:

  • foods DON’T make you unclean (ritual)
  • wicked hearts DO make you unclean (moral)

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17

This passage from Col 2:16-17 is another key one. Look at all the things we aren’t judged for anymore: eating, festivals, sabbaths.

Why not? Because they were all just temporary placeholders fulfilled in Christ (“shadows” if you will). We in Christ no longer need them. Further, we are told that each of these OT ordinances will have things pointing out and pointing toward Jesus and his sacrifice and his life in us. Now that is some exciting OT reading for us to discover all these treasures pointing toward Him! Dig in!! While knowing we fulfill them by believing on Christ and the gospel and being led by His Spirit.

See also The Old Testament Law – Jeff Durbin Critiques Andy Stanley.

Deut 20: Fear Is Contagious

And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.’
Deuteronomy 20:8

Deut 29 – Don’t Focus on Secret Things

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Stop fixating on “secret things”. Focus on the revealed things of Gods word that you could walk faithfully with Him.

Sabbaths

Quick note (more for me than anyone):

  • Jesus was on cross 6 hours, then said it is finished, and now we enter His rest.
  • God worked 6 days, then people were created, and the 7th day was rest.
  • Feast of booths started 7 weeks after Sabbath of Passover (in month 1)
  • The 7th month held 3 feasts for sabbath (Lev 23)
  • The 7th year was supposed to be a year of rest
  • After the 7th of the 7th years you had Jubilee
  • 490 years = 70 * 7 years (see Dan 9)

God’s Justice

“All his ways are justice.” Deuteronomy 32:4

Compare with Isaiah 55 – “God’s ways are not our ways”

If we are serious about justice in this society it will come from looking at God and His word much closer. Our versions of justice will always be warped.

Deut 30 – God’s Blessing & Multiplication

Reflecting on how blessing and multiplication comes, according to God: “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” Deut 30:16

Ultimately, only Christ is faithful like this, so I believe it comes firstly on trusting in Christ’s work and righteousness alone! But then He also gives us His Spirit and Word to walk in his ways.

Deut 31

And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Deuteronomy 31:10-13

Yet another way to get this word in us and the  next generation.

Deut / Torah Reflections

I have really enjoyed reading the Torah in succession- it is really helpful to see the same themes continuing to emerge and how much the Lord continues to call the Israelites to not fear and follow Him. He provides over and over and over. They are pretty stubborn and stiff necked and this is so applicable to today! Unfortunately all too often neglected.

In Deut. specifically toward the end I was amazed how many times God called them to “purge evil from their midst.” It hit me how God’s sovereignty was ever present giving them the ability to choose Him over and over and His commandments which lead to life or to sin which leads to death. The same choice we have now. He calls us His treasured possession and says follow me-I desire you but ultimately it’s our choice.

Deut. 30: 19-20 “ I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, CHOOSE LIFE, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.”

Numbers Reflections

These are notes collected from studying Exodus with Matt Lantz and Matt Roefer. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Numbers 1

  1. The largest counts came from Judah and Dan. I find this intriguing, because when you get to Judges, I believe it was Dan who brought the most bad things into Israel (e.g. idolatry) and Judah brought the best things (e.g. deliverance from enemy). Not 100% sure on that. But if it holds, then it shows that your strength can be used for great good or great evil (since they were the 2 largest tribes in Num 1)
  2. I love the attention given to the Lord and making sure He is pleased in Num. 1:47-53. Israel could have used many more troops from Levi, but instead, God wanted those men to ensure the Lord was properly worshipped. Likewise, all of our spiritual warfare will not be successful if we lose sight of pleasing the Lord and worshipping Him.

Num 1-4

I am challenged by the fact that they are making all these provisions for when/how to camp, when/how to move, and when/how to war…and the majority of the time is taken up with provisions for tending to the Lord and His presence in the tabernacle. How lopsided we’ve become when time tending to the Lord is a small piece or after thought.

Num 6 (with some Num 13 & 14 mixed in)

I have been struck first in seeing how God really sets apart people groups and people for him. First, the Levites (ch1-4), and then with the Nazarites and their vow (ch. 6).

I found it interesting the famous benediction “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace,” follows the Nazirite vow in ch. 6.

The point being here, God is calling His people to be set apart. To be Holy. The same calling He has for us today. Thankfully, without all the same rules and regulations but He is still looking for the faithful few. He found that in Caleb especially & also Joshua (Ch. 13 & 14). Caleb reminds me of Noah in this way. When seemingly everyone else was doubting he was faithful. Then God steps in and keeps him (and Joshua) as a remnant (14:38).

Num 11

See More Graves of Craving

Num 15

The Lord’s words to Moses in ch. 15:39-41 hit me hard:

“And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes which you are inclined to whore after.** So you shall remember and do my commandments and be holy (there it is again), to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

Num 16

I loved Num 16:46-48 – namely how they rushed to make atonement so he could stand “between the dead and the living” and the plague would be stopped (v. 48). I read that passage and saw this vision of God running to “interpose His precious blood” (from “Come Thou Fount” lyrics). And that He brought mercy to us sinners when we deserved death. This image of Him running to give us life (like Aaron did) was very touching.

Num 17

I have was really touched by Numbers 17!! Wow, that blessed me so much.
Consider:

  • they were trying to discern who was God’s appointed leaders. So what did they look for?
  • they took staffs (things that have no possibility of life growing from them, since they are cut off the root and have no fruit growing from them)…
  • then they put the staffs in the tabernacle, where they had to endure a cold, dark night…
  • THEN…God proved that Levi was appointed to minister before Him…HOW?…
  • By making the staff sprout “buds…blossoms…ripe almonds”. TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE. This is a work of God alone! Further…
  • If you look at Exodus 37:18-19, almond buds and blossoms were part of the lampstand. AND…
  • If you look at Rev. 1:20, the lampstand is a picture of the church.

OK…I’ll try to connect all this…

The way I see it is that God looks especially for fruit to be produced in His chosen leaders/ministers. The sign of being a priest of God (which all the church is – 1 Pet. 2:9), is that we produce fruit. Further, we produce fruit that would otherwise be impossible to produce. A staff is dead at both ends. Yet it was able to produce fruit. This is impossible! Do you think you can manufacture love, joy, peace, patience, etc. … all the way to “self-control” (Gal. 5) by yourself?? Impossible!! You can’t do this. It is an act of God in your life, and it shows you are qualified to minister to Him if you do this (and only those with this special fruit of His indwelling Spirit will be able to minister to Him truly).

Further…it had to endure a dark, cold night (I guess I’m assuming it was cold) in the tabernacle. This fruit comes impossibly, and especially at dark times in our life. Fruit of Christ/Christ’s Love produced in dark times is probably the best indicator that someone is a true Christian (exactly what Rom. 5:3-5 indicates).

Lastly, this picture is not just on Aaron’s / Levi’s staff. It perfectly matches God’s design for His lampstand, which is a picture of His church (Rev. 1:20). That is, we are His light in darkness. So it gives further picture that this is what should happen in all of us. Can you make it happen by your will power and strength?! God forbid!! It has been and will always be impossible. That’s how we know it is God at work in you.

Num 20

I just read chapter 20 and it’s crazy! I know many of us know the story of God keeping Moses out of the promised land but when you really think about it being for striking the rock 2x, and then the fact not only did he not enter, but Aaron dies soon after for being an accomplice in this. Basically, they are severely punished because of their unbelief and this is how seriously God takes this. See Ch.14:11 and God saying “how long will they (Israelites) not believe in me?”

Just crazy when you really think about all that Aaron and Moses actually did in faith and for the Lord that they both died without seeing the promised land.

A powerful symbolism here (to shed some new light):

  • At first, Moses was told to strike the rock so water would flow out (Ex. 17).
  • 1 Cor. 10 tells us “that Rock was Christ” (v. 4).
  • And John 7 has Jesus indicating that the water that came out was His Spirit (John 7:37-39).
  • So the rock was struck and water was given in Exodus 17, just like Jesus was crucified and the Holy Spirit poured out to us.

….BUT IT GETS BETTER…

  • In Ex. 17, the Hebrew word for “rock” is a “sunken rock”. In Num 20, the word is an “exalted rock”. So Ex. 17 you clearly have a picture of Christ’s humiliation and crucifixion (as the rock was a type of Him). But in Num 20 you get a picture of Him as now exalted.

So…How do we receive His Holy Spirit today, now that He is exalted? We speak to Him, and ask Him for this (Luke 7:11).

What was Moses told to do in Num 20? Speak to the rock!! The picture holds really tight.

But when Moses struck the rock, the picture shows him metaphorically “crucifying Jesus” all over again. In Hebrews 6:6 we read of people unable to come to God’s promised land because they would be “crucifying the Son of God all over again”. These are people who, I believe, are guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit and totally turning away from God without repentance.

Anyway…

It shows that, sadly, the picture is consistent of Moses “striking the rock” when it was already struck in Ex. 17, and thus, metaphorically, crucifying Jesus all over again, which means he can’t come in the Promised Land.

OK… all of that picture doesn’t mean God had no heart for Moses, though it does show that God does not show favoritism (similar to Exod 4 when God threatened to kill Moses if his son wasn’t circumcised).

But take a look at Matt. 17:3 – “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus [in the Promised Land!]” …God brought Moses there after all, just not as quick. 

Num 30

Quick thing:
I love Num 30!!!
It gives me so much confidence in prayer. God is my Father, Christ is my husband. Thus we can pray to God: “Lord, please trump what I plan to do here. Be my husband and Father to say, ‘that’s not a good idea’…veto my bad plans like they were commanded to do in Num 30.”

I just don’t trust myself but am glad God is there to speak for or against my plans like a safety net that keeps me from error.

Num 32

Num 32 challenges me in this way:
Though the 2.5 tribes found rest for themselves already (East of Jordan), they still were going to work and sacrifice their lives for the other tribes to find rest, too (West of the Jordan).

I think of us who are Christians as those who already found rest for our souls. It’s easy to think we should just sit back and relax. Instead, may we labor, war, and sacrifice our lives so that many others will come to rest in Christ as well!

Num 35

Before advancing to Deut, I wanted to share a quick thing that touched me from Num 35 ~
In this chapter, I was reflecting how we could do such better as a society if we adopted these standards of justice (versus imposing our own warped standards that originate from us). Namely (in no particular order):

  • intent DOES matter – even when dealing with murder, it is a world of difference if they intentionally meant to murder or if it was an honest accident. I think of this in some of the “new rules” of racism, if I may call them that. Namely, you are guilty if you offend others, regardless of your intent. Not true according to God’s word.
  • look for 2-3 witnesses to establish fault – it’s not enough to have 1 person give their “read” on the situation; we need 2-3 independent sources to recognize where the fault truly is
  • we should make provisions to protect people who hurt others without intending to do so (like they had cities of refuge for the one who killed without intending)
  • simultaneously, it is good to give space when such hurt happens, because the feelings are so raw in the other ones involved
  • and, if the unintentional offender violates giving such “space” between them and the one who was hurt, then it’s kind of on them if those hurt seek revenge (at least in 1 sense, because they weren’t careful to keep distance when they knew raw emotions were at play)
  • finally, if the intent was indeed to cause hurt (murder, in this case), they are clearly guilty and should be judged as such (thankfully – even when we are guilty of such things, Christ died for that too, so we can repent and receive the death penalty via Christ taking it for us…blessed be the Lamb!)

I know I’m taking some liberties in what it actually says, but I’m trying to consider some of the principles at play. And I do think if we started adopting more of these principles it could bring radical change for the better in our current divisive society.