Enjoy these entries - we hope they make you think.
The first four of the Decalogue (“ten words”) have to do with man’s relationship with God:
- Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
The last five concern man’s relationship with his fellow man:
- Honor thy father and thy mother.
- Thou shalt not kill.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house or thy neighbor’s wife...or anything that is thy neighbor’s.
Many call these the “two tables of the Law.” The first table falls under the greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6.5). The second table falls under the second greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19.18).
Interestingly, the Fifth Commandment is stated positively, while the rest that follow are negative. Paul also points out it is the first commandment with a promise attached: “That it may be will with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6.2–3).
The first table of the Law begins with God’s authority. The second table begins with authority in family structures. If authority is not recognized and respected, families disintegrate, and if families fall apart so does society. If children do not first learn to obey their parents in their parents’ house, they most likely will not honor their parents after they leave home. If they don’t honor their parents, they will likely not honor the aged. They will tend to exhibit what C. S. Lewis called “generational snobbery,” in which the children think they know more and have more wisdom than their parents and grandparents. They will have a misguided notion that their generation is the wisest of all generations. In truth, they may be the dumbest and most foolish of all.
Worst of all, they will not honor God. Those who put no other gods before Yahweh God also honor their parents, and those who honor their parents also honor Yahweh God.
After honoring God, honoring our parents is critically important. That does not necessarily mean fawning over them and adoring them in overly-emotional ways. It does not mean you necessarily have to like your parents all the time, because sometimes parents are not gracious, kind, or loving towards their children. But you must still honor your father and your mother because they came before you and God saw fit to bring you into existence through them.
Praise God for godly-minded parents who work hard to train their kids and grandkids, who show grace, and who cherish their children.
But whether your parents fit that mold or not, you are called to honor them. Honor them by providing for them in their old age and taking care of their physical needs. Do not speak evil to them or about them. Pray for them. Share the gospel with them in a respectful way.
The Fifth Commandment is a primary foundation for a stable family, church, and society. No wonder God ended His words to Israel in the Old Covenant with this promise:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4.5–6)
Our families need healing! The gospel includes family structures working the way God created them to function. Healthy families is not just a beautiful side consequence of turning back to the Lord—it’s a main mission of families who turn to the Lord.
Do your kids honor you? If not, next ask yourself if you honor your parents. Have you shown your kids what it looks like to honor your parents, or do they hear you griping, mocking, and voicing your displeasure about them?
Do I honor my parents? God promises me that if I honor my parents, I will live long upon the land He gives me!
Have you noticed the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6 includes a breastplate but no backplate? We do not turn our backs on the enemy; we advance forward swinging the sword of the word of God. The weapons of our warfare are powerful to destroy the strongholds of the enemy (1 Cor. 10.4-5). God calls all Christians, both men and women, to the fight, but He tasks us men with leading the charge.
Switching our thoughts to the physical plane, men should also be ready to fight for their loved ones to protect them. This is controversial because Jesus did say, after all, to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. But Jesus also said there was a time to take up the sword (Luke 22.36), and Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3.1–8 there is “a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up . . . a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
There is a time to fight.
Godly wisdom teaches us when we should fight, how we should fight, and how far we should go in the fight. Often, we want to fight when we shouldn’t, and when we are in a fight, we tend to go too far. Defending yourself against a bully doesn’t mean you should pulverize the bully’s face.
We should never start a fight, for that would violate the principle of living at peace with all men (Heb. 12.14; Rom. 12.18), and we should “repay no one evil for evil” (Rom. 12.17). But if a man strikes or shoots a robber who has broken into his house in the dead of night, he has not started the fight. The robber proved he intended violence when he invaded an inhabited house, and only a fool would flip the lights on and kindly ask the robber if he were just planning on a peaceful visit.
To train in a martial art or in weaponry (gun, knife, staff, etc.) is to train for battle. The word “martial” in martial art means battle—it’s literally a battle art. I love martials arts, in part, because I can train to be more in control in the event of an attack on my family, friends, or person. The more you understand about the battle arts, the more ability you have to decide in your level of response. You don’t necessarily have to break a man’s bones to stop him. You could choke him out or pin him to the ground on his face with a knee in his back while you wait for the police. However, if he is crazy high on drugs and doesn’t respond to pain, you might have to incapacitate him in a more painful way.
Abraham, David, and Moses knew there was a time to fight, and they stepped forward when the time came. They fought for their loved ones and their people. When David ran to kill Goliath, he was finishing the fight that depraved, bully Goliath had started. When the four kings (Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Ela, and Tidal king of Goiim) defeated the five kings of the plains (Bera king of Sodom, Birsha kind of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the unnamed king of Zoar), Abraham grabbed 318 trained men (all born in his house), tracked those kings down, and defeated them in order to save the captives, including his nephew Lot (Gen. 14).
Societies remain safe because men willingly stand against enemies.
Our constant battle is with Satan and the forces of darkness, but from time to time we must physically protect our families and loved ones. It’s a duty we should embrace, and we should ready our minds for potential action. Praise God we currently live in such a peaceful society, but even still there are bad actors.
Obviously, we should fight only when we have no other option, but there is a time to fight. Physical altercations interact and intersect with our spiritual battles—they are connected. Again, how will we defend ourselves? Will we hate our enemy in our hearts, or will we fight in such a way as to love them as far as we can? Do we intend to annihilate anyone who would sin against us, or do we temper our responses with mercy? In the moment, we fire at center mass until the target is neutralized, and that might or might not kill the attacker. We do that to protect the family. But if we find him still alive, groaning on the floor, do we put another bullet into his head because of the seething hatred in our heart?
God has called us to live in a sinful world, and we sometimes must make difficult choices. May we learn self-control, may we have the strength to stand against the enemy, and may God save us from situations we cannot handle.
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets. (Psalm 18.31–42)
The woman depicted at the end of Proverbs 31 is fictitious. That is not to say she cannot be found or does not exist in many hard-working women across the centuries, but the wisdom writer wrote of the ideal woman.
Solomon wrote most of Proverbs, and his stated intent was to help his reader know wisdom and instruction and to understand words of insight (Prov. 1.2). He wrote as a father to a son, and much of the wisdom found in the book guides a young man away from the pitfalls and traps of the adulterous woman of folly and towards lady wisdom. The first nine chapters instruct with a unified voice, “Listen to Wisdom; she desires your good! Flee the adulterous woman; the path to her house is the path to hell.”
The book begins with Lady Wisdom (Prov. 1.20–23; 3.13–18; 4.5–9; 8.1–9.12) who wants to care for young men and provide them healthy living, and it closes with a marvelous description of a woman who would make an excellent wife. The Proverbs 31 woman is Lady Wisdom incarnate.
Her husband trusts her with everything. He knows she will not squander their money. Instead of wasting wealth, she contributes to the household income streams.
She skillfully makes things for her household: plenteous food, fine garments, lovely bed coverings. Not only does she make them for her household, she also sells them and gives to the poor. She manages a house which provides—largely because she works hard to make sure these things happen. She purchases land and cultivates a vineyard. In a word, she is fruitful.
What can we say of her character? She diligently rises before the sun to accomplish her daily work and works into the night by lamplight. She “dresses herself with strength…strength and dignity are her clothing.” She “laughs at the time to come,” which expresses not only her sense of well-being but also her joyfulness in the face of uncertainty. Because she is prepared, she can laugh.
In the center of the poem we find, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” Taking nothing away from his character and work-ethic, we understand this note is not about him—it’s about how his excellent wife has been a great force behind his respected status. As husband and wife are one flesh, we observe in this couple a mutual, harmonious, synergetic relationship where each blesses the other, and God works powerfully between them.
The poem begins with the heart of the husband trusting in her and ends with the husband praising her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
But the key to everything lies in one of the last statements: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” The secret to all is in the fear of the LORD! Indeed, what an excellent way to end the book of Proverbs…much as it was begun, for we read in Proverbs 1.7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”
May my sons each find a woman who they can trust their hearts to. May my daughter become one of these excellent women. God has blessed me to be married to an excellent wife who is worth more to me than any amount of wealth.
These women aren’t found under every rock; they are uncommon. You will not find an excellent woman among people who do not fear the LORD, so only look there! Realize, also, that women grow into this kind of strength and dignity. Proverbs 31 shows a woman who has been diligently working, building, and growing for many years, a picture of long-term walking with God. Again, this is an ideal woman—no one will look exactly like this—but find you a woman (or be a woman) who wants to look like this.
Praise God for excellent wives!
Abraham was chosen for a purpose. In Genesis 18.19, God took counsel with Himself concerning Abraham,
“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has promised him.”
God did not say this about Sarah, though she was an essential helper to Abraham in this mission. God spoke to the fathers, and the fathers, then, carried the responsibility of teaching God’s word and God’s ways to their households.
God wants a righteous and just people, and Abraham’s responsibility was to guide his family along that righteous way. But it was for a singular purpose: so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has promised him.
What Had the Lord Promised?
A Multitude of Nations!
Part of the promise is found in Genesis 17.4: “Behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” And in 17.6, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.”
Another part of the covenant is found in Genesis 17.8: “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
A third and the greatest part of the covenant is found in Genesis 22.18: “And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
How Does Circumcision Fit?
In Genesis 17, God gave Abraham the sign of the covenant—circumcision.
Often I have wondered why God chose this as the sign. Noah’s sign was a rainbow in the heavens. Abraham’s sign was trimming the foreskin off the male organ. The first seems wonderful, grand, and glorious; the second seems a tad barbaric.
But observe the significance of the sign; it has to do with the male organ which passes the seed along. All the promises to Abraham had to do with bearing a son, who would bear more sons, who would eventually become a great nation. God desires godly offspring (Malachi 2.15).
In the New Testament, Paul writes of circumcision being a “putting off the body of the flesh” (Col. 2.11); in other words, the cutting of the flesh symbolized purification, a removal of sin. To Abraham and the Israelites, circumcision signified keeping the seed-line pure, anticipating the growth of their nation and eventually their coming Messiah.
Circumcision also points back to God’s original mandate to mankind in general: be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
In Deuteronomy, twice God speaks to Israel about circumcising their hearts.
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. (Deut. 10.16)
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut. 30.6)
The New Testament continues the idea of circumcising the heart. In the face of intense opposition, Stephen bravely dressed them down, saying, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7.51). Paul wrote of those who were truly Jews: “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Rom. 2.29). In Philippians 3.3, he distinguishes between those who simply mutilate the flesh and those who walk by faith: “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Colossians 2.11 may be the clearest of his teachings on the spiritual nature of circumcision today:
“In Him [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2.11–14).
So there remains a parallel sign today for the Christian, and that sign is baptism, the sign of the New Covenant. Baptism signifies a washing away of sin (Acts 22.16; 1 Cor. 6.11) and a death, burial, and resurrection with Christ (Rom. 6.1–4; Col. 2.12).
The sign of the Old Covenant pointed forward to the Seed of Promise, to Christ, and the sign of the New Covenant points backward to the work of Christ in the cross and His resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins.
In every case it’s about Christ Jesus our Lord!
The cross offended some false teachers in Galatia, against whom Paul strongly preached. Jews had infiltrated the churches. They claimed to be Christians, but they brought a twisted, corrupted, distorted gospel with them (Gal. 1.6-9) as they attempted to bind the Gentile Christians under a host of Jewish laws which Christ had already eliminated through the cross.
Circumcision is not a sin. Paul was circumcised (Phil. 3.5), and he even had Timothy circumcised for practical reasons (Acts 16.3), so he wasn't condemning the actual act. He condemned it as a religious ritual as the Jews were teaching; they commanded all Christian men to be circumcised to be right with God, making it a prerequisite to salvation.
In addition to circumcision, they also insisted Christians keep special Jewish feast days (Gal. 4.10), adding them onto the list of things necessary for salvation. In other words, the Jewish Christians wouldn't really accept the Gentile Christians as brothers until they measured up to their list of laws and demands.
Why did the cross offend these Jews? Paul preached against circumcision for salvation and that keeping the ceremonial and civil aspects of the Law of Moses is now unnecessary under Christ! He preached that Jesus abolished the Old Law and clearly stated that salvation is by faith in Christ apart from works of the law (Gal. 2.15-16). In fact, "if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose" (Gal. 2.21), and "if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law" (Gal. 3.21). But now that faith has come, we are no longer under the guardianship of the law (Gal. 3.25).
Christ has set us free in order that we may experience true freedom (Gal. 5.1). He has freed us from sin and law. The law binds us under sin, so Christ had to abolish the law so we might be perfectly free from sin! This is grace.
But grace offends the legalist (who believes he is saved by keeping a law) because grace says we are not saved by our work of keeping law; we are saved by Christ's work of keeping the law and His sufficient sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Just as the cross offended the Jews because it did away with their law, the cross offends legalists today because it does away with their law.
Who gets to make the list of laws which are necessary for entering into the kingdom of heaven? Only God holds that position. Is there a law Jesus expects us to submit to? Absolutely! If you don't think so, you should read Matthew 5-7, Romans 6, James, and Galatians 5-6. But Jesus clarifies our relationship to law—law doesn't save; He does. We keep His law because we are His children, not to make ourselves His children.
The legalist lists actions and teachings which will keep a person out of heaven. Many such lists have been made which exceed the boundaries of gospel-level issues, and those lists divide good-hearted brethren. The legalist believes that eating (or not eating) certain meats will keep you out of heaven (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8). The legalist believes that observing (or not observing) certain special religious days will annul your salvation. The legalist believes you must add this or subtract that from your life in order to be saved. Their additions to the gospel divide and do violence to the body of Christ! And that's why Paul so vigorously opposed the mindset of legalism.
Paul could have made a long list to show why he was "qualified" to be saved, but he counted all his so-called qualifications as loss, he said, "for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I my gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith..." (Phil. 3.2-10).
Let us refrain from binding fellow Christians to our lists of laws! If Christ said to do it, then we shall do it. If Christ said to avoid it, then we shall avoid it. But let's not add to or subtract from what He has said, and let us not think that we are saved by keeping His laws. We've been saved in order that we might keep His laws. There's a big difference, and that difference has eternal consequences (Gal. 5.4)!