Archive for March, 2009

Nathan – The Kinder, Gentler Prophet

March 25, 2009

Prophet’s Name: Nathan
Miracles Performed: None Recorded
Most Noted For: Coining the phrase, “You’re the man.”
Era Served: Reign of David and early years of Solomon 

 Most prophets in the Old Testament were fiery preachers warning of God’s coming wrath if the people did not repent. Prophets demonstrated Israel’s depravity and called the nation or an individual back to God using tactics ranging from lying in cow dung to slaying hundreds of cultists, usually accompanied by a miracle or two. Nathan, however, liked to let people down easy, at least that’s what he did with King David.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband (2 Samuel 11) was evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Samuel 12:9), and so the Lord sent Nathan to give him the message. Now Nathan was a long time confidant of David and it is always hard to be the bearer of bad news to those you love, so before Nathan told David of the Lord’s judgement (the death of the child carried by Bathsheba, the rebellion of his own children and constant war throughout his reign as king, 2 Samuel 12:10-12) he told the story of a rich man who stole a poor man’s only lamb (see 2 Samuel 12:1-4). David was so enraged by the rich man’s actions that he demanded he pay fourfold and said that he deserved to die. To which Nathan simply replied to David, “You are the man.”

In the end, David repented and lived out the consequences of his actions.

A lesson learned from Nathan’s encounter with David:

It is sometimes necessary to rebuke those with whom we are close, and when done with a loving attitude they may see the error of their ways and repent.

Although David still had to live with the consequences of his actions, because of Nathan’s allegorical story of his sin, he repented. The bible records that because of his repentance, David was not put to death and today we know David as a man after God’s own heart. That’s high praise for an adulterer and a murderer, but it shows the love of God towards all sinners and his willingness to “put away [our] sin” when we repent.

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Where did Cain find a wife?

March 18, 2009

Cain is the first born of the first humans, Adam and Eve. His story is familiar to most. He offers an unworthy sacrifice to God and is chastised, while his brother Abel offers an acceptable one and is praised. In a jealous rage Cain murdered his brother. As a consequence he was punished by God, sent away and “knew” (had sex with) his wife.

There have been all sorts of crazy theories about where Cain’s wife came from, and most of them come from an improper reading of the scripture. Genesis 4:16 states that after Cain was punished by God, he left and dwelt in the land of Nod and there the Bible states in Genesis 4:17 that Cain “knew” his wife and she bore a son named Enoch. The assumption that most people make is that there were only 3 people on the earth at that time, Adam, Eve, and Cain, but this may not be the case at all.

According to Genesis 5:4 Adam and Eve had many other sons and daughters and it does not specify when these children were born. Obviously the most logical answer from scripture is that Cain’s wife was one of his sisters or one of his sisters or a niece. As weird as that sounds to us now, keep in mind that God did not pronounce that as sin until the time of Moses. Genetic flaws began to bring about severe birth defects when the parents are too closely related. There are other reasons as well, but I won’t get into those here. The fact of the matter is that for humans to have continued as a species inter-marriage with close relatives was necessary.

In closing, to add to a previous point, the Bible does not say that Cain found a wife, only that he had sex with the wife he already had, who must have been a descendant of Adam and Eve.

Jews and Gentiles – Where do they come from?

March 5, 2009

This is one of those questions a new Christian might be afraid to ask when surrounded by those of us who have been well churched. Like me some believers did not attend sunday school at an early age much less receive a Christian education. In most cultures older individuals are generally considered to have more knowledge, but when it comes to spiritual matters age has little to do with it, and so I think that it is easy for believers and congregations to forget that newcomers may not have as great a handle on the basics that we do even though they are middle aged. Now to the question at hand. Where did Jews and Gentiles come from?

From Adam to Abraham there were no Jews. They are the direct descendants of Abraham and Sarah, his wife. God brought Abraham out of a city called Ur and promised to make a great nation out of him with children numbering more than the stars in the sky (I’ll get to that in a minute).  As the story goes, Abraham and Sarah were both well beyond child bearing years, but God miraculously helped them conceive a son, Isaac. Now Isaac had a son named Jacob, who was also known as Israel, and he had twelve sons that became the twelve tribes of Israel. So, Jews came from Abraham. Gentiles are everyone else who is not a direct descendant of Abraham. The question is why did God purposefully create a new nation from Abraham?

The simple answer is that he set aside a specific group of people for himself through which and for the purpose of bringing forth the Messiah, Jesus Christ. I mentioned earlier that Abraham was promised more children than there are stars in the sky. All those who believe in Jesus Christ are in fact the spiritual children of Abraham because of the faith we share in God. As the bible says, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness”. Followers of Jesus, a descendant of Abraham through the flesh, believe he is the savior and so righteousness is counted to us as well, though most of us are still gentiles.

One more interesting note. Abraham had a son previous to Isaac through a servant given to him by his wife. Ancient cultures were weird that way. That son, Ishmael, eventually gave rise to Mohammed and the faith of Islam. We don’t sin in a vacuum. Sinning does affect those around us. Abraham’s indiscretion still causes problems today between Jews and Arabs.

In conclusion, Jews are from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Gentiles are from everyone else, but all those who have believed upon the name of Jesus are members of the family of God.