30 July 2010

The Master Servant Relationship

1 Timothy 6:1-2 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.

I want to bring out a spiritual application from the above passage, but feel compelled to offer a few brief notes of explanation first.

First, it is not necessary to offer an apology for what the NT has to say regarding the practice of slavery (1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-4:1; Titus 2:9-10; Philemon 1:12, 16; 1 Peter 2:18). The Bible neither endorses nor condemns the practice but addresses the situation as a matter of fact and provides instruction to both slave and master as to the proper treatment of the other. The Christian is never instructed in the scripture to make any attempt to deal with the social or political problems of a society or a nation. We are to be involved in something far more important – preaching the saving gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, it is easy for me to say such things. I’m not a slave, and I’m glad I’m not a slave. My great-grandparents weren’t slaves, and I’m glad they weren’t slaves.

Personally, I’m glad that boatloads of Africans aren’t dying in unimaginable conditions over the Atlantic Ocean on slave ships. But it’d be good for us to be reminded that neither Wilberforce’s Slave Trade Act nor Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (no, I’m not a Lincoln lover; yes, I realize the EP had no legal bearing upon the slaves it supposedly freed; and yes, I realize it was more of a war strategy than anything else; stay with me, I’m making a point) – neither of those had any affect on the rest of the world. We far too often make the mistake of looking out at the world through red, white, and blue and thinking that it’s all hunky-dory everywhere like it is in the good ol’ US of A.

This article states, “There are an estimated 27 million slaves still in the world today. An estimated 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year; approximately 50% of all victims are children; 126 million children work in the worst forms of child labor (1 in every 12 of the world's 5 to 17 year olds). There are an estimated 300,000 child soldiers involved in over 30 areas of conflict worldwide, some younger than 10 years old. These people have no choice over the course of their lives, no rights, and are often beaten, abused, and threatened with violence. Slavery is flourishing in many parts of the world, and it is every bit as ugly as it was 200 years ago.” Just good for us to remember.

Third, and back to point number 1, the reason the Bible doesn’t instruct the Christian to get involved in politics is that if we free all those 27 million slaves – and they die and go to hell – all of that time, all of that money, and all of that effort would be absolutely worthless.

That the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. To that unsaved master, that saved servant is a representative of Jesus Christ. To that unsaved servant, that saved master is a representative of Jesus Christ. To that saved master, that saved servant is a brother and a fellow-heir. To that saved servant, that saved master is a brother and a fellow-heir. There’s something more important than righting the societal wrong; there’s something more important than a political campaign against an outdated institution; there’s something more important than my rights or your rights. It’s the reputation of Almighty God; it’s the salvation of sinners; it’s the building up of the body of Jesus Christ.

Back to point number 2, that’s easy for me to say. Then again, the spiritual application makes points 1 and 3 easier to swallow. But that’ll have to wait for another post. Lord bless!

27 July 2010

Choose to Serve

Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Classic statement from Joshua as he addresses the nation toward the end of his days. Notice that serving God is something you must CHOOSE to do. It doesn’t happen automatically. It doesn’t happen by default. It’s something you do on purpose. It’s something that requires determination and dedication.

Now, we won’t go into the details of Joshua’s sermon, but I’d like to point out his rationale as to why the people should choose to serve the Lord. These 2 reasons show up over and over again in the word of God.

First, we should serve the Lord because of what He has already done for us (1 Samuel 12:24). This is love (2 Corinthians 5:14). And second, we should serve the Lord because of the rewards He promises to those who do (Colossians 3:23-24). This is faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Having made the choice to serve the Lord, Joshua goes on to exhort the people that what they need is a single mind (Matthew 6:22; James 1:8) and a united, un-entangled heart (Psalm 86:11; 2 Timothy 2:4).

Joshua 24:19-23 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.

22 July 2010

Sin Lieth at the Door

Genesis 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Well, here’s one of those Bible passages that I just don’t understand (yet). We all know the story of Cain and Abel and the important lessons the chapter teaches, but what in the world did God mean when he told Cain that sin lieth at the door?

Did some research on what the commentators say about this verse a while back. Here’s a summary of what I found. The standard teaching is that God is telling Cain he can correct his mistake by making the proper offering; that “sin” really means “sin offering,” in the Hebrew.

The only thing that gives this idea any credence in my mind is the fact that when I checked the references, I found that “the door” does not have to refer to the door of a tent (why would a sheep be there?) but can refer to the door of a sheepfold (John 10:1), which would make more sense. Still, I am not comfortable with this take on the verse. You either have to change “sin” to “sin offering” or say that God refers to a sacrificial lamb as “sin.”

A second thought is summarized by John Davis’s Paradise to Prison: The second and more likely interpretation is that “sin” refers to the effects of sin. Thus, God is warning Cain that if he sins, tragedy will follow. God might be suggesting the word picture of a wild beast couching at the door, waiting to attack the one who opens it. This would explain the masculine gender of “lieth,” which would normally be feminine to agree with its subject “sin.”

AW Pink concurs in his Gleanings in Genesis: To summarize our suggested interpretation of verse 7, Cain’s offering having been refused, anger filled his heart. Jehovah asks him why he is wroth, and tells him there is no just cause for his displeasure, and that if he will bring the required offering it would be accepted and Cain would then retain the rights of the firstborn. At the same time God faithfully and solemnly warns him of the consequences which will follow his refusal to bring the specified sacrifice. If his sin is not removed by an expiatory offering, it will spring upon and devour him. Cain refused to comply with Jehovah’s demands and the Divine threat was carried out. What an illustration of James 1:15! “When lust (desire, passion) hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin when it is finished (consummated), bringeth forth death.”

This view spiritualizes the statement and is consistent with what the Bible says about the nature of sin. Note, SIN bringeth forth death (James 1:15); the wages of SIN is death (Romans 6:23); SIN will find you out (Numbers 32:23); SIN binds (Proverbs 5:22); he that soweth to his flesh shall OF THE FLESH reap corruption (Galatians 6:7). It is important to understand that God doesn’t do those things to people who sin but SIN does those things to people who sin.

So perhaps God is warning Cain of the consequences his sin will bring upon him if he does not repent and offer the proper sacrifice. This is the position Bro. James takes in his devotional commentary on Genesis, so it’s probably right ;) I’m just not completely 100% satisfied this is what God is saying to Cain.

There’s one more idea I had come across in my Bible reading and was reminded of when I read the verse again this past week. Not sure that it works, but it’s an interesting thought.

Deuteronomy 9:21 And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.

In recounting the ordeal regarding the golden calf, Moses identifies the calf itself as the people’s sin. So when God tells Cain, “sin lieth at the door,” perhaps God is helping Cain identify his sin – by calling the fruit of the ground he offered instead of a lamb the “sin” that “lieth at the door?” Now, I can’t prove that and I’m not sure that it matches the structure of the sentence; nor am I necessarily convinced that Cain didn’t know he was supposed to offer a lamb instead of what he did. But I would sure like a cross reference that helps me understand Genesis 4:7, and this is about the closest I’ve come.

Let me know what you think. What ideas have you come across as to the meaning of Genesis 4:7?

16 July 2010

Servile Work

Jesus’ SABBATH day activities included reading and teaching in the synagogue (Mark 1:21; Mark 6:2; Luke 4:16; Luke 4:31; Luke 6:6; Luke 13:10); justifying his disciples’ picking and eating of corn (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5); and performing miracles of healing (Matthew 12:9-13; Mark 3:1-5; Luke 6:6-10; Luke 13:11-13; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-9; John 9:14). The miracles Jesus performed on the Sabbath was just one of the reasons the Jews wanted to kill Him (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6; John 5:16).

Now, the reasons Jesus used to justify these activities were as follows: David and his men ate holy bread (Matthew 12:4); the priests of the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless (Matthew 12:5; Mark 2:25-26); the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5); it’s OK to bring your ox out of a pit but not to heal a man on the Sabbath? (Matthew 12:11-12; Luke 13:15-16; Luke 14:5); the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27); it’s not unlawful to do good on the Sabbath (Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9); it’s OK to circumcise a man on the Sabbath but to heal him? (John 7:22-23). All very good reasons.

Now, in addition to those arguments Jesus raised, He was careful to point out that the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sabbath law was skewed (for example, Matthew 12:7). A possibility that I had never considered until today is the fact that perhaps the Pharisees didn’t acknowledge that not ALL work was banned on the Sabbath day. The type of work that was prohibited was SERVILE work.

I have not found a definitive definition for the Biblical usage of servile (help), but my hunch is that nothing Jesus did on the Sabbath day qualifies. Just fun to see something in the Bible that you hadn’t seen before. Have a great weekend.