I did a Blue Letter Bible search of the word resurrection because I was interested to know where else it is used. What I found is that the word resurrection is used only in the New Testament. Did you know that the word Resurrection only occurred in the NT? This surprised me and got me thinking if this word is only in the NT where and how then in the Old Testament do we get the background to the word resurrection?
There are actually many places, but one that stuck out most of all to me, particularly in regard to Easter, is this verse in Psalms in which David talks about himself and the Messiah.
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~ Psalm 16:9~
Many more verses in the Old Testament build the background to the word Resurrection. We find passages that talk about Heaven like Psa 103:19 and passages that talk about people being sent to Sheol and other people who will be delivered from Sheol (the pit)(Hell) like those passages below.
“Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them. As for me, I will call upon God, and the LORD shall save me.” ~Psalm 55:15~
“For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” ~Psalm 86:13~
We also have stories in the OT of people who were dead but who were brought back to life again. (2 Kings 4:35, 2 Kings 13:21).
All the concepts and background of resurrection are there, they just aren’t referred to by the word resurrection.
As Christians when we interact with others are we being Jesus to them or are we being just a moment in Jesus’s life? Because in the same way we need to be careful to not use one verse in the Bible to base our theology on, we also need to be careful to take all of Jesus’s life into account when we consider what it means to be a Christian.
After Jesus’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus goes into the temple and finds buyers and sellers in the temple. His response is to do something that is completely righteous but this action could be considered by some to be harsh and judgmental particularly if this was all we saw of this moment in Jesus’s life.
Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” ~Matthew 21:12-13~
If we put this into the proper context of the temple being a place of worship and that none of these people, who are corrupting the purpose of the temple and the sacrificial system, weren’t supposed to be selling inside the temple at all, we see this as a righteous actions on Jesus’s part to remove wrongful occupants of the temple.
However, if we looked at it from the perspective of one of those vendors (who clearly does not desire knowledge of God), who is trying to make their living and who has possibly been selling in the temple for months, maybe even years, and suddenly this person who again from the vendor’s perspective has no authority to come in and drive them out of their place of business, then this whole interaction might seem completely unloving and outrageous.
A similar problem occurs when people look at Christian’s response to sin. Without the proper context a completely righteous action can come off looking very outrageous to those who are unable to see from the knowledge of God. They also at times are missing the rest of the picture, because what does Jesus do next? Does He just keep everyone out of the temple because no one should be in it? No, He doesn’t. In the very next verse, who do we find coming into the temple now that the sellers have been driven out?
“Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.” ~Matthew 21:14~
Jesus’s next action after judgement is an invitation to those in need. He drove out those trying to corrupt the meaning of the temple, and He invited in those who were in need of what the temple has to offer: a way to God’s grace and mercy.
Similarly when Christians interact with others this expression of righteousness should never be made so that all are found wanting, but rather so that there is space for the invitation that comes next to be made and received. Too often though as Christians we forget to clean our own house, and we forget to make the invitation to those in need. Instead we’re too busy telling people that their ways don’t belong in the church. It’s an expression of “righteousness” without anything else, no invitation, no offer of salvation.
But on the flip-side, we as Christians can also end up being all about love and forget that without first taking the time to drive out the falseness, lies, and corruption within the spiritual system, there is no room or ability to truly or rightly welcome in those who are in need of and desiring what the temple is supposed to be there to offer them. These are the Christians who spend their time accepting the buyer’s and sells while welcoming the blind and the lame too, but because these Christians have no grasp of righteousness there is no capacity to actually point them to true healing, because the “acceptance” they have offered everyone and everything has filled the temple with falsehood, lies, and spiritual corruption.
Righteousness says: This is the standard. (Tells people they are broken)
Love says: You are cared about. (Tells people they are loved in their brokenness)
Grace says: You can’t meet the standard and because I care about you and the truth, I am here to introduce you to Jesus, who can make you whole.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” ~Matthew 9:13~
In the same way the temple needed Jesus in it and sin removed in order for true help and healing to occur, we as Christians need Jesus in us and sin removed from our lives in order for true help and healing to occur within us and to then to be able to be offered to others because of our right expression of Jesus to them.
“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” ~Hos 6:6~
Do you have the knowledge of God? Are you loving and accepting others but neglecting knowing God? Are you so busy being righteous or telling others about righteousness that you have neglected understanding what God desires? Knowing God look like Jesus. Not just a moment of judgement and not just a moment of welcome, but all of Jesus which includes (but is not limited to) righteous, love, and mercy.
Being a fiction writer of young adult Christian suspense and action/adventure novels, I have encountered a lot of interesting comments over the years from Christians about their perspectives on the value of fiction writing, and consequently fiction writers.
Many Christians are very supportive and excited about fiction. Other Christians’ responses range from mild interested to total indifference about the value of fiction and fiction writing. Yet if asked directly most Christians will acknowledge there is value to fiction somewhere for some people. Then there are the Christians who want to first know the quantity and, if they are wise, quality of the Christian worldview and content in the fiction before deciding if it is worthwhile. (At heart I agree with that this evaluation is important and should take place, but I think it could often be done by Christians in a far more gracious manner. Since many times people tend to ask questions about Christian content in an author’s fiction as if they’ve already assumed you and your work are falling short in this regard.)(As my grandfather used to say, “Never assume.” It’s a far safer way to live life.)
Now, there is also another category of Christians, people who believe that fiction has no place in the Christian realm. They have the ideology that Christians should not read fake stories. And for some of those people who believe this, they’d also go so far as to consider a fiction writer’s work as a lie. (Of course, I disagree with this, but let’s delve into why.)
Fiction, by its very definition, is understood to be the creation and expression of imaginary events and people. We know it’s not supposed to be the actual events and/or people. Therefore, in order to fulfill truthfulness in fiction writing, a fiction writer actually needs to not be creating reality but instead writing to represent truth (reality) within or through imaginary events and people.
Example: We don’t look at an artists painting of an apple and call the artist a liar for representation an apple rather than giving us a real apple. Because we recognize that the goal of a painting is to provide us with an image of an apple not to give us an actual apple.
In the same way, Christian fiction is meant to provide, through imaginary events and people, the truth of reality not reality itself. When we pick up a book of fiction we know that what we are reading is a representation of what someone thinks could happen, might happen, or could have happened.
Fiction, in and of itself, is not a lie.A representation of something is not a lie. However, could fiction be a lie? Yes! When it misrepresents what it claims to be representing, it is a lie.
Example: An artist claims they have painted an apple, but the representation they have created is a pineapple. This is an artist who is lying.
It is not the illustration of something that makes it true or false. It is in how that something is illustrated that determines if it’s represented in a way that is true or false.
How else do I know that fiction (a story created using imaginary events and people) isn’t a lie? Because Jesus told such stories. Jesus used fiction, and Jesus did not lie!
One of Jesus’s fiction stories:
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” ~Luke 10:30-36~
From a Christian’s perspective (Christ’s perspective) fiction writing has been and is a useful and worthwhile method of communicating significant truths about ourselves, others, and God.
Challenge: Christian fiction writers, please don’t let people tell you that you are lying simply because you are writing fiction. And, please make sure what you are writing truthfully represents reality and brings honors and glory to God in doing so, because this is what Christian fiction should do. And Christians (readers and non-readers of fiction), please look at what God says and speak the truth, not yours or other people’s personal opinions.
I recently had a long conversation with a friend about honoring your parents, and it got me thinking about what this means. The command to honor your father and your mother is first given in Exodus and then repeated many times throughout the Bible. So clearly the concept is important. But do we actually understand it the way Jesus meant it?
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” ~Exodus 20:12~
First let’s ask the question: What is honor exactly?
as a noun
1. honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions: a man of honor.
2. a source of credit or distinction: to be an honor to one’s family.
3. high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank: to be held in honor.
as a verb (used with object)
13. to hold in honor or high respect; revere:
to honor one’s parents.
14. to treat with honor.
(Oxford Languages) Honor
1. high respect; great esteem
2. adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct
3. regard with great respect.
4. fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement.)
When we look at the instruction to honor someone else it can be seen in two different ways. One way is how we respond to someone else. Are we giving them honor? Another way is how what we are doing ourselves reflects on the other person via their connection to us. Are our actions bringing them honor?
To learn more about God’s intended meaning, I think it’s important for us to look at the context of where we first encounter this verse. This command “Honor your parents” comes in the middle of the Ten Commandments.
It should therefore be able to be assumed that these commands can and should all be able to be upheld and followed simultaneously. For example, honoring one’s parents should be able to be done by not lying and in not lying one should be able to honor one’s parents. This should also be true of everything else in the ten commandments: Having only one God before you. Not making or serving idols. Not taking the LORD’s name in vain (which means not claiming to serve Him when you aren’t serving Him, not just not swearing). Keeping the Sabbath day holy to the LORD. Not murdering. Not committing adultery. Not stealing. Not lying to or about other people. Not coveting other people’s things. (Exodus 20:5-17) In following all of these commands we should also be able to honor our parents and in honoring our parents we should be able to follow all these commands. We see the connection of “Honor your father and mother” to this list of other commands remain true when Jesus also speaks of it in Mark 10:18-19.
A parent who asks you to lie on their behalf is asking you to violate a command in the same list of commands that tells you to honor your parent. A parent that asks you to steal or obey/serve their commands over God’s command, is a parent who is, in that moment at least, not serving God.
When Jesus talks about the greatest commandment, it is not “Honor your father and mother.” Nor is this even the second greatest commandment.
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:37 (NIV)~
Ephesians 6:1-4 tells us, though, that “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment to have a promise attached to it. There is a blessing when you honor your parents, but . . . There is no place where it says that this verse should supersede God’s other commands. In fact, we see the reality of this context clarified somewhat when we encounter this command later in Deuteronomy, where we see the word “as” which tells us the extent or degree it is to be done.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” ~Deuteronomy 5:16~
We see a similar clarification in Ephesians.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” ~Ephesians 6:1~
Note: This passages says, “obey your parents in the Lord.” It also says, “for this is right” When honoring and obeying your parents is done “in the Lord” it is right! But obeying and honoring your parents does not necessarily remain right if you are violating the LORD’s other commands by obeying your parents.
Also in Ephesians, right after this verse, just to give a bit more context, there is an instruction to the fathers of these children that they should be bringing up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph 6:4 ) Which implies that these fathers know the training and admonition of the Lord and are capable of bringing up their children in them. Notice as well that they are to bring up their children in the Lord’s admonition and training not their own admonition and training?
Why do I bring up this distinction? Well, because when dealing with people, there is a big difference between treating them with honor versus meeting their definition of what they consider treating them with honor to mean. In other words, a parent’s or culture’s perception of what honor means can in fact be different from what God meant by honor in His command to “Honor your mother and father.”
How do we know this? Because we can see it in Scripture. Let’s go look at some passages that illustrate this.
The way God instructs the children of parents who are not walking faithfully to Him.
“But I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’” ~Ezekiel 20:18-20~
The way Jesus responds to His own parents.
As a boy when Jesus and His family went to Jerusalem, Jesus goes off to spend time at the temple and apparently does not communicate His departure to His parents. Joseph and Mary head out of Jerusalem, not realizing He is not with their family or friends, and travel for a whole day only to discover that Jesus is not with them. They then return to Jerusalem and search for Him for three days. Note what happens when they find Him.
“So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.” ~Luke 2:48-50~
Now, I cannot say for absolute certainty that Joseph and Mary felt dishonored during their search for Jesus, but Mary’s words give the implication that they are at the very least quite upset by it. And Jesus’s actions do seem rather dis-honoring, unless of course you place them in the context of Him serving His Heavenly Father.
How about Jesus response to a form of culturally honoring one’s parents?
“Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” ~Mat 8:21~
“Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”~ Mat 4:21~
Not exactly what I would guess their parents would have considered very honoring behavior. However, these children were being asked to honor their Father in Heaven by following Jesus right then and there. And by honoring God, they were honoring their parents.
In Matthew 10:35 and Luke 14:26, Jesus also opens some pretty big wholes in the argument some people make that to “honor your father and mother” is to obey them regardless of what they are asking of you.
“For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’ and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” ~Matthew 10:35-38~
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. . . . which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—” ~Luke 14:26-28~
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” ~Matthew 19:29~
Jesus is making a clear commentary on the fact that there will at times be division among even families in regard to following Him. These divisions are not going to be solved by following whatever your family’s definition of honoring them is. Rather some people in order to follow Jesus will need to count the cost of losing their family as an honoring of what their Heavenly Father has asked of them. Because in honoring God first and aligning our behavior to Him we will honor our earthly parents as well even if they do not perceive it as such.
In a way, Jesus also actually redefines family to those who do the will of God.
“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” ~Matthew 12:50~
“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 23:9~
And, in case there is still any question of honor maybe meaning obedience, let’s pause and realize where else this command to “honor” shows up.
“‘Honor (timaō) your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise” ~Ephesians 6:2~
“Honor (timaō) widows who are really widows.” ~1Titus 5:3~
“Honor (timaō) all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor (timaō) the king.” 1Peter 2:17
Honor clearly cannot mean “obey all people” or even “behavior in such a way that all people feel honored.” We cannot make all people happy nor can we always make them feel respected or honored. Trying to do so would lead to absolute chaos, because it is not possible to please everyone and to have no one ever perceive your actions or behavior as disrespectful. But we can honor everyone, specifically our parents, by and in the way the Lord commands.
“ . . . Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” ~Act 5:29~
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly . . . ” ~Colossians 3:12-16~
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:16~
Challenge: Live out what it means to follow all the Lord’s commands, which will mean behaving in an honoring way toward everyone. Because in honoring our Heavenly Father we bring honor to our parents and the world.
During this series, we’ve been looking at God’s parenting style and how seriously God takes parenting His children. He clearly defines for His children what is right and wrong and what He expects in this regard. He also lays out how to fix wrong, and the consequences of what happens when wrong is done.
God is merciful toward His children by offering a means of eternity salvation, but God is not lenient toward sin in His children’s lives, because as we’ve talked about already: sin is deadly.
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” ~Romans 6:16~
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 6:23~
“ . . . each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” ~James 1:14-15~
Why is correcting our children so important in our own parenting?
There verses above is why! Because when sin is not identified and turned from at the point when it is born, it will continue and bring forth death. If children are not taught to recognize right and wrong (righteousness and sin), they will not see their own sin as sin and they will not know to repent of it and receive the gift of God’s salvation from being enslaved to it and killed by it.
“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” ~Romans 7:12-13~
So what is our role as a parent?
We should be clearly telling our children what is right and wrong (the law, God’s commands) and correcting them when they do wrong (utilizing consequences). Which, not surprisingly, is actually exactly what God instructs us to do.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” ~Proverbs 22:6~
“Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul. Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.” ~Pro 29:17~
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” ~Pro 22:15~
“Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge. Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell. My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself; yes, my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things.” ~Pro 23:13-16~
“ . . . do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training (paideia) and admonition (nouthesia) of the Lord.” ~Ephesians 6:4~
Training: Paideia The KJV translates Strong’s G3809 in the following manner: chastening (3x), nurture (1x), instruction (1x), chastisement (1x).
Admonition:Nouthesia The KJV translates Strong’s G3559 in the following manner: admonition (3x).
“ . . . from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction (paideia) in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”~2Timonthy 3:14~
“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” ~Pro 14:27~
“He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.” ~Pro 21:21~
“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” ~Pro 21:23~
“By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.” ~ Pro 22:4~
“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand all.” ~Pro 28:5~
“ . . . do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. . . . no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” ~Hebrews 12:5-12~
Teach your children in the ways of the Lord (what is right and wrong, the law), correct them when they do wrong (allow them to experience the consequences), show them the way to fix their ways (repentance, turning), and rejoice when they seek what is good (God’s righteousness).
Note: Parents should not be attempting to define right and wrong for their children but rather teaching their children what God has already defined as right and wrong.
Challenge: “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.” ~Deuteronomy 8:5-6~
Last week we talked about how in the context of life and death situations God’s parenting style doesn’t seem so harsh but actually the healthy and helpful response of a loving parent. And as I promised you last week, this week I’m going to try to unpack the question: Does God parent differently in the Old Testament versus the New Testament?
A while back, I wrote a post entitled “Punishment is Different from Evil” in which I talked about our mindset toward God’s response to Israel and those around them. This time let’s look at how God response to individuals in the Old Testament and New Testament and let’s note His parenting style.
When we look at the Old Testament, I think it’s important that we put God’s commands into their proper context for the people of Israel. The law (Torah)(The first five books of the Bible) was not some religious information consulted by the people for nuggets of wisdom if they felt like it. This was the legal system of Israel. This was the rules and ways by which they were instructed and required to live (Deuteronomy 11:1, Deu 12:1), for always, all the days they lived on the earth. (Their King) God gave them the law, and they promised to be His people and to do all that He commanded them (Exo 24:3, Deu 27:9, Jos 24:21).
The Torah was given by God as a parent to define exactly the rules and requirements that He has for His children (the law), what would happen if they violated those rules (punishment), and what would happen if they kept them (blessing).
As a parent God spends the time to clearly communicate to His children what is right and what is wrong. (His rules are in front of us. If we choose not to read or listen to His instructions that is on us not on Him.)
Side note: There are a lot of people who feel like the Bible is excessive and over the top in what it requires, but let me just say, have you ever attempted to read through all of your country’s laws? 1. it would probably take you over a week to do so, if not far longer. 2. there are probably also some pretty strange sounding laws that your country has which someone from another country might consider weird and unnecessary, and 3. you might actually be surprised how many of your country’s laws are strikingly similar to the very rules God laid out.
As a parent what does God do when His children disobey and do something wrong?
In Numbers 16 we read about a group of people who rise up against Moses and Arron, God’s chosen leaders. Korah, who is also a Levite along with Dathan and Abiram along with a few followers: “two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown” come spitting accusations and claims against Moses and Arron.
Not only do these men challenge God’s authority, they also go so far as to disregard and defy God’s authority (Num 16:11), while specifically seeking positions of authority in the congregation of Israel (Num 16:10). They even call Moses a liar. (Num 16:14).
God has already told them what would happen to them for what they were doing wrong.
“. . . if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: . . . [a long list follows of possible consequences, and this] . . . You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.” ~Leviticus 26:14, Lev 26:38~
God has also already told them how to fix their wrong.
“But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me . . . if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt— then I will remember My covenant . . . ” ~Lev 26:40-42~
In God’s parenting style, is there the ability for His children to question or make an appeal to Him?
“And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.’ Then they fell on their faces, and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?’ So the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ ” ~Numbers 16:20-22~
God carries out the consequences He has laid out for the wrong that was done.
“Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. ~Num 16:31~
What is created? Children who understand the significance of right and wrong.
“Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, ‘Lest the earth swallow us up also!’” ~Num 16:34~
More examples: We can clearly see God’s parenting style play out this way in many other stories throughout the Bible. Some of the most distinctive stories that come to mind for me: Eli and his sons who perish because Eli does not curb their ungodly behavior, King Saul who loses his kingship because he disobeys God, King David who loses his son and his kingdom because he commits adultery, murder, and lets his heart wander from God. And the list goes on.
Now, is this or isn’t this the same parenting style that God uses to deal with His children in the New Testament?
Well, let’s read the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Are you familiar with this story? The church is just getting started and two people conspire to lie to the leaders and to God.
Do they know it is wrong to do so? Yes, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” Lev 19:11
Do they know the possible consequence of their actions? Yes, “. . . if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes . . . I also will do this to you: . . . [a long list follows of possible consequences, and this] . . . I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant” Leviticus 26:14, Lev 26:25
Is there a chance for an appeal? No.
What happens? “Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last.” Act 5:5 “Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.” Act 5:10
Result: “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” Act 5:11
God has not changed between the Old Testament and the New Testament nor has His parenting style changed.
So why do we have this perspective that He is harsh about sin in the Old Testament but loving about sin in the New Testament? I think this is because our perspective of God’s parenting style has been impacted and twisted by the disobedient response of the church in regard to the instructions God gave the church in how to deal with sin. Basically God instructed the church how to parent, and instead of following the parenting style God gave, the church has created their own parenting style which often looks far more like the other three versions we discussed in part 1 of this series. Therefore churches who are supposedly representing God are actually representing Him falsely.
How should the church be parenting? Here are links to posts I’ve written on this topic.
The truth is, God is not any more lenient when it comes to sin in the lives of His children in the New Testament than He is in the Old Testament. The only difference we encounter in the NT is that God talks more often about the consequences of a spiritual death than He does the consequence of a physical death. But as we see in the story of Ananias and Sapphira, clearly both are still possible.
“For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” ~Romans 11:21-22~
Over the years I have observed many different people utilize very distinctive and diverse parenting styles. This got me thinking about the fact that God is also a parent and likely has His own parenting style.
Once I started to dig into this concept, I realized the application spans through many different layers of Scripture and life. Over the next three weeks I want to try to unpack concepts like what is God’s parenting style, does God parent differently in the Old Testament versus in the New Testament, and why is correcting our children so important in our own parenting.
Parenting, I think, is one of the hardest endeavors on the planet. Every parent is different along with every child, thus in a way no two factors are ever exactly the same when it comes to parenting. What works for one parent-child duo may not work the same even for the same parent with a different one of their children. It’s a complicated balance of love and discipline which we are ourselves experiencing with God.
However, for the sake of discussing God’s parenting style in a blatant and more contained structure, I am going to set aside many of the vast diversities in parenting and instead attempt to approach this topic by generalizing and defining four broad categories of parenting styles, all of which I have witnessed to one degree or another. (Please note that I am in no way saying these are the only styles of parenting out there.)
Communication: Strongly controls and specifically tells children what they should or shouldn’t be doing
Consequence if not obeyed: Harsh physical repercussions if the child disobeys, little to no room for questions or appeal
Creates: Children who toe the line but have no idea why the line is important or why they should care other than simply to avoid consequences.
Results: Adults who don’t know the definition of right and wrong and will submit to abusive leadership if only to keep at bay the conflict of not submitting
Communication: Allows children to do whatever they want, until it becomes inconvenient to the parent and then the parent responds with a swift verbal or physical reprimand and harsh correction
Consequence if not obeyed: Often extreme public embarrassment and randomly chosen repercussions, no room for questions or appeal
Creates: Children who have no idea where the line is and feel they have the freedom to do as they please but constantly fear accidentally violating their parents’ desires (They learn that lines are not consistently right or wrong, but rather that right or wrong hinge upon their parents’ momentary or current preferences.)
Results: Adults who don’t know the definition of right and wrong and who have learned to pay attention to and appease the stronger, more vocal people around them
Communication: Explains to the child the expectations of their behavior. Calmly tells the child what they did wrong and how to fix it
Consequence if not obeyed: None or simply re-explains expectations and what the child did or didn’t do
Creates: Children who understand their parent’s rules but since these rules are not reinforced by actual consequences they come to the conclusion that rules are more like guidelines from which they can pick and choose
Results: Adults who have been taught that they can define right and wrong for themselves and who have no respect for others or authority figures
Communication: Explains to the child what is right and wrong, their expectations for their behavior in this regard, and the pending consequence if disobeyed. Calmly tells the child what they did wrong, how to fix it, and what consequence will result
Consequence if not obeyed: Allows the child to experience the repercussions of their actions that they were warned they would receive if they disobeyed. Questions and appeals may or may not be allowed depending on the situation and circumstances
Creates: Children who understand their parent’s rules, why they are right and wrong, and that these rules are important enough to be reinforced by consequences if violated
Results: Adults who know right and wrong and have been taught to treat others well and respect authority figures
Which one of these four style do you think is possibly most like God’s parenting style?
I think there are many people out there who believe that God has a controlling parenting style. They are possibly the same people who question God’s commands in the Old Testament. And I admit when I look at some of the passages from Proverbs, I do cringe at how harsh they sound. Passages like the ones below, without more context, do make it seem like God may have a controlling parenting style, but does He actually?
“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” ~Proverbs 23:13-14~
“Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart.” ~Proverbs 20:30~
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” ~Proverbs 22:15~
These passages sound pretty harsh and mean, and I think that sadly many a controlling parent has utilized such Biblical instruction without understanding the heart behind these words or the broader principles of God. And in so doing they have created in their own children either copies of this or cautious parents. These parents reject the unjustified harshness they experience from their parents along with their rules, and instead of using any physical means of discipline to reinforce right and wrong they choose the opposite extreme of being lenient about right and wrong to the point of being misperceived as not caring if their children actually do what is right.
Thus, I think it is important that we take a look at what sort of situations might in fact rightly warrant such a strong corrections.
“ As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.” ~Proverbs 11:19~
“The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” ~Proverbs 21:25~
“Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.” Proverbs 21:6
“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” ~Proverbs 22:3~
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” ~Proverbs 25:28~
Notice in Proverbs 23:13-14 it says, “Do not withhold correction.” Often we’re so busy looking at how harsh the correction is and talking about how maybe it should be more lenient, when in reality we should be evaluating what would happen if that strong correction wasn’t there. The kind of correction that comes from a conscience style of parenting.
“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” ~Proverbs 13:24~
“Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” ~ Proverbs 20:11
“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” ~Proverbs 14:27~
God isn’t correcting out of control but out of love and a desire to save.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD, through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation.” ~Psalm 118:16-21~
Next week we’ll dig into the question of whether or not God parents differently in the Old Testament versus in the New Testament.
Why is being faithful in the little things so important? We encounter this Biblical concept a lot of places in Scripture, but two stories that stand out in their exhortation about our faithfulness to small things come from stories Jesus tells in Luke 16:10 and Luke 19:17.
The first story involves the concept of money and who and what we serve. And the second story involves servants being entrusted by their master to do business for him with something not their own and how they respond.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” ~ Luke 16:10~(NASB)
“And [the master] said to [the servant], ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’” ~Luke 19:17~
Sometimes little things can feel like a waste of time or an inconvenience, but it is these little things that often speak the loudest about who we are and whether or not we can be trusted to be faithful in more.
One of the reasons we know we can trust God is because He is faithful to every part of who and what He promises to be, and He does not changed.
“For I am the LORD, I do not change . . . ” ~Malachi 3:6~
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” ~James 1:17~
“ . . . know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God . . . ” ~Deuteronomy 7:9~
Jesus tells the story of the servant who was praises for his faithful response and therefore given more responsibility and opportunities to be faithful. This means of discovering people who will be honest and responsible even when no one else is watching them, is a wise person’s way of knowing who they can and cannot trust.
But what happens once a person has been given the big things to be responsible for? Is it then okay for them to let the little things slide? After all the bigger your responsibilities the more those responsibilities will require time and effort from you, and the more it might seem reasonable to allow the small things to fall by the wayside. This approach accomplishes the big things, but does it keep trust?
What if letting the little things slide was what God did?
What if God stopped faithfully clothing the grass of the field (Mat 6:30)? Or what if He let slide caring about the sparrows (Mat 10:29)? Or what if God simply failed to continue to regard it necessary to hold the water back (Psa 33:7)? God is faithful in the little things as well as the big things and is thus fully trustworthy. If God stopped for even a moment being faithful in the little things that He does, our lives and our trust in Him would be physically and emotionally decimated.
As humans, we are flawed individuals, but in Christ we are new creatures. The old has passed away and the new has been given. Let us walk in newness of life accurately reflecting the life of Christ by being faithful in all that what we do, big and small, even when no human is watching.
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” ~Romans 6: 4-6~
Not only does being faithful in the little things reflect Christ, but it also keeps us from sin.
The fall of many prominent church leaders did not result because they failed to preach sermons on Sundays, show up for church meetings, or make decisions for the church. No, their issues started when they stopped being faithful in little things, like their thought life toward money, women, power, etc. Their unfaithfulness in their thoughts turn into unfaithfulness in their decisions and actions, and then what was little became big. Because whereas being faithful in little things leads to being faithful in much, so too is it true that, being unfaithful in little things leads to being unfaithful in much. Just as Luke 16:10 says.
Challenge: Our choices have an impact on others and ourselves. Choose faithfulness to God in all you do regardless of how big or small those choices and actions are. (Joshua 22:5)
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1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
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