Tag Archives: Image of God

Racism

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; (Acts 17:24-26)

The word “racism” has become a truncheon with which to bludgeon any opponent for any perceived infraction of the new social norms, which change almost on a daily basis. Those on the left often employ ad hominem attacks to silence their opposition, but the one that strikes terror into the heart of every conservative/Christian is the epithet of “racist.” Therefore, any decision President Trump makes, whether or not it favors the leftists, is denounced as racist. Ironically, the true racists rail the loudest, but that is another matter.

Racism, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others; hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.”[1]

Racism should not be named among anyone, but especially not among Bible-believing Christians. From the very beginning of creation, the Bible records that God made one pair of human beings, and these two were created in His image.[2] God created one male and one female to carry on the natural process of reproduction and to be caretakers of God’s creation. God purposed the sexual union between opposite sexes to be permanent and productive.[3] Immediately after the Fall,[4] Adam and Eve started to reproduce[5] and before long the earth teemed with people. Without getting into the technical details of the human genome, the perfect DNA of the first couple contained the information to produce a variety of skin colors, hair colors and textures, eye colors, different body frames and heights, facial characteristics, etc. Our lead verse above confirms that God “made of one blood” all nations. The “locked-in” ethnic distinctions resulted from human dispersion after the Flood[6] at the Tower of Babel rebellion.[7] Regardless of ethnic “distinctions,” all human beings are of “one blood.”

I dislike the question on medical forms that asks one to mark down what “race” one is. I always write in “human” and “Hispanic” on the follow-up question that inquires about ethnicity. There is only one “race” – the human race (and we are not a “species” because we are not animals). One would think the medical community would understand such an undeniable biological fact, but alas, after more than a century and a half of Darwinian indoctrination, the Imago Dei has devolved into just another species of animal with a variety of subspecies or “races.”

The variety of ethnic groups (“races” from here on) in centuries past was of little consequence.  Following the dispersion at the Tower of Babel rebellion, “like” races united by language (they had to understand each other) and migrated to different areas around the world. This accomplished God’s purpose for the human race to “fill the earth.” This also had the effect of stamping identifying characteristics in their DNA, which changed very little over thousands of years. Our passage above notes that God determined “the bounds of their habitation.” God invented borders! These boundaries kept ethnic groups from intermingling. Consequently, racism within borders was not a problem. Racism between different races found its expression in wars of conquest in which the victor either slaughtered their victims or assimilated them into their own societies.

Some accuse Israel of racism for carrying out God’s directive to eradicate the Canaanites from the Promised Land. God had a reason for that. The Canaanites were not only idol worshipers, but they sacrificed their babies to demon gods, they practiced sexual perversion in their worship of demon gods, and they conducted all kinds of occult practices. These were wicked people and God wanted to cleanse the land of them. However, Israel failed to complete the task and against God’s commandments, they intermarried with the people of the land and adopted their practices. Following the Diaspora, first in Babylonian captivity and then the dispersion following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Jews adopted a form of racism that does not really fit the definition of racism. Jews have for millennia attempted to keep their race pure; they avoid intermarriage with the goyim (Gentiles). However, this is not new. It is very much in keeping with God’s desire for them to be a “peculiar people.” I do not believe that Jews “hate” other races; they just want to keep theirs distinct. And it’s a good thing too, because in doing so, they have fulfilled end-time prophecy.

As previously stated, while races remained within their borders, racism virtually did not exist. Racism occurs when borders are breached. That kind of racism finds its expression in wars between nations (ethnic groups). However, as cross-country and intercontinental travel increased, racism found a new form of expression. A stranger’s speech, form of dress, color or texture of hair, diet, smell, or any other characteristic distinguishing the stranger from the “nationals” engendered ridicule, abuse, exclusion, or isolation.

Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex further exacerbated the problem by attempting to make distinctions between the races of men making some further “evolved” than others.  In making these distinctions, he assigned the black race the position closest to our ape ancestors. At the time, in America, and other places in the world, black men and women were taken from their God-assigned borders in Africa and sold like animals into slavery. Since they were considered less human, slavery could be easily rationalized.

Slavery is nothing new. It has existed since the beginning of time. The second book of the Bible, Exodus, records how the children of Israel became slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. After they came up out of slavery, God gave laws on the proper, humane treatment of slaves (servants). They were often accepted as part of the family. Some slaves were given great responsibility as “stewards” of their masters’ possessions.  Paul, in his letters to the churches, gave instructions on how slaves should behave with their masters and how masters should treat their slaves.[8] Now just because the Bible provides instructions on the humane treatment of slaves, it does not imply that God condones the practice. God does hate divorce,[9] but he allows for it because of man’s fallen condition.[10] Likewise, the same concept applies to slavery.

A common misconception exists that the slave trade in the 16th to 19th centuries involved mainly white slave traders. The fact is that certain powerful African tribes preyed on weaker ones to sell them to white slave traders for profit. Blacks sold other blacks into slavery. “The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were the Portuguese, the British, the Spanish, the French, the Dutch Empires, and the Danish. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders” (emphasis mine).[11] This, of course, does not absolve the white slave traders, but it demonstrates that they do not bear the burden alone. It appears that this is an early example of black-on-black crime.

Most in the United States frowned upon slavery. Even in the South, only a small percentage of white farmers owned slaves. “In 1860, according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 75 percent of white families in the United States owned not a single slave, while 1 percent of families owned 40 or more. Just a tenth of 1 percent of Americans owned 100 or more slaves. That same year, 1860, 31 percent of all slaves in the U.S. were held on plantations of 40 or more slaves, while a majority (53 percent) were held on farms of between 7 and 39 slaves, says the institute.”[12] Perhaps a better way to put it is that only about 25% (1/4) of the entire United States population owned slaves, and most of those were in the southern states. In addition, most of the slaves were owned by large plantation owners who made up a very small fraction of the population. Therefore, while the record of slavery in the United States is certainly a blight on our history, it seems grossly unfair that the majority of white people currently living should be held accountable for the sins of a small minority 160 years ago.

From the founding of our nation, the great majority of Americans held slavery in contempt based on the Word of God and our founding documents that affirm that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”[13] “All men” means all men, regardless of race, religion, or social standing. Slavery cannot stand under that declaration, and, when President Lincoln was elected in 1860 on a platform to end slavery, that initiated the Civil War. Whites and blacks died in that great war that pitted brother against brother. It was ugly, but so is slavery.

One would hope that the Civil War settled the issue of racism in the United States. I am not black, so I cannot empathize with their perception of “systemic racism” in the United States. Frankly, I do not see it. I am certain that racism exists, and it probably always will. However, I believe we have made great strides in the USA to eliminate overt racism, but there will always be some. A close neighbor of mine openly admits that he is racist. He does not like black people. Alright, as long as we live in a free nation, he has the right to hold his views as long as he does not act upon them in a way that will violate someone else’s rights.

Being of Hispanic origin – my roots go all the way back to Spain – and of Mexican heritage – my father immigrated from Mexico – I have experienced racism from stupid white men that saw me as inferior because of my race. (Mexican is a nationality, not a race, but stupid people do not know the difference.) However, I never allowed racist remarks to affect me in a negative way or make me feel inferior to my assailants. And I never allowed those few ignoramuses to cause me to paint all white people as racists because of a few dummies. (I feel strange distinguishing other whites as “white.” Having come from European descent, I am white also.)

My racist neighbor grew up in Ohio. He is of Italian descent. He tells me of all the racial battles he faced growing up, racism between Italians and Irish. Racism comes in all colors. It is not just black and white. Regardless of its form, racism is just wrong. Racism is sin because the God who made us all in His image, made us all of one blood, and we are His prized creation. As such, we have one who hates us for that very reason and will do all that is within his power to divide and conquer us. That is what racism is all about. Satan[14] hates human beings, and he aims to destroy us.[15]

Just from my observations, which only take note of the exterior but seldom see beneath the surface, it seems to me that blacks are more deeply offended when they perceive racism employed against them, whether real or imagined. I worked with a couple of black guys in two different jobs. We always got along fine and never had any relational problems. However, I noticed that when they would be reprimanded or if they received a less than stellar evaluation, they would always attribute the perceived negativity to racism. It was because they were black. I experienced being called a racist by a black worker I supervised. He quit the job because of that, but when I confronted him about it, he could not explain to me what it was I did to warrant that accusation. I did all I could to encourage him not to quit, but he quit anyway.

In the Navy, while I was stationed onboard the USS Sperry AS-12, between 1970-1974, I noticed how black sailors would all gather at one table on the mess decks to the exclusion of all others. Of course, the civil rights demonstrations of the ’60s were still pretty much current events, but these guys made no strides at racial reconciliation. In fact, they went out of their way to intimidate any white sailor that tried to sit at “their” table.

If we are honest, we have to admit that the racism of blacks against whites is more prevalent than the racism of whites against blacks. And I do not understand why, unless it is intentional or perhaps they see themselves as inferior and assume all white people view them in the same way. I do not know. I am not a psychologist. Regardless, racism, regardless of who practices it, is sin.

Because racism is sin, Christians should be the first ones to identify it and the first to reject it. It does not matter the color of skin God gave us, racism should not be named within the Christian community. Yet, we remain sinners even though we are saved by grace. But we can try, and the effort pleases God.

Very recently, two churches, one black and one white, met together to talk about the issue of racism. The pastors of both churches agreed on all points, particularly on the fact that racism is sin. However, rightly or wrongly, it seemed to me that the black pastor indirectly implied that the problem of racism lies with white people, and that white people are primarily responsible for rectifying it. The black pastor was the first to present. He began his presentation by posting the faces of ten black people (8 men, 2 women) who died at the hands of whites: Trayvon Martin,[16] Tamir Rice,[17] Emmit Teal,[18] Eric Garner,[19] Philando Castile,[20] Ahmaud Abrey,[21] George Floyd,[22] Rayshard Brooks,[23] Sandra Bland,[24] and Breonna Taylor.[25]

With a few exceptions, all of these people died in altercations with police officers for resisting arrest, and most had criminal records. In all cases, the deaths were due to poor choices by the victims. In the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year old, he aimed a realistic-looking pistol at police, and the police reacted in an understandable manner. Tamir, sadly, ended up dead. Emmit Teal, a 14-year old, was lynched by a couple of rednecks (in the ’50s) for allegedly insulting a white woman, the wife of one of the murderers. That case definitely can be called a racist crime, no doubt. Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction and rather than comply with the officer’s request for her driver’s license, she resisted the officer and became verbally abusive to him. This resulted in her arrest, not because of the traffic violation, but because of her refusal to comply with the officer’s requests, which is against the law. She allegedly hung herself in her jail cell. The matter remains under investigation, but she would still be alive if she had just said, “Yes, Sir” and handed the officer her driver’s license. Breonna Taylor died in a shoot out with police officers who came with a warrant to search for drugs. Breonna was in her apartment with her boyfriend and supposedly did not hear the officers knocking. When the officers broke down the door, Breonna’s boyfriend reacted by firing his gun at the police. Breonna was collateral damage.

All of these cases are tragic, but of the ten, only one can actually be said was the result of racism, and that one did not involve the police. There is a spirit of anarchy pervading our nation that wants to divide us racially, economically, and socially. This same spirit wants to destroy our foundations and topple our system of government by eliminating our system of law enforcement. Systemic racism does not exist in our nation, and it does not exist in law enforcement, but leftists and their media continue to propagate the lie. Consider the lie that blacks are disproportionately killed by white police officers: “Study Destroys Argument That White Cops are Shooting Black Men.”[26] Race is not the issue in police shootings of black men.[27] Another headline reads, “New Police Shooting Stats Show Law Enforcement Is Not the Enemy.”[28] In fact, it appears that more blacks kill cops than the other way around.[29]

To make racism a white issue based on unfounded, isolated cases propagated by the leftist media is not only illogical and irrational, it places the burden of racism unfairly on the majority of white people. Yet the black pastor, perhaps unwittingly and without malice, placed the responsibility of resolution, in context of the Church, on white Christians. He pointed out that the “fact of Racism exists in the World. More specifically for our discussion, in the Church. It is not a figment of the mind of black people.” I propose that it is mostly in the mind of black people who refuse to relinquish it because it offers a convenient excuse for not taking responsibility for their own actions and failings. The black pastor also suggested that “In order for racism to be mitigated, Black Christians need white Christians to recognize it, repent of it and work toward the meaningful reconciliation that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:19).” That is an excellent recommendation, but it fails to assign any responsibility to blacks who can be just as guilty of racism.

The black pastor quoted from The Woke Church by Eric Mason, p. 163: “What needs to happen in the body if we are going to work together cross-ethnically is that white Christians must reach across the color line and begin building respect and trust for minorities, minorities must respond with open arms and hearts to these efforts.” (Emphasis mine). The pastor added, “Not only do white Christians need to speak up, Black Christians, who have achieved a level of success need to speak up every time we witness the [perceived] injustice of racism. Silence from any Christian for any reason gives permission to evil!” I submit this is one thing they do consistently.

I did not quote anything that the white pastor said because he went along with everything the black pastor said and offered no objection but rather acquiesced to the unfair implication that all the fault lies with the white community, and it is the responsibility of the white community to resolve the issue of racism.

Racism exists. It is sin. It is sin that infects all skin tones. The white pastor pointed out how the Israelites were very racist against Gentiles. Well, Gentiles come in all colors, so the comparison is apples to oranges. Regardless of the form, racism is wrong. However, it cannot be legislated away. It is a problem of the heart and only Jesus can change the heart. As for Christians, both black and white, we need to make the concerted effort to look beyond the color of a person’s skin. We should all, black and white, heed the words of Martin Luther King who said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Those words have been mostly aimed at whites, but it applies equally to blacks also.

Racism is sin and should not be named among Christians. “There is neither Jew nor Greek [nor black nor white], there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

 Notes:


[1]  “Racism” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/racism?s=t

[2]  Genesis 1:26-28

[3]  Genesis 2:23-24

[4]  Genesis 3

[5]  Genesis 4-5

[6]  Genesis 6-9

[7]  Genesis 11

[8]  Ephesians 6:5-9

[9]  Malachi 2:13-16

[10]  Matthew 19:3-9

[11]  “Atlantic Slave Trade” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade

[12]  “Slavery, by the Numbers,” The Root website: https://www.theroot.com/slavery-by-the-numbers-1790874492

[13]  Quoted from the Declaration of Independence

[14]  “Why Satan” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/11/02/why-satan/

[15]  “The Devil” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/09/23/the-devil/

[16]  https://townhall.com/columnists/williammarshall/2019/09/13/exposing-the-trayvon-martin-hoax-n2553059

[17]  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/mikehayes/heres-a-brief-history-of-the-tamir-rice-shooting

[18]  https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/emmett-till

[19]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Eric_Garner

[20]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Philando_Castile

[21]  https://www.nytimes.com/article/ahmaud-arbery-shooting-georgia.html

[22]  https://nypost.com/2020/06/02/george-floyd-had-violent-criminal-history-minneapolis-union-chief/ and https://www.cbsnews.com/news/george-floyd-death-autopsies-homicide-axphyxiation-details/

[23]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Rayshard_Brooks

[24]  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/07/sandra-bland-video-footage-arrest-death-police-custody-latest-news

[25]  https://www.wdrb.com/news/separating-facts-from-fiction-in-the-breonna-taylor-case/article_94fb82fc-b10c-11ea-9305-43c10123a542.html

[26]  https://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/study-destroys-argument-that-white-cops-are-shooting-black-men/

[27]  “There Is No Epidemic of Racist Police Shootings” https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/white-cops-dont-commit-more-shootings/

[28] https://www.newsmax.com/bernardkerik/police-shootings-crime-statistics/2019/01/22/id/899297/

[29]  “5 Statistics You Need To Know About Cops Killing Blacks” – https://www.dailywire.com/news/5-statistics-you-need-know-about-cops-killing-aaron-bandler

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Creation, Current Events, End Times, Evolution, Origins, Random Musings, Satan, Theology

A Soul

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

What comes to mind when you think of “a soul”? For most of my life, I imagined a soul as some ethereal, intangible, wispy inhabitant of our body that occupied our being that then departed when the physical body died. I suppose most people look at a soul in much the same way. Dictionary.com defines a soul as: (1) the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part; (2) the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come; (3) the disembodied spirit of a deceased person; (4) the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments; (5) a human being; person (emphasis mine).[1]

That last definition, I think, is the biblical understanding of “a soul.” In the Genesis account of the creation of man, I envision God (Jesus, in His pre-incarnate form) bending over a mass of reddish clay molding the human form. Scripture records, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “formed” is yâtsar, and it carries the idea of squeezing something into shape; to mold into the desired shape as a potter molds and forms a clay vessel. The idea goes well considering the construction material used – dust.

With the body plan complete, God, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “breathed” and “breath” are related. From the English translation, we can see that the former is a verb and the latter is a noun. The Hebrew words are nâphach and neshâmâh respectively and both mean “a puff.” The word “soul” is also related: nephesh. It means “living creature” and it can refer to either a human being or an animal. Yes, as defined here, animals have “souls” (nephesh); however, they do not possess that special neshâmâh of life “puffed” into humans by God.

This puff of life from God caused God’s mud sculpture to rise and become a living soul with a physical body, mind, and neshâmâh (breath/spirit of life). A triune creature created in the image of God[2] hitherto known as “a living soul.” God is triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Collectively we just say, “God.” Man, made in the image of God, is triune in nature: mind, body, and spirit. Collectively, the Bible refers to the unit as “a soul.”

There are many examples where this becomes obvious, but I will keep the list brief. The first example following the creation account comes when Abraham travels to Egypt and tries to pass off Sarah, his wife, as his sister. He tells Sarah, “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13). “My soul” (nephesh) here does not refer to his “spirit.” Abraham feared for his life – his physical life.

Later, when God confirmed His covenant with Abraham, God required that he and all males within his household be circumcised.[3] Disobedience to this command carried a penalty. “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:14). “That soul” (nephesh) refers to the whole person not just his spirit. Interestingly, in the account of Abraham rescuing his nephew Lot and others, the word nephesh is translated “persons” (Genesis 14:21).

Genesis 27 records the account of Jacob “stealing” his brother’s blessing by deceiving his father, Isaac. In the passage, “my soul” appears twice and “thy soul” shows up two times.[4] The meaning in each case is somewhat ambiguous; however it seems clear that its use refers to the whole person. More examples could be cited in Genesis, but other examples will help solidify my point.

Exodus records that “all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls” (Exodus 1:5, emphasis mine). Obviously, this refers to people, not disembodied spirits. Then when God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, God assured him that, “all the men are dead which sought thy life” (Exodus 4:19). The Hebrew word translated “thy life” is nephesh (soul). With regard to keeping the Sabbath, God said, “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exodus 31:14, emphasis mine). Again we see that “a soul” is a person.

The book of Leviticus offers many examples where the word “soul” (nephesh) refers to an individual. Here is one example: “if a soul touch any unclean thing … he also shall be unclean, and guilty” (Leviticus 5:2). To touch requires a physical body. Regarding the prohibition against eating blood: “No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood” (Leviticus 17:12). Again, it requires a physical body to eat blood.

There are 420 occurrences of the word “soul” in the Old Testament and nearly twice as many occurrences of the Hebrew word nephesh translated in other forms, for example, life, creature, persons, man, mind, et al. In the majority of occurrences, the word refers to the whole person. There is at least one instance in which the word seems to refer to the spirit of one who has died. Of Rachel’s death in childbirth, Scripture records, “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:18). However, we may infer that when the spirit of a person departs from the body, that person is no longer whole, and therefore no longer “a soul.” The “person” is gone; only the shell remains. The soul has departed.

My conclusion is that “a soul” is the entire person: mind, body, and spirit. According to our beginning verse, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4). We all die sooner or later; however, death, in this case, is not merely the cessation of life. This death separates the soul from the Source of Life for eternity. This is the “second death” spoken of in Revelation 20:14-15, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (emphasis mine). Jesus warned, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30, emphasis mine). The “soul” – the whole person, mind, body and spirit – that sins shall suffer the eternal consequences of “the second death.”

There is no loss of consciousness in the “second death.” That soul is very much alive and aware of his surroundings. Jesus spoke of such a one whose only sin was self-centeredness.[5] Of course, a self-centered person has no need for God, which is ultimately what landed him in hell. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Because the soul is the whole person, he could feel the flames of hell, and he could see what he had missed. Later on, he has a sense of concern for his five brothers who are still alive, and he requests that Lazarus be sent back to earth to go warn his brothers about this awful place. Hell apparently does nothing to change his self-centered, selfish ways. His concern is only for his brothers and not for the millions of souls in the same condition.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) – mind, body and spirit. In what condition is your soul today? If you are breathing, and reading this blog, and you really don’t know, there is hope, and you can settle it right now. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Soul” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul#

[2]  Genesis 1:27

[3]  Genesis 17:1-14

[4]  Genesis 27: 4, 19, 25, 31

[5]  Luke 16:19-31

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Christmas Excitement

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:9)

It’s that time of year once more. The places I work and worship sparkle with bright red, green, and gold decorations consistent with the colors of the Christmas season. Long before Thanksgiving Day, merchants displayed all their Christmas wares enticing shoppers to covet without first giving thanks. Television commercials attempt to instill a sense of privation so the viewer feels the need for what they are selling.

GMC™ produces two commercials that really stand out to me. They show a young couple, probably in their late twenties or early thirties, with no children, and a big fancy house. In one of the commercials, the husband buys GMC ™ vehicles for both of them. In the other, the husband gets the wife a puppy, and the wife gets him a big crew-cab pickup. Seriously, how many young people, on the average, have that kind of cash? Most young people that age, if they graduated from a college or university, are saddled with enormous school debt and are doing well to afford payments on a Honda Civic™ much less a $60,000 fully decked out pickup truck!

Regardless of how we feel about the materialism associated with the Christmas season, we cannot get away from the sense of expectation. At church, our choir and orchestra are working hard a polishing up the music for our Christmas concert. It will be wonderful, and we are excited about presenting it. Our church looks forward to our Christmas Eve services and our sharing of the Lord’s Supper, aka communion.

We celebrate the birth of our Savior. Think about what that means. The same God that created heaven and earth and all things, the same God that created human beings in His very image, is the same God that implanted Himself in the womb of a virgin girl to be born like any other human baby, live a sinless life among His creation, and give Himself as a sacrifice for humanity’s sin. That is awesome! That boggles the mind!

We anticipate with excitement the celebration of Christmas, the First Advent, but our celebration should look forward to the Second Advent yet to come. The prophets of old foretold of Jesus’ first coming. Beginning in Genesis, the Bible promises that the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent, i.e., Satan.[1] Isaiah tells us that the woman would be a virgin.[2] In Genesis, we also learn that He would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah.[3] Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be in the line of King David[4] and the psalmist concurred.[5] The conniving Balaam unwittingly predicted that a star would announce His coming.[6] Micah pointed to Bethlehem as the place of His birth,[7] and Hosea said He would come up from Egypt.[8] These are just some of the prophecies of His First Advent. Many more prophecies foretold of His life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection – all with 100% accuracy.

Christmastime should cause excitement as we anticipate His Second Advent. There are more prophecies concerning His second coming than there are for His first coming. Since all prophecies of His first coming came true as predicted, should we not expect the same accuracy of the prophecies predicting His second coming? Celebrating Christmas should excite us knowing that the Baby Jesus is the soon-coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

One of the carols we sing at Christmastime is not really a Christmas carol. In fact, “Joy to the World”[9] reminds us that Christ will return to rule the world as king.

Joy to the world the Savior reigns; let men their songs employ; while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat their sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.

We know historically that did not happen at His first coming. We might spiritualize those sentiments. Certainly, the Savior reigns within the hearts of all believers, albeit not perfectly. Sin and sorrow continue as always and “the curse” goes on unabated. He does not rule the world, and “the nations” care nothing about His glories or righteousness. All of these are attributes of His yet-to-come millennial reign.[10] The prophet Isaiah provides some insight into Jesus’ millennial reign on earth. That will be a time when even the animal kingdom will be at peace.[11] Knowing what is coming should make Christmas even more exciting than all the GMC™ pickups the world can afford!

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 3:15

[2]  Isaiah 7:14

[3]  Genesis 12:3; 26:4; 28:14; 49:10-11

[4]  Isaiah 11:1

[5]  Psalm 132:11

[6]  Numbers 24:17

[7]  Micah 5:2

[8]  Hosea 11:1

[9]  Carol by Isaac Watts, 1718

[10]  Revelation 20:1-7

[11]  Isaiah 11

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Neither Good Nor Bad

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:7-8)

Greg[1] pointed out to me last week something I had not stopped to consider. At the end of every day of creation, God assessed His work, “And God saw … that it was good.”[2] Genesis 1:4 is God’s assessment of the first day, specifically the light. In Genesis 1:10, 12, God gives approval of the third day’s work in separating the water from the land and bringing forth plant life. In Genesis 1:18, God is satisfied with His creation of the heavenly bodies on Day Four. On the fifth day, God gave His approval of the ocean creatures and the creatures that fly. He certified the “beasts of the field” created on the sixth day, and after He crowned His creation by creating man “in Our Image and after Our Likeness” on the sixth day, He declared His entire creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31). However, the second day, received no such assessment. Greg asked, “Why is that? Why did God have nothing to say about the second day?”

That is a very good question. I had to think about that. I consulted several commentaries on Genesis 1:6-8 and none made note of the absence of God’s evaluation of the second day. Not even The Henry Morris Study Bible had anything to say in this regard. Therefore I am left to puzzle this out on my own.

The best place to start, in context, is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “the earth” is ha’erets, and it can refer to earth as the planet, earth as land (either a parcel of land or as a country), or earth as ground (soil). Within the context of the first verse, the last option, ground (soil), probably fits best. In the first verse, God creates all the elements that comprise the universe: time, space, and matter/energy (the earth). Matter/energy occupies time and space. We call this the time-space continuum. So “earth” is the “stuff” from which all else is made.

Genesis 1:2 informs us that all this “stuff” was “without form and void” (not that it “became without form and void” as Gap Theorists speculate).[3], [4], [5] It also says that “darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Then, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Hebrew word translated “moved” is râchaph and it means to “flutter, move or shake.” I interpret this to mean that the Spirit of God hovered over the entire glob of the mass of matter to energize all the ‘erets God had created. Part of that energy existed as light. “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:3-5, emphasis mine).

We arrive at the second day, and what we have is a massive blob of matter and energy within the time-space continuum. It is void and without form; it has yet to be “shaped” into anything. On the second day, God gets to work at molding all the stuff of creation. “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1:6). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is râqı̂ya‛ meaning an “expanse” or the “visible arch of the sky.” Another dictionary[6] defines it as an “extended surface (solid).” The term seems to describe some sort of solid shell around this massive “earth” blob that fills the space of the universe – thus, the “firm” in firmament.[7] God installed this firmament “shell” between the waters to cause a separation from the waters from which He will form “Planet Earth” from the waters that will occupy the rest of space. I see this as the beginning of God “[stretching] out the heavens as a curtain, and [spreading] them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 1:7, emphasis mine). From the waters “which are above the firmament” God will create “the stars also.”[8]

“And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:8, emphasis mine). What God has at this point is a watery blob in the midst of a greater watery blob separated by the “firmament.” He still has more work to do to form Planet Earth. Perhaps this is why God made no assessment of His work at this point. He was not done with this part yet. It was neither good nor bad; it was incomplete. The finished product comes on Day Three where God brings the landmasses out of the water and causes the ground to bring forth vegetation.[9] At the end of that day, God declares it “good.”

Notes:


[1]  Greg is a volunteer at the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, and he is a very careful student of the Bible, hence the question. I did not use his full name because I did not request permission to do so, If he reads this blog article, he will know.

[2]  Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25

[3]  “The Gap – Not the Store” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/08/04/the-gap-not-the-store/

[4]  “No Gap” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

[5]  “The Age of the Earth” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/10/14/age-of-the-earth-2/

[6]  Brown-Driver-Briggs’  Hebrew Definitions

[7]  “רקיע  rāqı̂ya‛, “expanse;” στερέωμα  stereōma, רקע  rāqa‛, “spread out by beating, as leaf gold.” This expanse was not understood to be solid, as the fowl is said to fly on the face of it Gen_1:21. It is also described as luminous Dan_12:3, and as a monument of divine power Psa_150:1,” Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

[8]  Genesis 1:16

[9]  Genesis 1:9-13

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The Immorality of a Wall

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. (Nehemiah 4:10)

The partial government shutdown continues beyond the third week. Some say that this is the longest shutdown in government history, yet, outside of a small percentage of government employees, the shutdown fails to have the chaotic effect that the main-stream media (MSM) purport. Many conscientious government employees remain at their posts even though they have not received a paycheck. (That is what I call dedication, and they ought to be commended for it.) While their pay may be temporarily delayed, they will receive their full back-pay eventually when this government impasse is breached.

The cause of the impasse is absurd. The House of Representatives wants to submit a spending plan for President Trump sign. President Trump will not sign the spending plan because it does not include the $5.6 billion he has requested to build a wall on our southern border. Democrats and Republicans both agree that a wall is needed; however, Democrats, because it is Donald Trump making the request, refuse to allocate the money for wall construction to deny Trump from keeping a campaign promise. It has nothing to do with the right or wrong of the matter. It has everything to with who wins the argument, and the Democrats (I call them Demoncrats for a reason) want to win, regardless of whether the border wall is good for the nation or whether thousands of government employees get paid or not. (Note: Congressmen have not missed a paycheck. If any wall is immoral, it is this one erected by the Demoncrats.)

Democrats stoke up the media to incite sympathy for unpaid government employees while they take off on vacations to exotic places, and meet with lobbyists in Puerto Rico rather than sit with the President to hammer out this impasse. They accuse President Trump of inflexibility, yet they have refused any offer of compromise by the President. In his last meeting with Democrat leadership, President Trump asked Speaker Pelosi, “Okay, Nancy, if I open up the government in 30 days, could we have border security?” She said, “Not at all.”[1]

President Trump will not budge on his demand for border security that includes a solid barrier of some kind. He has offered concessions such as legalizing so-called “dreamers,” whom Democrats claim to champion. However, because yielding on the wall gives President Trump an optical victory, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to give sway on the matter regardless of the shutdown, regardless of the unpaid government employees, regardless that she has favored the wall in the past, regardless that it is a matter of national security and sovereignty, and regardless that it is the right thing to do. She defends her obstinate stance by claiming that “the wall is an immorality.”

The wall is an immorality! How so? On what, other than the imaginations of a deluded mind, does she base that claim? In a world of relativism, morality amounts to individual preference. It becomes subjective so that “your truth is not my truth” and in a nation of over 300 million people that makes for mass confusion and anarchy. I prefer the objective truth of God’s Word.

Since morality comes from God, and because God created humans in His image,[2] humans are naturally moral creatures. However, that morality has been corrupted,[3] and what is true for Nancy Pelosi may not be true at all. We need an objective standard for morality. God, as our Creator, provided us with His operating manual as the standard of morality – the Bible. Does the Bible address the question of the morality or immorality of a wall? Indeed it does.

Before getting into the Word, what is the purpose of a wall, barrier or fence? One of the definitions for a wall is a “rampart” or a “bulwark,” which is any protection against external danger, injury or annoyance. A wall or bulwark protects those within from danger from without. Walls prevent invasion from outside forces that would harm those behind the wall.

I have a seven-foot fence in my back yard. It may not prevent an intruder climbing over, but it will certainly cost him (I assume intruders will be male) great effort and hopefully alert the dogs before he can break into my house. Otherwise, I hope the fence will discourage the attempt in the first place. The front of my house is open to the street. Without a fence to protect my front door, I feel vulnerable to attack from that side. (I speak from a human perspective; however, I place my trust in God for our protection. I do my part and let Him take care of those things which are out of my control.)

I heard someone say, “I have a fence not because I hate the people outside, but because I love the people inside.” Fences, and walls, while not perfect, give us a measure of protection. Nancy Pelosi’s estate has a wall around it. Barack Obama, the Clintons, Bernie Sanders as well as most other Democrats live behind tall barriers to keep out the riffraff. Are their walls an “immorality”? No sane person would make such a claim; therefore, Nancy Pelosi’s claim is either delusional or hypocritical.

The Bible talks about walls. In Bible times, walls presented the first line of defense for the city (they do today also). Entry into a walled city was through the city gates. Anyone having business within the city walls entered through the massive, heavy gates (the “ports of entry”). When the gates were closed, no one entered or left the city. When invading armies came against the city, they would have either to scale the heavily defended walls, break down the gates, or lay siege to the city. Conquering a walled city often took several years to accomplish. Those living in the unwalled villages were easy prey. If they could not escape to the protection of a nearby, fortified city, they fell victim to the enemy. Walls, for those protected by them, were moral, not immoral.

The Bible has 247 occurrences in 223 verses of “wall” or “walls.” When Israel entered the Promised Land, “All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many” (Deuteronomy 3:5). The first walled city they faced was Jericho, and it took an act of God to breach that wall.[4] David conquered the walled city of Jebus (Jerusalem)[5] by entering the city through a water conduit (“gutter”).[6], [7] Later, his son Solomon reinforced and expanded the walls of Jerusalem.[8] During his reign, Solomon fortified other cities throughout Israel.[9]

We have already seen that walls are not 100% effective; they can be penetrated,[10] and when a wall is broken down, it must be repaired.[11] Broken walls are distressing for those depending on them for protection,[12] and their restoration is cause for celebration.[13] For those inside, walls provide security.[14] For those outside, walls present an obstacle to overcome, and they are not appreciated.[15]

God approves of walls.[16] The idea of borders and nations was His in the first place.[17] God created the nations[18] and established their boundaries.[19] Borders are not offensive to God; neither is the defense of those borders; therefore walls are not “an immorality” as Speaker Pelosi proclaims. If anything, breaching a wall is immoral and cause for war – a war initiated by the invader. In the world in which we live, we need walls, and those walls must be respected.

One day soon, the need for walls will cease,[20] except for the wall around the New Jerusalem whose walls will exclude no one. That wall will serve to set that city apart as a very special place.[21] However, for the present, for everyone who names the name of Christ, no matter what national or ethnic origin, “… he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14). Outside of that, “Build the Wall!”

Notes:


[1]  “House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy reacts to President Trump’s latest comments on fixing the border crisis

[2]  Genesis 1:26-27

[3]  Genesis 3

[4]  Joshua 6

[5]  1 Chronicles 11:4

[6]  2 Samuel 5:8

[7]Did King David Conquer Jerusalem Using This Tunnel?

[8]  1 Kings 3:1

[9] 1 Kings 9:15; 2 Chronicles 8:5; 14:7

[10]  2 Chronicles 25:23; 26:6; 36:19

[11]  2 Chronicles 32:5; Jeremiah 52:14

[12]  Nehemiah 1:3; 2:17

[13]  Nehemiah 12:27, 30

[14] Psalm 122:7; Proverbs 18:11; 25:28; Ezekiel 38:11

[15]  Ezra 4:12-16; Nehemiah 4:3

[16]  Ezra 9:9; Psalm 51:18

[17]  Genesis 11:8-9

[18]  Genesis 10

[19]  Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26

[20]  Isaiah 26:1; 60:18; Zechariah 2:4-5

[21]  Revelation 21

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