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A Dialogue on the Continuity of the Law

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4:2. Should Christians keep the Torah?

The conversation below took place in an online forum more than ten years ago. I’m reproducing it here because that forum no longer exists, and I think the content is worth preserving.

[Original post] Jay Carper:

It seems to me that an honest reading of Scripture without antinomian prejudice can only lead to the conclusion that God’s Law has not been set aside, abrogated, annulled, or whatever synonym for canceled you might prefer.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

1 Peter 2:21-22 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.

Matthew 5:17-19 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (18) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (19) Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Translation:

1) The Law of Moses says that no one may change the Law.
2) John said that anyone who violates the Law has sinned.
3) Peter said that Jesus never sinned.
4) Jesus said that he didn’t come to remove even a single ink mark from the Law and that anyone who does will be called the least in heaven.
5) If Jesus came to change the Law in even the smallest way, then he is a liar and a sinner, and he cannot be the Messiah.

I have never heard anything resembling a convincing counter argument. If you’ve got one, I’d love to hear it.

Jair:

That’s not too hard, everything is predicated on point 2 which is the weak link anyway.
1 John 3:4 is a peculiarity, the root of the word law in both instances is anomee’ah instead of nom’os, its the only time anomee’ah (for lack of text inserts right now) is rendered that way, in every other case it is rendered iniquity. The term in no case refers to the Law of Moses, though nom’os frequently does.

Sin may well be lawlessness, iniquity, wickedness etc. You could argue from this passage that Sin is a transgression of any given law that you are bound, but you couldn’t argue that sin is specifically a transgression of Mosaic law.

Thank God for that, because without cities of refuge, the Levies, the Priesthood, years of Jubilee, and on it is impossible for us to follow the Law of Moses. That was law was for a specific deal which people broke, God totally burned the bridge of following the law of Moses. He made sure we couldn’t pretend the deal was still on by destroying key things required to follow it. I have respect for anyone who tries to emulate its precepts, but no one can obey that law without saying ‘I’ll just do my best here’ and ‘I can’t do that so it doesn’t mater’ there.

Ironically, in trying to apply that deal to themselves people have to change much more than jots or iotas, they have to ignore or comprise the things they can’t do, and that is an insult to the law.

Mark Call:

No offense, Jair, but I’m solidly with Jay, and Yeshua, on this one.

Had He violated His own Written Word, in such places as Deut. 4:2 and 12:32, then He would have been a liar (including not only such references as Matt. 5, but many others, like John 5:47) and could not have been HaMashiach.

(This is, in fact, a very good reason that so many Torah-knowledgeable Jews reject a “Jesus” who supposedly “did away with” it. Many are thus shocked when they hear what “Yeshua the netzir” — a word they already know — actually said!)

But I’ve always considered any argument that relies on a Greek understanding which contradicts not only the Hebrew word, but the Torah itself, to be EXTREMELY suspect. “Nomos” is no better a rendering of the word “torah” than the English word “law” is, and it is very likely that many of the texts in the Brit Hadasha or “new” testament are translations of things originally penned in Hebrew as well.

(Speaking for myself, I will add that such “contradictions” were what originally led me to an agnostic rejection of the Bible as “contradictory”; what else could Mal. 3:6 mean by saying “I change NOT”? It was Greek “gods” who were capricious and untrustworthy, not YHVH Elohim.)

There are some things that CANNOT be done, Jair – and I see no problem with that, since one of the key principles of Torah understanding is discernment. Since I am not a king, or a wife, some things simply don’t apply to me. Same thing goes for certain sacrifices. (BTW, most of the “law done away” with crowd tend to miss a very important fact about “sacrifices” in general, and the Perfect Lamb in particular:
there IS no sacrifice in Torah for “rebellion”! The ramifications are profound…since He knew that “from the Beginning”.)

But good job, Jay; that’s about as good of a one-page summary as I’ve seen.

Jair:

It doesn’t rely on Greek, that’s just a side note, the point is that 1 John 3:4 does not say Law of Moses, there is nothing that says sin is specifically a violation of Mosaic law, just that it is a transgression of law in general.

But note that I never said Jesus changed or did away with Mosaic law either, insofar that that is Jays point point 4 stands on its own and the rest is immaterial.

Much more important than that is the idea that sin is a specifically a transgression of Mosaic law. God doesn’t change, but people do. The Law of Moses and its promises stood binding until all twelve tribes fell and their governments where wiped out due to constantly breaking their end of the deal.

You see that some things don’t apply because of gender, rank, heritage, or occupation. Why is it then a problem that things don’t apply because you are not a person with whom the deal was made? God made sure pretending to follow the Law of Moses as if it applied to you would be hollow by destroying things that where needed to follow it.

Part of discernment is knowing who you are and not applying everything the Bible says to yourself, that’s what the name it and claim it crowd do with anything they see as being good.

Jay Carper:

I haven’t had time to compose a response to your initial comment, Jair, so forgive me for skipping ahead…

For several years (5 or 6?) after realizing that the Torah still applied to the Jews, I said pretty much what your saying: The Law is still in effect, but what does that have to do with me?

Jeremiah 31:31-37 and the writings of Paul changed my mind. The New Covenant is the great hope of the gentiles. It is our way to adoption as sons of God. However, God told Jeremiah that he would make the New Covenant only with the houses of Judah and Israel: no gentiles allowed! Paul, relying on prophecies about “a people who are not a people” and “dry twigs” wrote that the gentile converts are grafted in to the tree of Israel. In the Messiah there is no Jew or Gentile–so far as salvation or entrance to the New Covenant is concerned–because they are all on an equal footing as citizens of Israel.

When a person becomes a citizen of a new nation, he adopts that nation’s laws. He cannot take his old nation’s laws with him and expect his conduct to be excused by the new government.

If the Torah still stands for Jews, then it still stands for all believers.

Mark Call:

I like Jay’s explanation, Jair, but would add another observation.

I’m not particularly fond of the limitation implied by the very terminology, “Law of Moses”, and think it is misleading. (In part, but not only, because of the occasional use of the term ‘torah’ to refer to the Pentateuch. Depending on context, “torah” can mean more.)

“Torah” literally is ‘teaching and instruction’. Yeshua used words translated into English as “torah and prophets” when He referred to what “is Written”. But note that Adam walked with God, and that Noah obviously knew which animals were “clean” and which were “unclean” long before that teaching and understanding were even Written down.

I contend that the “Law” (think “Law of Gravity”) was in place when the “Foundations were laid”. His “teaching and instruction” are a function of His design, and what He has Written about all of it is for our blessing, if we have “eyes to see”.

Jair:

Jay,
But that’s the thing, I can’t see how the legal system of Israel laid down in the time of Moses actually applies even Rabbinic Jews. They cannot honour it, they have to leave out chunks that they simply can’t do and in observing here and leaving out there they force that Law to change, and that is exactly what Jesus said not to do as per point 4 and Deuteronomy said not to do as of your first quotation.

I have no quibble with with the doctrine of adoption as you laid it out here.

Mark,
Yes, teaching and instructions goes beyond the Law of Moses. But the term Law of Moses was used in point 1. For clarity by the Law of Moses I mean specifically the legal system laid down for Ancient Israel by God and the promises tied directly too it. I should double check with Jay to see if that is close enough to what he means by the term. There are eternal ethics (or, eternal laws), but that does not mean that there are temporal or case by case ethics as well. The Law of Moses was a deal with a specific people under specific conditions. The histories and the Prophets detail those people violation those conditions, and the captivities show the deal ending. God promises to make another deal if they turn to him, but it is a different deal.

Your point about Noah knowing clean animals goes to show that cleanliness of animals goes beyond that time and government, I would say that is along the lines of an eternal law, though even then I would make exceptions in the case of starvation.

Mark Call:

I don’t necessarily disagree, Jair.

I just note, however that often the specific term, “Law of Moses”, is used to mean “that which does not apply to ME”.

Since I have come to regard ALL of His Torah, meaning “teaching and instruction”, as valuable for things like reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, and a lamp to my own feet, I can do so far less legalistically.  😉

Jay Carper:

There are definitely parts of the Law that cannot be obeyed today. Those who would try are in the same basic situation as the Jews of the Babylonian exile. The Temple had been destroyed, and they were not allowed to travel Jerusalem anyway. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent.

Perfect obedience was probably always impossible. We just try to play the best game we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. Our salvation is through faith in God’s forbearance and not in strict obedience to the codified Torah.

Jay Carper:

Finally getting around to responding to your initial comment, Jair. I’m enjoying the dialog!

That’s not too hard, everything is predicated on point 2 which is the weak link anyway. -Jair

No, point 4 is the most important. Even if John’s reference to sin and law is irrelevant, Yeshua would still be a liar if he actually did come to remove anything from the Torah.

1 John 3:4 is a peculiarity, the root of the word law in both instances is anomee’ah instead of nom’os, its the only time anomee’ah (for lack of text inserts right now) is rendered that way, in every other case it is rendered iniquity. The term in no case refers to the Law of Moses, though nom’os frequently does. -Jair

Anomia isn’t translated “law” here either, not even in the KJV. It’s translated “transgression of the law,” which is essentially the same thing as lawlessness or iniquity. Therefore, sin = lawlessness. To what law could John have been referring but the Law of God? In every case, both anomos and anomia refer to breaking God’s commands found in Torah, i.e. the Law of Moses. I would have checked every instance of nomos also, but there were 195 of them listed in the KJ Concordance! The first dozen or so bore out the same pattern.

Sin may well be lawlessness, iniquity, wickedness etc. You could argue from this passage that Sin is a transgression of any given law that you are bound, but you couldn’t argue that sin is specifically a transgression of Mosaic law. -Jair

No, you couldn’t argue that sin is the transgression of any law. (Well, you can argue it, but that doesn’t make it true.) That might be a literal interpretation of the word, but that is clearly not the way it is used throughout the NT writings. It is always used in reference to Torah.

Jay Carper:

Thank God for that, because without cities of refuge, the Levites, the Priesthood, years of Jubilee, and on it is impossible for us to follow the Law of Moses. That was law was for a specific deal which people broke, God totally burned the bridge of following the law of Moses. He made sure we couldn’t pretend the deal was still on by destroying key things required to follow it. I have respect for anyone who tries to emulate its precepts, but no one can obey that law without saying ‘I’ll just do my best here’ and ‘I can’t do that so it doesn’t mater’ there. -Jair

God said that he would never reject Israel nor his covenant with them. It doesn’t matter that they broke it. God still promised to keep it. He said that he would never forget them and never destroy them, but that if they would repent, he would be waiting to accept them back.

Leviticus 26:44-45 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. (45) But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.

Ironically, in trying to apply that deal to themselves people have to change much more than jots or iotas, they have to ignore or comprise the things they can’t do, and that is an insult to the law. -Jair

I don’t know if the law can be insulted or offended by one who is under the covering of Yeshua. We do not owe our allegiance to the commands, but to the commander. Obeying his commands, which he has never retracted and never can without breaking his word, as well as we are able can only honor him.

Jair:

Mark,
With that said we are saying pretty well the same thing, cool.

Jay,
I think the shortest way to reply would be to point out that Leviticus 26 isn’t talking about our forefathers but the forefathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Israel himself. All of whom lived before the Law of Moses was given. Gods Covenant with the children of Israel goes beyond that specific legal system, it existed before it and continues to exist after it. Just to be clear I never said God rejected Israel.

I’m very sure that the law can be offended by people covered by Christ, its no doubt plagues could have been minimized by valuing the precepts concerning sanitation. But one way or the other we are not talking about retracting commands, we are talking about trying to follow commands given to other people. Our standing orders are different than those of pre captivity Israel, and he made sure we knew it by making sure we couldn’t actually follow the wrong set of orders.

Jay Carper:

“Offending” was a poor choice of words on my part. “Insulting” was better. I didn’t mean to imply that the commands couldn’t be broken. I was thinking more along the lines of being accountable to the law as an entity in itself.

I agree that the Torah is not the covenant itself, and that it existed before Mt. Sinai.
I disagree that we are talking about commands given to other people. God was clear that the New Covenant is only with the houses of Israel and Judah (together being the nation of Israel) and no one else. If anyone becomes party to that covenant, then they become one with Israel also, sons of Abraham, just like the mixed multitude who came out of Egypt in the Exodus.

Mark Call:

Very good, Jay. I often ask folks, “well, would you like to be ‘grafted in’, or not?”

Jair:

If we aren’t talking about being accountable to the law as an entity in itself I’m not sure we are actually disagreeing anywhere.

To be clear I agree that all of Israel in all time including those ‘grafted in’ are under the Covenant with Abraham, which is neither new nor old, but just is. However only those who lived in the Nation of Israel from the time of Moses to the captivity are bound to say, observe Jubilee as a moral obligation to that covenant.

Jay Carper:

“As a moral obligation to the covenant…”

I would call it a moral obligation to the God with whom we have covenanted. I do not believe that God’s Law is unique to a particular covenant, but rather it is the standard to which he holds his people. When we come into covenant with God, his standards, as the rules of his house, automatically apply.

Jair:

If we aren’t talking about being accountable to the law as an entity in itself I’m not sure we are actually disagreeing anywhere.

To be clear I agree that all of Israel in all time including those ‘grafted in’ are under the Covenant with Abraham, which is neither new nor old, but just is. However only those who lived in the Nation of Israel from the time of Moses to the captivity are bound to say, observe Jubilee as a moral obligation to that covenant.

Jay Carper:

You’ll get no argument from me there. Laws about saddles don’t apply to me because I don’t have any animals that wear saddles. Laws about sacrifices don’t apply directly to me either, because there is no Temple at which a sacrifice could be made. There are definitely valuable lessons to be drawn from those laws, but the laws themselves don’t apply. Many laws did not apply to Moses even after he had written them. He wasn’t a woman. He didn’t have a stone house. He wasn’t a king.

Jair:

In turn I will readily agree that Jesus did not do away with or change what most modern Christians supposed him too, and that your argument against said change is to my knowledge unbeaten.

Jay Carper:

LOL. Thanks!

What Does “Help Meet” Mean?

Eve was created to be a help meet for Adam, but what does that really mean?

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Genesis 2:18

Men and Women are Not the Same

According to Adam Clarke (Commentary on the Bible), the Hebrew for “help meet for him,” ezer kenegdo, “implies that the woman was to be a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to himself.” He was right to an extent.

Mankind, both male and female, is unique among God’s breathing creations, those beings that Scripture calls nephesh, or souls. This is confusing to many English speakers because we often use the terms “soul” and “spirit” interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing in the Bible. A soul is a living being, while a spirit is the incorporeal part of a person that carries on the essence of the person after the body dies.1

Eve was like Adam in that she was of the same kind of being, mankind, somewhere between angel and beast. Like Adam, Eve was a living soul in possession of a body, spirit, and mind. She shared his divine mission of caring for the Garden and, by extension, the whole Earth. She shared in his authority and in his role as a connection between the eternal Creator and his temporal creation.

But Eve was never “a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority.”The physical differences between men and women are obvious. Sane people do not allow men to compete in women’s athletic events, even if those men are pretending to be women. Every society that has every existed has recognized the sexual dimorphism of humanity, sorting men and women into activities that are best suited to their capabilities. Among hunter-gatherers, men almost always do the hunting, fighting, and heavy lifting, while women almost always do the gardening and textile work, which might be even more challenging in their ways, but don’t require the same strength or speed.3

The mental differences are intuitively apparent to most people. Think of the joke about men being a machine with a single switch and women being another machine covered in switches, dials, gauges, and buttons without a hint of what they’re supposed to do. The joke is an exaggeration, of course, but still close enough to the truth to be funny. The mind is significantly more opaque than the body, so the differences between the sexes is harder to quantify, but the work of many reputable researchers, astute observers of human behavior, and less reputable (but possibly more effective) proponents of dating Game, have established their existence and general parameters beyond reasonable argument.

The spiritual differences between men and women are not so obvious. They are evident, however, in the spiritual and hierarchical roles into which men and women have almost universally organized their activities, in the Creation story of Genesis, and in the many scriptural examples of and references to the differently ordained roles of men and women.

Consider just a handful of many dozens of examples:

  • God repeatedly chose a younger son to inherit the covenants and promises of Abraham, never a daughter, although their wives and daughters certainly participated in those covenants. (Genesis)
  • When God chose someone to lead Israel out of Egypt, he chose Moses rather than Miriam. Only men were appointed by Moses as leaders over the people at God’s direction. Only the sons of Levi are permitted to serve at the Tabernacle and only the sons of Aaron to serve at the altar, although their wives and daughters enjoy some of the benefits of that service.  (Exodus, Numbers)
  • The land of Israel is passed from father to son and only to a daughter if the man had no sons. A woman joins the tribe of her husband–never the other way around–and so a daughter who inherits her fathers land must marry a man of her own tribe in order to keep the land intact. (Numbers)
  • God gave fathers the explicit right to annul the vows of their wives and daughters, but not of their sons, and Paul twice wrote of the obligation of wives to respect and obey their husbands. (Numbers 30, Ephesians, Colossians)

At about this point, some readers might be thinking to themselves, “My! What a misogynist!” But how so? If I say that elms make better shade than palms, does that mean I am somehow anti-palm trees? If I say that dump trucks haul more rocks than do refrigerated panel vans, am I saying anything against refrigerated panel vans? Of course not, to both questions. I am merely pointing out that some things are better at one thing than another.

I am also not saying that women have no legitimate role in ministry or leadership. Although men are more suited to many kinds of leadership and a preponderance of women in leadership is almost certainly a symptom of a society in trouble, God never said, “Thou shalt not suffer a woman to lead.” Scripture records a number of prophetesses and one God-ordained woman who served as the national Judge of Israel at a time when men were weak and cowardly.

Men and women are different physically, mentally, and spiritually, and it would be impossible for them to be equally suitable to performing the same tasks or filling the same roles. To insist otherwise is actually anti-man and anti-woman by disregarding their unique strengths and weaknesses.

A Help Meet for Him

If it’s not clear already, the term “help meet” (often mistakenly given as “help mate”) doesn’t mean that Eve was created to be Adam’s slave. In fact, Moses and David both used the same word to refer to God as their own helper. (Exodus 18:4, Psalm 33:20, 70:5) Surely they didn’t think of YHVH as a personal servant to be summoned and ordered about at will! God is the indisputable superior in those relationships, yet he is still called a helper.

In Ezekiel 12:14, God refers to the personal attendants–whether guards, aides, or mercenaries–of the King of Judah with this same word. So ezer ultimately implies neither inferiority nor superiority. Rather than a servant, ezer implies an ally, an indispensable supporter, and even a rescuer.

The Hebrew phrase ezer kenegdo literally translates to “a helper suitable to him”–“Meet” is an archaic English synonym of “suitable”–and by itself the word doesn’t necessarily imply any kind of hierarchal relationship at all.

So then what does it mean for Eve to be a help meet for Adam?

The fact that she was made specifically for Adam’s purposes, and not for her own, demonstrates that God’s intended purpose for her was to assist Adam in his divinely appointed mission, not to launch a separate mission of her own.

Genesis 2:15 says that God placed Adam in the Garden to keep it, but he immediately recognized that Adam could not effectively perform the task unaided, and so v18 says “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Before God created Eve, he brought all of the animals to Adam to examine and name them. The naming is explicit in the text, while the examination is implied by the context and the ancient Hebrew practice of naming a thing according to its character and behavior.

The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
Genesis 2:20

A Perfect Complement

One of the purposes of this naming exercise was to demonstrate to Adam that none of these lesser creatures could ever be an adequate help in Adam’s primary task of caring for the Garden. God created Eve immediately afterward and, from God’s reaction, we can know that Adam was acutely aware of the animals’ entire deficiency:

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Genesis 2:23

Eve was like Adam in a manner that no other creature could approach. She walked on two feet and manipulated the world with hands, fingers, and opposable thumbs, just like Adam. She spoke, laughed, reasoned, and loved like Adam, and, like Adam, she was, in her being, the image of God and carried within her the same breath that God exhaled into him.

God didn’t create Eve merely to be Adam’s friend, but she was his friend more profoundly than any of the animals could ever be. A horse can bear a man across country, a dog can show him affection, and an ox can help him plow a field, but none of these can carry on a conversation, help him solve a complex problem, bear his children, or offer him any wisdom. A wife can do all of these things and more.

Eve was Adam’s perfect complement.

It is abnormal for a woman to lead a nation or to be a spiritual teacher over men, but it is certainly no sin, and it is sometimes quite necessary. When a woman steps into a leadership role because the man who should be there is unavailable, unable, or unwilling, she is, in fact, fulfilling her purpose as a “helper suitable to Adam”. It’s a long way from God’s original ideal, but, in his wisdom, his plan included remedies for less than ideal conditions, and we should all thank God for women who are willing to step up to leadership roles when men fail!

God created Adam and appointed him to a task before he created Eve. From this we know that Eve’s purpose is to aid Adam. But God also purposefully created Adam incomplete and unable to perform the task to which he had been set, so that he would love Eve and fully appreciate his need for her.

I suspect that we would all live happier, more fulfilling lives if we didn’t fight so hard against God’s plan and instead used it as a blueprint for our marriages, families, and civil governments.

End Notes

1 Major tangent: Like God, man is a tripartite being, a living soul, made up of body, spirit, and mind. Our bodies are made up of numerous, complex organs and systems that are also made up of complex, interconnected systems. Our consciousnesses, the part of our thoughts and minds that can’t be dissected and objectively measured, also appear to contain separate systems and components. What about our spirits? We know almost nothing about them, and anyone who claims otherwise is most likely either a con-artist or under demonic influence. However, we do know that God’s Spirit is seven-fold in some manner (Isaiah 11:2; Revelation 1:4, 3:1, etc.) and probably more complex in ways that we couldn’t possibly understand. What might that say about our own spirits? Or about the anatomy (for lack of a better word) of the rest of God? Purely academic questions, of course. There’s no way to answer them and probably little value in spending a lot of time thinking about it.

2 I’m sure Clarke never meant to imply that men and women are equal in a mathematical sense, but many people to day really do believe his statement to be literally true despite all evidence and reason.

3 Goldberg, Stephen. The Inevitability of Patriarchy. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1974. 228. “…the central fact is that men and women are different from each other from the gene to the thought to the act and that emotions that underpin masculinity and femininity, that make reality as experienced by the male eternally different from that experienced by the female, flow from the biological natures of man and woman…the women of every society have taken the paths they have not because they were forced by men but because they have followed their own imperatives.”

Related Content

Is Christ Useless to the Circumcised?

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. Galatians 5:2

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
Galatians 5:2

Those are pretty strong words. What should we tell the hundreds of millions of American men? Sorry. You missed the boat. You now have to obey every “jot and tittle” of the Law or you’ll go to Hell. Of course not. Nobody believes that the physical condition of being circumcised equates to a rejection of salvation by grace.

What most people actually believe is that if a man voluntarily becomes circumcised as a religious act of obedience to God’s command, only then has he rejected Yeshua’s work on the Cross. By legalistically adhering to an outmoded command, he acts as if Yeshua’s death and resurrection accomplished nothing.

That certainly sounds like a reasonable interpretation. It doesn’t condemn innocent children for things outside their control, and it emphasizes the liberty we have in Christ. It sounds good, but is it?

Keeping in mind Peter’s admonition that a correct understanding of Paul’s letters requires a solid grounding in the Torah and Tanakh (2 Peter 3:15-16), we shouldn’t assume that the first reasonable interpretation of Paul is actually correct. We need to see what the rest of Scripture says. The older Scriptures have plenty to say about circumcision and salvation by grace, but in this case, I think we need look no further than the book of Acts.

Paul Circumcised Timothy

In Acts 15, some Jewish men were teaching gentile converts that they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul brought this to the attention of James and the other elders at Jerusalem and they ruled that new converts from among the gentiles did not need to be circumcised or convert to Judaism. (See “Does Acts 15 Say We Can Ignore God’s Law” for more details.)

Paul then wanted to visit the believers in every city he had previously preached, in part to check on their progress, but also in part to share this news with them. One of his companions on this journey was to be Timothy, whose mother was Jewish, but whose father was Greek. By Biblical standards–if not by modern rabbinic tradition–this made him a gentile by birth, not a Jew, and he was uncircumcised.

According to the common Christian interpretation of Paul’s words in Galatians 5:2 and James’ words in Acts 15, Timothy’s salvation depended on him remaining uncircumcised. Yet, Paul circumcised Timothy who, being a grown man, voluntarily underwent the procedure!

Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Acts 16:3-5

So Paul, who said that circumcision equaled damnation, circumcised Timothy right after the Jerusalem Council said that no gentile should be circumcised?

Either Paul was a hypocrite, making Timothy to live like a Jew while teaching the Galatians to live like gentiles, exactly what he accused Peter of doing in Galatians 2:14, or else Galatians 5:2 does not mean that undergoing circumcision is tantamount to rejecting Yeshua.

Only the latter argument–that circumcision is not rejection of Yeshua–is consistent with the whole of Scripture. The former makes Paul a hypocrite, Timothy a condemned legalist, and James an antinomian libertine.

God’s Law vs Man’s Traditions

In several places in Acts, Luke writes that the great controversy that followed Paul was whether or not a person must be circumcised and keep the whole Law of Moses in order to be saved (E.g. Acts 15:1). The Torah, the Tanakh, the teachings of Yeshua…all of these things stand against such a teaching. The issue was never about whether or not circumcision is a good or bad thing. It was always about salvation and the minimum requirements for fellowship with other believers.

Obviously, Paul was not opposed to circumcision nor to keeping the Law of Moses. His actions and words refute that false teaching over and over. However, he was adamantly opposed to keeping traditions of men (that are still to this day called the Law of Moses or the Torah, though they are not) that put excessive burdens on people and to keeping the Law for salvation.

The Situation in Galatia

There were two parties fighting for control of the church in Galatia. On the one hand, there were the followers of James and Paul teaching them that salvation is only through faith in the grace of God, and that obedience to God’s laws can be learned over time. On the other hand, there were the Judaizers teaching that everyone must submit to the authority of the rabbis and the centuries of tradition built up on top of the Law before they could be truly considered “saved”.

When Paul wrote, “if you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing,” he was writing only within the context of this argument. He was saying, “If you join the party of the circumcision and rely on that for your salvation, then the Messiah is wasted on you.” He was absolutely not saying that circumcision under the right circumstances (for example, on the eighth day after birth) or for the right reasons (for example, to eat the Passover lamb in Jerusalem) is a bad thing.

And if Paul’s actions with Timothy aren’t enough to prove my point, let’s go back to Galatians 5. Just two verses further down, he makes the controversy explicit:

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:4

To whom is Paul addressing these comments? “You who would be justified by the law”, not people who want to live a holy life or keep God’s commandments just because God said so. There was a group of people in Galatia (and many other places around the Roman Empire) teaching new converts from among the gentiles that they could not be justified in God’s eyes until they were circumcised and fully converted to Pharisaical Judaism, with all of its burdensome traditions.

Obedience to God Does Not Put One “Under the Law”

Paul wasn’t even opposed to all man-made traditions. According to Torah (God’s Law), there was no reason for Paul to circumcise Timothy. He wasn’t an eight-day-old infant and he wasn’t about to eat the Passover. Yet he did it anyway just to avoid unnecessary controversies with Jewish believers in the scattered congregations. He did not circumcise Timothy to make Timothy Jewish or to ensure his salvation.

Undergoing circumcision does not put anyone under the Law unless he does so because he thinks he will earn special favor with God or eternal salvation by it. Being “under the Law” is to be subject to its curses and under its authority as a law breaker. No one who has put his trust in God for his eternal salvation is under the Law, because our law-breaking has been forgiven and our status has been elevated from slave to son.

That does not mean that the Law no longer applies to us. It means that we are not condemned by it. We don’t have to worry and stress about getting it perfectly. We can learn to walk in greater obedience to God’s instructions over time instead of being afraid that every misstep will earn God’s eternal wrath. Instead of being afraid, we can focus on serving God in our daily lives, on loving him and sharing his love with those around us while we use his Torah to help us learn what that really means.

Go Ahead and Chew that Fat

Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. Leviticus 7:23

Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat.
Leviticus 7:23

Occasionally, skeptics like to pick this verse to show how ridiculous the Torah is. How can anyone eat meat without eating fat? Are you supposed to trim every bit of fat from every cut of meat? What could possibly be immoral about eating a well-marbled steak?

However, these arguments only betray an ignorance of the Scriptures and the Commandments. Only two verses later, YHVH added this:

For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a burnt offering (Heb: ishshah) may be made to YHVH shall be cut off from his people.
Leviticus 7:25

So the fat that is forbidden is specifically “the fat of an animal of which a burnt offering may be made to YHVH”, which are “ox or sheep or goat”, so it doesn’t apply to all clean animals, but only to those animals which are eligible to be burned on the altar. Furthermore, it doesn’t apply to all of the fat even of an animal that could be offered.

Not all fat is equal

Earlier in this same chapter, in vs 3-4, God gave a short list of specific fats that must be burned on the altar in the case of a guilt offering and not eaten:

  • The fat tail
  • The fat that covers the entrails
  • The fat that is on the kidneys

I take from this that when it says not to eat the fat of any animal that may be sacrificed, that it is talking about these specific fats and not subcutaneous and intramuscular fats, but there are other passages that take the guessing out.

Leviticus 7:6 says that the meat of the guilt offering “shall be eaten” by the priests in a set apart place. No specific priest is required to eat it, but some priest must. This is a command.

Leviticus 11:3 permits eating land animals that chew their cud and have split hooves by any Israelite.

The people to whom God gave these instructions were herdsmen. Your average atheist skeptic today might not know very much about the anatomy of a goat, but I assure you that the average Israelite in the wilderness did. They observed and participated in the slaughtering and butchering of animals on a regular basis. They knew from intimate, personal experience that it is completely impossible to remove all the fat from every cut of meat of any animal.

Torah requires some common sense

If God meant for his instructions to be followed, and he expected the priests to eat the guilt offerings and the people of Israel to eat oxen, sheep, and goats, then it is logically absurd to interpret Leviticus 7:23 to be a total prohibition on the eating of fat.

The Torah isn’t complicated, but it wasn’t written for morons either. It doesn’t explicitly provide for every possible congtingency. It was written for people who live in a real dirt and blood world and who are capable of drawing necessary logical inferences from incomplete data.

I would avoid all organ fat below the heart, but the fat under the skin and around the muscles is fine to eat. It’s even good for you in moderation and if the animal was pastured and cared for naturally.

Hope for the Future of Believers

Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. Isaiah 50:10

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted. I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

It seems that for every gain there is an unequal, disproportionate loss. We gain the freedom to speak and lose the freedom to think. We gain the knowledge to cure diseases and use it to destroy our health and minds and spirits. We invent the means for unprecedented wealth and luxury by mortgaging generations to come.

It is a sorrowful pastime indeed to search God’s words for meaning and purpose in this bleak morass. There are so many things beyond our control. God told us that “the poor shall never cease out of the land,” that there will be war, disease, and famine. Why would God do such things?

It is an invalid question.

Thus says YHVH: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away. Why, when I came, was there no man; why, when I called, was there no one to answer? Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.”
Isaiah 50:1-3

God didn’t do this to us. If God wanted us to suffer, do you think he couldn’t do better than government oppression, runaway inflation, or a little coastal storm damage? We haven’t seen God’s wrath yet. There will be no mistaking it when it comes. Yet even then our problems will be of our own design. We sold ourselves into debt. We stopped up our own ears. We murdered our own children. He didn’t make us do any of that.

Blaming feminists or liberals or Jews or Muslims is intellectual sloth and emotional cowardice. God-fearing believers in Jesus–admittedly imperfect–were once the dominant economic and political force in America and in many other countries. Our laws and institutions were ours to give away, and give them away we did, without even a fight.

There is a solution, however. Though the rain will fall on the righteous and wicked alike, and there are certain to be hard times, we still have a shelter.

The Lord YHVH has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord YHVH has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord YHVH helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord YHVH helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. Who among you fears YHVH and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of YHVH and rely on his God.
Isaiah 50:4-10

When the Messiah returns the nations will be required to celebrate Sukkot in his honor. Those who listen and obey will be blessed with health, fertility, and abundance. Those who do not, will not. It might be a Hobson’s choice, but we were given three thousand years to contemplate our answer. Have we heard the question?

There’s No Prison in God’s Justice

God's justice--the only true justice--is more concerned with protection of the innocent, restitution for harm, and rehabilitation of the penitent than with punishment or vengeance.

If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the LORD by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt.
Leviticus 6:2-5

“Justice”, like all abstract concepts, means different things to different people. Some people say that justice is “leveling the playing field” and others say that it’s making criminals feel the same pain as their victims. However, for those who have sworn allegiance to the God of Abraham, true justice can only be defined by the character and will of God as revealed through the Bible.

A thorough study of the Scriptures will reveal some defining characteristics of justice:

  • Its main purpose is the restoration and maintenance of relationships.
  • It does not favor one person over another based on wealth, sex, or social connections.
  • It is structured and orderly. No person can be convicted of a crime without a public trial including witnesses, testimony, and impartial judges.
  • To whom God has given much, much will be expected.
  • It values forgiveness and mercy over strict prosecution. Sometimes the goals of justice can be advanced more by forgiveness than by conviction.

God’s justice is essentially synonymous with obedience to God’s Law. If we guard and follow his instructions, then our relationships with him and each other will be strengthened. Justice doesn’t equate to what we think of as law and order, although, properly carried out, it ought to result in a well ordered society. It’s more about keeping things in balance and setting it right when it gets out of kilter.

Ideally, our civil laws would be in perfect alignment with God’s Law, but there has never been a government of men to achieve that level of perfection. From the President to the local constable, every position of authority is occupied by seriously flawed people. Until Yeshua is enthroned in Jerusalem, the best we can hope for from government is an approximation of justice.

We will never catch and convict every criminal, restore every broken home, or even know the truth of every matter. We will never even agree on how to apply God’s instructions in many (most?) cases. So rather than trying to perfect a world that can’t be perfected by human power, we have to find compromises that discourage and correct obvious crimes while allowing people to carry on their lives according to their own consciences. Some injustices must be tolerated by the law in order to ensure that liberty and some injustices are beyond the jurisdiction of men.

When we replace God’s standards of justice with our own or we try to right every wrong and force everyone to behave, the end result is the multiplication of that which we sought to oppose: injustice. Oppressive regulations that go far beyond anything God authorized, absurd and useless restrictions, and the criminalization of normal human behavior that doesn’t directly harm anyone.

Prison is a perfect example of man second-guessing God.

If one person steals from another, we lock him as punishment. So that we feel better about kenneling a fellow human being, we often refer to prisons as “correctional facilities.” We’re not putting people in cages; we’re fixing them, helping them to be more productive, happy citizens.

We’re morons. Prison does no such thing. Prison is a short-sighted, feebleminded idea. Debtor’s prison is worse. We’re treating people like irresponsible animals and then expecting them to behave like humans when we let them go again. We’re morons, because we seem to be continually surprised that this doesn’t work. It’s almost as if locking all the offenders up together doesn’t teach them how to live in normal, peaceful society. Who could have predicted that? (Sarcasm!)

God’s Law never prescribes prison for anyone. True justice requires thieves, embezzlers, con-men and the like to restore what they stole plus damages. If they are unable to pay, then they are to work off their debt, in slavery if necessary. According to God’s instructions on justice, murderers and adulterers (true adulterers according to God’s definitions, not man’s) are to be executed, not housed and fed for life. In God’s justice, families and friends, not judges and federal agents, deal with addictions. Addicts are their own punishment and God doesn’t authorize any interference by government until they commit an actual crime against another person.

God’s justice–the only true justice–is more concerned with protection of the innocent, restitution for harm, and rehabilitation of the penitent than with punishment or vengeance. We can’t expect perfection from civil governments, but the closer our laws align with God’s, the closer to perfection they will be.

Pure and Undefiled Religion

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Proverbs 21:3

Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:13

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
Proverbs 21:27

When Yeshua chose his primary twelve disciples, he didn’t surround himself with money, power, and beauty. He chose men who were simple and complicated, rich and poor, soft and calloused. When he called them, they were fishermen, religious seekers, aristocrats, revolutionaries, and enemy collaborators. These were not the kind of men the Jewish religious and political leaders of the day would have chosen to be the companions of the Messiah.

Not only did Yeshua recruit a variety of unsavory characters as his personal disciples, he encouraged lepers, beggars, prostitutes, and tax collectors to gather in public places for teaching and in private places for table fellowship. He went so far as to seek them out and go to their homes.

You can’t spend your life studying God’s Law without learning that mercy is more important to God than sacrifices, but pride is a powerful force for brainwashing. Our tendency is to accentuate the good that we do and downplay the good that we could do, but don’t, even if those omissions are far more important in reality. When Yeshua told the Pharisees to go and learn what “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” means, he tore away their veil of self deception and rubbed their noses in their greatest sin. It’s no wonder they wanted to kill him!

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27

Religion gets a bad rap, but that’s not really fair. The dictionary definition of religion is the set of beliefs and practices associated with the belief in and worship of a deity. That includes rituals, prayers, doctrines, and even codes of behavior. It can be good or bad. The Bible is full of positive examples of religion, but it also describes a lot of bad, like that of the Pharisees.

In God’s religion, the goal of sacrifice and ritual is a right heart, which is one that is full of love and eager to show kindness. If your religion doesn’t help to conform your heart to God’s, then it’s false and probably involves more worship of self than anything else.

Possess the Gates of Your Enemy

And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!” Genesis 24:60

In Genesis 24:60, Bethuel and Laban send Rebekah away with this blessing:

And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate them!”
Genesis 24:60

We all know from Hollywood that the city gates are the key to capturing an enemy city. If you can break through the gates, you’ve all but one the battle.

We know from the rest of the story that Bethuel and Laban were much more concerned with what they could get out of other people than what they could give, so it’s the kind of blessing we might expect from them. “May you take everything from anyone who tries to take from you!”

However, the Angel of YHVH blessed Abraham’s offspring in the same manner:

And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Genesis 22:15-18

Did God mean to bless Abraham’s son with military victory over all his enemies? To an extent, yes, but the Bible uses the idea of gates in a much broader sense than this.

Gates are, by definition, the primary point of entry to any city or home, but they are also the focus of trade, public discourse, and justice. The elders of a town meet at the gates to hear complaints and try criminal cases. God wants his Law written on the gates of our cities and homes, not just to remind us whenever we pass through them, but to signal that all true justice aligns with his standards, not ours.

  • Lot sat in the gate of Sodom. (Genesis 19:1)
  • Abraham transacted business at the gate of the city of Ephron so that there would be public witnesses. (Genesis 23:18)
  • Shechem and Hamor called the men of their city to the gates to discuss a proposed treaty with the Hebrews. (Genesis 34:20)
  • Trials, executions, and civil disputes to take place in public at the city gates. (Deuteronomy 21:19, 25:7, Joshua 20:4)
  • Kings held court at the city gates. (2 Samuel 19:8, 2 Chronicles 32:6)
  • Religious rituals and celebrations took place at the city gates. (2 Kings 23:8, Acts 14:13)
  • Public and private charity was dispensed at the gates. (Luke 7:12, Acts 3:2)

If you sit in the gates of a city, it means that you are a respected elder and judge. People bring their disagreements and accusations for you to hear, and they expect you to tell them what to do. You are the arbiter of public morality.

For the people of God to possess the gates of their enemies doesn’t necessarily mean to defeat them in battle. It can also mean to have a defining influence over justice, trade, diplomacy, and the mechanisms of government.

We aren’t called to overthrow earthly governments or conquer nations in order to convert them forcibly to Christianity. We are, however, called to exemplify and teach God’s ways to our communities. Wherever we live, we have an obligation to promote God’s standards of justice: Equal weights and measures. Judicial impartiality. Due process, including the right to defend oneself and refute all evidence and witnesses. The sanctity of marriage. The defense of the helpless. Generosity to the poor and landless.

For a variety of reasons, we in the United States are utter failures in that calling, and I hear people offering two mutually exclusive solutions: Rise up in arms and take the country back by force or else retreat to mountain camps to wait for God to rescue us.

But I don’t believe that either of these are real solutions.

I tell you that you are Petros, and on this Petra I will build my ekklesia, and the gates of hell will not overpower them.
Matthew 16:19

Most of us live within the gates of Hell even now. Our courts, centers of trade, and seats of government are occupied and controlled by wicked people who have made themselves to be God’s enemies and therefore ours as well.

Yeshua told Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against his assembled people (ekklesia). Clearly he didn’t mean that we are literally to storm the gates of Hell, and divinely ordained armed insurrection is very rare in the Bible, despite the many wicked tyrants described on its pages.

Likewise, Christian isolationism, in which we hide from the world in our homes and simply pray for better times, isn’t an option for God’s people. We have been commanded to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven and to be a light to all peoples, teaching the way of salvation and obedience to God’s instructions.

The Great Commission doesn’t end with witnessing to strangers on the street or coworkers in the office. It extends to city hall, the governor’s mansion, and Capitol Hill in Washington. It extends to Wall Street and Silicon Valley as well, because all of these are the city gates, and almost all of them are now in the possession of our enemies.

If you love God, you will promote his worship and his kingdom, and if you love your neighbor, you will promote justice at the city gates. As the people of God and subjects of the Kingdom of Heaven, we have an obligation to cultivate influence in the city gates here on earth through righteous means, not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all the people who live within the domain of those gates.

Pride Hunting: Identifying pride in your own life and ridding your life of it.

Proverbs 29:23  One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

by Danny Ehinger

What Is Pride?

Pride. I had a native German for a friend and mentor in the electrical field. We met when he was newly arrived. He spoke very little English and we worked together every day. He understood electrical very well and always carried around a translation dictionary so he could communicate with others on the jobsite. We got along very well and after a bit he made me a deal: if I helped him with English he would help me learn electrical better.

We talked during the day while we worked and at lunch. We were gossiping one day about the way others worked and how we cared about our work while most didn’t seem to. I remember saying, “It is like others do not take pride in their work.” He stopped me there and wanted to know what word I had used. He didn’t understand the word pride. I tried to explain it as he looked it up in his dictionary. When he found it, his reaction was memorable to say the least. “No! No! No! Danny this is no good.” He explained that this was not a good word in German. I tried to explain that there was a positive and negative use of the word in English, but he would not have it. No, he told me, it is no good.

I had never really thought about pride, and his reaction to the word stuck with me. Pride had always been mostly negative for me, I mean the sense of the word. I felt many people were prideful in my family and the phrase, ‘take pride in your work’ never really set well with me. I could not think of a reason why, except that pride seemed so negative. I never saw myself as prideful though. Others had called me arrogant and prideful before, but they just didn’t know the whole story, in my view. It was the way I understood pride that kept me from seeing it for so long.

The clearest way to describe what I understood pride to be is to watch Disney’s animated version of Beauty and the Beast, particularly the scene where Gaston sings his ballad. That has always been what I thought of as pride. Pride meant thinking highly of yourself and overestimating your abilities or knowledge. That was not me; I hated myself. How could I be prideful?

Recognizing My Own Pride

No, I had a different problem. I did not know what my problem was, but I would not even consider pride in my life for many years. I wanted to be free from my personal issues, so I sought the truth as much as I could. I would constantly have problems with other people and pride would come up, but I knew that was not the real issue. I had a hard time dealing with people around me and constantly found myself simply dropping issues because I had no solutions and there were none to be had.

I thought nonstop. Before doing anything I would spend countless hours looking at each experience from every imaginable angle and try and figure out every possible outcome beforehand so that, when I was in the situation, I would be able to do the right thing. I get that this may not be bad behavior for a person who is going to do some big thing, but I did it over everything. Everything I did was thought out.

This kind of worked two ways to make life harder for me and those around me. First, I was never with the people I was with at the time. I was thinking about what was coming up. Then when I got to the situation, I knew exactly what to do and why. Others around me had not spent hours thinking about things, so they didn’t know everything that may happen, and they were experiencing things for the first time. This made our experiences different. I knew what was going to happen and it did, while they had a fresh experience and would want to communicate about it. I had already thought about it making me ready to move on while they felt belittled.

As I said this behavior has its place. It is great if I am planning how to complete a job or a raid to capture Osama Bin Laden. However it is not the best behavior for eating dinner, watching a movie, having sex, going out to eat, playing at the park, or any of the things that make life enjoyable. I was living life before I got there and then, when I was there, I was planning how to get through what was coming. It was exhausting.

I was obviously not living with those around me. The real problem was that I could not see it as a bad thing. I was the one in the know; I was ready. I had already solved the mystery in the movie, and I was right most of the time. When you say something and you’re correct it is not being prideful. It is being accurate. Add self hatred to that and I had absolutely no way to ever see my problem was pride. As a Christian, I was all about seeing my issues and dealing with them, but I was not interested in people who didn’t have everything figured out. (You can imagine how many people I was interested in.) I wanted help and answers, and I couldn’t find them, so I was figuring out the answers myself. I learned a lot, but it didn’t really do anyone any good because I wouldn’t take the time to explain myself. You either got it or you didn’t, and I was moving on to the next thing. See ya!

Then I came to a point where I actually made a mistake. I said something obviously wrong, and this time the people in my life stood up. (I say “this time” because it is likely I had made blatant errors before and people in my life couldn’t or didn’t want to stand up to me.) In the discussion, pride was brought in as the cause of the issue.

At the very same time, I was in a controversy with some others, and in this controversy I was not the offender. It was another. These two events were happening isolated from each other but at the same time. In one I was the problem; in the other it was another person, but the issues were the same. In one I was defending myself; in the other accusing another. I was in earnest working to help the other person see his issues and thinking about them while defending myself. At one of the last meetings before I saw, I was looking at the person I was accusing and asking myself, “Am I looking into the mirror?”

I found myself offering correction and being corrected at the same time. Knowing what I have shared about how I analyze everything, imagine what kind of pickle I was in. I was analyzing how I was right and analyzing why I was wrong at the same time. I think about how amazing God is when I think about the situation that He ordained so that I could have my eyes opened. Talk about a stubborn person. I had to start taking my own advice and analyzing myself. I hated who I was. I know that because I hated it when I saw the things I was doing in others. I just never saw that I was doing the very things I hated.

OK, so I saw my error. Friends labored with me for months and a long week or so over it, and finally I saw it. It was obvious. The error, to me, was not the big news. The big news, as far as I was concerned, was that I could make such an obvious error and not see it or acknowledge it. They kept pointing the error out and I kept talking about everything else but the error. It is embarrassing to think about. It is like having a note put on your back and everyone sees it but you. The only difference is that I was the one who put the note on my own back.

Getting Outside of Myself

Shame aside, I was relieved. Even with all my contemplating of every conceivable angle, I still could not see every possibility, and that brought great relief, because that means that every outcome was NOT dependent upon me. Things could happen and, even when they didn’t go well, it was not because I had the capability to stop them and didn’t. I didn’t even have the capability to fully see every outcome. The world’s problems were not because of me. Whew!

I was relieved for another reason as well. Trusted brothers in Christ told me the issue was pride and gave me a little insight that I didn’t have before. I accepted the rebuke and believed that I had a problem. God opened my eyes and I experienced freedom again from the prison of having to know everything.

I am not sure if it was backsliding (trying to figure everything out again) or not but this led me to thinking over pride. I started to tell everyone in my life that I had an issue with pride and asked them, if they saw it , to point it out to me. I didn’t have the first clue as to what it was. Again, the definition I was working with meant to be puffed up, and that meant Gaston, and I was not that. I had low self esteem.

So I started to attack this thing from every angle. This time, however, I included my family. I felt like this was a big deal, I had never had pride explained to me, nor could I find a very good explanation, yet I knew it was a big problem.

A Working Definition of Pride

Months went by. I cannot recall all of my thoughts, and at the dinner table, while discussing it with my family, we formulated a working definition for pride. By working definition, I mean it was something we could use to start identifying pride in ourselves and each other but not totally settled. Pride was being confident about something that you had not proved so this is the definition we came up with:

“Pride is acting and/or depending on an assumption that could be easily verified.”

It is important to understand the full idea here. It is not prideful to assume. We have to assume many things. We assume that the sun will come up tomorrow. We assume we will be able to walk after a night of sleep. We assume when we post a writing, someone will read it. Life is full of assumptions and we have to assume almost everything to continue to live happily, because it is not in our capabilities to know everything.

It is not prideful to act on assumptions; we do that all the time too. We assume our wife will like flowers. We write letters to people, assuming they care about what we have to say. We stop to see if a person needs help when their car has broken down. We assume people who come to church will drink coffee. We can act on assumptions without being prideful.

The hardest part in the definition is the distinction in the words to “depend” or to “act” on the assumption. What I mean by “acting and/or depending” is that we use the assumption to build upon. I mean we set a foundation upon this assumption and build on that foundation.

Let me illustrate what I mean.

Let’s say I assume my wife will want flowers, so I stop at the store to pick some up. I don’t want to ask her because I want it to be a nice surprise. Not being prideful here. I buy some flowers, her favorite, assuming, again, that she didn’t change her mind since the last time we talked about it. I start to go home and on the way I envision her response, she is going to be so happy, she is going to think I am a good husband and she is going to want to have some alone time latter to thank me.

PRIDE ALERT!!!

See the husband has now built on the assumption, he is now depending upon his original assumption for the rest of his assumptions. The wife is now hopeless unless she can read his mind. He gets home, she just finished with the bills and they have little money. She thinks she is allergic to those flowers now and she just started her period. Needless to say, she is not thrilled about the flowers, and all of his plans have come crashing down. This may be a fight now from what was supposed to be a very kind act.

If the husband had not built on his original assumption he would have come home and gave the gift, listened to the new information from his wife, thrown the flowers out, and went on with the evening. She may have seen his caring heart and, though the situation was a bummer, they now know each other a bit better. I plan to give more examples, but I hope you can see what I mean by ‘acting and/or depending’ on an assumption.

Lastly, what I mean by “easily verified” is that we take an assumption and build upon it when we could, with very little proportionate effort, verify the assumption.

Our world is built upon assumptions and many cannot be verified even if we wanted to. Many things, especially in relationships with others, are easy to verify. For example, you leave for work and though your spouse normally makes your lunch, today there is no lunch for you. You wonder why and decide she is mad at you for something you did. You think that is unfair and you get mad at her for getting mad at you. By the time you get home you have built a case against her, and you let her have it. You fight.

In reality, she just forgot. You could have very easily put off building assumptions upon assumptions until you verified your first assumption. A simple question, “Why didn’t you make my lunch today?” would have allowed you not to worry and fret and fight. Not everything in life is easily verifiable but most relationship issues are. When we choose not to go to the person and simply ask to verify our thoughts and or feelings we are walking in pride.

Pride Hunting

In order for us as a family to help each other see pride we started a game. We called it, “Pride Hunting”. The game worked like this, if you hear someone acting on an assumption that they could easily verify, you shoot them with an imaginary bow and arrow and make the sound of hitting the target. “Swooptttt.” Then the shooter has to explain why he thinks the person is being prideful. He has to show an assumption that is being acted upon. If he cannot, of course, we all get to shoot him. This led to some amazing discoveries. (FYI, we did go through an initial phase of this being fun, then it got a little hurtful and now it is fun again and also more rare as we are all trying not to be prideful.) Here are some examples of what we discovered together.

We discovered pride is not only happening when we are puffed up like Gaston, but rather it was also happening when we got depressed. Mom or dad would offer some form of correction and the child would become sad and sulked. We would ask why they were doing that. The reply was along the lines of, “I feel like you don’t love me,” or something to that effect. We then would shoot them and say, “You’re in pride.” Then we would point out why we said that. They had heard our correction and assumed we gave our correction because, in this case, we didn’t ‘love them’. Then they acted on their assumption (they became sad and sulked) rather than verify it. We then had them ask us about their feelings. “Mom I feel like you don’t love me anymore because of your correction, is that true?”

Mom gets to dispel that idea and replace it with the truth. We see here that self loathing is a result of pride as well.

I struggle with self hatred and depression. Learning from our experiences with the children the next time I became depressed. After I had spent a day in bed and my wife and I were able to talk again, I shared the reasons I fell into depression with my wife, and we spread the situation out and had a long talk about what went on. I brought up all the assumptions I had felt before getting into the pit and found each one was false or just needed some more information. It feels silly as an adult to ask my wife questions about the way I feel. “Honey, when you said this, I think you meant this and this. Is that true?” Rather that verifying the truth I had assumed and allowed my whole world to collapse. What a waste of time and energy. My wife had her things too, and we went through them as well. When we were done, it was like we knew each other better. There was hope.

One of my children was upset with his siblings. He felt like the girls didn’t like him and he was mad at them. We had him ask them. It turned out he was right: they did not like him. His behavior was prideful, however, because he was blaming them for not liking him. They admitted they didn’t like him, and they said why. He was always hitting them or being bossy or changing their games. They had good reason not to like him, but instead of listening to them and working to change, he depended on his right assumption and was angry with them and did more of what they hated. In this case he should have verified his assumption by asking if his feelings were true and then worked to understand how to correct the behavior. This conversation revealed a bundle of pride on everyone’s part.

What we were seeing is that all of our thoughts and feelings need to be verified by asking questions of the people we have the thoughts and feelings about. If we do not verify them, then we certainly shouldn’t build anything upon them.

Let’s look at giving a gift. I talked earlier about when a husband may stop and buy his wife some flowers. The question is how can we give a gift without being prideful? I’m singling out gift-giving because most gifts are acting on an assumption that we do not want to verify because we want it to be a surprise. So how do we pull this off? I think we have to give the gift expecting…..nothing. Even expecting a thank you or a smile of gratitude is building on an assumption and, if that simple assumption of ours is not met, we will be disappointed. I think in order to give gifts freely, without pride, we even need to be ready to have the person we are giving to be disappointed. It is just not fair to assume a person’s response for them. I know I hate that pressure as well.

Another thing that had to go in our home due to the ‘pride hunting’ game was generalizations. We started to realize just how much we generalized, as in “you ALWAYS do that”. Arrows began to fly at the words: ALWAYS, EVERYTIME, EVERYONE, CONSTANTLY, NEVER because they were easy pickings. Those words need qualifiers and we soon learned we needed to stop using them and be more accurate when we exposed things others do that we don’t like. We are now more careful to say things like, “it SEEMS like you are doing that a lot” etc. It is funny, but that little bit of breathing room given, rather than the suffocating generalization, makes a huge difference.

Deconstruction

After a while of focusing on this, I realized that this problem in my life had been there for a long time. It is hard to explain but, when God opened my eyes again (as described above), I felt a release from a fear I didn’t know I had. I had a fear of learning. I am not exactly sure how it worked, because I know that I learned stuff, but I felt this release to learn anything I wanted. The fear was gone. I didn’t exactly understand this fear of learning until realizing how much of my life was built upon assumptions.

When you decide to build upon assumptions, the fear that comes with pride is anyone proving your assumptions are wrong. When that happens, you lose everything built on top of those assumptions as well. That means you have to start over again, and starting over can be a painfully embarrassing enterprise. I think that is where my fear of learning came from. Subconsciously I was protecting all of the assumptions that I had been too lazy or selfish to verify. What a crock!

I think this is the reason that, the older people get, the more they refuse to hear anything that might challenge what they “know”. I realized that in my life I needed to allow a process of deconstruction and reconstruction. Deconstruction is the process of digging through past thoughts and feelings and verifying them. It is looking through issues in life and tracing them back to a point of pride. For instance, the way I may feel and think about my father. “Why do I think this way about him?” may be the question I ask. If the answer is because “he did this”, what about him doing that made me feel like I do? This may lead to twenty incidences over 23 years until I get to the actual root. Then, when I get to that root cause for my feelings for him, I can deal with it by sharing my thoughts and repenting or forgiving him. From there go to the next thing that comes to mind.

This may be a long process and some things that come up may not be able to be dealt with directly. The person could be dead, for instance. It seems to me it is still important to go through them and deal with the issues. I believe this type of work is something that takes courage and must be led by the Holy Spirit. I believe this type of work will be systemic and lead to us being healed and to the healing of many who live in the same prison. I also feel this type of thing is what we do when we actually believe “that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Another aspect of depending upon an assumption that could easily be verified is not correcting past wrongs. “Yeah we did that thing way back in high school, but I am sure they are over it by now.” Really? How can we be sure? Are you over the way you were treated? One example of this in my life was when I believe the Holy Spirit brought to mind a cruel thing I did in high school and was able to, through the power of Facebook, apologize.

Programmed Assumptions.

Programmed assumptions are things society teaches us that we accept and never verify. It is amazing how many things we are taught to believe and most never question. One example is how we are taught that the Civil War was fought because of slavery. That is the popular story, and I remember the first time hearing the war was about states’ rights and that slavery was a peripheral issue. These types of programmed assumptions go on and on. We need to learn to verify facts and not build our beliefs upon things we are told.

Floating Assumptions.

This is the last and maybe the most frustrating assumption of all. A floating assumption is putting on assumptions like eyeglasses and viewing the world through them. This is the type of assumption that makes us think about others, “There is no hope for them.” The Word says this, “Do you see a person wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 26:12

Floating assumptions are likely assumptions we have received from our parents as children or we put them on as a self-defense mechanism. I think racism is an assumption like this. Many church doctrines or other family or social beliefs get put on from a young age, and it literally takes an act of God to remove them. These floating assumptions that we wear like glasses taint all we see and, not only do they go unnoticed, but because there is no contrast to identify them, they are the wearer’s reality.

The truth is I may have one even now, or you might. The only way I know of identifying them and removing them is through relationship with others and a willingness to bear with one another even through ferocious fights. If you are constantly having issues with people and you cannot see the problem, you may have a floating assumption. Removing a floating assumption can be like a drug addict coming down and detoxing. It takes a tough love, a much tougher love than most are willing to endure. I am thankful for those in my life for going through tough issues and I believe there are more to come as Jesus continues to reveal truth and set us free so we can be healed.

Becoming a New Man

My hope in writing this is to simply share a hope that God has given me. I want to expose the evil of pride, share the NEW life that comes from not assuming things and from living in the real world and I want to give you the tools that have helped me overcome this sneaky serpent. As men and fathers we lead by example, if we are prideful we are not at all like our Messiah. I believe overcoming any issue in our lives is an act of God, it is His work and He does His work in the light(in honesty and vulnerability).

You may not think you are prideful, if that is true then you should have no issues investigating to be sure you are not. Ask a friend to be honest with you, ask your father and mother, ask your wife. If they are not afraid of you, they will tell you. If they are afraid of you, you can be sure you walk in pride.

Pride is ALWAYS short lived and has nothing to do with following Jesus. Please turn from pride today.

That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:6

A man’s pride will be the cause of his fall, but he who has a gentle spirit will get honour.
Proverbs 29:23

Welcome to the Wilderness

And you shall remember the whole way that YHVH your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2

The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that YHVH swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that YHVH your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of YHVH. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, YHVH your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of YHVH your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
Deuteronomy 8:1-6

Israel spent forty seemingly pointless years in the wilderness wandering from one mountain or oasis to another. Forty years of uncertainty, of not knowing where they were going to live, where they were going. No houses, no fields, no real homes. Just tents, long hikes, lots of dirt, and manna….every day, manna.

But there was a point, because God always has a point.

Israel’s unfaithfulness in believing the bad report of the ten spies was the immediate trigger that launched their long journey through the wilderness, but those forty years were essential to developing their national character. It was always part of God’s plan.

God had at least three objectives in taking Israel on the scenic route to the Promised Land.

Self Discovery. Repeated tests, both failed and passed, demonstrated to Israel exactly who they were and how they were completely inadequate to their task without God.

Honeymoon. Forty years in barren landscape with God himself there in the middle of the camp was a perfect opportunity to explore Israel’s relationship with her God.

Education. From the first Passover in Egypt to the respecting of the borders of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, Israel learned what it means to love God and keep his commandments.

We all go through wilderness experiences, periods of testing and uncertainty, as individuals, as families, and even as nations. The key to surviving and ultimately to becoming who God wants us to be is in trusting his plan. Whatever comes, whatever goes, YHVH is in charge. Follow his instructions. Keep his commandments. He will bring you through it.

The wilderness is always unpleasant–it wouldn’t serve its function if it weren’t–but if we love God and trust him with our whole beings, we will be stronger and more mature when we cross the Jordan on the other side.