Short, sweet and to the point. When I saw this on facebook this morning, it hit home. My first thought was: A Valentine's day card from God. My second was this famous passage from the Gospel of John...
John, Chapter 3
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
I find the poem beautiful, but the verse from John inspiring. The first promises and the second fulfills. Actions speak louder than words. Thank you God, for sending Jesus; I need all the love I can get!!!!
Gen 38:1 It happened at that time, that Judah went down from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
Gen 38:2 Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her, and went in to her.
Gen 38:3 She conceived, and bore a son; and he named him Er.
Gen 38:4 She conceived again, and bore a son; and she named him Onan.
Gen 38:5 She yet again bore a son, and named him Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bore him.
Gen 38:6 Judah took a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.
Gen 38:7 Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of Yahweh. Yahweh killed him.
Gen 38:8 Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her, and raise up seed to your brother."
Gen 38:9 Onan knew that the seed wouldn't be his; and it happened, when he went in to his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give seed to his brother.
Gen 38:10 The thing which he did was evil in the sight of Yahweh, and he killed him also.
Gen 38:11 Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, "Remain a widow in your father's house, until Shelah, my son, is grown up;" for he said, "Lest he also die, like his brothers." Tamar went and lived in her father's house.
Gen 38:12 After many days, Shua's daughter, the wife of Judah, died. Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers to Timnah, he and his friend Hirah, the Adullamite.
Gen 38:13 It was told Tamar, saying, "Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep."
Gen 38:14 She took off of her the garments of her widowhood, and covered herself with her veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gate of Enaim, which is by the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she wasn't given to him as a wife.
Gen 38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought that she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.
Gen 38:16 He turned to her by the way, and said, "Please come, let me come in to you," for he didn't know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, "What will you give me, that you may come in to me?"
Gen 38:17 He said, "I will send you a kid of the goats from the flock." She said, "Will you give me a pledge, until you send it?"
Gen 38:18 He said, "What pledge will I give you?" She said, "Your signet and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand." He gave them to her, and came in to her, and she conceived by him.
Gen 38:19 She arose, and went away, and put off her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
Gen 38:20 Judah sent the kid of the goats by the hand of his friend, the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman's hand, but he didn't find her.
Gen 38:21 Then he asked the men of her place, saying, "Where is the prostitute, that was at Enaim by the road?" They said, "There has been no prostitute here."
Gen 38:22 He returned to Judah, and said, "I haven't found her; and also the men of the place said, 'There has been no prostitute here.' "
Gen 38:23 Judah said, "Let her keep it, lest we be shamed. Behold, I sent this kid, and you haven't found her."
Gen 38:24 It happened about three months later, that it was told Judah, saying, "Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has played the prostitute; and moreover, behold, she is with child by prostitution." Judah said, "Bring her forth, and let her be burnt."
Gen 38:25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, "By the man, whose these are, I am with child." She also said, "Please discern whose are these--the signet, and the cords, and the staff."
Gen 38:26 Judah acknowledged them, and said, "She is more righteous than I, because I didn't give her to Shelah, my son." He knew her again no more.
Gen 38:27 It happened in the time of her travail, that behold, twins were in her womb.
Gen 38:28 When she travailed, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, "This came out first."
Gen 38:29 It happened, as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out, and she said, "Why have you made a breach for yourself?" Therefore his name was called Perez.
Gen 38:30 Afterward his brother came out, that had the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.
O HAPPY DAY
The name Philip Doddridge may not mean anything to you unless you are one who pays attention to the authors of spiritual songs as they are identified in our song books. Philip Doddridge was born on June 26, 1702. He was the twentieth child born to his mother, Monica Doddridge. However, only one of his siblings lived to see his introduction into this world. All but one before him had died in infancy. Even at Philip's birth he was thought to be stillborn. But while being laid aside, thinking him to have no life in him, he cried out.
His mother, grateful for this life that had been given into her trust, determined to raise him for the Lord. As a child, she would hold him on her lap in front of the fireplace which was lined with Delft tiles illustrating the stories of the bible's history and she would teach him those marvelous stories. It was there that the beginnings of his faith was molded and he learned to appreciate the truths of God's word.
When his mother died he became an orphan whose faith buoyed him beyond his loss. In his diary he wrote, "God is an immortal Father, my soul rejoices in Him; He hath hitherto helped me and provided for me; may it be my study to approve myself a more affectionate, grateful, and dutiful child." In the sentiment of those words he would eventually dedicate his life to serve God and became a writer and author of over 400 spiritual songs, some of which remain popular even now.
Famous among those songs is "O Happy Day", whose lyrics reflect his joy in spite of having been orphaned early in his life, living in deep poverty, suffering ill health from a young age, and yet having fixed his choice on the Savior. This joy carried him though his life to the day of his death on October 26, 1751.
O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad!
Tis done, the great transaction's done;
I am my Lord's, and He is mine!
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away.
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away.
Everyone who has ever put on Christ in baptism for the remission of their sins can relate to the appropriateness of the words of this song. They proclaim the joys of a special moment in time that is to define the rest of their life. David wrote of such blessings that are worthy of our joy and our praise to the Lord, saying that "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psm. 103:10-12) It is a joy like none other, when one's past is forever removed from the divine record and they are allowed to start all over, beginning with a clean slate upon which to write all the days of their new life in Christ.
Saul, who would become the apostle Paul, experienced that joy three days after his frightful encounter on the road to Damascus and his immediate humility that drove him to ask Jesus, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" (Acts 9:6) Then, after those three days of prayer and fasting in the dark of his blindness (vs. 9), Ananias came to him and laid his hands on Saul and his sight was restored. (vss. 17-18) It was after this that Ananias said to him, And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16)
Paul would share in that same joy with a jailer and his family in the city of Phillipi, but not before having been beaten with rods and then put in stocks in the deepest confines of the prison by this same jailer. Their unpleasant encounter with each other eventually led to Paul's release from prison and the jailer asking, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) Paul and Silas on that occasion "...spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized." (vss. 32-33) The reaction of this jailer was a familiar one; "...he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household." (vs. 34)
When we read of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch we see this same response. Philip "...preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing." (Acts 8:35-39)
That joy is not intended to be but for a little while. As the song says, "He drew me, and I followed on." Let us all remember that "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving." (Col. 2:6-7)
- Gary V. Womack - July 2005
MOSES & AMERICA
In recent weeks we have watched the playing out of a standoff between the proponents for the keeping of a stone monument containing the ten commandments placed at the entry to an Alabama courthouse, and those who opposed it. The outcome of its removal is not surprising in light of the decadence of the society that we live in. As a people who are bent on rejecting the foundation upon which this nation was founded, it is little wonder that God and His providence is ever more ignored and His worthy name rejected as the Author upon whose principles the Constitution of our government were formulated. May He have mercy on us as a rebellious people!
The ten commandments was God's constitution for the children of Israel upon their acquisition of freedom from Egyptian bondage. We are very much aware that Christ fulfilled that law upon His dying on the cross "having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances..." (Eph. 2:15) and that "...He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Col. 2:14) While we recognize that, according to God's divine purpose, the law of Moses was intended to give way to the New Testament law (see Jer. 31:31-34 and Heb. 8:6-13), and that we are now under "...the perfect law of liberty..." (Jas. 1:25), let no one fail to recognize that God is still to be recognized as the only true and living God and that there are no others before Him, and idolatry is therefore no less a sin now than it was when the Israelites partied around the golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai. These truths being so, God is no less pleased in our day when His exalted name is used in vain as is so commonly heard on the streets of our cities. Rest assured that He will still "not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." (Compare Ex. 20:7 and Phil. 2:9-11) Children are no less obligated to honor their parents now than they were in the days of Moses. (Compare Ex. 20:12 and Eph. 6:1-3) And as surely as murder was a sin under the old law, Jesus has assured us that it is no less a sin under the new law, even to the point of being in danger of the judgment if we become angry at our brother without a cause. (Compare Mt. 5:21-22 and Ex. 20:13) Adultery, robbery, lying and covetousness are still sins that will condemn us to hell as surely as they were forbidden in God's old commandments. (Compare Ex. 20:14-16 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10)
The very nation to whom God gave those commandments was forewarned before receiving the promised land, not to forget the God who had delivered them from bondage and who was giving them that land flowing with milk and honey. Listen to God's solemn warning to them. "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest - when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;...then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' ... Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God." (Deut. 8:11-14, 17, 19-20) His words ring familiar to our time.
The prophet Amos warned the people of Judah of the impending doom which was to befall them at the hands of the Assyrians. But his words fell on the deaf ears of a people who had become guilty of the very thing God had warned their forefathers of before their entering into Canaan. Listen to their complacency as they indulged themselves in the wealth of their "soft" life. "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion...Woe to you who put far off the day of doom...who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who chant to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, and those who recline at banquets shall be removed. The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the Lord God of hosts says: 'I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.'" (Amos 6:1, 3-8)
As a nation, we have not learned the lesson of those thankless people whom God richly blessed with wealth and ease of living, only to forget where those things had come from and in arrogance boasted as though they had accomplished it by their own power. How soon sinful man forgets his Creator!
Theodore Roosevelt made such an observation when he said, "Like all Americans, I like big things: big prairies, big forests and mountains, big wheat fields, railroads...and everything else. But no people ever yet benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue." (quoated in "The New Joy of Words," 1961)
As a nation, how will we be remembered? Abraham Lincoln, during the trying times of the civil war, said, "Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We...will be remembered in spite of ourselves...The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the last generation." (ibid.)
Whether such reminders of the God in whom we are blessed as a nation, and in whom we once as a people founded our trust, are removed or made light of, there is no denying that in whatever age He has spoken, His word is a declaration of His divine power and authority. Ignoring God's authority does not change our responsibility to acknowledge and submit to Him. Such irresponsible acts of disregard only emphasizes the fact that people who do not want to acknowledge God are not comfortable around the reminders of His existence and His authority.
As God's children, we must soberly consider our responsibility before God as citizens of this country. God was willing to spare Sodom for just ten righteous people if they could be found. (Gen. 18:16-32) What about us?
"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." (Prov. 14:34) These words of wisdom from the pen of Solomon declares for all time the outlook of God upon the nations of the world. Time after time, as the nation of Israel repeatedly rejected God and then would repent after He would punish them, demonstrated the truth of Solomon's words. Oh, how our nation needs to soberly consider those words and see where we have come. Daniel proclaimed God's praise as he acknowledged that it is God who "changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding." (Dan. 2:21) The reason that any nation has ever existed, including America, is by the divine providence of God. History bears out the truth that no nation has ever stood against God for any length of time. As a nation, we need to recognize our place as God views us. "Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the balance; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless...It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, when He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble." (Isa. 40:15-17, 22-24)
How utterly foolish it is to ignore the God whom the founding fathers of this nation looked to as they forged that declaration in order to become an independent nation. In the closing words of that document their acknowledgment and dependence upon the God of heaven is evident as they unashamedly proclaimed, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." (In Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America)
As those early statesmen struggled to formulate the Constitution of the United States, "After many jarring sessions, in which understandings, jealousies, and selfish sectional interest bore down their efforts to agree, the delegates were almost in despair. Their hearts cried out for union, but their minds seemed to be overwhelmed. At this crisis, the venerable Benjamin Franklin suggested that they call upon Providence to give them guidance, that their appeal to the Almighty Father might soften their temper, and, drawing strength by relying upon Divine aid, they might go forward together in common sympathy" (Spoken in an address by Sol Bloom, Director General of the United States Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission; as recorded in The Story of the Constitution, by Sol Bloom, July 28, 1937)
How far we have come, from calling upon God for guidance and strength - to being offended by the sight of the ten commandments being on public display. As a people, we need to be reminded of these words; "Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set." (Prov. 22:28) While those words were written specifically for the people of God who lived under the law of Moses with its ten commandments, they are no less appropriate to a nation whose foundations were anchored in a solemn trust in the Almighty God.
Perhaps we could take a lesson from Judah as Jeremiah the prophet pleaded for their repentance in the face of certain destruction by the Babylonians. He described their complete defiance of conscience as they cast off their consciousness of their God; "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,' says the Lord." (Jer. 6:15)
This is not a call to political action nor is it to suggest that the church is to become involved in such matters. It is not! The church and government are separate entities with distinct responsibilities that are respectively peculiar to their individual roles. The quotes from civil documents as have been stated herein have been used to contrast the attitudes of an earlier generation from that of our present generation. It is clear and undeniable that as a nation, we have drifted from a profound faith in God to a repugnance of any such acknowledgment. However, this is intended to provoke us to an awareness of our increased responsibility in having a leavening effect on those around us.
As sure as sin is a reproach to any nation, righteousness is that which can exalt a nation. That is where you and I come in. Each of us have an influence for good when we sanctify God in our heart. This country in which we live is our scope of influence, city by city, neighbor by neighbor. Though you are but one person in a sea of humanity, remember Jesus' words; "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." (Mt. 5:14) Collectively, we are "the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Tim. 3:15) "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:1-4)
As Abraham prayed for the city of Sodom, asking God's mercy on behalf of only a few righteous souls, (Gen. 18:16-32) so we can we do likewise on behalf of our home. A nation of souls are at stake. Will you respond with the compassion of prayer and holiness? It is your "reasonable service." (Rom. 12:1)
When you woke up this morning and began to get ready to assemble with your brethren, going through the normal Sunday morning routine, what were your thoughts for this day? Were you in a "mad dash" trying to get all of the family to cooperate and hurry up so you wouldn't be late? Did you think about the football game that will be on TV later in the day? Or maybe your thoughts were of what you would have for lunch today after leaving the worship services.
Somewhere, in another part of the world, far from the comforts of our own home, some of our brethren woke up early on this Sunday morning and also prepared to assemble with their brethren to worship the God of heaven. Likely, their thoughts were much different than ours as their concerns were much more grave. Perhaps their thoughts were of the possibility of being observed by someone who might turn them in to the authorities on the suspicion of assembling to worship contrary to the edicts of the government under which they live. Perhaps their thoughts were for a brother or sister in Christ who has recently been arrested for such "crimes," wondering what their condition is or whether they are still alive or not. Perhaps their concerns in getting ready for worship ran deeper than how the children were not being cooperative this morning. Maybe their concerns were more about how long they can continue to worship "underground" without getting caught and being able to keep their children from harms way.
Does that sound far fetched in our "civilized" world that we live in, so far removed from the realities of the real world? Do we ever consider that such things are going on as we go about our daily routine? In the shelter of our own government that allows us to go about our lives in pursuit of "Life, Liberty and Happiness" are we oblivious to the plight of many to whom such a concept is beyond reach of their thinking? Or have we come to take for granted that which the founding fathers of this nation held so dear as being "self-evident?" They were firmly convinced that "all men are created equal" and "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."
In our quest to insure that our "Rights" are not infringed upon, have we taken for granted that it is indeed our Creator who has blessed us with the privilege to assemble on this Lord's day under the protective banner of the country that we live in? Have we assumed that in the equality under which all men are created, all men are automatically free to persue "True Happiness" without denial by a totalitarian form of government?
When we soberly consider the real world in which we live, it should give new meaning to the Divine admonition to "let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb. 10:24-25) It ought to cause us to hang our head in shame as we offer our frivolous excuses for not being able (?) to assemble with our brethren to worship the God of heaven "who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3)
Brethren, what we take for granted is eroding away before our very eyes. The blessings of our freedom are not merely the combined thoughts of early statesmen penned in noble words on a document. Freedom is a gift from God under the instrumentality of a form of government that has been patterned by the Divine purpose of God. Many of our countrymen deny it, but sadly, many more obviously have forgotten it.
God has ordained three institutions within the society of mankind. In Genesis chapter 2, after creating man and woman in the garden, His divine decree for the marriage relationship in which they were to cohabit and populate the earth was stated as His law throughout the coming ages. In Acts chapter 2 we see the establishment of the church, a fulfillment of God's eternal purpose, elsewhere described as "the body" (Eph. 1:22-23), or His "kingdom." (Mt. 16:18-19)
Between the time of the inception of these two Divine institutions, God also provided the necessary order under which the growing population of mankind should be governed. This does not mean that He prescribed the specific type of governmental system to be used, but only that some means of order be in place for man to coexist. However, He has defined what the responsibility of government is to be and how we are to honor those God-given responsibilities. We see this in Paul's words; "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil...For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." (Rom. 13:1-7) Also, "...submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God." (1 Pet. 2:13-15)
Citizenship is not without responsibility. Whether it is a matter of abiding by the traffic laws, or paying taxes, we are all bound by Divine decree to honor the laws, the enforcers of those laws and the judges who carry out those laws, so long as they do not violate God's Divine law. However, our responsibility does not stop there. We are also commanded to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." (1 Tim. 2:2) Simply stated, government is intended to insure "justice" and "peace." Do you see the reason for God's institution of government? Honor it!
An example of this "justice" and "peace" is found in the first amendment to the Constitution. Congress is prohibited from establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. While government cannot tell us how we will worship or what we are allowed to believe religiously, if any person or group of people become guilty of trying to prevent our assembling to worship, it would become the responsibility of our government to apprehend and punish those who were party to such efforts. That is justice and that is God's purpose.
Understanding that to be the responsibility and purpose of government, we ought to recognized God's protective hand in such matters as they carry out His will for our good. It is for this reason that Paul urged Timothy, saying, "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. 2:1-4)
Notice in Paul's admonition, there are implied two main purposes behind our praying for those who are in high places of authority. The first of those implications is plainly stated; "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." This is intended for our present good while we seek to serve God as he has instructed. Our praying to that end is described as being "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior." The second of those implications is not nearly so obvious, but is none the less revealed in stating God's desire for "all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." It should become obvious within the context of these verses, that part of the purpose of government is not only for the immediate protection of His children, but also to provide a favorable "climate" in which His word has free course in order for mankind to "come to the knowledge of the truth" and ultimately "to be saved."
This latter thought seems to be the idea behind Paul's words when he stood before the Athenians and proclaimed the one true God as Creator of all things. "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)
To state that God "has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings" is to declare that He rules over mankind in determining such matters. Therefore we can come closer to understanding how God could foretell the rising and falling of world empires (See Dan. 2:36-45). But even beyond His ability to accomplish His will in the affairs of the nations of mankind, we also see His purpose in doing so, "that they should seek the Lord...and find Him." This should tell us that it is part of God's will to provide a means of "finding Him" in order to obey Him and serve Him for the benefit of those who desire to do so. And so it has been throughout the earthly existence of mankind.
There is great comfort knowing that God's purposes are intended for our good. At the same time, it is a sobering thought that such blessings demand a greater accountability on our part to make full use of such blessings. Consider Jesus' condemnation of those who had received greater opportunity than others who had met their own doom; "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades, for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." (Mt. 11:23-24)
Those words of Jesus ought to ring in the ears of every citizen of this great nation. We are a people who have been blessed beyond measure by the God of heaven who "removes kings and raises up kings" (Dan. 2:21). We have been given the greatest opportunity to bask in the sunshine of His grace and to pursue to the fullest extent our praise and adoration of the God who has loved us beyond measure. His word has not only had free course, but God has blessed us with communication opportunities beyond the wildest imaginations of all previous generations of mankind. He has blessed us with no limit of bibles and the ability to print them as fast and abundantly as we can acquire them. Truly, we have been blessed "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." (Lk. 6:38). Therefore, could the Lord say to us as well, "And you, America, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades, for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day?" Could He say that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for us?
Our society is offended by our acknowledgment of the Divine lawgiver. However, this does not relieve us of our individual responsibility to proclaim Him before men. Nay, but rather, it demands it. While we are not under the law of Moses and the ten commandments, we are subject to the same God who has said, "Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he has sanctified us a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:28-29)
- Gary V. Womack - September / October 2003
Christ and Judges
Robert Blatchford, a severe critic of religion and theism, had numerous verbal tussles with G.K. Chesterton (who liked Blatchford and everyone else he had debates with). The atheist was sure that no English judge would accept as adequate the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I think Chesterton's response was not only amusing but of consequence. He suggested that Christians don't share "such an extravagant reverence for English judges as is felt by Mr. Blatchford himself. The experiences of the Founder of Christianity have perhaps left us in a vague doubt of the infallibility of Courts of Law."
It's always tragic when we hear Christian types stupidly attack intelligence as if intelligence were an enemy to the faith rather than one of God's gifts by which we appropriate and rejoice in the truth that Christ is and brought. Just the same, it makes no sense to believe that our intellect isn't affected by our vested interests. Jesus called his judges and critics not to "judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." (John 7:24) Character and personal agendas can affect how we weigh evidence. In John 5:44, Jesus makes this clear when he says to his judges, "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" It's true that professing faith can be "fashionable" but so can unbelief. It's a stark and sad truth that we can profess ourselves to be wise and become fools (Romans 1:21) because we lack purity of heart. Christians and non-believers alike need to confess that humility! and a willingness to obey can open our eyes to the good and perfect and acceptable will of God (Romans 12:1-2)
Can we get rid of punishment?
Some sensitive and caring people think the very notion of "punishment" is spiteful and vengeful and they’d like to be rid of the concept altogether. More than the concept, they’d like society to be rid of the practice. There should be no punishment for anyone.
Hmmm. But what are we to do with people who are viciously disruptive and who inflict pain and loss on the innocent? What of those we have solid reasons to believe will continue to inflict injury on the defenseless? These caring people insist we should deal with such people but that it shouldn’t be by punishing them. We should cure them by changing them and this would be a long-term deterrent but in the meantime, if we must, we will isolate them from society and that will deter them in the short-term. But while we have them isolated from society as a short term deterrent we should work with them in various ways to understand them and condition them so as to change them and thus rehabilitate them.
It doesn’t matter much to these fine people how we phrase the notion of punishment—as soon as we speak of someone "deserving" some administered unpleasantness (whatever form it takes) we’re on the wrong track. Whatever it takes, however we express it or reflect on it the notion of punishment is to be got rid of. The word itself derives, finally, from penalty and so rightly understood someone has offended (in some form) and in response to that offense some authorized personnel have intentionally inflicted some unpleasantness on the offender as retribution.
The two concepts that matter to these people in dealing with offenders are that society be protected and that the offender be personally helped to leave his/her socially unacceptable behavior behind. These people don’t say the behavior is good or that it doesn’t matter, and it’s untrue to say they are without sympathy toward the victims; they simply claim that inflicting pain or loss on an offender is spite and vengefulness baptized by society and made to look good.
But thoughtful people, just as caring as these, have continued to tell us for many years that it is immoral to dispense with the notion of "retribution" and forcibly deprive people of their liberty against their will. If they have done nothing to "deserve" our putting them in a place that will subject them to our "healing" they should not be there. If we say to some innocent bystander, "We are going to put you in a (sort of) hospital to help free you from your socially unacceptable behavior" we won’t be surprised if he/she objects. If we use barely enough (but enough) restraint to take him to that place—this perfectly innocent bystander—it won’t matter to him/her that it will have nice accommodation, food, personnel and surroundings. When they strenuously insist that they have done nothing wrong and should not be shanghaied into such a place they will make sense to every thinking person in the world except those that have abducted them.
Enforced remedial treatment can only be remedial if first it is warranted! It cannot possibly be remedial if it isn’t warranted or "earned". We can only morally attempt to cure "the sick" if we know him to be sick. We can only forcibly attempt to rehabilitate a known offender. To forcibly "treat" a non-offender is not only illegal and immoral it’s also absurd. And we forcibly treat the offender precisely because he/she has offended. Whatever our motives (and they may be the purest under heaven) the forcible treatment in response to wrongdoing (whether wrongdoing is defined in legal, social or moral terms) has the nature of penalty. "You did this and in light of that and as a response to that we are compelled to do what we are about to do."
And if we’re so sensitive that we must absolutely jettison all idea of penalty then we are enforcing society’s will on an unwilling person. A person who, according to our own claim, does not deserve what is happening to him. "No one in the world can deserve what we’re about to do to you but we’re going to do it without your consent." A "treatment" can’t be remedial unless the offender believes it is "deserved" otherwise he/she will see it as unjust. And if the offender smarts under the injustice of it all then it’s no remedy.
And it really doesn’t help if we say that the enforced "cure" is not punishment or penalty. It robs the individual of all that makes life pleasant to him/her. If he asks, "Are you depriving me of freedom and family because I did this or that?" the answer would have to be yes. So while we wish to avoid the word "punishment" we are doing to that man or woman what philosopher Anthony Flew has judiciously defined as punishment. See Penal Substitution.
So we subject this person against his/her will to what is unpleasant to them because they have offended all the while insisting that they don’t deserve what we’re doing; all the while we tell them, "If we were to punish you we would be barbarians."
And if the offender were to ask, "Are you doing this as a deterrent to others?" and we were to say yes, that would only make matters worse. This is being enforced on him/her against their wills even though it isn’t merited (for no one in the world merits "punishment"). And now they’re told it’s to keep others from doing the same kinds of things. Now, though "deserving" nothing they are used as a means to an end. Hmmm.