Eshet Chayil

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

I wrote this post for the Far East Broadcasting Company Gospel Blog, where it appeared on March 19, 2015. These words are for all women this Mother’s Day, whether you take the “mom” title through biology, a blended family, adoption or by being a comforting, strong presence in the life of a child.

Proverbs 31 haunts me. The gal in that chapter…she’s like an ever-smiling Superwoman. She makes all the crafts on Pinterest and she makes them well. All her food is locally sourced, organic, made from scratch. She exercises daily. She wields her smartphone calendar with precision, making sure her kids get to all their events on time (meaning fifteen minutes before they need to be there). She makes good business decisions. She has all the blanks of her Bible study workbook filled in. She’s always nice, always ready to listen, always ready to open her home.

Her hair is always perfect and she probably never gets a zit.

She is overwhelming.

She is irritating.

How can I possibly be her? How can I possibly live up to this impossible standard?

Honestly? I kind of want to hit her.

I know that this chapter of Scripture is supposed to be encouraging. It’s supposed to teach me something. God is never about hitting us across the face, making us feel like we can never get anything right. He didn’t give us His Word to make us feel like failures. He draws us to Him, wipes the tears from our eyes and speaks life to our souls.

So why does Proverbs 31 have to exist?

There are several different interpretations of this passage. Some commentators take the words at face-value, seeing them as genuine praise for a real, flesh-and-blood woman. Others see this as an idealized allegory, referring to the Shekinah glory of God that dwelt in the holiest place of the Temple, the Sabbath day, the teaching of the Torah, wisdom, or the soul of each person. I am not smart enough to plumb the depths of each of these views, though all certainly have value. Personally, I tend to side with those who see the passage as being a blend of Proverbs’ praise of wisdom and continual warnings to men against immoral women. Essentially, these words stand as a capstone; pursue God’s wisdom and, if you’re a man reading this, pursue a woman who’s pursuing God.

This point is where I begin to unravel the Superwoman image. This is where I begin to understand.

Across the spectrum, each commentator hones in on the fact that Proverbs 31:10-31 stands as an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

It starts with a question.

Who can find an eshet chayil?

Who can find a woman of valor?

Sisters, let that settle on you.

Proverbs 31 isn’t about throwing the perfect party with the perfect food with the perfect decorations with the perfectly clean house with the perfectly managed money with the perfect skin and the perfect hair and the perfect outfit.

This is about bravery. Capability. Triumph. Courage. Strength.

This is about a woman who lives life, wherever it takes her, fully reliant upon the Lord. She “laughs without fear of the future” (vs. 25) because she knows Who goes before her. She knows Who holds time itself in His hands. She vacuums the floor her little ones crawl on because she knows Who has placed her in that time, that place, that season. She works diligently in that cubicle because she knows Who has called her to that job, Who has called her to live out the Great Commission in that context. She strokes the brow of a loved one, deep in the throes of illness, with grace in her hands. She covers the night watches in prayer, her anxiety moving her to fall before the throne of Holy God.

She is the woman stricken with cancer who praises the Lord. She is the barren woman who stretches out her arms to embrace all the children who cross her path. She is the woman battling depression with the Word of truth. She is the woman who gave herself away to many men, redeemed in virtue, brought to wholeness by Christ. She is the woman caught in desperation who cries out, “Save me, God!”

She is the woman who faces each frightening, amazing, lopsided, overwhelming, joyful, deep, boring, unforeseen moment on her knees, groaning in prayer. Sword of the Spirit drawn. Eyes alight with holy fire. Determined to see this thing through.

Sisters, Proverbs 31 is not some unattainable vision of perfection.

Proverbs 31 is about battle. Is is about choosing to completely trust God, to do whatever the work of the moment is, knowing that He blesses both the small things and the large things. The tiny steps and the big steps. The leaps across puddles and the leaps across oceans.

She is a fierce woman because she is lost in a fierce God.

She is you, every time you trust. Every time you ask for wisdom, for faith, for love. Every time you obey.

Eshet chayil.

Woman of valor.

My journey to faith. (15)

Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: Closing

-...inwardly they are ravenous wolves.- (1)

Gentle Reader,

Though we have not examined every facet of the teaching of Shepherd’s Chapel, I have decided to bring this series to a close. It is easy to conclude even from our surface-level study that this group is not within the bounds of orthodox Christianity. Not by a long shot. They deny fundamental aspects of Christian faith. They twist Scripture. They ignore huge amounts of history.

Enough said.

Writing this series has reminded me, again, of the vital importance of knowing truth. When we do not spend time in Bible study, when we do not consistently ask the Spirit for wisdom, when we refuse to submit completely to God and instead pursue our own agendas, we wind up deceived. It’s a fast and slick slope. It’s hard to climb out of the mire at the bottom.

We must know Him. We must know His truth. I know I’ve quoted these words elsewhere, but I can think of no better finish. Let this be the testimony of our lives:

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way. – Psalm 119:97-104 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing series, go here.

Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: the Overthrow and the Two Adams

-...inwardly they are ravenous wolves.- (1)

Gentle Reader,

This series has been difficult. I have reached a point in my life and in my walk with the Lord where false teaching just drives me absolutely batty. When I am exposed to something twisted and wrong taught in the name of God, my pulse pounds. I want to throw things. I want to shake people.

I’ve been tempted to quit. I’ve slammed my laptop closed.

Nevertheless, we march on.

As we discussed last week, all false belief systems contain some element of elitism. This can be expressed as racism, classism, sexism, etc. Shepherd’s Chapel is no exception. Their twisted teaching on Cain and the Kenites, their ideas of preexistence, the thought that only Arnold Murray ever really got it right puts them firmly in that camp. But it gets weirder.

Let’s descend into the crazy, shall we?

Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are used by Shepherd’s Chapel in two main ways: making much out of the word katabole and wrongly understanding adam and eth ha adam. (Obviously those words look quite different in Hebrew; we’re going with phonetics).

First, katabole. This is a Greek word meaning “a throwing or laying down (the injection or depositing of the virile semen in the womb, of the seed of plants and animals); a founding (laying down a foundation).” Katabole appears in the New Testament 11 times; 10 times it is translated as “foundation,” once it is translated as “conceive.”

What does that have to do with the creation account of Genesis?

Shepherd’s Chapel assumes preexistence and, by extension, ascribes to the Gap Theory of Creation. There is some unidentified length of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. God created the world, He destroyed it because of Satanic rebellion and then He “reformed” it. As Shepherd’s Chapel members already believe this, they must make the text conform to the belief. Using their pal Bullinger’s shoddy Companion Bible, they insist that the word should be translated as “disruption, ruin or destroy.”

Except

…when the word is used in connection with the birth of a child it carries the meaning of conceive. When used in the connection with the world it carries the meaning of founding or creating (conceiving the world). It does NOT carry the meaning of destruction, overthrow, destroyed, or ruin in any circumstance. The use of “laying down” or “throwing down” is only correct in the connotation of laying a foundation or creating not in the sense of destroying or judgment. – Colby Braden

And except…Genesis was not written in Greek. Nope. The Hebrew words used to describe God’s creative activity are bara (to shape or create) and asah (to do or make). Clearly nothing about destruction or ruin or overthrowing.

Shepherd’s Chapel students often argue that the word translated as “was” in the KJV and most English Translations of Genesis 1:2 should actually be translated “became” as in “the Earth became formless and void.” This, to them, proves the supposed katabole.

…it suffers from a number of hermeneutical problems:

Time cannot be inserted between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 because verse 2 does not follow verse 1 in time. Verse 2 uses a Hebrew grammatical device that is called a waw-disjunctive. This is where a sentence begins with the Hebrew word for and (waw) followed by a noun such as the earth (erets). A waw-disjunctive indicates that the sentence is describing the previous one and does not follow in time. In other words, verse 2 is describing the conditions of the earth when it was first created. Hebrew grammar simply will not allow for the insertion of vast periods of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in which a supposed satanic fall took place. – Colby Braden

They think that the text should be translated this way because they already believe it. This is an example of circular reasoning, a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with.

So, God’s out there creating and destroying and reforming. There’s this battle and if you fight well you’ll be saved and if not you get the curse of free will. Bizarre goings-on about different cosmic ages. He then makes all the races on the sixth day. He makes Adam on the eighth.

Again I am compelled to say that I am not making this up.

Shepherd’s Chapel assumes pre-Adamic races. Using Genesis 1:24-31, they conclude that God created other people because the word adam in verse 26 is the generic term for man or mankind. In Genesis 2:7, the definite article and particle appear, eth ha adam, meaning that a specific adam is the focus. So, obviously (to them), God made a bunch of other people on the sixth day, took a nap break and came back on the eighth to make Adam.

Genesis 1 and 2 are so badly mishandled by this group. There is no understanding whatsoever that the first chapter provides a panoramic view of the totality of God’s work in creation and the second chapter zeros in on humanity. They assume that Genesis 2 is an eighth day. Have you noticed how often that word, assume, keeps popping up?

Please, I beg you to think about this for a second. All the text of the first two chapters of Genesis says is that God made man and named him Man.

There’s just nothing more you can get from it.

No different than naming a sock monkey, Monkey.

Naming a cat, Kitty.

I won’t insult your intelligence by going on. You get the point.

It frightens me how cavalierly people use Scripture. How they twist it and shape it without much thought to the consequences.

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all the posts in the Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing series, go here.