Things I Will no Longer Argue About

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I overdid it last week with the bending and the lifting and the stretching and the insomnia. Didn’t mean to. Just happened. With the morning sun came shooting pain in my abdomen and a wicked headache. So I’m in the recliner today, wrapped up in a blanket, watching the minutes tick by. That lovely combination of exhaustion and restlessness that follows surgery settles in. I don’t know if I’m going to have a panic attack, take a nap or give in to the urge for junk food that been poking at me for days. All seem like good options.

Thankfully, I’m just slightly smarter than I have been in the past. A panic attack may come, but it won’t kill me. A nap this late in the day definitely guarantees a sleepless night and I can achieve that without an extra help. Junk food equals liver poison. So I’ve been listening to music that makes me happy. Drinking water. Praying. God reminds me that I’m tougher than I think I am, and 15 days from now I’ll be released fully back into “normal life.”

Maybe you need that reminder today, too. It won’t last forever. You got this.

********

Anyway, that’s not what I want to write about.

I know better, but sometimes I take the bait. Briefly got into it with someone over the weekend. Same old argument about women’s roles in the Church. This time, Matthew 15:6-9 was flung at me:

…Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (NKJV)

Not only was this so far out of context as to be laughable, the point was very clear: If you’re an egalitarian, if you think that women can preach, then you are far from God.

Of course this slap in the face was done “humbly,” in an effort to set me straight.

And I thought, “That’s it. I’m done.”

No longer will I argue about this. Contrary to popular belief, egalitarians take the Bible extremely seriously. We have studied this issue. We are not idiots or “liberals” (I’m not always sure what someone means when they use that term). We love the Lord just as much as complementarians do. I’m not going to waste time defending or justifying or explaining to people who clearly just want to fight. I’m not going to try to reason with people who seriously wonder if a woman should be “allowed” to be in charge of the finances if she’s married.

I’ve also decided that I won’t argue about Calvinism. So done with that. I’m sure my decision was predestined.

Look, it’s possible to talk about these things in a spirit of love and family. It’s possible for us to say, “I disagree with you, but you’re my sister/brother” or “I think you’re completely wrong, but we’re both saved by Christ.” I’ve had interactions of this type and they’re always fun and edifying. I always learn something. I always feel respected. Unfortunately, in my experience, many complementarians and Calvinists (they often go hand in hand, but not always) have taken such a hard line in their positions as of late, especially online, that this type of exchange is next to impossible. I find that extremely sad.

I’m an egalitarian. I’m Wesleyan/Holiness. Beating me with your “women must know their place, and their place is __________” or your Reformed system of biblical interpretation isn’t going to make me change my mind. Look down on me all you want. Feel superior. Tell me I’m rebellious. Tell me I am willfully ignorant.

When all is fulfilled and restored, when Heaven and earth are as one, I hope we have houses next to each other.

I firmly believe that correct doctrine is vital. I also believe that there are times when we need to make like Elsa and let it go. There’s a dying world outside our front doors. It isn’t helped by us trying to squash each other into submission.

Go ahead. Stay up in your comfortable ivory towers and talk about how everyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong, wronger, wrongest. I have work to do.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: reenablack

The LORD Your God in Your Midst: In the Presence (1:7-11)

The Lord your God in your midst,The Mighty One, will save;He will rejoice over you with gladness,He will quiet you with His love,He will rejoice over you with singing.” (1)

Gentle Reader,

We’re eleven weeks into our study of Zephaniah, and honestly? We might be here forever.

Well, not forever, for all things do come to an end. I’m just in no rush. This has been such a rich experience so far, and I don’t anticipate that changing. As the psalmist wrote,

How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!

– 119:103 (NKJV)

How I wish I could ring every last drop of Divine goodness from these words! It is impossible, and, despite the longing, fortunate. The fathomless nature of Scripture flowing from the lips of the fathomless God of All draws us in deeper and deeper, like a never-solved mystery. He hooks us. He simply hooks us, and we are lost in the best way possible.

I should pause here and say that I feel a little awkward writing about Zephaniah, as a non-Jewish person. I have a different relationship to these words than a physical child of Abraham. If it weren’t for the Lord burning a desire to know and love this book into my heart, I wouldn’t even attempt it. Know that any gaffs I make or gaps in understanding I communicate are not meant to offend. As always, I am eager to learn.

Be Silent

“Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD…”

– Zephaniah 1:7a

I can’t even get past the first sentence.

Zephaniah calls for silence.

There’s no room for argument. No comebacks, qualifications or explanations.

We like to think that we’re on the same level with God, that we’re His equals. We are not. Absolutely are not. Nobody gets to stand in His presence (if anyone ever really stands; throughout the Bible we see people hitting the deck as if dead any time they’re given a glimpse of the Divine) and act like they’re the best thing since sliced bread. It’s not going to happen. When the calendar turns to the page determined in ages past when Christ returns with a shout heard ’round the world and splits the Mount of Olives in two with the barest touch of His feet (1 Thessalonians 4:16, Zechariah 14:4), everyone who has ever lived ever will fall down and proclaim Him Lord (Philippians 2:10).

No other options available.

Zephaniah understood who he was in relation to God. He knew that the words he’d been given to speak and to write came from the very mouth that called the universe into being. I have to think that he obeyed his own command and sat in stunned, worshipful silence for at least a few minutes at some point during his ministry. How could he not?

We should do likewise.

Protestant Christians are freaked out by anything that even smells slightly mystic. There’s a lot of good sense in that, but silence doesn’t have to be this weird, emptying of the mind, the colors are speaking kind of thing. We talk to God all the time through prayer and song. In fact, we run our mouths. A lot. While we should go “boldly to the throne” (Hebrews 4:16), part of that going needs to involve sitting as His feet, waiting for Him to speak. Listening attentively. Letting ourselves be overcome with awe and wonder.

If need be, covering our faces in guilt and repentance.

The Slaughter, the Guest

For the day of the LORD is at hand,
For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice;
He has invited His guests.

– 1:7b (NKJV)

Remember: prophecy has layers.

This day is a specific day, unrelated to the culmination of all things. Zephaniah sees that Judah is about the suffer punishment for their sin.

These were people well versed in the language of sacrifice. Day after day they heard the sounds of animals dying in the Temple. They smelled the blood and the burning flesh. They knew exactly how the animals were prepared for slaughter. Even the most ignorant resident of Jerusalem would have been at least somewhat familiar with the dictates laid down in Exodus and Leviticus.

I imagine Zephaniah’s face draining of color as he receives this vision.

They are the sacrifice.

The people stood on the edge of a holy knife blade.

“…for the punishing of presumptuous sinners is a sacrifice to the justice of God, some reparation to [H]is injured honour.” (1)

We like the hippy-god of the not-bible, the one who doesn’t exist. Oh, God would never punish anyone, we insist. He’s all peace and love. He is. He’s also holy. As we discussed before, He had clearly, explicitly laid out the consequences of disobedience. He gave the people chance after chance after chance to turn away from their sin. At any moment He would have forgiven them, welcomed them back.

That is one thing we must remember going forward. God is consistent. He is not merciful here and just there. He is both, always. When the punishment descended upon Jerusalem, He was faithful to respond to any final, gasped or whispered cry for forgiveness. No doubt.

“..God was hosting the sacrifice. His guests were the Babylonians…” (2)

Very quick history: Babylon was a city in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It may or may not have been the site of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), which could have been a ziggurat (an early type of stepped temple). One of its kings was a guy named Hammurabi who wrote the world’s first (debated) law code. There were a couple of different Babylonian empires. The empire of Zephaniah’s time was the second, referred to as “Neo-Babylonian” or “Chaldean.” At its peak:

File:Neo-Babylonian Empire.png

Judah had a run-in with Babylon during the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20). Berodach-Baladan (there’s a name for you) sent some ambassadors to Jerusalem and Hezekiah thought it was a good idea to show off how wealthy and fabulous he was.

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”

So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?”

– 2 Kings 20:16-19 (NKJV)

Hezekiah’s response kills me. Oh, no big deal. It’s not going to happen to me!

So nice of him.

The time had come for Isaiah’s words to come to pass. God was about to remove His protective had from Judah and allow the Babylonians to do as they pleased.

Money Can’t Save You

“And it shall be,
In the day of the LORD’s sacrifice,
That I will punish the princes and the king’s children,
And all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.
In the same day I will punish
All those who leap over the threshold,
Who fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.”

– 1:8-9 (NKJV)

Class didn’t matter. Bank accounts didn’t matter. All who defied God would experience the same fate. All were equal before Him.

Think on that for a second. So often people say that God should judge individuals by their actions.

He does.

The reference to “foreign apparel” here has nothing to do with buying jeans made in Italy. These are either “ornaments of the idols,” (3) garments or talismans related to the cult of a false god (sort of like wearing “blessed underwear” or “healing crystals”) or a remark on an obsession with appearance as way of showing off wealth and status; “pride in apparel is displeasing to God, and a symptom of the degeneracy of a people” (4; let that one sink in). Either way, even the way the people were dressing showed just how far from the Lord they had strayed.

Leaping over a threshold was yet another way they gave themselves over to sin. Fascinatingly, this could refer to someone “who follows the customs of the Philistines, who would not step on the threshold of Dagon, as it is stated (I Samuel 5:5).” (5) How paranoid one must have been, to fear stepping on a threshold! As the practice is tied to filling homes with “violence and deceit,” I am more inclined to believe that this points to property disputes and theft, a problem discussed at length throughout Hosea and Amos.

Great Mourning

“And there shall be on that day,” says the LORD,
“The sound of a mournful cry from the Fish Gate,
A wailing from the Second Quarter,
And a loud crashing from the hills.
Wail, you inhabitants of Maktesh!
For all the merchant people are cut down;
All those who handle money are cut off.”

– Zephaniah 1:10-11 (NKJV)

These verses revealed how familiar Zephaniah was with the city of Jerusalem. So familiar, it was probably his hometown. The tragedy becomes deeper, sharper when you think that he might have played on those streets as a boy or gone to the market to fetch something for dinner, as a kindness to his wife.

“The Fish Gate was where the fisherman had their markets; the ‘second quarter’ was where the rich people lived in the fashionable houses, built from the wages owed to poor laborers. ‘Maktesh’ was the market and business district of the city where the merchants and bankers were located.” (6)

Food supply would be cut off. Trading would cease. All of Jerusalem would be overcome.

Reflection

  1. Is God’s word sweet to you? Do you love it? Why or why not?
  2. Read Daniel 7:9-10, Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 1:12-18. Sit in silence. Contemplate the picture these passages paint.
  3. Moses is a great example of someone who both understood his place before God and loved God with all that he was. Read Exodus 33:12-34:9. What did Moses refuse to do? Why? What did He ask God to do? What does this reveal? What was most important to Moses?
  4. Some of us have to learn the hard way. The consequences of idolatry are a dominate theme throughout Zephaniah. Last week we asked God to show us the things that we are prone to worship. Take some time now and think about the fallout you’ve experienced from worshiping anything other that God. How has this brought you closer to God?
  5. Read Zephaniah 1:7-11. What stands out to you?

My journey to faith. (15)

Sources

(1) Sacrifice

(2) Warren Weirsbe. Be Concerned: Minor Prophets. (David C. Cook: Colorado Springs, 1996), 148

Image

(3) Foreign Apparel Option #1

(4) Foreign Apparel Option #2

(5) Threshold Leaping

(6) Weirsbe, 148.

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.

Five Minute Friday: Lift (Plus a Sneak Peek)

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

#PhelpsFace might be the greatest thing to come out of a sporting competition in a long time. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, head to Google immediately). I finally have a way to describe how I feel when I’m operating on too little sleep.

Or when I’m faced with the prospect of meatloaf. At least now I can pull out the vegetarian card.

Kate says: lift.

Go.

A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
    gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.

– Proverbs 17:22 (MSG)

I believe in the power of laughter to lift our weary souls. And since I’m too tired to write anything remotely coherent, enjoy this.

Stop.

And now, drumroll please…

A side project…

Not the one I’m trying to get traditionally published…

But still a book…

Untitled design

Coming October 2016!

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Seth Doyle