Dealing with In-Law Advice

Are your spouse’s parents annoying? Meddlesome? Quick to point out your flaws? Or are they really great, but non-Christians? The mentioning of in-laws can bring a swath of emotions to someone. And when they’re strong emotions, they’re usually negative. Some people have good relationships with their in-laws, some don’t. Either way, when you find yourself interacting with them, it’s good to be prepared for their advice. What does the Bible say about this?

Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. – Exodus 18:7

A great example in the Bible involving in-laws is Moses and Jethro. Their interaction is a positive way to engage with advice, or what we might incorrectly call meddling.

Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. – Exodus 18:1

Jethro hears about the success of Moses after the Israelites leave Egypt, and most likely believes everything is safe to come out, because earlier Moses left his family with him.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.” – Exodus 18:5-6

They meet and the result is a testament to being a good example for in-laws who may not believe in God:

Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” – Exodus 18:9-11

Before we talk about dealing with advice, know that following God’s plan can lead to your relatives’ salvation:

Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God. – Exodus 18:12

Now let’s get into the criticism, the drama, the meddling.

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. – Exodus 18:13

Moses is working, doing the job God called him to do. Everything is back to normal, but then his in-law notices something and intervenes:

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” – Exodus 18:13

Moses seems to go on the defensive, and misses the point. Has your in-law ever criticized your work? Your life? Your choices?

Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” – Exodus 18:14

His answer interestingly enough dodges the second question. Jethro wanted to know why Moses judges alone.

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good.” – Exodus 18:15

Do your in-laws ever ask uncomfortable questions? Questions that don’t make sense? Surely God chose only Moses to be the mediator, right? But Moses can’t say that because he knows how Aaron has shared in the responsibility. Even if Jethro wasn’t an Israelite, he was wise:

You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. 

You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.” – Exodus 18:18-22

Jethro gives advice, whether Moses wanted it or not. Does this happen to you ever? Getting advice you didn’t ask for? Getting criticized for something you believe is the right thing to do? By your in-laws of all people? They’re not your real parents, what do they know? Does it feel like there’s nothing you can do that’s right in their eyes? Well there’s a solution to this, and it requires a simple test that even Jethro understood:

If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” – Exodus 18:23

If God is also asking you do follow the advice, you should do it. If he isn’t, don’t do it. But surely you might be afraid that if you don’t listen to your in-laws then they’ll be even more upset than ever! That is the choice, God or man. Who will you follow? Who knows how to take care of you? Who is the wisest of all?

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. – Psalm 27:10

Don’t be afraid of rejection. If they reject you for not following God’s advice:

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” – Luke 10:16

But we are also to honor our parents, our in-laws, our family. There is a right way to handle advice that goes against God:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. – 1 Peter 2:1

And what if their advice is what God wants? You need to swallow your pride and do it. God sends people from all over to help us, even in-laws:

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. – Exodus 18:24-26

Imagine if Moses didn’t do this and became overwhelmed, going against God and trying to do everything on his own? For one thing, his relationship with Jethro would be damaged severely. Jethro might have sent an “I told you so” message here and there too, which might only antagonize the situation further. But we can theorize about the bad stuff all we want, what happened in Exodus is the good example. And Jethro didn’t stick around either, which I believe is because God wasn’t going to let him micro-manage Moses:

Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country. – Exodus 18:27

If you follow your in-laws’ advice, if it coincides with God’s will, God will place them in the most appropriate spot in your life. In Moses’ case, Jethro didn’t need to be around very long. In Ruth’s case, her mother-in-law stayed with her for years:

Ruth said, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. – Ruth 1:16

None of this is bad, it’s what God decides is good for you. Your in-laws may have varying degrees of involvement with your life, and when they give that advice you’re dreading, or if you love to hear from them, always remember what Jethro said:

If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” – Exodus 18:23

If your in-laws give you advice, and God is saying the same thing, follow it and you will stand the strain, and you will be satisfied.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel. – Proverbs 12:15

Dealing with Anxiety

Today I got afraid of failing, not doing good enough, or just disappointing myself. It stresses me physically and mentally, and I start worrying about everything. Everyone can feel this way, or worse for various reasons. But no matter the severity or circumstance we all have the same thing in common: what we see. What does everyone experiencing anxiety see? My father shared with me Matthew 17 which opened my eyes to the one thing I should be focusing on during this time.

Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. – Matthew 17:3

The circumstance bringing about our anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s what we see while it’s happening that matters. During the transfiguration of Jesus, there were three witnesses: Peter, James, and John. During this miraculous event, fantastic things happened that could really stress someone out, confuse them, make them anxious, or afraid to disappoint:

There, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. – Matthew 17:2-3

Can you imagine seeing someone like that? Can you imagine seeing two of the greatest prophets and leaders in history together alongside God himself? It’s a stressful moment. Sometimes we flounder, looking for a solution to our stressful problem, we look for options, we try to come up with something to do because everything going on is overwhelming us and it’s confusing! Peter does that:

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” – Matthew 17:4

But the things we come up with don’t matter, they’ll never matter. They won’t fix the problem, they won’t remove the stress, they won’t solve all of our fears. The options we come up with don’t work and God knows they don’t work:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. – Proverbs 14:12

Peter’s suggestion is pointless and God speaks over him:

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” – Matthew 17:5

God is handing us the solution to anxiety, fear, confusion, and stress on a silver platter. He will talk over us while we’re bumbling around and give us his solution. How we respond is important, and we need to do exactly as the disciples did after hearing God speak over them:

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. – Matthew 17:6

You need to stop what you’re doing right now and fall facedown to God. We see a lot of things when we experience anxiety, mostly problems, or solutions, or Moses and Elijah. But when we stop and submit, we will see one thing only:

But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. – Matthew 17:7-8

If you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, confusion, or anything that makes you feel trapped or lost, remember that God is speaking right now and all you need to do is stop. Jesus will take away your anxiety, your fear, your confusion, your floundering, and your pain. You will see no one except Jesus, and you will be at peace.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

PTSD in the Bible

Post-traumatic stress disorder, something we often associate with war, can happen with anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. But PTSD is terminology that didn’t exist forever, but it’s real and has been experienced by people for thousands of years. How do we know this? Because people in the Bible have gone through the same difficulties, and show us how God can help. Hopelessness is our enemy, but there is an answer to PTSD that transcends medication and therapy.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. – Job 3:25-26

In the Bible, trauma, which brings about PTSD, can come from two places: Your sin, or someone else. We can avoid the first one, and understand why it happens easily. But the second is a more difficult concept surrounding God’s sovereignty, because in many of those cases we are innocent. However, no matter what, there is hope for you and a reason for all of this:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

PTSD because of our choices

Especially in combat, soldiers who experience trauma can be the aggressor, the victim, or both. In the Old Testament, Israel was in frequent wars, and its armies killed hundreds of thousands of people. In these events, they are the aggressors of trauma, and may have certainly been susceptible to having PTSD after battles. But why aren’t soldiers ever really described as having issues like this?

Then Moses said to them: “If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war, and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the Lord until He has driven out His enemies from before Him, and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the Lord and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the Lord. – Numbers 32:20-22

God promised that if they fought in the way that he designed, they would not be sinning, and there could be no guilt haunting them. But when we are the aggressor against God, we will not be blameless, and there are great consequences such as demonic influence explained in this blog post, which can make us responsible for many more sins; or simply death:

Ahab asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?”

Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” – 1 Kings 22:4-6

Ahab had a chance to follow God’s will, which was to not attack. As the prophet Micaiah said:

Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!” – 1 Kings 22:28

But Ahab did it anyway, as the aggressor of great trauma and sin in times of war, as many people today do great evil in battle.

So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. – 1 Kings 22:29

While being the aggressor of trauma against God’s will can cause us to sin even more and go down a demonic path, sometimes God has had enough, and this story shows when time has run out:

But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor.

The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.”

All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. – 1 Kings 22:34-35

If you go against God in battle, in finances, in your job, in your marriage, or anything in life, you will not return home blameless. The guilt will follow you, and you will experience either pain or death, and so will those around you. So stop what you’re doing and instead arm yourself before God.

PTSD because of someone else

We can experience trauma solely as the victim. Being robbed at gunpoint, attacked, raped, cheated, or other terrible things can cause us to have PTSD. In fact, people suffer all the time because of other people’s sin:

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” – 2 Samuel 21:1

But what about when we don’t know where it’s coming from, or there’s nothing we can do about the aggressor? What about when you feel trapped, with no resolution, no way to find closure with the person who wronged you?

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. – 2 Corinthians 12:7

The secular approach to Paul’s issue might be to think positively, find a support group, or take medications to help. Perhaps even a “faith healer” might say, as in the example of Job’s friends, that Paul needs more faith to have his pain removed, or surely there is some unrepented sin in his life. But there’s something else going on, and Paul knows it. His solution is to reach out to God, and God gives us the answer to all PTSD related problems:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

The grace of God is all we need when we experience trauma, and the aftermath of trauma. God’s power is made perfect in the weakness we experience.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

Truth is the answer to PTSD. God’s grace is sufficient for our trauma. If you feel alone, like no one understands what’s going on, someone does:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. – Hebrews 4:15

Jesus experienced trauma unlike anything we can imagine. Even God the Father rejected him in the end:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? – Matthew 27:46

If anyone understands PTSD, or being alone, it’s Jesus, and his grace is sufficient for you. Start with Jesus, and he may very well lead you to the right support group, the right therapist, or anything. But if you start with those things first, they will not work.

Looking ahead

Understand that even Jesus still had wounds after the resurrection. He will always remember his trauma, but he is alive after all of his pain and promises us life as well. PTSD is not the end. The way, the truth, and the life is the end. Believe in the good things God will do with your life that you cannot see right now, the promises Jeremiah talked about earlier. God’s grace is sufficient for PTSD.

Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:25-29

Remember To Thank God

In those days Israel had no king. – Judges 19:1

Thanksgiving is a time people often use to remind themselves what they’re thankful for. When I think about things I’m thankful for, I think about Judges 19. This is one of the most problematic chapters in the Bible because of how horrific, and seemingly godless the account is. And that’s the point, right at the beginning of the chapter it’s spelled out for us that Israel had no king. Neither God nor a man was ruler of Israel, for they had rejected everything good sent to them. So what does this have to do with thanksgiving? Consider it a vision of what our lives would be like had Jesus never come to seek and save the lost, because even though Judges 19 says there was no king, Jesus is still in the message as plain as day.

Make sure to read Judges 19 in its entirety in order to get the whole picture. Many commentaries make the connection between this story and the story of Sodom and Gamorrah. Both involve a wicked city (Sodom and Gibeah), travellers who stay the night (Angels and the Levite), a woman who dies (Lot’s wife and the Concubine), and the final destruction of the cities. But there’s details given that should turn your attention towards something else. Notice the similarities between the Levite and Jesus, not the Levite and Lot:

After the unfaithfulness of the woman, the Levite’s story of bringing her back begins in Bethlehem:

She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. – Judges 19:2

After the unfaithfulness of Israel, Jesus’ story of bringing us back begins in Bethlehem:

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, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. – Micah 5:2

After accomplishing his mission, the man returns to the house of the Lord as is his Levite duty:

“We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord.” – Judges 19:18

Jesus also returns to God in the wilderness to escape the Pharisees, for his appointed time to die had not yet come:

Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. – John 11:54

The result of the Levite giving up the woman is her death, and he gives her body to the twelve tribes of Israel to remember Gibeah’s wickedness:

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. – Judges 19:29

Instead of giving up his bride to the wicked, Jesus gives himself up and sends his own body to the twelve disciples:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. – Luke 22:19-20

Israel is betrayed, and the betrayers will be destroyed:

The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What about this awful crime that was committed among you? Now turn those wicked men of Gibeah over to us so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.” But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. From their towns they came together at Gibeah to fight against the Israelites. – Judges 20:12-14

Jesus is betrayed, and his betrayer will be destroyed:

But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” – Luke 22:21-22

These similarities are clearly not showing that Jesus and the Levite are equals, but opposites in the same situation. For thanksgiving, remember to thank God for sending his son to die for us. We have the gift of salvation because Jesus did not send his bride out to the wicked crowd, but himself. It was his body that was broken for us, not ours. The Levite in Judges 19 gave up the woman so that he could live, which is something a groom should never do. Jesus will never give us up to the crowd, we’ll never be abandoned. But he will come for us in Bethlehem whenever we fail. For thanksgiving, as we enjoy a meal, let us do what Jesus did and give thanks to God for all that was given for us, including the life that was sacrificed so that we might live:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:19

Ascension And Pentecost In The Old Testament

Ascension day is a notable time in the bible. It’s when Jesus left us after the resurrection, and it triggered the Pentecost, whereby the Holy Spirit entered the disciples and us today. But everything Jesus did was nothing new, nothing we haven’t seen before in the Old Testament, which includes his ascension and the Pentecost. This is an important topic to discuss because the Old Testament is full of little pieces of Jesus’ life in highly relatable stories. Sometimes it can be hard to put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes, therefore if we can better relate the ascension and Pentecost to our own lives, then we can better rely on the more misunderstood person of the trinity: The Holy Spirit. The Old Testament has a very specific account of a piece of the Ascension, and a piece of the Pentecost, and after this we will have a much bigger visual of what these things meant for the disciples, and what they mean for us today.

The Ascension

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. – Acts 1:9

We’ve seen this before in the Old Testament. You might recall the two common examples:

And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. – Genesis 5:24

Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. – 2 Kings 2:11

These examples certainly have meaning and there’s a lot going on with them, but this time we’re more interested in the less common ascension. This one comes from Judges, and you’re probably familiar with who this story is about:

A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” – Judges 13:2-5

The Angel of the Lord

This story in Judges is all about Samson, but right here we’re interested in the interaction Samson’s parents have with what is called “the angel of the Lord.” But the Old Testament ever so frequently shows us that the angel of the Lord is, in fact, God himself in most circumstances. How do we know this is God? The same way we know “the angel of the Lord” was God in the burning bush with Moses:

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. – Exodus 3:2

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” – Exodus 3:4

Even Stephen makes this connection later in the new testament:

“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.” – Acts 7:30-32

Jesus

After God gives the promise of a child to Samson’s parents, they have one final peculiar interaction before the great Old Testament ascension we’ve been waiting to see:

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.” The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.) Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?” He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” – Judges 13:15-18

This is the sign that the angel of the Lord, who we know is God, is even more specifically Jesus himself. Now, don’t think that Jesus showing up in the Old Testament is unheard of. We see Jesus refuse to give his name in another place:

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. – Genesis 32:29

Why would Jesus withhold this information? Because the name “Jesus” wasn’t given to him yet, and before his virgin birth he had another name, a name that he still has today that cannot be blasphemed, cannot be tainted, and is forever pure and holy:

His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. – Revelations 19:12

Are you still not convinced that this is Jesus? Isaiah attributes all of these types of encounters with the angel of the Lord to Jesus, our savior:

He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me.” And so he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them. – Isaiah 63:8-10

Isaiah is recounting the entire experience of Israel, and how God saved them repeatedly and fought against them in their many rebellions. But God the father is not the redeemer, Jesus is, and he was alive in the Old Testament just as he is alive today!

I know that my redeemer lives. – Job 19:25

Jesus Departs

Now that we understand where Jesus fits in this story, we can finally see the Old Testament ascension:

Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. – Judges 13:19-21

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. – Acts 1:9

It’s pretty self explanatory at this point, isn’t it? The only difference is that there is no fire involved in the New Testament. But the significance of this is related to the difference between Old and New Testament sacrifice, which is another story in itself. But there’s one more thing to cover that is key to this whole topic: the Pentecost.

The Pentecost

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. – Acts 2:1-4

We see this happen to Samson after Jesus ascends in fire:

When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol. – Judges 13:24-25

The Holy Spirit can impart a multitude of gifts to people today, and in the Old Testament. There’s a misconception that Samson was given super strength permanently as long as his hair wasn’t cut. But looking at some examples where he shows great strength illustrates that it’s the Holy Spirit that decided when to give and when to take:

Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to the town of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had solved his riddle. – Judges 14:19

As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. – Judges 15:14-15

And when did the Holy Spirit leave him? We already saw Isaiah mention this earlier:

Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them. – Isaiah 63:10

When Samson gives in to his wicked and overbearing wife, telling her his secret, he has rejected God. She then cut his hair which grieved the Holy Spirit:

When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him. – Judges 16:20

This is the Pentecost in the Old Testament. It’s an event in which the Holy Spirit enters us and gives us amazing power to do God’s will, after Jesus’ promise and ascension. In the New Testament, Jesus leaves and gives us the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, Jesus left and left Samson the Holy Spirit.

What This Means for Us

We’ve seen the Ascension, the Pentecost, and Jesus in the Old Testament. So what if Jesus was talking to Samson’s parents? So what if the Holy Spirit became available to Samson after Jesus ascended in fire? Why does this matter? It serves as an illustration of the great things the Holy Spirit can help us do, and it’s a warning of what happens when we reject God. Samson is a highly relatable person who has access to great power provided by the Holy Spirit. His life is full of betrayal, mistakes with women, overbearing influences he gives into, and high expectations from his family raising him as a strict Nazarite. But even in his failure, even when God fought against him and took away his strength, handing him over to his enemies, we can see that God was still waiting for him to finally return and restore him. Although Samson died in the end, he died like the thief on the cross, who said:

“And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds.” – Luke 23:41

And just like the thief, Samson, resting by the pillars of the Philistine temple, blind and beaten, experiencing the ultimate consequences for his failures, finally chose God:

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.” – Judges 16:28

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” – Luke 23:42

Human Sacrifice In The 21st Century

Human sacrifice is regarded as an ancient, pagan practice. Something modern society has shed, and anywhere it’s currently practiced is in the most isolated and obscure of cultures. But this is naive, because human sacrifice is going on everywhere, and you’re guaranteed to know someone who has done it, if you haven’t already done it yourself. Now, surely I’m talking about symbolic sacrifice or something more harmless, something that isn’t really wrong? No. Real human sacrifice that kills, destroys, and damages lives. Sin never changes, and human sacrifice is happening everywhere today just like it happened everywhere long ago. So if you’ve ever thought the warnings against human sacrifice in the Bible don’t apply to you, it’s time to take another look.

Man’s Ambition

The first example of human sacrifice sets the basis for why it happens: pride. For surely a family God has blessed us with can be used and abused to prove our penitence? Surely we can entice God with gifts so that he fulfills his promises? No! Let’s look at two passages in parallel to see how human sacrifice is the product of our ambition:

Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. – Judges 11:1

But you—come here, you children of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! – Isaiah 57:3

And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30-31

Who are you mocking? At whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars? – Isaiah 57:4

When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.” – Judges 11:34-35

You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. – Isaiah 57:5

You don’t know the damage you’re doing to your family when you put them behind your goals and desires. You want your child to be amazing at sports but forget the physical toll it’s taking on them. Your addiction set you back, and the money God gave you is gone and your kids will remember the day their parents stopped caring. Your wife died in childbirth and you blame the one who survived. You took the new job even though you hardly ever see your kids anymore. Your dad is in hospice and it’s a lot of work to help him, so you leave it to someone else.

It’s all about me and what I can give up to make myself greater, right? Doesn’t God love those who give up everything for him? Hasn’t God always desired sacrifice above all else?

No

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. – 1 Samuel 15:22

To sacrifice your family is not obedience. To increase his influence with the pagans, Ahaz was willing to sacrifice anything:

Unlike David his father, Ahaz did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire. – 2 Kings 16:2-3

This is the framework of how our pride can kill and destroy our family. If some of these examples haven’t been enough, we’re going to finish with the most controversial, overlooked, and accepted form of human sacrifice that is still happening everywhere today.

Unwanted Children

Adoption happens a lot across the world. It can be a blessing to a family to adopt a child. And in scripture, God is shown as the ultimate adopter:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5

And the act of adopting is fully supported in the Bible and happens a lot, it is a blessing to both the new parent and the child:

Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. – Esther 2:7

But do you know what never occurs in the Bible? God endorsing the giving up of a child for adoption. All adoption is a reaction to sin and something bad happening, in order to save the child. You might be thinking of some examples in the Bible where God is pleased when someone gives up their child up for adoption. Let’s go over them, and see what’s really going on:

Moses

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” – Exodus 2:1-10

This is the most popular example of giving up your child for adoption because of extreme circumstances, but make no mistake, Moses was raised by his actual mother.

Samuel

When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.” – 1 Samuel 1:21-22

It seems like Samuel is going to be given to the temple, or given up for adoption.

Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. – 1 Samuel 3:19

But again, make no mistake, Hannah was still his mother. God gave her a way to take care of him, though he lived in the temple. So what’s the point here? Adoption is wrong? No, not adoption. Adopting unwanted children can be what God wants for us, and it shows great love to do so. But what does God not want? Giving your child up. You’ll hear that it’s okay to give your child up if you feel you’re not a suitable parent. You’ll hear it’s okay to put them up for adoption if you didn’t mean to get pregnant, or you were raped, or you can’t afford it, or the father is gone. But who’s saying this? Not God. What does God say?

No Argument

Can you not afford to keep your child? Are you craving financial stability?

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. Proverbs 10:3

Are you worried that you won’t be a good parent? Do you think your child’s salvation is all up to you?

All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace. – Isaiah 54:13

The child is not the problem. The moment you stop trusting God to take care of you and your family, you start sacrificing them. When you give that child up for adoption, they will always have that sacrifice in their heart. God may bless them and find them new parents, but your pride will separate you from God, and that sin will be passed down. Sacrificing your child is wrong and spits in the face of God and what he can do to help you:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8

The Last One

There’s one more example of human sacrifice going on today, and it’s literally killing people because of someone’s pride: Abortion. Like adoption, abortion is a result of not wanting the child for whatever reason you can come up. Looking for examples of abortion in the Bible? Look no further than any example of child sacrifice, which we’ve covered already:

You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. – Isaiah 57:5

As with adoption, abortion comes with a million excuses that seek to justify human sacrifice at the altar of self worship. Rape? Sacrifice your child. Not enough money? Sacrifice your child. Too young? Sacrifice your child. Genetic defect? Sacrifice your child. You burn with lust for sin, and sacrifice your children in the ravines. The pagan gods of the Old Testament never left, and are worshipped to this day. Stop thinking about the reasons for or against abortion, and instead think about the real cause of abortion and adoption: how you’re replacing God with yourself to take care of you. Because apparently you can provide life and death, wealth and poverty, salvation and punishment? Apparently you are God?

Encouragement

This isn’t a nice message, it might seem like you’re in a hopeless situation. Do you feel like you must give your child up for adoption? Do you feel like there’s no other option than abortion? Do you think you really need to take that job that cuts out time with family? There’s someone else who felt like there was no other option than to kill his own child, but he had faith that God would take care of his family, and that God would allow him to continue being a father:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. – Hebrews 11:17-19

God will help you afford to have a child. God will teach your children. God will feed them. God will give you strength. God will raise your dead situation to life! Don’t give up, don’t sacrifice your children or your family, but obey God and trust him.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 18:10

My Problem With The Sabbath

Sunday, Saturday, whichever. These days probably mean something to Christians or Jews. Usually it’s the day we go to church. Some call one or the other the Sabbath too. Not long ago no store would ever be open in the United States on Sundays. And even today not many are open on Saturdays in Israel. Why? Because it’s in the ten commandments. So if it’s that simple, what’s my problem with the Sabbath?

But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years” – Galatians 4:9-10

Part of the Law, part of the Law’s Fulfillment

It’s easy to look at passages in the Old Testament that establish certain laws as everlasting:

The Israelites must keep the Sabbath; they must observe the Sabbath during all their generations. It is a lasting covenant. – Exodus 31:17

This surely shows that we as Christians today should follow the Sabbath, right?

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:14

But if we’re not under the law anymore, then does that mean we can murder and steal and anything else mentioned in the ten commandments? No, because there is law that is written in our hearts, and there was law given as signs of the old covenant to Jews. Here’s an example of a law given as a sign:

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. – Genesis 17:10-11

And here is where we find that it’s physically unnecessary with the new covenant:

Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? – Romans 2:25-26

And even more plainly:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. – 1 Corinthians 7:19

But aren’t the ten commandments part of the commandments of God? Abraham didn’t have the ten commandments. Adam and Eve didn’t have the ten commandments. In fact, nobody followed the Sabbath law until Moses, because it was specially given for Israel:

Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. – Ezekiel 20:12

And even more specifically:

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. – Deuteronomy 5:15

So if it wasn’t a law given to anyone before Moses, and if it’s not a law for us today, so what?

Worship God

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. – Galatians 3:23-25

Why is it important to understand whether or not the Sabbath law should be followed today? What’s important is how it can be a stumbling block to yourself, and therefore how you could negatively impact other people. Jesus was constantly going against the Pharisees who misunderstood the Mosaic Sabbath law, and believed you shouldn’t do anything at all, even good things:

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” – John 5:8-10

Legalism is a stumbling block to us, and gets in the way of understanding what a law is really for. Legalism happens to everything, and we fall into the trap of judging others for things that simply don’t matter.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

See how if you follow the Sabbath, or do not, all that matters is that you live for God? The passage goes on to mention stumbling blocks from legalism and judgement:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:13

The Point

All this is not to say it’s right or wrong to follow the old Sabbath law, but instead that we’re not condemned by it anymore. Just like how a previous passage says circumcision is now meaningless:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. – 1 Corinthians 7:19

What is important is loving God and keeping the law that’s written in our hearts. The Sabbath can be a tool to remember God, just like how it was originally used. But never forget that it was made for us to use and not the other way around, for Jesus said:

The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. – Mark 2:27

So in the end, my problem with the Sabbath is that it’s still used to this day as a tool to promote legalism and stumbling blocks for other Christians. It’s okay to follow it, and it’s okay to not follow it. Don’t judge others for whether they do or don’t follow the Sabbath. We’re not bound like slaves to the Mosaic laws, Jesus died so that we could be free from the law’s condemnation and consequence. Be free to worship God and do good every day of the week!

Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, God made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and erased the handwritten document that consisted of decrees and was in opposition to us. He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. – Colossians 2:13-14

One last interesting verse

The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah. – 2 Chronicles 36:21

Exorcisms In The Old Testament

What part of the Bible comes to mind when you think about exorcisms? Probably one of the several accounts of Jesus encountering a demon possessed man. These are wonderful examples that show us the physical and spiritual tole demon possession has on people, how afraid demons are of Jesus, and how obedient they are to God. So if these New Testament examples are so great, why do we care about what’s in the Old Testament? Because the Old Testament tells us why it happens, and because an entire ideology of how demons operate today has been created that is dangerous and false. Spiritual warfare is very real, demonic possession is happening today, and exorcisms occur all the time.

What Should Get Your Attention

“Now if I drive out demons in the name of Satan, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” – Luke 11:19-20

Jesus performs an exorcism on a man, and the Pharisees think he’s doing it using the power of Satan. Jesus sets them straight but said something that should make you think of where else this is happening. He challenged them by asking “by whom do your followers drive them out?” This is acknowledging that there were other exorcisms being performed before Jesus. I have always believed that the New Testament gives us nothing truly new, but fulfills the Old Testament. This means that the things Jesus did were not unique, as we know people were raised from the dead, healed, and experienced other miracles in the Old Testament. This means that exorcisms happened in the Old Testament too. But in order to recognize exorcisms from before Jesus’ time, we need to know what they are, and we need to look at strong examples of demonic activity in the Old Testament.

What is an Exorcism

The commonly understood definition of an exorcism is when someone is a slave to the power of a demon, and that power is removed and the person is freed. But we’re going to go deeper than this, because the Bible describes many more things as demonic than simply being violently possessed. Consider these wide sweeping callouts of demonic activity:

Worldly Wisdom

This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. – James 3:15

Idolatry (worship of self, family, wealth, or other gods)

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. – Corinthians 10:20

Sin

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to Satan. – Ephesians 2:1-2

If any demonic power over someone is removed, they are no longer a slave to it. And we can be slaves to worldly wisdom, idolatry, and simply all of sin. To have these influences removed is to cast out these demonic influences. When we serve these things, we are serving demons. An exorcism isn’t just removing a violent demon from someone, but the demonic powers of sin. God’s spirit does not dwell in someone who is under this control.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. – Romans 6:20

An exorcism is the opposite of this passage from Romans. It is freedom from the control of demonic power, freedom from sin.

The Old Testament

Understanding that an exorcism is the removal of demonically sinful influence on someone, freeing them from the power of Satan, we’re led to see what the Old Testament has to say. There are three unique individuals who encounter a spectrum of demonic power, and we learn how much power Satan has over us through these examples, why they happen in the first place, and what the solution is. The first is an example of demonic influence that doesn’t end in a remedy, that is, there’s no exorcism:

Ahab

Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” – 1 Kings 19-23

This powerful prophecy shows us demonic power, its source, and its purpose all in one. The difficult truth we must acknowledge from this and further verses is that God controls “the deceiver” and all the demons. He gives them power and allows them to tempt and to possess. They have no autonomy, but fear God and obey him. Why else were they always so afraid of Jesus, and did everything he told them to do? If you think that God controlling who demons tempt and possess is unfair, you’re not the first person to think this:

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. – Romans 9:14-18

The demonic influence on Ahab’s false prophets was because they and the king wouldn’t listen to God. And when we reject God, he can choose to turn us over to what we rely on:

When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But whoever takes refuge in me will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain. – Isaiah 57:13

The demonic influence on Ahab’s prophets was a result of God’s decision to give Ahab over to the things he worshipped. And when Ahab worshipped other gods, he was worshipping demons. So God gave him over to the demons, who deceived him and his false prophets, leading him to die in battle.

Nebuchadnezzar

The second example is very much like Ahab, but there is a good ending.

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. – Daniel 4:28-34

It was prophesied by Daniel that Nebuchadnezzar would be cast out from his throne and act like an animal if he continued rejecting God. Only until he finally acknowledged God and received salvation was he cured of this insanity. Nebuchadnezzar’s rejection of God was in itself a demonic worship of his own gods and his own power. He was a slave to sin and Satan. God hands him over to his Babylonian gods and to his own royal power to show him how powerless he is and that God is the only true God.

I find it interesting that Nebuchadnezzar’s name means “O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son.” And Nabu is the Babylonian god of wisdom and rational thought. But we know from Romans that when Nebuchadnezzar worshipped Nabu, he was worshipping demons. So when God hands him over to who Nabu truly is, he isn’t given the gift of wisdom or rational thought, but is turned insane and acts like an animal. This reveals the real influence on his life, and shows once again that God can choose to give demons power over people who reject him.

Only when Nebuchadnezzar’s time of insanity was over with did he finally give up his Babylonian gods, and accepted the one true God. God gave him mercy and the demonic influence on his life was exorcised.

Saul

The last example is Saul. This is a middle ground between Ahab and Nebuchadnezzar. Saul receives mercy from God and experiences exorcisms, but in the end we know that he ultimately rejects God and dies. Demons are given power over Saul frequently throughout his life, which is due to his constant stubbornness with God. But this example also shows us that if someone has demonic influence removed, that doesn’t mean they’re invincible for the rest of their life.

Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.” So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” – 1 Samuel 16:14-18

Understand what is being said here if you’re still not sure about where demonic influence comes from:

Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him

God sent a demon to cause Saul pain. God was tired of the wickedness of the king of Israel, and this demonic influence caused Saul to get introduced to David, replacement later on. But again, how is it fair that God would do this to Saul? Did he even have a chance? Lots of chances. Saul had choices to make in life, and he constantly chose himself. We see here that the spirit of God left Saul, and something wicked took its place. This only happens, the spirit of God leaving us, when we’re a slave to sin, free from righteousness:

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. – Romans 6:20

The exorcism in this event occurs only when David plays music for Saul, and God removes the demonic power.

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. – 1 Samuel 16:23

Understand that this example of exorcism is very different from Nabuchadnezzar. Saul doesn’t receive salvation as a result of the removal of this demonic influence, but instead continues serving himself and never turning to God. So God uses it to raise up David. There is one last example of demonic activity with Saul that never mentions an exorcism:

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. – 1 Samuel 18:10-11

Don’t be distracted by the word “prophesying” because we know an evil spirit cannot produce righteous prophecy. In fact, the original Hebrew for this word is Hithpael, which is only used to describe madmen and false prophecy, such as in the following verse from Elijah’s encounter with idolaters:

Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. – 1 Kings 18:29

In Elijah’s example, these people were worshipping other gods, which are actually demons. Likewise, Saul’s demonic possession was because God gave him over to his idolatry of himself. But the very interesting thing is that it’s never mentioned when this evil spirit leaves Saul. In fact, David’s playing of the Lyre doesn’t even work this time, because God chose another plan. The presence of this particular demon is influencing Saul to try to kill David. After this event, he continues on to try and get David to marry his daughter so that the Philistines would try to kill him. And he gives him armies to command so that he’ll die in battle. In fact, he never stops trying to kill him for the rest of his life:

When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. – 1 Samuel 18:28-29

It would seem this final demonic influence would never leave Saul until his death. Saul is given many chances in life to stop his own demonic activity of idolatry and rejection of God, but in the end he never does and he dies. Saul experiences an exorcism only during specific times when David plays music for him. But he never relents from his rejection of God, and so God brings up David as his replacement.

What Can We Do?

The Old Testament is full of demonic activity, and we’ve only glossed over a handful of the big ones. But the three examples of Ahab, Nebuchadnezzar, and Saul show us something very important to understand:

  1. God controls all demonic activity
  2. Salvation is not a byproduct of an exorcism
  3. Demonic influence is a sign of unrepented sin

So what can we do about this? Is it all hopeless? Certainly not! The Old Testament shows us flawed people just like you and me, and what happens if we continue to reject God, or if we proclaim that He is our King! Nebuchadnezzar returned to God, and so God removed the evil power from his life. Saul was given many chances and many exorcisms, but his stubbornness destroyed him. And Ahab was given neither exorcism nor mercy, because God was so fed up with his life of wickedness. Will we receive mercy? Will God give us another chance? We will, because Jesus died so that we may receive mercy and have the ability to call on his name to remove the sin and demonic influence in our life. If there is sin in your life, there is demonic power at work and you need to take a step towards God, because it is dangerous and sin will destroy you.

So what do you do if you’ve had demonic power removed from your life, and you don’t want it to come back like it did with Saul?

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. – Mark 5:18-20

What do you do if there’s demonic power currently in your life, like Ahab?

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:14-20

And what do you do if you’re like Nabuchadnezzar after his insanity, free from the power of sin?

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. – Matthew 10:5

A Final Word

Demonic influence is a product of sin, so we have all experienced this at some point in our lives. But the solution is repentance. You are able to ask God to remove this influence from your life if you have faith and repent. There is no need to feel unqualified to fight against Satan like this, because Jesus will do it for you, you just have to start asking. So do not fear demons, who only have power when you throw out God from your life; but fear God, who has the power to give mercy and to save us from our sin.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” – Luke 10:17-20

Who Pays For Dinner In The Bible?

You’re on your first date with someone and the waiter asks that question going on in everyone’s head: all together, or separate?

You make eye contact with the other person at the table and the awkwardness begins to rise.

Why does this happen and why is this a problem? It’s because you weren’t prepared for it, and the underlying issue is a vast rabbit-hole of social problems and perspective. “Who pays for the first date?” is a heated issue, and for Christians and only Christians, there is a righteous answer. I’m not talking about restaurants and money, but what these dinner experiences have an affect on: our relationships and an imitation of Christ. We’re going to look at the most powerful, clear examples of who “pays for dinner,” in the Bible. Through this, we’ll understand why the question the waiter always asks is important for Christians, and only Christians, to answer.

Jacob’s First Date

Jacob said, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” – Genesis 29:4-8

Jacob is traveling the lands and comes across some shepherds. He calls them his brothers, so you can feel the compliments and lack of ill-will, and the fact that he’s probably also a shepherd. They chat, and Jacob questions how they’re taking care of their sheep. He called them his brothers, he’s not trying to shame them or anything. Jacob is concerned, as anyone who is good at their profession should be about their product:

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds. – Proverbs 27:23

The sheep need water and to go to the pasture, they shouldn’t be lying around in the sun. But the shepherds give some excuse and won’t do it until all the sheep are finally gathered together, and who knows how long that could take. But who can blame them? To water the sheep involves removing a big stone:

The stone on the well’s mouth was large. – Genesis 29:2

But this will all change when someone important enters the scene:

While Jacob was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. – Genesis 29:9

Pay close attention to what Jacob does:

Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. – Genesis 29:10

If you don’t see what’s going on here, Jacob shows his strength by removing the huge stone by himself, and singlehandedly waters all the sheep. He didn’t have any money, just time and strength to offer Rachel, who didn’t need to help roll the stone away or water her sheep that day. It must have worked because they later got married.

Jacob paid for dinner with his time and energy.

Isaac’s Online Dating

Abraham is keen on finding a wife for Isaac, his son. But he’s very old at this point:

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. – Genesis 24:1

So he sends his servant out to find someone:

The servant said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” – Genesis 24:12-14

He asks for a simple sign to know who the right person is, and then someone interesting arrives:

Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. – Genesis 24:15

Rebekah fulfills the sign, for when the servant says to her “Please let down your jar that I may drink,” she replies “Drink, and I will water your camels.” He knows she’s the one for Isaac, so he presents her with something peculiar:

When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels. – Genesis 24:22

These gifts are in lieu of Isaac’s time and strength, and in fact, his knowledge of this whole event, which are things only Jacob could give earlier. Isaac’s inheritance is used to lavish Rebekah with gifts through Abraham’s servant, because whoever God might bring to the servant would be worth it. And Isaac wasn’t buying Rebekah, as some might see it, simply because she always had a choice:

So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said. – Genesis 24:58

We know it worked as a great introduction, even though Rebekah hadn’t met Isaac yet, because they later got married.

Isaac paid for dinner with a portion of his inheritance.

Boaz Starts with Friendship

Ruth, a widower, is forced to collect what food she can from whoever’s field she happens upon in a foreign land. She’s a Moabite, but her mother-in-law is related to a man named Boaz in Bethlehem. Ruth goes to his field and asks if she can have some food, and he makes an even better deal:

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” – Ruth 2:8-12

Boaz lavishes Ruth with gifts fitting the circumstances of that time by offering her protection and the best of what he has. We know Israel was exceptionally wicked then, for God saw fit to send judges at this time:

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land. – Ruth 1:1

There were surely other farmers out there, but Boaz knew Ruth would not be safe. But we’re talking about romantics in this blog, right? Romantics cover the entire spectrum, and while Boaz shows no interest in marriage, he befriends her because he knows her story and he cares. And great relationships can start with a simple friendship. While they’re just friends, Ruth’s romantic interest in Boaz is definitely perked due to how much he cares about her and lavishes her with gifts. While Boaz might not have been intending this at first, it all worked and they later got married.

Boaz paid for dinner with his reputation, the fruits of his farm, and his friendship.

God’s Date with Us

The whole point of going through each of these romantic stories is to show a bigger picture of what’s going on. The lives of these men and women in the Old Testament share pieces of who God is, and help us see his love for us through real examples. We know this is a connection because scripture consistently uses the language of God being our spiritual husband:

For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. – Isaiah 54:5

“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Master.’ – Hosea 2:16

Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 31:32

Therefore if you want to know who should pay for dinner, look at what gifts God, our spiritual husband, is paying for:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. – 1 John 3:1

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. – Ephesians 3:18-19

God lavishes his love on us so that we can be called his children. When Jacob, Isaac, and Boaz paid for dinner, they were imitating God’s lavish love for us. This love doesn’t have to be romantic, in the example of Boaz, but it can lead to something greater than friendship.

If you’re a Christian woman, don’t look at the dinner tab, look for signs that the man you’re with is capable of lavish love. This can come in many forms, like paying for dinner on the first date. He doesn’t have to roll a stone away to feed your sheep. But if he’s the right man for you, he will go beyond what the lazy shepherds of today are offering. If you want a man who seeks to imitate Christ, he’ll do this, because God does it for you today.

If you’re a Christian man, pray to God that he’ll reveal who the right woman is for you, like Isaac’s servant, because if you make the decision on your own, you’re wasting the time Jacob gave Rachel, and you’re wasting the gold that Isaac gave Rebekah. Do you really think God can’t bring the right person to you if you ask? Pay for dinner. It’s what Jaboc, Isaac, and Boaz did, and it’s what God is doing for you right now.

One More Thing

The last part to note about this message is the fact that this relationship advice is for Christians, not the whole world. There’s so much controversy surrounding men paying for dinner today. But in the Bible, it’s simply not about that. It’s about something so far beyond money and food, that if you’re not a Christian it most likely doesn’t make sense! That’s why there’s controversy. So remember a particular part of the verse I included about God’s lavish love for us, this same love we should imitate:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. – 1 John 3:1

Christian relationships do NOT make sense if you don’t know Jesus, who is the ultimate example of a man seeking his bride. His lavish love for us, the church, brought him to not pay for dinner, but pay for our sins with his life so that we could live:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Are There Good And Bad Perspectives?

Live for now. Follow your truth. Your story is your legacy. Falling in love with yourself isn’t vanity, it’s sanity.

All these sayings have one dangerous thing in common: perspective. Perspective is how you see everything in life, including yourself, and more importantly, God. Perspective is one of many things that make us human, but the good thing is that our perspective can change. However, because it can change, that means there can be problematic perspectives, and wholly good perspectives. Today we’re looking at how God sees everything, and how it contrasts with man. Because we’re called to imitate Christ, we should understand God’s perspective, and change ours to be more like his.

What Does Man See

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. – Proverbs 14:12

When we’re born we have a small world to think about. Food, family, and crying are usually all babies and little kids are thinking about. Their perspective on what’s going on outside of their life is non-existent. There’s no concept of the family’s financial situation, what the country’s problems might be, or anything outside of their life. This ignorance isn’t inherently wrong, but we see that as we grow we learn more about what’s going on in the grand scheme of life. This makes us wiser and better equipped to navigate our complex world.

Now stop for a moment. That whole opinion above is an example of mankind’s perspective. It includes things important to children and adults, things that make us wiser in the eyes of the world. These are things that seem right to a man, but the verse above tells us that its end is the way to death.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness.” 1 Corinthians 3:19

And if you still think God wants us to value this type of wisdom highly in our lives, there is an even harsher truth about things the world teaches us. Focusing on gathering worldly wisdom is the result of pride and inward focus. It is demonic:

This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. – James 3:15

There’s no way around this. If you focus on gathering this type of wisdom, it will kill you. But why are we looking at wisdom so much if the point of this post is to talk about perspective? Because they go hand in hand.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. – Proverbs 9:10

To fear God is to understand where he is in the grand scheme of things, and where we are. As learning about the world changes our worldly perspective, learning about God changes our Godly perspective. And since seeking to gather worldly wisdom is demonic, seeking to gather Godly wisdom must give us the good perspective. This perspective is what changes lives. This perspective opens eyes and shows us how meaningless worldly pursuits are. This is God’s perspective, which we’ll look at next.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. – Colossians 2:8

What Does God See

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. – ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭6:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God is huge. Isaiah’s vision shows the very smallest part of his robe fills the entirety of the largest structure of Israel. God shows us through this passage that he is so far beyond everything, the world is his footstool.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. – Psalm 147:5

God knows everything, and sees things we cannot.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5

God stands outside of our life, and inside it. He is outside of time, and acts inside of it. He sees everything. God has the perfect perspective because he knows what matters and what doesn’t. He understands what’s truly valuable in the end, and knows about everything that’s worthless.

Because we know that the pursuit of worldly knowledge, which changes our worldly perspective, is demonic and worthless to God, how do we seek the good perspective? How can we possibly understand everything God understands, and see life through his eyes? There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is this:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

In this life, we’ll never have the perfect perspective of God. We’ll never fully see life through his eyes, and understand everything the way he does. So what can we do, if his perspective is so good to have, yet so seemingly unattainable? Here’s the good news:

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Breaking this down we see some important things to do in order to start seeing things the way God wants. To be a Christian is to grow spiritually throughout your life, and these are ways that this growth can continue through better and better perspectives:

  1. We’re all going to die and be judged by God – “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.” This reminds us that there is something waiting at the end, and that our very soul is at stake. Our life on earth, the health of our bodies, and the state of our riches give us worldly, demonic wisdom if we pursue them. “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12
  2. Remember what your life is all about – “So we make it our goal to please him.” To do everything for God is to acknowledge that he is your king, it is to acknowledge your place in life beneath him. God is above everything and made everything, and we owe him everything for saving us from spiritual death. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
  3. Actively seek righteousness, don’t just talk about it – “prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” God will give you what you ask for if you desire him and righteousness, and when you seek this then you begin to stop seeking worldly wisdom and worldly perspectives. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
  4. Have faith – “For we live by faith, not by sight.” Belief in Jesus is the beginning of a radically changed perspective, and we begin to see things the way God desires when we see his son for who he is: through his death, the savior of the world for our sins. “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:8-9

God gives us the steps to grow our perspectives towards him, the danger is when we begin worrying about our lives, our family, our jobs, our children, our politics, our enemies, our future, or anything else that is not about God. What you should be worried about is the wrath of God, and this is good! Because to fear God is the beginning of a more godly perspective, drawing our eyes away from the world and its demonic wisdom, and towards the one who sits above the world and wants to save us. Perspective is everything, and there is a call to something beyond this life. Looking at life from our eyes is small and never gets everything that matters into the picture, just like a baby’s. But if we acknowledge God’s power and promise, our eyes suddenly begin to grow and see things we’ve never seen before. Only then will our perspective change for the better.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! – Psalm 8