Authority and Obedience

authorityAuthority. That’s a word Americans have a problem with. We’re proud of our independence. Of our rebellion. It’s part of our heritage. We celebrate it every Fourth of July. Words like “authority” and “obedience” and “submission” make our skin crawl. We’d like to take them out of our vocabulary altogether. We don’t even grant God authority anymore.

This became strikingly apparent to me recently when I engaged in a pair of election-related conversations. The topic? Homosexuality. Basically, our conversations boiled down to a clash of worldviews. They elected that we individually and as a nation must support the decisions of people struggling with sexual identity confusion because it’s the kind and generous thing to do. (Love before obedience. People before God.) I maintained that the Creator has put absolute standards in place that must be obeyed, and any love given outside those parameters is actually destructive. (Obedience before love. God before people.) Needless to say, my theology was not popular.

But today I read a Bible passage and commentary that gets to the heart of the authority issue. I’m still reading through the Jewish New Testament. I just started the gospel of John. Here’s what Mr. Stern had to say in his commentary:

In the beginning was the Word. The language echoes the first sentences of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Word which was with God and…was God is not named as such in Genesis but is immediately seen in action: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’. ‘And God called the light Day.'” And so on, through Genesis and indeed throughout the whole Tanakh (OT). God’s expressing himself, commanding, calling and creating is one of the two primary themes of the entire Bible (the other being his justice and mercy and their outworking in the salvation of humanity). This expressing, this speaking, this “word” is God; a God who does not speak, a Word-less God is no God. And a Word that is not God accomplishes nothing.

This passage isn’t about homosexuality. It’s about the much more foundational issue of God’s authority. God is Creator. His Word is powerful. His Word is law. And all Creation bears testimony to his authority. This passage in John, supported by Genesis, sets the stage for the teaching ministry of Christ (the Word incarnate) by granting him this same divine authority. And while Jesus did command us to love men, he stressed obedience to God above all.

But no one in America wants to talk about obedience. It’s far easier to speak of “love”. Based on the incredible power displayed in Genesis as well as the ultimate love showed to us at the end of John’s gospel, I think it would greatly benefit us to find out what else God said and obey it.

 

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Adam’s Rib, by Wayne Simpson

I see it’s been far too long since I last posted. School started. And my new novel has been taking up every spare minute. So today I’m just going to share an article. One that fascinated me. I love it when Bible researchers can shed new light on something for me, refining how I understand God’s word and the principles it contains. This is a powerful, eye-opening discovery.

ADAM’S RIB

by Wayne Simpson

The study of the Bible is often fraught with preconceptions, not only in our own minds but also in the minds of scholars, teachers and theologions who teach us and write the reference material that we rely on. Concepts can be so entrenched and cherished that no one even thinks to question them. Many such notions have been around for centuries or
millenia and they seem to be a part of the very foundation on which we base our beliefs. Sometimes they do not stand up to close scrutiny. Unfortunately, such ideas can conceal the most sublime insights into the scriptures.

One such notion is the matter of Adam’s rib in the second chapter of Genesis. Everybody knows the familiar Bible story about how God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. The smallest children are taught this story in Sunday schools across the land. Though many scholars find reasons not to take it literally, it is accepted as truth by millions of Christians. There is more here than meets the eye. I will show how it has been widely misunderstood and how that has caused us to miss some very dynamic teaching. Examine the account:

… for Adam there was not found a help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Gen. 2:20-24

This is really a strange picture if you think about it. Why didn’t God just make woman from the ground as He had made Adam. He apparently made male and female of all the animals from the ground. And why a rib, instead of a finger or a toe, or an ear. The story seems to smack of early Mesopotamian and Greek literature. Ea, the god of wisdom was said to
be the ear of Ninurta. Athena, goddess of wisdom, sprang from the forehead of Zeus, and Aphrodite, goddess of love was said to have come from the sea foam that collected around the severed male organ of the god Uranus (JPS Torah Commentary, Genesis p. 22).

In actuality, something far more meaningful is being expressed in this biblical account than making a new person out of a small piece of the body of another. If we look closely at the Hebrew word for rib we will learn of something quite surprising. The word translated rib in Genesis 2 is tsela. This word is used in a number of other places in the Bible and its meaning is shown to be quite different than what we have imagined. The only other
place in the Bible where the english word rib occurs is in Daniel 7:5, translated from an altogether different Hebrew word. One Bible translation dares to break with the use of the traditional word rib. The Stone edition of the Chumash renders the verse this way:

” …and He took one of his sides and He filled in the flesh in its place.”

Right away you can see that what God took from Adam was a lot more than a small bone. But can this reading be justified? Let us examine other places in the Bible where this Hebrew word is used. We find that it is rendered side in a number of places.

Look at Exodus 25:12. In referring to the rings of gold on the Ark of the Covenant it says “Two rings shall be on one side (tselo – a variant of tsela) and two rings on the other side”. Later in verse 14 it refers to the two “sides” (tselot- the plural form). Exodus 37:3-5 shows this same description of the Ark.

In Exodus 27:7 it refers to “the two sides (tselot) of the altar” upon which staves and rings were attached “to bear it”. Notice that it refers to only two of the altars four sides – the two major sides as opposed to the front and rear. Similar usage occurs in Ex. 38:7. Then in Exodus 26:20, the Hebrew word ul-tsela is used, meaning “and for the side” of the tabernacle. This is the same Hebrew word with two initial letters that have the meaning “and for”. In verse 26 we read of one side (tsela) of the tabernacle and the second side (tsela) of the tabernacle. In verse 35 we see mentioned a table on the south side (tsela) of the tabernacle, referring this time not just to the outer skin of the tabernacle but to its south half. Identical usage occurs in Ex. 36:25,31.

Notice that in each of these accounts there is nothing resembling a rib or pillar like structural member. It refers to an entire side, essentially half, of a structure. This is very different from the notion of Adam’s rib, but let us continue.

In I kings 6:34 we see a description of folding doors consisting of two sides or panels (tsalim – the masculine plural form). These two panels were identical, each comprising half of the assembly. These were part of Solomons temple. At that time this Hebrew word for side began to be used in connection with associated components of the sides of the temple. Chambers or side compartments (tselot) were built along the sides of
the temple (I kings 6:5-6). Also the planks which formed the sides of the most holy place were given the name , batselot, meaning in the sides. Here again we see no hint of the notion of a rib or similar superstructure of any kind.

In Job 18:12 Job refers to “calamities at his side” (la-tselot) and Jeremiah 20:10 speaks of “fear on every side”. It would be ludicrous to speak of fear at every rib.

The only mention which might remotely be construed as anything like a rib is this:

“As David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside ( ba-tsela) and cursed as he went…”. II Sam 16:13.

While The New Brown Driver Briggs Gesenius Hebrew English Lexicon suggests that this is the ridge or the rib of the hill. This seems to be interpretive because this episode could have taken place on one of the sides of the hill as easily as on the ridge of the hill. From the context you simply cannot tell which it was. Because of the preponderance of usage of the word side as the translation, it seems likely that should be the meaning here as well.

We conclude from this analysis that there is no real justification to render the word in Gen. 2:21 as Adam’s rib. Rather, it should be Adam’s side. As a result, a new and bold imagery begins to emerge from Gen. 2:21. What is really meant by the use of the word side? Was it the side of his torso, like a side of beef? Did it include an arm or a leg? Once we are freed from the notion of a rib, what really makes sense here? I suggest that what is meant
here is virtually an entire side or half of Adams body. There are several Hebrew words that express the notion of half, chiefly variants of the verb chatsah, which means to divide. This word is most often used to signify halving a weight or volume or quantity of some substance, whereas the examples we previously mentioned seem to refer to a side, that is a half of an object or structure. That is especially clear in Ex. 20:35, where a table is
located in one side or one half of the tabernacle.

Now consider the implications of this. God literally divided Adam in half to create a woman for him. This is a much more powerful symbol than merely taking a small bone out of his side. Eve was every bit the man Adam was (pardon the pun), in fact in Gen 1:27 it says “In the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” suggesting
complete equality. Eve began, literally, as half of Adam. Even today people sometimes refer to their spouse as their other half or their better half and that seems somehow appropriate. Of course God closed the flesh to restore Adam to wholeness. Though not specifically stated, it is clear God did the same for Eve in the process of fashioning her into a woman. How appropriate the language used in Genesis. The words “bone of my bone”
and “flesh of my flesh” take on new significance. Even the expressions are grammatically symmetrical.

The traditional mythical interpretation of Adams rib is of very long standing. We do not know when it first began, but it is clear that the ancient Hebrews did not understand this episode in the way moderns do. When Genesis and Exodus were written, the concept was one of Adams side, not his rib. Remarkably, we have the testimony of a Jewish authority
of about 2000 years ago on this issue. Philo Judeaus addressed the subject thus: “The letter of this statement is plain enough; for it is expressed according to the symbol of the part, a half of the whole, each party, the man and the woman, being as sections of nature co-equal for the production of that genus which is called man.” (The Works Of Philo, p. 796, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts,) emphasis mine. How clear.

Notice also the Hebrew words usually rendered help meet. This rendering is such an anemic translation for what is being expressed. The expression in Hebrew is azer k’negdo. In every case in the Hebrew Bible the Hebrew word azer means not just assistance, but a significant and substantial kind of help. Look at some examples:

Ezekiel 12:14 Zedekiah had “all those about him to help (azer) him, all his bands.” This is clearly referring to Zedekiah’s armed men.

Daniel 11:34 The expression “helped with a little help” in this context seems also to refer to military intervention.

Isaiah 30:5 This verse refers to seeking help in the form of military protection from the king of Egypt.

All these examples refer to substantial and powerful help or protection, the kind you could get from armed men, not just a little help or hand holding. Continue:

Ex 18:4 “for He (God) was my help.”

Deut. 33:29 “… The Lord, the shield of thy help”

Deut 33:7 “… Be thou (the Lord) a help to him from his enemies.”

In these examples, we see an even more powerful type of help from God himself. It is clear that this was not just help, but real substancial deliverance, there was nothing puny about it. The point is to show that Eve was created as a capable, intelligent, force to be rekoned with. She was every bit as qualified and adept as Adam. This was not simply a “Let me
hold the flashlight for you, Honey” kind of help.

And the Hebrew word K’negdo is charged with meaning as well. It means more than just suitable. It carries the meaning of opposite. She was an opposite to him. This is literally what you would expect since she was formed from his other half or side. Perhaps it would be better to say she was his complement. The two were made to work and fit together.
She was opposite in gender, but opposite in many other ways as well. No man can be married for any length of time without realizing that his wife thinks and behaves in a very different way than he does. She views things very differently, her concerns are quite unlike his. Eve was made to be everything Adam was not. She was his complement.

Now Adam was faced with the realization that he was not unique and he was not alone. To find completeness and wholeness he would want to take a wife. This longing for wholeness is a popular theme in our modern love songs. Ultimately she is the key to the meaning of his life and vice versa. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Gen. 2:24. Neither can be complete
without the other.

So this old story that was once a rather bizarre metaphor, a woman created from a rib, can now be understood to be a powerful, meaningful and beautiful symbol for the most profound relationship in human existence. It is very clear that, in the beginning, God gave woman absolutely equal status with man.

(c)Copyright 1996 by Wayne Simpson
Distributed by the Biblical Research Foundation
629 Lexington Road, Sapulpa, Ok 74066

Reproduction and distribution is permitted provided this copyright notice is left intact on all copies.

Story in a Post-Modern World

We’ve been studying the dominant worldviews in our evening services. Last night was postmodernism. It’s characterized by denial of a diety, absence of absolutes, and a great deal of apathy. Sound like America? Yeah, it’s here, all right.

One of the main tenants caught my eye. In place of a moral compass, post-modernists are very wishy-washy on truth. Truth becomes whatever you say it is. If it’s right for you, it’s truth. The guy with the most power (or a majority) gets to decide the truth for society. They’re very clever at twisting language to say whatever they want it to mean (as is happening to our Constitution and our laws about marriage). This language manipulation, at least on an academic level, is referred to as “story.” Story is whatever you want to make up. Story is truth.

Um, does this make anyone else feel like their standing at the bottom of the Mississippi with a hurricane roaring in? How can anyone keep their footing when so many currents are sucking at them? How do you find a safe place? How do you cling to something real?

I was reminded of the parable of the wise and foolish builders. One built his house on sand and the rains washed it away. The other built on rock, and his house withstood the storms. This is my kind of story. This is my kind of message. It’s the truth I root my own written works in. It is an absolute you can stand on, depend on, no matter what is swirling around you.

Forget standing in the drink. Give me a Rock.

rock

 

Image courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr.

God Bless America? or God-less America?

I came home from a wonderful Cedar Point trip with my family a couple weeks ago only to find the highest court in the land had struck down DOMA. My response? The Supreme Court is in entirely in the wrong. They have not considered (or changed) God’s opinion on the matter. Consider these words taken from the first chapter of Romans (ESV).

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18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

I don’t think I can add much to that. Those are God’s words, not mine. We are a nation founded on Christian principals. We know what’s right and wrong. Homosexuality has long been regarded as sinful, yet Americans have chosen to disregard God’s law, even to pretend there is no God. We’ve explained him away scientifically. We’ve booted him out of schools and the public arena. He no longer has a place in politics though it was his help our founding fathers beseeched in starting this nation. The only time we invoke his name is during times of tragedy. Remember 9/11?

Do we think flaunting God’s law will have no consequences? Do we think just because we close our eyes the lion has disappeared? Foolish Americans!

I believe it was Ruth Graham, wife of famous evangelist Billy Graham, who said, “If God does not judge America, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

I don’t think he’ll be doing any apologizing, do you?

Peace on Earth: Reflections on Christmas, Newtown, and Heaven

christmas

“Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

Christmas is the season when our hearts resonate with these words. We long for wars to end, for humans to demonstrate love, friendship, and understanding toward one another. How many wistful songs are written about this? How many poems and greeting cards? Peace is one of our most basic desires. It’s what the angels promised. But this weekend, in the midst of our seasonal celebration of peace, I wept as a young man opened fire on a room full of first graders.

How do we reconcile such a promise with a world full of Adam Lanzas, Charles Mansons, Adolf Hitlers? We can’t. That promise hasn’t taken effect yet. It was given at the first coming of the Prince of Peace, but it’s fulfillment must wait for Christ’s second coming. When he returns, Jesus Christ will rein for a thousand years. It will be a period unlike any this earth has ever know. Imagine an absolutely perfect ruler with perfect judgement, perfect justice, perfect laws. Yet, the millennial kingdom is only a picture of heaven. There will still be a final rebellion. Only after it is put down, after the wicked are judged and the heavens and earth are renewed will the angel’s prophecy reach it’s complete fulfillment.

I’ve been reading a good deal about heaven lately, and the more I learn, the more I long for it. I’m excited to realize it will be here on earth! The earth was created as the perfect habitat for people, with its atmosphere, water supply, temperature, beauty, and seasons, and that plan has never been revoked. Because Christ inserted himself into his own creation and sacrificed himself for that creation, everything he made will be remade. That redemptive work is much more far reaching than we realize. Every effect of sin will be rectified. Every effect! Anything less would be a victory for Satan.

That means earth will again be “very good,” with no sickness, no death, no drought, with food enough for all and people who will no longer even be tempted to sin. Animals, once created as immortal companions to humanity, will be renewed, gentled, and perfected (yes, I believe that means the original animals). My garden will grow without weeds. Stars, mountains, plants, earth’s natural resources, the food chain, all will revert to God’s original plan. The earth will once again be given to humanity to govern–we won’t fail this time–and the New Jerusalem, God’s own city, will come down to us

That, perhaps, is the most thrilling to me. God will not require us to “go to heaven” as some disembodied spirit doing unfamiliar things in some alien realm. God can exist as such. We cannot. We were created as physical beings, we’ll be resurrected as physical beings, and we will do familiar, physical things in the familiar, physical world that was prepared for us. God will enter our world and make himself accessible to us forever. How absolutely amazing is that?!

Since we will be in bodily form on the renewed earth, I think our heavenly existence will be much like the one we now experience. There will be dining, travel, music, work, leisure, friends, outings, sports, and celebrations. But there will be no sin to mar any of it. No disease. No death. All our separations will be temporary. There will be no famine, no war, no school shootings, not even anger. And we will meet Jesus. Finally, the peace we long for will be realized.

I weep for those who lost children and loved ones this weekend. As a mom with a child the same age as the Newtown victims, my heart is heavy. This world sucks. I have not lost a child, but I live with Crohn’s disease. My son has dyslexia. Marriage is a constant struggle. And my dog just lost a leg to cancer. I’ve experienced the effects of sin firsthand, and I long for their removal. But the promise of heaven is only purchased through Christ’s death and resurrection, and only those who accept his sacrifice for the payment of their sin are eligible to experience it.

If you’ve encountered the Child of Bethlehem, this Christmas you can join me in anticipating the day when “Peace on Earth” will become a reality on earth.

The Blood of Lambs, by Kamal Saleem, 2009, Book Review

If you believe Islam is a peaceful religion, read this book.  If you don’t think radical Muslims are a serious threat to America, read this.  Let a former Muslim Brotherhood terrorist convince you otherwise.   Islam is in America, and it’s growing, and while only 10 percent of Muslims may be considered “radical,” even the seemingly peaceful ones are dancing in the streets when Israel or America suffers a defeat.  Remember 9/11?  Islam is looking to rule the world by Sharia law.  It’s called Omma.  Niceties like freedom, love and neighbors mean nothing.  Islam thrives on terror, power, hatred and lies.  It’s in their book.  When an agenda is written out for us, we should take a lesson from history (Mein Kampf, anyone?) and educate ourselves before it is carried out.

Let’s consider some of the basic tenants of Islam, taken right from the Koran and being taught to children at every devout Muslim table, even “peaceful” ones:

Sura 9:5 “Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them.”
Sura 2:191 “Kill the disbelievers wherever you find them.”
Sura 9:123 “Murder them and treat them harshly.”
Sura 9:5 “Fight and slay the pagans, seize them, harass them, and lie in wait for them with every trick.”
Sura 8:12 “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads.”
 

It’s a friendly, peaceful religion, indeed, when a drop of infidel blood will save 70 family members from hell.  Or when self-sacrifice earns paradise and seventy-two virgins.  Or when you kill a Jew so your right hand will “light up before the throne of Allah, and all his heavenly host will celebrate.”  Or when the enemy’s land and women and children rightfully belong to Muslims to take and use as they will.  Muslim children all over the world are being brainwashed to hate, to attack, to die.  It’s the foundation of their religion.  And did I mention Al toquiah – the doctrine of lying to your enemy for the sake of Islam?  So, are we to believe what Muslim interest groups claim about their peaceful nature?  Quite frankly, I don’t.

Now let’s consider Islamic treatment of women, where a man has complete ownership of his wife.  He may beat her at leisure, divorce her with a word; her testimony is nearly worthless in court.  She may not be educated beyond twelfth grade.  No part of her body may be seen in public besides her eyes, because “women are not strong.  They bring sin to the house.”  Therefore, women must be subjugated completely to a man’s will.  And if a man suspects a wife or daughter of not aligning completely with the laws of Islam, they may dispose of that female in an “honor killing.”  It happens all the time in the Middle East.  It’s happening here.  Google it.  This is Sharia law.

So as Christians, how do we proceed?  I’d say, on an individual basis, treat Muslims with love and respect and kindness.  But on every level of government, proceed with eyes wide open to the motive behind their demands, and act in every single instance for the good of America.  Do not be deceived.