Remember the Gibeonites

There are a couple of articles posted to the web concerning the American Christian response to the caravan headed to the border of the United States. One is by Daniel Darling, vice president of communication for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention entitled “Christians should see in the migrant caravan the Bible’s call to honor the dignity of all humanity” and the other is by Scott Hildreth, the Director, Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both articles make points for fellow believers to respect each other, especially those who disagree with us on the issue of the group of foreigners headed to our border. The caravan is an issue that has believers on different sides of the aisle on how to view and approach the issue of foreigners wanting to cross the border of the United States by bypassing the normal, diplomatic means. We do need to love, respect, and treat each other (and the non-believers) with dignity in this issue. And so too, as they remind us, we need to keep in mind that those headed this direction are created by God and worthy of respectful consideration. Providing others, those close to us and those far away, with respect, dignity, and love is not only a commandment but a vital part of our own identity as children of God.

At the same time, we need to remember some vital things. Jesus told us, “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves” (Matt 10.16 CSB). We are to treat everyone with dignity, but we don’t have to trust everyone. In that regard we need to remember the Gibeonites of Joshua chapter 9. The Gibeonites were a people who had heard of how Joshua and the children of Israel had defeated Jericho and Ai and were afraid enough to seek to make a treaty with them. But, in doing so, they deceived the Israelites but implying, through various means, that they were actually from far off when in fact they were in the territory that Israel was conquering and thus not able to make a covenant with them. The Israelites heard their (sob) story, but, as the text notes (vs. 14) they “did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.”

Not everyone who is headed in your direction is coming with the greatest of intentions. Many are headed our way as a matter of seeking their own good at another’s expense. Scripture, both TNK and NT, are clear of our treating with dignity the stranger that we find within our borders, but the Bible also notes that we are to be wise and not foolish in how we deal with others. The caravan headed this direction may indeed contain folks who are genuine in seeking refuge from oppression by seeking our citizenship. But, we have had in place legal means of entrance in each country that they are both exiting and passing through. To legitimately seek residency here there are legitimate, humane (dare I say Judaeo-Christian) means of so doing. American history is replete with the stories of immigrants making their way to Ellis Island to then walk on American soil. (It must be noted, landing on Ellis did not always ensure citizenship-many were turned back). At the same time, there appear to be some Gibeonites progressing this way. While claiming poverty and oppression, it is very expensive to carry out what they are doing with that number of folks going that distance. Something just does not feel right; my God given serpent sense tells me.

A good solution, I would think, for those who find themselves called by their Biblical sense to render aid, both physical and spiritual, would be to head in their direction with what resources that they may possess in the way of food and comfort, and, face to face, provide to the caravan the aid they think the LORD would have them provide; you don’t have to wait for them to cross the border before you help them.

To Love Your Neighbor, you have to First Love God

I have often seen a meme that argues:

I think we forget that when Jesus said, ‘love your neighbor,’ he meant your:

Democrat
Republican
Gay
Black
Muslim
Asian
The person you are mad at
Your waitress/waiter
Homeless
Your ex
Atheist
Addict
Immigrant neighbor

God loves everyone, not just those whom you get along with.

Next, an observation and a statement. Scripturally you cannot separate Love of God from Love of Neighbor – the two are inextricably tied together. So, the assumption has to be that whomever posts such a meme or statement then they are announcing themselves as lovers of God. Jesus said, ‘if you love me keep my commandments’ – John 14.15. Jesus is the Son of God, the very essence of the God of the Universe, the God of Abraham, the God found in the TaNaK and the NT. I am hoping that those who post these recognize how the love of some people is to be expressed.

For the ‘gay’ neighbor, the best expression of love is not to embrace or endorse their lifestyle because it is against God’s clear commandment. The best expression of love is to get them to recognize that it is a disorder and sin in God’s eyes and they need to turn from it.

Similarly, with the ‘atheist’ neighbor. Love them but point out to them that there is indeed a God, one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. It is not an expression of love to affirm someone in a direction that will condemn them for eternity. Love is pointing them to the God of the Universe and his love and provision for their salvation.

So too for the ‘Muslim’ neighbor. They need to know that Jesus, not Mohammed, is the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through’ Jesus. Again, love does not affirm error but truth.

It is a wonderful thing to remind each other of whom our neighbor is and to enjoin us to love them. It is a more wonderful thing to Love God and make our love of God and his ways the source of our love of our neighbor. Our proper expression of that love is in light of how God would have each of us live as his children.

Love God . . . Love Your Neighbor

1 John. 2:3-6 NAU By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Always a measuring rod for those who claim that they ‘love Jesus’ and even more so of late given tectonic shifting in cultural morals, specifically the homosexual issue and the church today. The Roman church is bumping hard into this issue and is on the verge of a serious bifurcation of their constituents. Very many churches have acquiesced completely and have embraced the LGBTQ community in its entirety and declared that position as fully in line with their view of the teachings of Jesus. Other churches are struggling with the issue as it is so prevalent in today’s society and have very often come down in the middle of the road not wanting to offend anyone but not willing to divorce themselves entirely from what they read in the book the acknowledge as God’s Word.

In Ross Douthat’s book evaluating the future of Roman Catholicism in light of the Francis Papacy, To Change the Church, he makes an observation that is vital to understanding the dichotomy on this issue among those who claim Christ and yet so very much disagree.

He makes the observation that many people are basing their moral leaning and position on ‘Jesus’, but not the Jesus as reflected in the actual words of the Bible but the ‘Jesus’ of their imaginings, the Jesus who ‘loves everyone’ with no reference whatsoever to moral principles, commandments and guidance found in the Bible. In that view there is very little reference to sexual morality or immorality, especially to the point of saying, ‘this life style is wrong’ or ‘this life style is clearly condemned by the Bible.’ Very often such is dismissed by calling the teaching anachronistic or saying that we have ‘evolved morally’ from such narrow and condemnatory moralizing. He notes that there remain those who do indeed see the Bible as the very Word of God and The Book whose guidelines need to be read, observed, studied, and adhered to. And I would add, especially if one, in the words of John, would say, ‘I have come to know him.’

Now, to clarify before we look at what the Bible says let me lay aside some objections and misdirections. The issue here is the acceptance and embrace and advocacy of a lifestyle. The issue is not on those who, while practicing the lifestyle, do in fact recognize it as against God’s Will and teaching and are ashamed of their failure and repent of it. So too we will not be talking about other ‘sins’ folks commit that can put them in the class of ‘hypocrite,’ that is another issue and discussion but one too often brought up to counter any condemnation of any particular sin, specifically homosexuality. And yes, there are other sins that deserve condemnation in the same breath and many times to the same degree but do not get mentioned by those more specifically condemning homosexuality. Our focus for this discussion is specific and more so in that it has turned into a major moral, religious, and political (read ‘rights’) issue that has resulted in many in the ‘church’ fully embracing and advocating it despite what will be shown below. So too this will not be a weighing of moral issues, an attempt to find some issues that might be embraced because they are referenced so infrequently. It normally pops up with ‘well Jesus said nothing about xxx’, a position that is left to argue that Jesus would have nothing to do with either Moses or Paul and that which is sin is only that which we see written as the very and only words of Jesus. The NT is clear that Jesus fully endorsed the teachings of the TNK/OT and that Paul had a clear understanding of what Jesus did teach and he himself taught that faithfully.

Now, what does the Bible teach about homosexual relationships? This will not be exhaustive, but it should suffice as enough.

Leviticus 18.22 is the clearest. In it is written, “with a male you shall not lie as is done with a woman, it is an abomination.” This is repeated and expanded in 20.13 where the death penalty is appended.

Paul repeats this command in Romans 1.26-28 and makes it clear that both genders are to be condemned in this sexual sin.

But what does Jesus say? In Matthew 5.18 he says, “”For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter (jot/yodh) or stroke (tiddle) shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (NAU). It is written in John 14.15 that he said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Too often this last statement all too often reduces his “commandments” (notice the plural) to “love everyone” with absolutely no qualifiers.

So then, some people will say, “but Jesus never addressed homosexuality directly and specifically” but neither did he directly and specifically address pedophilia or bestiality or nuclear war or any number of things that people will not hesitate to declare a sin against God despite it not being specifically identified and condemned. As an aside, I don’t think we have yet reached the point (we may in the future the way things are going) where bestiality is embraced and folks who are all for homosexual relations in a Christian context will condemn lying with an animal and I could see them suggesting that Jesus would agree, but Leviticus 18 condemns it in the very verse that follows the condemnation of homosexuality. People are left with embracing one but condemning the other even when the Bible clearly presents them in the closest terms as gross immoralities.

We can all acknowledge that the Christian walk is often pockmarked with failures and slips into sin or even a sinful lifestyle. But a true Christian walk is one that acknowledges that, confesses it, and strives mightily to avoid that. A true Christian walk is not one that wholly and completely embraces that which the Bible, God’s Word, clearly and strongly condemns and identifies as not being of him at all. A Christian walk also does not teach others that such a lifestyle is completely in line with what God and Jesus desire and smile upon. It is a walking away from God, and not toward him. And to delude oneself into thinking that God approves of it is evidence that God’s Word has not been read and studied and has been set aside and ignored. Such turns a person’s ‘Christian walk’ into a lie. You cannot say, “I love Jesus” and flaunt a lifestyle that goes completely against what he teaches. John condemned such thinking as a lie and as very dangerous to yourself and others who would follow you example.

Abortion Illogic

The whole point of the abortion debate centers around two things; the human child/fetus and the encounter from which that child/fetus results.

What has happened of late, many of us would point back to the sixties, is a return to a view of human sexuality (which is easily found many times in history) that would seemingly argue that it is a casual encounter with little ramifications physically or psychologically. And in many circles, it is an encounter that is viewed as be devoid of any idea of responsibility. Not everyone believes this. And from this disagreement much of the abortion debate arises.

One of the oldest documents points directly to human sexuality. Genesis 1.28 reports that after having created man he ‘blessed them and said to them; be fruitful and multiply . . .’ A command directed at procreation, the physical consequences of sexual intercourse. Genesis 2.24 points to the psychological aspects. The author notes that what the first man’s reaction upon seeing the first woman when he said, ‘this one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’ and the author goes on to note that ‘now this one he called woman (ishah) because from man (ish) this one was taken.’ The author goes on to note ‘for this reason a man leaves his father and mother, and he cleaves to his wife/woman, and they shall be one flesh.’

From this ancient document at least there is a very early understanding that sexual intercourse involved a psychological commitment, at least on the part of the man, that would have him leave his parents for another and also that it would/could result in the production of another human being.

I think that it could safely be said, outside of this ancient document, that those two aspects could be safely sustained. Additionally, following the Judaeo-Christian Bible based view, human sexuality is one of the potentially greatest acts in that from it comes the creation of a human being, the pinnacle of God’s creative act that human beings now share in.

So, sexual intercourse produces a living human being. It is not dead, it is alive from the moment of conception; it is not anything other than a human being-so too, from the very moment of conception the DNA says ‘human being’ nothing else. Two people are involved.

One school of thought is that this is a casual act with no responsibility or psychological commitment on anyone’s part and if anything is produced (living human being) it is only the woman who has a say in what happens. The logical outcome of this is that a person so arguing can not argue for requiring any responsibility, financial or otherwise, from the male partner. You are in the philosophical position of arguing that the woman alone decides if that little human being insider her, which she joined with another to produce, lives or is destroyed. And, there is no time limit as to when that decision may be made – the child is liable for destruction up to the date of birth. A side question to such a philosophy – why stop there? Why is the child  able to be destroyed before birth and not after? Why is the arbitrary line drawn at birth?

Now some argue that the world of men force a woman to carry a child to term. They seemingly don’t recognize that a great majority of woman adhere to that same position. So too, I think that if they see men so selfish as that, would not a selfish man rather see no responsibility that comes from the above described philosophy? If men are the pigs people who take that position argue would they not be more apt to agree that the no responsibility position serves their piggishness more? Why would a selfish man want a woman to carry the child to term? Would he not be more inclined to remove anything that would require any responsibility on his part?

There are also those who argue that those who advocate for preserving the life of the unborn care nothing about the child after birth and that those who are for killing the child are in fact the more compassionate and care more for the child. Let me ask the reader to read that again. There are also those who argue that those who advocate for preserving the life of the unborn care nothing about the child after birth and that those who are for killing this child in utero are in fact the more compassionate and care more for the child. Does that make sense to anyone? So, by that argument the only ones supporting women’s help agencies or supporting adoption agencies are the pro-kill the child groups and that there would be no churches supporting unwed mothers, there would be no churches supporting adoption agencies. The argument would also require that only pro-abortion people adopt children and that those with a Pro-Life or religious view adopt no one. Again, does that seem or sound logical to you? Is that what we in fact find? Let me just say that every church I have ever belonged to either had the resources (large church) or had the information and supported financially those who had the resources. The churches are, in fact, a good resource for those seeking help.

What is called for is a recognition that sexual intercourse, despite all precautions (outside of sterilization of course) involves the possibility of creating another human being. All discussion needs to start here. And everyone who claims compassion for the woman, the man, or the child needs to acknowledge this. No one should (I know I am arguing against a tsunami here) go into a sexual relationship without knowing this, acknowledging it and being willing to accept the responsibility of the fellow human being that is created. It is and should be the responsibility of both partners. Ideally (again that tsunami of contra opinion) such relationships should occur only in marriage, the environment design to support and nurture children.

As an aside, this discussion notes that there are in fact medical reasons for terminating a pregnancy; either to protect the life of the mother or because the child has died in utero or some other such devastating reason.

Sin & Grace

Under the guise of ‘love’ modern thinking argues ‘there is no sin’ or rather ‘no behavior is sinful.’ And often the ‘love of Jesus’ is invoked but their definition is far removed from the Scripturalimages witness. The Jesus of the Bible, contrary to the Jesus of their imaginings, says, ‘there is sin and it is deadlier than you imagine.’

Recall that the ‘loving Jesus’ said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. . . .”You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’

The Jesus of the Bible (too bad I have to make that distinction) says that there are actions that are sins, but there is Grace and forgiveness when there is repentence. How can you know, recognize, and embrace Grace if you deny sin? No Sin – no Grace.

Grace is so amazing because sin is so devastating.

Gen. 1.1-3 And Discourse Grammar

A quick back up and very brief introduction to aspects of discourse grammar.

 

Gen. 1.1-3

1 ⇐בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ

2a⇐⇐⇐ והארץ היתה תהו ובהו

2b⇐⇐⇐ וחשׁך על פני תהום

2c⇐⇐ ורוח אלהים מרחפת על פני האמים

 3a ויאמר אלהים

 3b יהי אור

3c⇐⇐⇐ ויהי אור

1 ⇒In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

2a ⇒⇒⇒And the earth was formless and void

2b ⇒⇒⇒And darkness was upon the face of the deep

2c ⇒⇒And the spirit of God was hovering upon the face of the waters

3a And God said

3b Let there be light

3c ⇒⇒⇒And there was light

I have inserted arrows at the beginning of clauses to demonstrate tabs which I am not sure how to do on FB. What the tabs show is varying degrees of primacy in the text – i.e., mainline clause and supporting clauses. The clauses without tabs are the mainline clauses as shown by the specific Hebrew verb form. Clausal forms and elements are the grammatical clues to the hierarchy of the clauses in their relationship to each other and to the overall text. In this text we have a mainline narrative text and a mainline hortatory (imperatival) clause (3a, 3c); a background action clause (1), a back ground activities clause (2c) and three setting clauses (2a, 2b, 3c).

In evaluating a text I normally remove the verse markers to get rid of any influence of the versifier and evaluate the text as a literary block. When done this way it can be seen how the text was meant to be read.

The grammatical markers (clausal structure mainly) are the indicators that the author used to show how he wanted the text to flow and what the main point was and what was backgrounding and support structures. I find it useful to think of a stage or a movie scene. You have the background or setting of the stage or scene. Then you have the background activities-things movie around giving more contextual information. Then you have back ground action – things happening closer to the front of the stage but not quite the main action. Then, closest to the audience and in focus you have the main action. The author of a text sets the stage and demonstrates the action by his clausal elements and structures.

The creation at the beginning (1) sets up what is to follow but did it in such a way as to provide background action to the main action – the creation of light. 2a-c gives the state of the creation prior to the creation of light; it provides the setting and background activity to the stage structure before the main action.

The main action is God speaking light into existence. It is very distinct in the Hebrew text by virtue of the verb form and the fact that that form is always found at the front of the clause.

1-2 is all background and setting. Structured the way it is it can take up any amount of time – microseconds to billions of years. The grammar of the text allows that. Day 1 does not begin until 3a. If you look at the rest of Gen 1 each day begins the same – and God said . . . ; and ends the same – there was evening, there was morning, day umptifratz.

The Great Commission

Matthew 28.18-20

As you know, the Great Commission reads ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded  you.’

And you know that very many people teach that the ‘go’ should be taken as an imperative even though it is a participle. Too often this has been used to beat people over the heads about ‘going’ and becoming foreign missionaries (ever notice those so urging haven’t gone themselves?). Now, I have absolutely no problem with someone who sees God calling them to foreign missions but bad grammar should not be used to present bad theology. If the ‘go’ is to be taken as an imperative then only those who ‘go’ are the ones who are to make disciples—the rest of Christendom is left out of the Great Commission.

What follows is based on good grammar—discourse grammar specifically (check with Bob Bergen).

In discourse grammar the participles form the ‘background’ of situations—they are ‘offline.’ This is true of Hebrew, and it is true of Greek, especially the highly Hebraized Greek of the LXX and NT. That being true then the ‘going’ is back grounded. It is much better translated as such and not as an imperative. It should be, ‘wherever you find yourself placed by God, make disciples.’ Or ‘wherever you are going, make disciples.’

The grammatical structure of the text has all Christians, wherever they find that God has placed them, making disciples, not those who are specially called to ‘go.’ In my thinking, two of what could be argued are the most effective fields are nursing and teaching. I have taught junior high and high school in addition to the lofty teaching of seminary and I am married to a teacher and the father of a teacher.  Teachers are the ones who encounter kids who are in the throes of growing up and learning to encounter the world. They desperately need a teacher who is a Christian and who presents a Christ like example to them.

So too nurses. Nurses, especially those in hospitals or hospice care, are encountering people in the most desperate of situations (I have been there with our sons, Michael and Nathan) and who most seriously need to be encountering on a regular basis a person who knows the LORD and who has a lifestyle and words to convey hope to those who most desperately need it.