Should We Forgive the Dead?

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” – Isaiah 43:25

What happens if someone wrongs you, and they die before you can forgive them? What happens when someone is a victim of sexual assault, or physical abuse, or infidelity, or lies, or sin; and at the end of an often long period of healing, the person they want to forgive can’t be found or is dead? What happens if you forgive someone and they don’t care? What happens if they don’t change? What happens if your forgiveness doesn’t result in reconciliation?

The bible is full of examples of forgiveness, but sometimes it seems like they’re only relevant when everyone is still alive or accessible. This post will go over what scripture has to say regarding these complicated life questions. The answer to these questions depend upon how God views the living and the dead, and who is really affected by forgiveness.

Who is really affected by forgiveness

When we forgive someone, how are they affected? When God forgives us of our sins, do we change? When Israel sinned against God over and over, Moses asked for God’s forgiveness:

“In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”

– Numbers 14:19-23

Did the people of Israel change because of God’s forgiveness?

When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!”

But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed!”

– Numbers 14:39-41

God’s forgiveness did not change them. They continued to sin. Likewise, even after God forgives you and me, we still experience temptation:

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.'”

– Luke 11:24

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.

– Proverbs 26:11

Forgiveness affects the one who forgives

Forgiveness doesn’t cause repentance or reconciliation. These things are a choice. If they did then Jesus would have never told us to forgive the same person over and over:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!”

– Matthew 18:21-22

Instead, forgiveness caused God to not destroy Moses and all of Israel after they sinned in his holy presence. Forgiveness caused God to not kill King David after he slept with Bathsheba and had her husband killed:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

– 2 Samuel 12:13-14

Forgiveness caused God to relent and not destroy Nineveh after Jonah warned them about their sin:

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

– Jonah 3:10

In all these events, it is the one who forgives that relents and does not give into sin:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

– Ephesians 4:31-32

These negative traits are simply not in the nature of God. He must forgive us to prove his nature of grace and mercy:

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

– Isaiah 43:25

God’s forgiveness of our sins affects him dramatically. In that moment, it becomes his responsibility to blot out our sin. It becomes his choice to relent from wrath and anger, and instead focus on discipline.

With an understanding of who forgiveness really affects, the answer to our original question, “should we forgive the dead?” becomes clear.

For our own sake

“For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”

– Matthew 6:14-15

This is the clearest answer imaginable: Yes we should forgive everyone, including the dead. This has nothing to do with whether the people Jesus is talking about in this verse are alive or dead. This has to do with our nature becoming closer and closer to God’s nature. God forgives for his own sake to prove his righteous nature. Likewise, we should forgive for our own sake, that we do not harbor bitterness, resentment, thoughts of revenge, or sinful anger. We should prove our desire to be more graceful and merciful, as Christians, by forgiving.

God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others. God will not forgive us if we continue to willfully harbor bitterness, wrath, slander, and malice; especially for the dead, who we can never reconcile with. The dead will surely never change, so the only one who has the opportunity to change is us while we still live.

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.

– Psalm 146:4

Forgive so that God can forgive you. God will demonstrate his grace and mercy, and you will have bitterness, sinful anger, slander, and resentment removed piece by piece from your nature.

How can I make sure I forgive everyone?

With the stakes so high, how can we be sure that we’re forgiving everyone, so that God can forgive us? What if we miss someone? What if we can’t remember? And if someone who wronged you died, as time goes on you might forget about them, but not the bitterness or pain that you’ve become accustomed to:

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.

– Ecclesiastes 9:5

If we forget, or miss someone, will God still withhold his forgiveness, as Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15?

No. Jesus exemplifies why God’s forgiveness is not contingent upon our human limitations:

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

– Luke 23:33-34

But when we know full well what we’re doing, seek to forgive. Ask God to reveal opportunities in your life to forgive people while they’re still alive. Anything can happen while people are still living, anything like reconciliation, repentance, and evangelism. Forgiveness is powerful, and showing someone your increasingly graceful and merciful nature can impact them in a similar way Jesus’ life impacts you.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

– Romans 5:8-9

As for the dead who have wronged you, forgive them now and God will forgive you also, as he promised. Your forgiveness of them is for your sake, and in so doing your nature will look more and more like Jesus’ when he forgave you for crucifying him while you were dead in sin:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

– Ephesians 2:1-5

Should we forgive the dead? Jesus forgave us while we were dead in sin. Let us do the same to anyone who has sinned against us, whether they’re alive or dead.

Speaking in Tongues in the Old Testament

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.

‭- Isaiah‬ ‭28:11‬-12

Speaking in tongues is the least understood, least talked about, and, according to Paul, the least important spiritual gift. And yet, entire doctrines are established around it. Its importance is greatly magnified, and we start an unhealthy habit of majoring on the minors. God is telling us quite simply that he is the resting place, but so frequently we don’t listen and dwell on insignificant doctrines to include/exclude ourselves and our neighbors from salvation.

Paul gives us all of the information we need to understand what speaking in tongues means, and the Old Testament gives us an example of it being used. In this post, we’re going to look at what speaking in tongues really looks like, what the sign of tongues is for, and how we can steer back our focus to the simple, powerful message of Christ: he is the resting place.

Are we sure this happens in the Old Testament?

Many commentators will answer this question with a resounding no, and the reason cited it that speaking in tongues only appears after Pentecost. And this would be a convincing argument if all of the spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit only occurred after Pentecost as well. But that’s not true.

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

– 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

Before Pentecost, in the Old Testament, how did Isaiah prophesy? How did Samson destroy the Philistine temple? How did Abraham have faith in God? How did Solomon have such divine wisdom? These feats all come from an indwelling spirit that has been with us since the beginning:

By His Spirit He adorned the heavens;
His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

– Job 26:13

Therefore, speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift that Pentecost didn’t invent. Paul is able to list all of the gifts because he understands what the Holy Spirit has done in the Old Testament.

What does speaking in tongues look like?

What do you imagine when you think about speaking in tongues? Most likely you think about ecstatic utterances, unintelligible words, or the speaking of a heavenly language.

The thing is, there is no mention of a heavenly language in the Bible, no scripture that shows this being used through the Holy Spirit. When we see the word tongues used in the New Testament, the original Greek word is γλῶσσα, transliterated as glossa, it has two meanings depending on the very simple context of either anatomy or language:

1)  The tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech

2) The language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.

– Strong’s Concordance, reference #1100

Wherever you see the word tongues in the New Testament, it means either the physical tongue, or a human, natural language. This is the word the original authors of the Bible chose to use. Therefore, at Pentecost, the apostles spoke human languages:

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

– Acts 2:4-8

Jesus, who exemplifies all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t use ecstatic utterances or a heavenly language ever. But he speaks in foreign languages:

We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

– Acts 26:14-15

Do you really think we can do more than what Jesus did? More than the apostles? More than what the Holy Spirit provides?

Is speaking in tongues a sign of salvation?

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.

– 1 Corinthians 14:22

We always want more signs that we’re saved! Everyone wants a sign. Everyone wants something tangible to prove they’re saved. Everyone wants a sign that God is real, that Jesus is God, and that their baptism worked. Jesus was so sick of this sentiment:

“Evil and unfaithful people look for a miraculous sign. But the only sign they will be given is that of Jonah.”

Then he left them standing there and went away.

– Matthew 16:4

The only sign we’re given for our salvation is the sign of Jonah, the sign of a transformed life. Is a broken, sinful life, transformed in Christ and renewed in righteousness not enough for us? Speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers, not a sign for believers to validate themselves.

Is speaking in tongues okay without interpretation?

Does speaking in tongues without anyone to interpret build up the church?

Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.

So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

– 1 Corinthians 14:9-12

The Old Testament shows us a real-world example of speaking in another language, in a way that builds up the church through both the tongues and the interpreter:

Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.

– Daniel 5:8-9

You did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

This is the inscription that was written:

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN

Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

– Daniel 5:24-28

Here, God himself uses tongues! And Daniel interprets. Imagine if God wrote those words and Daniel never interpreted them. It would have been meaningless. Even still, God wasn’t using a secret, heavenly language. He used Aramaic, which the king couldn’t understand, to allow his prophet an audience to speak.

So many of us believe that speaking in tongues without anyone understanding is from God. Paul says otherwise:

For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

– 1 Corinthians 14:13-14

When you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?

You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

– 1 Corinthians 14:16-17

Should we actively seek to speak in tongues?

Paul, who could speak many different languages, says this:

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

– 1 Corinthians 14:18-19

And he further continues to place far more importance on apostles, prophets, and teachers in the church, than in the spiritual gift of speaking foreign languages:

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

– 1 Corinthians 12:38-41

What should we focus on?

This is the great issue I mentioned at the beginning of this post: majoring on the minors. Paul uses Isaiah to explain why tongues are a sign strictly for unbelievers, and how it’s childish to think that it’s an ecstatic utterance of a made-up, meaningless language that no one can interpret:

Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law it is written:

“With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers.

– 1 Corinthians 14:20-22

The law quoted is from Isaiah, who faced a similar issue. Isaiah shared the message of God, and the response of Ephraim and Judah was childish. “Who is he trying to teach?” They mock. “To children weaned from their milk?” Isaiah writes:

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.

So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there— so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured.”

– ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭28:11-13‬

God has but one simple message for us today on the topic of tongues: This is the resting place, let the weary rest. But so many of us see God’s word and see “Do this, do that” or “follow all these rules” and they become snared and captured. They focus on the tongues, they focus on the signs, and it distracts from the entire purpose of Christ’s message. After death when we face judgement, God won’t ask if we ever spoke in tongues. The thief on the cross didn’t speak in tongues. Instead, when we die, God will say this:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

– Matthew 25:34-36

The Drumroll of Death

Detracting from my usual content, this post will go one of three pieces of art that I’ve created in response to my church’s current series on Genesis. I thought of three of the most impactful passages we’ve covered, and I interpreted what they mean to me visually. This post is about the Drumroll of Death in Noah’s genealogy.

The Bible has many genealogies listed out, and usually we gloss over them because they’re boring or repetitive. But the thing is, there’s a message in all of scripture, even the genealogies. They’re not just historical accounts, they speak to the reality we face every day. Noah’s genealogy is no exception. Consider a small snippet from his lineage:

After the birth of Seth, Adam lived another 800 years, having more sons and daughters. Adam lived a total of 930 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:5

When Seth was 105 years old, he had Enosh. After Seth had Enosh, he lived another 807 years, having more sons and daughters. Seth lived a total of 912 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:6-8

When Enosh was ninety years old, he had Kenan. After he had Kenan, he lived another 815 years, having more sons and daughters. Enosh lived a total of 905 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:9-11

When Kenan was seventy years old, he had Mahalalel. After he had Mahalalel, he lived another 840 years, having more sons and daughters. Kenan lived a total of 910 years. And he died. – Genesis 5:12-14

This continues on and on. And he died, and he died, and he died. Adam’s life, the first human being, is reduced to a simple statement in the end: “and he died.” The only thing of note to happen in this genealogy is Enoch, who walked faithfully with God, and is described to have been “suddenly taken away.” No one else is mentioned to have walked with God, or accomplished anything noteworthy of God’s story. This lineage continues on and on, it is a drumroll of death. One after another, eventually everyone succumbs. All around us today, people live and die. It’s a sad reality that most people do not walk faithfully with God. Is this all there is to life? Living and dying over and over for countless generations?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. – Genesis 6:8

Suddenly, a new name appears with a long, impactful story. After hundreds of years, a man named Noah finds favor in the eyes of God.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. – Genesis 6:9

In that generation, only Noah walked with God. In our generation, will we be a part of the sea and the drumroll of death? Or will we walk with God? My family experienced a lot of loss over the past couple of years, so this topic was not an easy one. Yet there is a light and encouragement that our lives can have an incredibly fulfilling purpose in Jesus Christ. When we die, will our work preach righteousness?

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” -Luke 17:26

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;

If he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness;

If he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

And if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard);

If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. – 2 Peter 2:4-9

There is an uncountable sea of people throughout history that did not walk with God, and it’s a sobering thought. I wanted to convey the seriousness of this through something visibly dark and eerie. Noah amongst the sea of godlessness and sin throughout the history of the world, The Drumroll of Death:

Why did it have to be Myrrh?

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

Pictured above are Myrrh trees, and behind them are some pivotal elements surrounding the answer to the question in this blog post. During Christmas, we often recite the story of Christ’s birth, including the gifts that the Magi gave: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But why these gifts? The reason for each of these gifts are often purely speculative, such as drawing parallels with gold and the Magi’s acknowledgement that Jesus is King, or frankincense and Exodus 30’s specific requirements for the altar of God. But what about myrrh? John says the following after Jesus’ death:

Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

– John 19:39

We know that culturally, myrrh was used to prepare bodies for burial. We also know that myrrh, like frankincense, was included in Exodus 30 as a main ingredient in anointing oil to prepare priests. Is that why the Magi brought myrrh? If that was the only reason, you might think they would also have brought aloes. But this is all speculation. Is there something more concrete? Is there possibly more to this than tradition? We’re going to go through several points in order to build up a hypothesis as to why the Magi used specifically myrrh as a gift to Jesus. I believe myrrh can serve as a great reminder of truth, and as a great warning.

What we know

Daniel, a prophet from Babylon, east of Israel, is given the exact date Jesus would be born in Daniel 9, by Gabriel (see this post for more information)

The Magi also came from the east, and had to have known about Daniel’s prophecy in order to have shown up on Herod’s doorstep at the right time:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

– Matthew 2:1-2

Isaiah prophesizes the detailed events surrounding Jesus’ life and death in Isaiah 53 (and many other chapters as well)

The Magi are clearly well versed in Old Testament scripture, having known about Daniel, and even quoting Micah as their justification for looking in Bethlehem:

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:”

– Matthew 2:5

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.

Micah 5:2

Therefore, I believe we can assume that they also knew about one of the most prevalent prophets of the Old Testament: Isaiah. And more specifically, one of Isaiah’s prophecies:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

This assumption is further backed by the fact that people from all over the world knew about the book of Isaiah during this time:

So Philip started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.

– Acts 8:27-28

Even more interestingly, the eunuch was also reading a passage from Isaiah 53. The next point helps to show why this prophecy about Jesus’ crucifixion, which I’m asserting that the Magi understood, is so important for understanding the use of myrrh.

Myrrh was culturally significant to the region, and the process to harvest it is incredibly symbolic

Water that flowed from Roman aqueducts was not potable. It was full of bacteria, and would make anyone sick. So what was the solution? Vinegar or wine was added frequently, but also myrrh. Myrrh served as an excellent antiseptic. So can the symbolism come from the fact that myrrh turns bad water into drinkable water? If that was all of it, you’d think the Magi would have given Jesus vinegar and wine, which was significantly cheaper, but they gave him myrrh. Why?

Another good speculative reason is that this was a way that God helped finance Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt immediately after the Magi’s visit, via them selling the gifts. Could it be anything else? Anything more convicting? In our previous point, Isaiah said that Jesus would be pierced for our transgressions.

Myrrh being harvested

In order to harvest myrrh, the tree’s bark must be cut, and the myrrh resin is then collected. The very act of piercing a myrrh tree causes it to release a substance that gives life to dangerous water.

Putting it all together

Jesus, pierced for our transgressions, brings life giving water to us through his sacrifice. When his body was stabbed, after he had died on the cross, he let out blood and water:

One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

– John 19:34

On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

– Zechariah 13:1

Myrrh treated water and made it potable in Jesus’ time. Myrrh was expensive and could help pay for many needs for a new family. Myrrh trees must be pierced to let out this incredibly interesting, life-giving substance. Any yet, myrrh is not enough:

Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

– Mark 15:23

They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

– Psalm 69:21

(Gall is a bitter substance created with myrrh)

So were the Magi consciously giving myrrh as a gift to Jesus in reference to Isaiah’s prophecy? Did they only give it because they knew Christ would be pierced like the myrrh tree? We’ll never know the true answer, but I believe it’s no coincidence that myrrh is harvested in this specific way. I believe it’s no coincidence that myrrh transforms water physically, as Jesus transforms water spiritually. At the very least, the Magi’s gift of myrrh can serve as a great reminder of what is necessary to turn our broken, dead lives, into eternal life.

I am the real fruit tree. My Father is the One who takes care of the tree. He takes away from me every branch that does not bear fruit. And he cleans every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. What I said to you has made you clean already.

– John 15:1-3

A warning

I believe this message about myrrh also serves another purpose: a warning. There’s a reason Jesus didn’t accept the wine mixed with myrrh on the cross. It would have dulled the pain, and made everything easy. Jesus needed to suffer and to take on our punishments. He needed to die in this way to fulfill our ransom, and to buy our freedom from sin. In life, we face the easy way out constantly. We’re given a choice every day to dull our pain, whether it’s with alcohol, work, or other addictions that try to fill the void in our life.

At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice.
I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense

Out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent…

She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said…

“Today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter.

– Proverbs 7:6-22

There are people and things that will look ok, they’ll have all the right religious boxes checked off, like this Proverbs’ woman’s fellowship offering. But it is a wide road that many follow, and it leads to death. Myrrh, like all other things in life, cannot save us. But it is a great reminder of the truth: nothing can transform our souls except for Christ’s life-giving water. Only Jesus can save us. Myrrh is a reminder of the cost of Christ’s life-giving sacrifice, and a warning that there is no substitute for Jesus’ gift.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

– Matthew 7:13-14

Moses & Communion

“Among those who approach me, I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people, I will be honored.”

– Leviticus 10:3

Why is communion so dangerous? Paul says the following:

So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

– 1 Corinthians 11:27

Communion is an extensively practiced tradition in Christianity, and is a constant in almost every denomination. It holds great importance to many, and the apostles viewed it as a very special event. I’ve written about Communion in the Old Testament, and believe there is a lot of eternal meaning behind it besides simply eating some bread and drinking some wine. But why is it dangerous?

Paul’s verse merely points out the fact that it’s dangerous, but it doesn’t give us the why. What does unworthiness look like for us, if we’re all sinners anyway, and therefore are unworthy by nature? What is the consequence for sinning against the body and blood of the Lord? Why do some pastors ask that unbelievers not partake in communion? What does Moses have to do with communion and fire?

The Series of Fire

This is Part 2 of my Series of Fire that focuses on three of the most important uses of fire in the Bible: Baptism, Communion, and the image of God & Man. This post is all about communion, and how it relates to fire. If you’ve missed Part 1, you can read it here. In this post, I’m going to break down Moses’ experience with communion, and how he uniquely experienced the dangers and death surrounding God’s sacred fire, so that we can have an excellent example of what Paul means by unworthiness.

Moses

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command.

So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

– Leviticus 10:1-2

This is a fatal and stunning start to a chapter in Leviticus. God quickly establishes the danger of unworthiness. Moses has an immediate response:

Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:
‘Among those who approach me, I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people, I will be honored.'”

Aaron remained silent.

– Leviticus 10:3

When Moses says “this is what the Lord spoke of,” take note that he’s not quoting any previous scripture. He’s quoting from experience and divine revelation, which seem obvious to us today in hindsight, considering all of the rules and regulations God laid out for the Israelites to follow. This revelation from God is the center-point of Paul’s warning about communion. God will be proved holy when approached in an unworthy manner. This is the power of God’s fire, and the consequence of unfamiliar fire.

I said that Moses was speaking from experience and divine revelation. When we encounter biblical quotations that don’t come from anywhere directly, it can often be found in many ways through earlier experiences. In this case, Moses has prior experience with the dangers of communing with God’s fire. We’re going to spend most of our time looking at Moses’ communion. This will show how Moses knew that Aaron’s sons were experiencing the same thing, but unworthily as Paul would put it.

Moses & Communion

In my post, Communion in the Old Testament (which I encourage you to read if you’d like a more in-depth look), I defined communion as an event that involves three things:

  1. Being present with a mediator
  2. Remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God
  3. Remembering a covenant with God

In my Old Testament post, I identified Abraham as having communion through Melchizedek, and fulfilling these three requirements. How does Moses fit into this? When does Moses possibly fulfill these requirements? Let’s go through each of the three points.

Being present with a mediator

The Israelites were afraid of God, and rightly so. Moses is the mediator between God and man for this reason. Read what they say to him after the ten commandments are given:

“The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”

– Deuteronomy 5:24-27

This was the easy one. Let’s take a look at the next tenants of communion:

Remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

– Exodus 24:9-11

This has always been such an astounding passage to me. Moses and the elders saw God. They ate and drank in the presence of God himself. This fulfills #2, remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. How does it fulfill this requirement? Let’s answer another question first.

Why were they allowed to see God? Isn’t this a clear contradiction of scripture? Not so far away in another passage does God say to Moses:

“You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

– Exodus 33:20

And this is very true. No one can see God the Father and live. In fact, no one can even come to the Father except through the Son. So how does Moses’ experience work? Jesus explains:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

– John 14:6-7

The Pre-Incarnate Christ, something that I’ve covered a little in another post, is evidenced by Moses and the Elders being able to see God in a very special way. To eat with Jesus is to eat with the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To see Jesus is to see the Father.

We live and breathe by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It is Jesus himself that keeps Moses and the Elders alive. It is not our carefulness, not our righteousness, not our ability to avert our eyes when God’s mere presence could kill us. Jacob acknowledges this when he see’s the Father through the Pre-Incarnate Jesus:

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

– Genesis 32:30

Remembering a covenant with God

Then Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

– Exodus 24:5-7

In this passage, Moses has the blood of the covenant prepared from sacrifices, and everyone agrees to this covenant. Sound familiar? Moses is almost directly quoting Jesus during the Last Supper. This blood, poured out through sacrifice, represents the covenant. And with this, we’ve completed all three of the requirements for Moses’ communion: Moses as the mediator, the elders seeing God and living, and the blood of the covenant used in remembrance of the event.

Communion & Fire

Moses’ experience communing with God exemplifies such an astounding act of faith. If anyone was sitting at that table in Exodus 24:9 in an unworthy manner, God would be proved holy. But the message for us isn’t about being afraid of practicing the Judaic law in the correct manner. The message is about our attempts in life to supplant our precious time with God. Nadab and Abihu had such a unique responsibility, and they gave up the regulations to make it easier. They wanted their own fire to be used. They wanted to do it their way.

Communing with God is something we as Christians can uniquely partake in. When Paul talks about the danger, we’re not going to get burned up in the literal sense. Imagine the Old Testament showing the reality of what our soul is going through every time we sin. Every time we disobey God, he must be proved holy.

Though this seems grim, the blessing and grace we have is that the same consequences Nadab and Abihu faced, we will not face if we follow Christ. You see, it was Jesus who was burned by this fire of communion. It was Jesus who appeared before God in an unworthy manner by becoming sin itself:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

– Matthew 27:46

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

– Galatians 3:13

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

– 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus suffered and died because we approach God in an unworthy manner with our sin, and God will be proved holy. But he was raised from the dead so that we could live as well. The next time you commune with God through prayer, traditional communion, or another way, do not forget what Jesus has suffered because of your own fire, or your unworthiness. Stop bringing your own fire in idolatry to God like Nadab and Abihu, and start looking to God’s fire like the Thessalonians, look to the Messiah:

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

– 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

What is Baptism by Fire?

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – Matthew 3:11

Fire is used to describe some integral elements of Christianity in the Bible: Baptism, God, communion, sacrifice, tribulation, and much more. Fire brings out powerful imagery: it’s hot, consuming, and quite dangerous. But is it just that? A metaphor? Or is it much more real? Why does God use fire so much? Why is God fire? Why should we care about what fire represents?

The Series of Fire

This is the beginning of a series of posts about three of the most important uses of fire in the Bible: Baptism, Communion, and the image of God & Man. This post will cover baptism, and we’ll continue on with the rest later.

Why does this topic matter?

I have but one compelling reason for why the meaning of fire in the Bible matters:

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. – Deuteronomy 4:24

And this is why you should care:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:28-29

This verse in Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy, and gives us a reason as to why it’s important to care about God as fire. Let us be thankful, and worship God in reverence and awe, because he is fire. If we want to continue our growing relationship with God, and learn more about him, fire opens the door to new understanding about his nature. The use of fire to describe baptism is our first topic, and explains God’s behavior towards his followers, and how we can affirm our salvation.

Baptism with Fire

To begin, I’d like to reiterate the starting verse from this post, and beyond:

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Matthew 3:11-12

Many commentators believe baptism by fire refers to the Pentecost, or the final judgement of God, or the energy of the spirit of ministry. But I’m going to go through scripture that will show otherwise.

I’ve written about baptism in the past, especially from the perspective of the Old Testament. You can read that post here. But here we’re covering what the fire is that is mentioned in Matthew. What does it mean to be baptized with fire? From my Old Testament post, we’re given a glimpse of what baptism looks like from an invisible, spiritual sense, given Elijah’s sacrifice being consumed by fire from God, among other examples. But this only helps us see what’s happening, it only helps us symbolize baptism even more. What’s really happening when we’re baptized with fire?

Clearing the Threshing Floor

In Matthew, we see that God will clear his threshing floor, and separate the wheat from the chaff in unquenchable fire. Where else do we see this activity from God? Where else does God take the worthless parts and separate them from the good?

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.

Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. – Malachi 3:2-4

If you’re understanding where this is going, here’s another example that doesn’t use fire, but gardening:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” – John 15:1-2

Pruning and cutting off are great examples of the refiner’s fire from a different perspective. Does that mean that the refiner’s fire is baptism by fire? How could that be possible? Isn’t baptism a one-time thing? A refining fire takes time, right?

Man’s Fleeting Attempt vs. God’s Eternal Solution

Sacrifice in the Old Testament needed to be done many times. It never worked permanently. It never lasted long enough. As with man’s attempt to cover sin with the blood of animals, man’s attempt at baptism with water has the same affect: it doesn’t last for eternity, and lacks the power of God’s fire. Baptism with water is a symbolic, one-time event that doesn’t take very long to accomplish. John the Baptist acknowledged that who he was, and therefore the baptisms with water he facilitated, would never compare to God’s baptism:

“But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” – Matthew 3:11

Not even worthy to carry the sandals of Jesus. Imagine the overwhelming power of God’s baptism of fire compared to the symbolic water we use. Water is a fleeting, temporary symbol that gives us a chance to outwardly declare our relationship with God. But baptism with fire happens over the course of our relationship with God, and is a personal sign of our salvation. We cannot fake baptism by fire. There is no substitute.

 “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:6-7

Baptism by fire is proof of our faith when we persevere. Being put in the refiner’s fire means that God has chosen you, and he wants to change your life. Just as Jesus’ sacrifice had eternal ramifications, so persevering through baptism with fire ensures a lifelong relationship with God, whereby the outcome is a wholly transformed life.

“Rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” – Romans 5:3-5

Does this mean that once you suffer through a trial, or succeed in the midst of persecution, God is done putting you through the refiner’s fire? Does this mean that your baptism by fire is finished?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. – Philippians 2:12

While our lives are transformed in Christ, that doesn’t mean we’re suddenly perfect people. Today salvation can come to you, but the lifelong relationship you have with God will always continue to grow, and you must always work out your salvation. Even Paul acknowledged that he still had a long ways to go!

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. – Philippians 3:12

The trials we experience are continued signs of our salvation when we persevere through them. Even Jesus experienced trials in his life! This is something that is completely necessary:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” – James 1:2-4,12

Wrapping It Up

So what are the succinct characteristics of baptism by fire? How can we really nail down a definition of what it truly means?

Baptism by Fire is:

  • Something we cannot do with water (Matthew 3:11)
  • Proof of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
  • God’s refining fire (Malachi 3:2)
  • A lifelong journey to transform us (Philippians 3:12)
  • The most powerful way to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12)

If you are being baptized by fire, the sinful parts of your life will be burned away, and righteousness will take over. It won’t be easy, but it has the reward of securely knowing that you are saved, and have been baptized, not by John, but by someone who is worthy: God himself.

The key is that baptism by fire is not something you can do. In fact, no human will ever be capable of doing this. Only God can choose you, and only God can baptize you with fire. Only God can initiate the tests of your faith, and give you hope in your perseverance. Only God can prove your salvation. Only God can transform your life through the refiner’s fire. If you still believe that baptism with water is enough, if you still believe that baptism with water can save you, imagine the water poured out on Elijah’s sacrifice:

He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” – 1 Kings 18:33

The water certainly had its symbolic place in the sacrifice. But how much power does it have over our salvation? Let’s continue:

“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. – 1 Kings 18:34-35

Even man’s sacrifices couldn’t cover our sins eternally. Do you think water has the power to transform our lives?

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. – 1 Kings 18:38

The water is nothing compared to God’s fire. Baptism by fire is the Holy Spirit enveloping you, changing you, and saving you throughout your entire life and relationship with God. Now, don’t discount the water completely. Baptism with water is a good outward symbol we can use to declare that we are followers of Christ, but baptism with fire is the truth and reality of our lifelong, maturing salvation. God’s fire will consume the water, as it did with Elijah’s sacrifice.

In the next post in this series, we’ll be covering communion, a deeper look into the nature of God’s fire, and why God is both divine and dangerous.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17

The Warfare of Forgetfulness & Dementia in the Bible

They did not remember the abundance of God’s steadfast love… 
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

– Psalms 106:7-8

Do you feel like it’s hard to remember important things? Do you keep getting distracted from positive goals that you have? Can you recall the last sermon you heard in church? Do you remember the last thing God did for you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re suffering from spiritual warfare on multiple fronts. This warfare of forgetfulness comes at us in many forms, and one extremely powerful form is dementia. Other forms are simply a lack of discipline, or procrastination, or things that are less physical.

In this post, we’re going to look at what type of spiritual warfare is used to cause our forgetfulness. We’ll then look at the hope that comes in the midst of these difficult circumstances, such as dementia, and the possibility of forgetting who God is.

The Angles of Attack

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown

– Matthew 13:3-8

In this parable, Jesus outlines the three ways we are attacked. And if we lose to any of them, we’ll begin to forget about God in different capacities. But this parable is difficult to understand. The disciples knew this:

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

– Matthew 13:10

So let’s go through these and how they relate to forgetfulness, and dementia.

In One Ear, and Out the Other

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

– Matthew 13:19

The first angle of attack focuses on our vulnerability to Satan. When faced with something good and positive, Godly and righteous, it may simply not even register with us at all. It goes in one ear, and out the other. This is almost worse than forgetfulness in itself, because we likely won’t even recognize it in the first place. And yet, it’s still a problem that revolves around memory.

In the case of someone having dementia, or other cognitive issues, it’s likely that when you interact with them, there’s times when they’re unresponsive, or completely confused by what you’re saying. So confused, that nothing really registers. We can blame dementia, or another ailment, or the individual themself. But know that regardless of the disease or circumstance, if someone hears the truth of God and it doesn’t make sense to them, Jesus is very clear that it’s because Satan has taken it away before it can grow.

For the ultimate example of this angle of attack, recall that when face to face with truth itself, Jesus Christ, Pilate simply didn’t get it, and said:

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

– John 18:38

One last piece of this attack is our outright defiance of God. Refusal to follow God almost doesn’t even seem like an example of forgetfulness, because we know exactly what we’re doing. But nonetheless, defiance of God is ultimately a willful act of not remembering God’s works:

They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law, and forgot His works, and His wonders that He had shown them.

– Psalms 78:10-11

God Won’t Let Me Forget!

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

– Matthew 13:20-21

You might believe that if you have enough faith in God, and truly believe in him, he won’t let you forget about him. But scripture is clear that trials and harm do certainly come to Christians. This fact is built into the parable:

When trouble or persecution comes because of the word

It doesn’t say if it comes, but when. So what is this angle of attack on forgetfulness? Troubles, pain, and blame. Our pain can overtake our memory of God’s sovereignty. Here’s an example of this happening:

How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness!

– Job 29:2-3

In this example, Job is lamenting on his troubles. So much so, that he becomes forgetful. What did he forget? That God is still watching over him.

This attack on our memory is dangerous, because we fall down a path of negativity, self pity, and loneliness. These are all things that are in opposition to righteous behavior. But this is also an extremely common cause of forgetfulness in general. If you find yourself forgetting Godly things, is it because of painful situations that you’re in right now? It’s easy to lose sight of God when we’re suffering:

How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy.

– Psalm 78:40-42

It grieves God when we forget about him while we’re in the wilderness of our life. God’s always right there, but when we succumb to this spiritual attack, we can’t see him, and we forget about him.

I Have Better Things to Do

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

– Matthew 13:22

The last form of attack on our memory comes from prosperity, and is often the opposite of the seed that dries in the sun, which comes from persecution and the troubles of life. When everything is going well in life, and we’re comfortable, we can feel like we just don’t need God anymore:

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.

– Deuteronomy 8:11-13

Are you going to Church, but come home and forget all about it? When was the last time you prayed alone? Are you not keeping up with your relationships like you used to? Are you not reaching out to family as much? When churches were mostly virtual, did you stop bothering with it altogether? This is because your prosperity, and focus on worldly growth is choking your righteousness:

Israel’s watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, every one for his own gain, from his own territory.

“Come,” one says, “I will bring wine, And we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; Tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant.”

– Isaiah 56:10-12

What Can We Do?

This is all very troubling, and I fall prey to these forms of forgetfulness a lot. It seems bleak, like there’s nothing we can possibly do! And that’s just it. We can try as hard as we can, but we’ll still forget. We can have the strongest mind on earth, but then later in life have dementia, and our strong mind will deteriorate against our will, and we’ll forget.

What happens to those who have dementia and forget about God, who forget about their own salvation? What happens to those who forget God during their persecution? What happens to those who forget God during in their prosperity? Can God fix my memory?

If you’re concerned with your own dementia, or someone else’s, know that God is mightier than the minds of all people, and saves us for the sake of showing his true character and power:

They did not remember the abundance of God’s steadfast love…
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

– Psalms 106:7-8

God is the author of our minds, and the resurrection of Christ overpowers our forgetfulness so much, that what we forget can be turned into something fruitful:

Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 3:13-14

Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house. And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

– Genesis 41:51-52

While God has taken care of our salvation, we can exhibit fruitful change in our lives while our minds are still able. Here are some simple solutions to help fight against the three angles of attack on our memory:

Birds Eating the Seeds

The closer you are in alignment with God’s will, the harder it is to have the truth taken from you. Nonetheless, dementia can make our strong minds very weak. Before she died in 2017, my grandma had signs of dementia, and was forgetting about a lot of things. But the power of God is so far beyond this, and she never forgot her favorite Bible verse:

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You.

– Isaiah 26:3

Keep your mind on God, and those birds will have a very difficult time picking up the seeds of truth in your life.

Seeds Drying in the Sun

Persecution is certainly difficult to endure, but know this:

No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

– Proverbs 12:21

The righteous are never overtaken. Know that in the beginning, Job responded righteously to his trials:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

– Job 1:20-22

Pray often to God, and remember the common destiny of the righteous and the wicked:

All share a common destiny–the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.

– Ecclesiastes 9:2

Know that there are great and good things that come from persecution:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

– Romans 5:3-4

Seeds Choked by Thorns

Humility is the key to this attack, and constant reliance on God. One of the most powerful ways to not be choked by the world, is to fast. Fasting removes all distractions, even food, and forces us to focus entirely on God, and shut everything else out. This is us “forgetting” about the world, and remembering the only thing that matters.

A wonderful example of this is Esther, who had a great position of influence, power, and worldly things. But when the time came to return to God, she fasted to remove these thorns in her life:

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

– Esther 4:15-16

If All Else Fails

If you can’t remember to do these things, you have one option left: God’s memory. Pray to God to remember you, beg him to not forget about you. Because a day is coming when we will all be judged, and Christ will reveal his own memory about you:

Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you.

– Matthew 7:22-23

Pray to God like the thief on the cross spoke to Jesus:

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

– Luke 23:42-43

Pray to God like Samson, after failing to follow God’s commands and getting captured:

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

– Judges 16:28

Pray to God like Nehemiah:

Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out my loyal deeds which I have performed for the house of my God and its services.

– Nehemiah 13:14

Pray to God like Hezekiah, before nearly dying to his disease:

Remember me, Lord,” he said, “how I have walked in your presence with integrity, with an undivided heart, and I have accomplished what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept deeply.

– 2 Kings 20:3

And finally, I’ll conclude this topic with the Psalmist’s prayer, which includes the verse at the very beginning of this post:

Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.

– Psalms 106:4-8

Who is the Pontius Pilate in Your Life?

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” – John 19:10

Have you been in a situation where you have no advocate? No friends to help you? No one to look out for you? Have you had a job where everyone around you takes every chance they get to put you down? Are you in a family that pushes you out and has never been there for you?

A Piece of Jesus’ Life

I believe that we all will experience pieces of Jesus’ life at various points in our own life. God calls us to conform to Christ, and so the more we become like him, the more our life reflects his own.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. – Colossians 1:15

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:29

The spiritual gifts allow us, at the right time, to perform miraculous feats of healing, prophecy, wisdom, and more, just like Jesus throughout his life. We can even experience his death and resurrection in parts of our own lives. We can experience his baptism, his communion, and his Church family. So if we can experience all of this, what about his meeting with Pontius Pilate before his crucifixion?

If you are facing a situation where you will meet a Pontius Pilate in your life, just like Jesus, there are several things to look out for.

Alone Near the End

Before Jesus was brought to Pilate, he was battered and bruised, beaten and rejected by everyone in authority:

“What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” – Matthew 26:66-67

All of his friends abandoned him:

“But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. – Matthew 26:56

Then Peter began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” – Matthew 26:74

Does this mean you’re going to be physically hurt, and literally rejected by absolutely everyone? Maybe yes, maybe no. Let’s consider the reality of the situation and how it can apply to you, if you’re not a missionary or in a situation that would cause you to be persecuted.

When the end is near for a job you have, or a social change, or anything that could dramatically shift your current situation, there’s going to be a period of loneliness before you face your Pontius Pilate. At work, you probably have coworkers you consider friends, or people that might look out for you or mentor you. But then things are going to get tough. The work you’ve done will start to be used against you:

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. – Matthew 26:59

And even if your work is squeaky clean, always on time, always doing a good job, it’s not going to matter:

But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. – Matthew 26:60

No Advocate

If you have coworkers, family, or friends that speak up for you when you’re under attack like this, that’s a wonderful thing, however it means that you’re not going to face a Pontius Pilate in this situation. You’re experiencing something similar to King David. When he was facing betrayal, like Jesus, he went to the mount of Olives:

But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. Now David had been told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” So David prayed, “Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.” When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. – 2 Samuel 15:30-32

But unlike Jesus, King David was not alone. And David didn’t face a Pontius Pilate. But what if you’re about to face what Jesus faced? Your coworkers, friends, advocates, or leaders will be silent. And I’m not talking about everyone, I’m talking about people who have the ability to change your situation.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? – Isaiah 53:8

I know it seems bleak, but it’s a grim reality that if you want to be more like Christ, there will be times when you’re going to experience parts of his life. And this is certainly a sad, lonely part of his life.

So the work you’ve done won’t save you, your friends won’t advocate for you, and your leaders are out to get you. Where does Pontius Pilate come in?

Pilate’s Characteristics

The Pontius Pilate you will face near the end of your particular situation will have several characteristics:

1. You’re not the only one they’re affecting

There are many religious sects that advocate for Pilate’s righteousness, for a number of reasons. But make no mistake, he was a wicked man, and he did not serve God. But the commonality you’ll find in your Pontius Pilate, and Jesus’, is that they’re hurting more people than they know, and you’re not the first:

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. – Luke 13:1

2. Inability to see the truth

In the parable of the Sower, Jesus mentions that one seed, eaten by crows, represents the following:

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. – Matthew 13:19

Your Pontius Pilate will not understand the truth. They will be staring directly at the truth and say:

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. – John 18:38

This means there’s nothing you can say, nothing you can do, that will change their mind. So how do you respond?

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. – Isaiah 53:7

3. Desire to Humiliate

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” – John 19:10

Lording their power over you is another clear sign that they’re a Pontius Pilate in your life. And the reality is that they do have authority over you. In a job, they’re likely your boss. In a family, maybe a parent or head of a household. Either way, Jesus acknowledges the authority Pilate truly does have, given to him by God:

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” – John 19:11

4. They’re facing internal conflict

While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” – Matthew 27:19

In the reality of Jesus’ situation, there was a lot of spiritual warfare going on with Pilate’s wife. If she succeeded in convincing him to let Jesus go, there would have been no crucifixion. Satan tried many, many times to delay and stop the sacrifice, but ultimately it all failed. If you’re facing a Pontius Pilate, they’re going to be facing a lot of conflict and spiritual warfare surrounding any number of things in their life. They will be full of fear, confusion, disillusion, or apathy and denial.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. – John 19:1

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” – John 19:4

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. – John 19:16

What Do We Do?

Ultimately, we know Pilate ordered Jesus to be crucified. What does this mean for us, when we face a Pontius Pilate in our own life? What happens in the end?

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. – Isaiah 53:9

If we’re following Jesus’ path, we’ll die to our situation, our job, our family, or whatever we’re facing. It will end, we can’t stop it, and it won’t be easy. But the hope is what lies beyond Pilate. Pilate didn’t give us salvation, Pilate didn’t raise Jesus from the dead. The Pilate in your life cannot save you from the situation you’re in. When you die to your job, your family, your situation, someone will pull you out and into a new job, a renewed relationship with family, a new situation.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. – Isaiah 53:11

But before this happens, before the end of your situation comes, there’s two things you need to do when facing your Pontius Pilate:

1. Forgive the people who didn’t advocate for you, forgive the people who wronged you, and forgive your Pontius Pilate

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

Don’t harbor resentment, don’t hold anything against them, don’t lash out, just forgive them.

2. Ask God to deliver you from this situation, but commit yourself to his will if you are meant to suffer through it

At any point, God could have a plan to take you out before you face your Pontius Pilate. At any point, your friends could advocate for you like with King David. At any point, your Pontius Pilate could see the truth and change the situation. But that may not be in God’s plan for you. Do what Jesus did and ask God to save you now if it’s his will:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:42

But if you’re meant to go through it all to the end, commit yourself to it. These were the final words of Jesus, before dying on the cross:

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” – Luke 23:46

In the end, you will be saved. Jesus was resurrected from death, and you will be resurrected from your job, your family, or whatever situation you’ve died to.

3. Be Still

Finally, if all else fails, when you face the Pontius Pilate in your life, just remember the word of God:

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

Dealing with Election Results in the Bible

Are you worried about the election? Were you worried about the last one? Does thinking about the future of your country make you uneasy? Does it make you depressed? Argumentative? Sad? Or does it make you happy, at ease, glad, or even vindictive? If so, this message is for you.

Two Sides to the Election Coin

There are two perspectives that I’m going to explore, which all of us fall under somehow in our attitudes towards elections, and their results. And these perspectives were shared by many people in the Bible as well. The best thing to do, then, is to look at the solution to each, because they represent the moral problems we have and encounter.

1. “God’s Candidate” – Our societal issues can be solved if a particular person is in power

We often put a lot of faith in people, so much so that their perceived positive impact seems like a thing from God himself, that this person is directly from God himself. “If this one person comes to lead us, our problems will be solved!” But let’s look at the facts in scripture:

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” – 1 Samuel 8:1-5

Sounds fine, right? Samuel’s children failed as Israel’s leaders. They took bribes from foreign influence, they didn’t take care of their country, and they were perverting justice. Do you have this mentality on much of government? Do you believe government is corrupt, given to foreign influence, bribes, and injustice? So did the elders of Israel. What was their solution? A king. “If we just have a king, all these problems will go away.” The corruption, the bribes, the injustice, and the evil will all be gone if this certain person comes to power. Is this right? What’s Samuel’s response?

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. – 1 Samuel 8:6

This is clearly not a good thing. Thinking that someone is the solution to the moral dilemma of Israel was not a positive mentality. If you found yourself relating to this section, here’s the part you might not like: the reason for this mentality. The word of the Lord, after Samuel’s prayer:

And the Lord told Samuel: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. – 1 Samuel 8:7

The people weren’t rejecting Samuel’s leadership, they weren’t even rejecting his sons leadership! They were rejecting God.

2. “The Anti-Christ Candidate” – Our leaders are wicked and must be defeated

This one is especially difficult to deal with because it’s been so powerfully felt throughout the history of humanity. We’re so often ruled by oppressors, that it certainly would be nice if they were removed and replaced by something better, wouldn’t it? It would certainly be great if there was a rebellion of some kind. How, then, must we reckon with the following scripture, in the midst of our oppressors?

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 12:1-2

These verses are used time and time again to say that we must not rebel. Why shouldn’t we rebel? How are rebellions described in the Bible?

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the Lord his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the Lord.

He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear allegiance by God. But he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord God of Israel. – 2 Chronicles 36:11-13

And again:

Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his master, and worthless men gathered about him, scoundrels, who proved too strong for Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, when he was young and timid and could not hold his own against them. – 2 Chronicles 13:6-7

And again:

The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. – Mark 15:7

I could continue, but there’s a clear pattern that these are not righteous people. But you may be wondering, what about “righteous rebellion” when Christianity itself is threatened? Moses’ exodus is a frequent example used in this argument. Moses, the great insurrectionist! The great Jewish rebellion against Egypt! Right? Wrong.

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” – Exodus 5:1

God makes it clear to request that Pharaoh let the Jews worship a god other than the Egyptian gods. There’s no deception, no rebellion. If there’s an oppressive ruler, denying religious practices, what shall we do?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” – Exodus 6:1

God is the one who causes deliverance from oppressors. A rebellion was never necessary, because it was Pharaoh who rebelled against God.

During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” – Exodus 12:31

Even in the midst of impending doom and religious persecution and oppression, remember these proverbs:

Evil people are eager for rebellion, but they will be severely punished. – Proverbs 17:11

Rebellion hardens your heart:

Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” – Hebrews 3:15

Rebellion is you saying that God doesn’t care:

You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” – Malachi 2:17

Why is this so important to not rebel against authority? Why is respecting the oppressive authority placed over you by God so vital?

“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.

Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.

But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” – Exodus 23:20-22

In the midst of oppression, God is bringing you to a place he has prepared.

The Solution

The elections are in his hands. The rulers and authorities are his. There is no man but Jesus who is in absolute control for our good:

In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. – Proverbs 21:1

So what do we do? What’s the solution to the “God’s Candidate” and “the Anti-Christ Candidate” when we start falling into these perspectives? The solution to the first, is to realize that your master is God. And the only solution to society’s problems is the gift of salvation, not an election candidate. And salvation isn’t something you can vote for. It doesn’t come from democracies, or monarchies, or capitalism. It didn’t come from Moses, or King David, or anyone today. It comes from one man alone:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” – John 6:30

And the solution to the second perspective? Submission without apostatizing:

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. – Mark 12:17

You’re probably familiar with that passage, and its simplicity is incredible. God draws a fine line between what we owe authority and what we owe Him in the New Testament. The Old Testament has a very relatable example of this being practiced. There’s no need for rebellion, no need for insurrection, only obedience to God and respect of the authorities placed over you, by him:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3: 16-18

Christ is in control

This is all complicated, isn’t it? The intricacies of how far Christians are to obey authorities is widely disputed. But know this: Christ is intricately in control of the details, and your prayers concerning these things that may trouble you do not go unheard. God wants to meet you wherever you are in life, he doesn’t need a revolution in your country to do it. No ruler can get in the way of God reaching out to you, no troubles, no wars, nothing.

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” – Luke 4:25-27

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, in a land not his own. You and I are the widow in Zarephath, we’re Naaman the Syrian. We’re on the outskirts of mere human history, often our voices don’t seem like they’re heard and it’s like we’re not that important. But Jesus was sent to us.

Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. – Deuteronomy 10:14-18

The Purpose of Marriage

Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:15

What’s the purpose of marriage? To find happiness? To stay in love? To have kids? These objectives are used a lot by people today, in fact almost every time. But are they the scriptural reasons for marriage? I used to have a very stubborn opinion on this. But it was plain and simple scripture, not commentaries or theologians, that changed my mind. Let’s go over happiness, love, and kids to see if these reasons hold up as a suitable purpose for marriage. In the end, we’ll see that God is far more direct and freeing about this than ever before.

Happiness

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. – Song of Solomon 2:3

Happiness is certainly one of the many products of marriage. But it’s a result of marriage, not what marriage revolves around. In the absence of happiness, what holds the Christian marriage together? If happiness was the purpose of marriage, God would have never returned to Israel all the times he was angry:

So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. – 2 Kings 17:18

But something always caused God to bring Israel back:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. – Hosea 2:14-15

Happiness does not keep a marriage together, nor is it the purpose of marriage. So then what was keeping God committed to his marriage with Israel? Was it love?

Love

Love, like happiness, is another product of marriage. But is the purpose of marriage to be in love? To stay in love? Was it love that made God continue to forgive Israel?

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 7:7-8

So was it love that kept God faithful? Was love the purpose of God’s marriage to Israel? Love is a powerful thing, but make no mistake, love is a product of something particular that you shouldn’t miss from the passage above:

It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors

God swore an oath. It wasn’t just because he loved Israel, because Israel did not always love God back, but because he made a covenant. So is the purpose of marriage to fulfill a covenant? Now we’re getting somewhere. It was the covenant that kept God faithful when Israel disobeyed. God chose to love Israel, and made a covenant with them, that even when the happiness is gone, and when we don’t love him, he will still keep his covenant.

Now this may be compelling, but is it the purpose for marriage? A covenant is what keeps a Christian marriage together, even in the absence of love and happiness. So did God marry Israel for the sake of wanting to make a covenant one day? Is that the real reason? No. God is infinitely more intentional than that.

Kids

Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:15

God is seeking Godly offspring. It’s as simple as that. Marriage, symbolically, represents Christ’s relationship with the Church. But the purpose for God’s marriage to Israel was to produce one special Godly offspring:

“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,‘ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,‘ meaning one person, who is Christ.” – Galatians 3:16

But surely, this is a controversial thing to say, especially in this day and age! A marriage must produce offspring? Godly offspring?

So if I have one child, I’m good to go? What about the married couples who don’t want kids? Or those who adopt? Or the barren?

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. – Romans 9:6-8

What does this mean? It means stop focusing on the physical aspects of this marital purpose. Even God doesn’t look at that. There are possibilities far beyond the legalist doctrine of “at least one child, or else you’re condemned!” God has never been this limiting. Let’s quickly run through the common concerns, to make this simple:

What if I can’t have kids?

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. – Isaiah 54:1

You can have Godly offspring, through close, spiritual relationships with those around you.

What if I only adopt?

To redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. – Galatians 4:5-7

Be assured, the children you adopt are your children, and you can have Godly offspring.

What if my spouse and I don’t want kids?

The answer to this concern is a simple question: what is your priority as a married couple? Is it what you both want? Or is it what God wants. And we know what God wants: Godly offspring.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28

Practice hospitality and foster spiritual relationships with those around you, and God may very well soon push you in the direction of having physical children, or adopting, and you’ll be well equipped for it. But don’t think you know better than God.

What if my offspring, spiritual or physical, aren’t Godly?

Know that God seeks Godly offspring. He also wants us to be Godly ambassadors for Christ. Both of these things repeatedly do not happen all over the world. But this is the promise of Jesus, that we are made Godly, reborn in him. If your children reject God, humble yourself and know that you’re not the one who can ultimately save them.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:10

Conclusion

What is the purpose of marriage? What does God seek from our marriages? Godly offspring. And how is this done? By keeping our marital covenant, and having spiritual and physical children.

God seeks Godly offspring from our marriages; and if our offspring, spiritual or physical, turn away from God, we need to remain obedient and let God work in them on his own time. God wants Godly offspring from your marriage, but even more than that, he wants YOU:

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” – John 21:22