The last three months have seen elections in America, Israel and Jordan. The results have for the most part not brought healing, satisfaction or decisive change.
Re-interpreting the Founding Fathers
At the U.S. Inauguration (www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/21/inaugural-address-president-barack-obama) President Obama boldly advocated for homosexual marriage, placing it on an “Olympic podium” along with votes for women and civil rights for people of color.
The President made reference to three events beginning with the letter “S” – Seneca Falls (scene of an influential women’s rights convention in 1848; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_Falls_Convention), Selma (scene of Martin Luther King’s civil rights marches in 1965; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selma_to_Montgomery_marches), and Stonewall – scene of a homosexual and drag queen riot on Christopher Street, NYC on June 28, 1969 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots; discretionary caution is suggested regarding some language used in this last link).
The President began his address by quoting from the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”), and then attemped to apply this principle as a support for legally validating homosexual marriage.
He concluded his address by reminding his fellow Americans that his oath is sworn “to God and country,” and then spoke a blessing in the name of God, “God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.”
Gay Paree and the Greeks
It would have come as a shock to the signers of the Declaration of Independence (Protestant churchgoers all; www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_Religion.html) that 236 years later, an American president would try to use the language of their Declaration to defend and call for homosexual marriage.
A study of ancient history reveals that pagan empires like Greece or Rome (where homosexuality was socially approved) never gave legal sanction to same-sex marriages (The Roman Law of Marriage, P.E. Corbett, Oxford, 1969, pp. 24–28). Indeed, the Roman word for matrimony is based on the Latin word mater (or mother), assuming that the union is between a man and a woman. From the ancient Classical perspective, the legalizing of homosexual unions was deemed illogical and unnecessary. The modern drive to establish legalization of homosexual marriage is a rather new phenomenon in human history.
A recent mass demonstration opposing a bid to legalize homosexual marriages (January 13, 2013) gathered between 340,000 and 800,000 participants in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/13/anti-gay-marriage-protesters-paris), and this in the city of laissez-faire. Though Paris is one of the most tolerant cities in Europe for homosexuals, it is clear that a strong majority in the City of Lights feel that state validation of homosexuality should not extend to legalizing same-sex marriages.
The Rome that Paul knew
Conservative estimate is that Paul’s Letter to the Romans was written 56-57 A.D., though he had not yet visited that city. The Apostle Paul arrived in Rome in 60 A.D. as a prisoner, and there awaited trial before Caesar Nero, who ruled from 54-68 A.D. In the mid-sixties Paul was beheaded (the death penalty for a Roman citizen) on Nero’s orders, the traditional spot being at the Tre Fontane Abbey in Rome.
Roman leadership was not philo-Semitic, and viewed Jewish beliefs and practices for the most part as primitive, barbaric and foolish (see Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, Menahem Stern, The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1974). The concepts that there was only One True God, that He had the personal Hebrew name YHVH, and that He was eternally associated with a conquered Semitic people – all this was laughable to the world’s greatest superpower. The belief that the Jewish people were the Chosen People, and that a ruler from the Davidic dynasty would one day reign over Rome, was offensive to Roman patricians. And biblical sexual morality was also considered ludicrous to Roman civil society.
When Paul penned Romans 1:18-32, he was confronting the sins of Rome head-on – idolatry (1:18-23), heterosexual adultery and fornication (1:24-25), and homosexual and lesbian acts (1:26-27). Paul declared that God’s blessing would not rest on a society that engaged in or sanctioned such behavior. Instead, social collapse and death (in other words, divine judgment) would be the result.
Paul’s worldview was shaped by the Hebrew Scriptures (see Leviticus 18:22-30), words and teachings that form the bedrock for any New Covenant minister (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Paul proclaims that anything less than faithfulness to God’s word would only be “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).
A contrasting worldview was demonstrated by the Emperor Nero who in 64 A.D. held a non-legal marriage ceremony wherein he wore a bridal veil and ‘married’ (though not legally, as Roman law recognized no such union) his wine steward Pythagoros (Tacitus, Annals, XV). In 67 A.D. Nero changed roles and had another man wear the bridal veil, his young castrated servant named Sporus (Cassius Dio, Roman History, 62). Paul’s warnings regarding the consequences of such sin were to be personally manifested in Nero’s own suicide and, later, in the suicide of Sporus.
Kings who tweak the Bible
Since an election season has just passed on, it is worth considering what the Bible teaches regarding the accession and decline of national leaders and kings.
Hannah, Samuel’s mother, spoke out a prophetic psalm in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. She described how YHVH brings down mighty kings and warrior nations, yet exalts the poor, the needy and those who stumble. YHVH even has “the foolish things of the world” sit next to princes and inherit thrones of honor. He judges rulers’ deeds, weighing the motives of their hearts, “for YHVH is a God who knows” (1 Samuel 2:3). The arrogant and “those who oppose YHVH will be broken” (1 Samuel 2:9).
The mother of Yeshua, Miriam (better known as Mary) echoed Hannah’s words in her Magnificat, a prophetic psalm more than one thousand years later. YHVH “has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has bought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:51-52). Most importantly, YHVH “has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as He promised our patriarchs” (Luke 1:54-55).
One of the classic descriptions of the anti-Messiah is found in Daniel 7:25: “He will speak against the Most High and oppress His holy people, and try to change the set times and the laws.” The “set times” referred to here include YHVH’s calendar and feasts of Leviticus 23 and Genesis 2:2, things that YHVH describes as “My appointed festivals” (Leviticus 23:2; Ezekiel 44:24) and “My holy days” (Isaiah 58:13; Ezekiel 22:8).
The “laws of God” refer to the Bible’s teaching about God’s order – natural and physical limits that YHVH Himself established (1 Chronicles 16:30; Psalm 24:2; 74:17; 89:37; 96:10; 103:19; 104:5,8; 119:90; 148:6; Proverbs 3:19; 30:4; Isaiah 45:18; Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15).
God establishes impassible boundaries for the ocean’s waves (Job 38:11; Psalm 89:8-10; Jeremiah 5:22; Mark 4:41), as well as established inviolable boundaries for the sons of Israel and also for the nations (Deuteronomy 32:8-10). These may be ignored at peril of divine judgment. YHVH also established moral boundaries for proper and holy sexual interaction (Hebrews 13:4), as well as clear definitions of what sins violate His divine order.
When a country’s ruler second-guesses, ignores or violates Holy Writ, a gap is created in the spirit, a vacuum which opens the door to evil spiritual influence – the spirit which mockingly questions, “Has God really said …?” (Genesis 3:1). Invoking the name of the God of the Bible, while simultaneously advocating acceptance of behaviors that the God of the Bible calls morally sinful – this is unstable spiritual ground on which to stand. It indicates that apart from individual and national repentance, the judgments outlined in Romans chapter 1 will not delay; they will certainly come (Habakkuk 2:3; Deuteronomy 7:9-11).
Is it self-evident to obey God rather than Caesar?
During the Nazi reign of terror, some German theologians and church leaders (like Dietrich Bonhoeffer) struggled with Yeshua’s command to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). At great personal cost, they realized that a believer’s ultimate loyalty is to YHVH and to His inscripturated word alone. “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20).
To take a stand for God’s morality, whether it involved opposing Nazi policies of euthanasia for mentally handicapped or elderly people, the mass murder of Jews, or the rejection of Biblical moral foundations – utimately faithfulness to God’s word cost Bonhoeffer and many others their lives.
“The church must confess that she has not proclaimed often or clearly enough her message of the one God who has revealed Himself for all time in Jesus Christ and who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself. She must confess her timidity, her evasiveness, her dangerous concessions…She was silent when she should have cried out because the blood of the innocent was crying aloud to heaven…She has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid. She is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ…The church must confess that she has desired security, peace and quiet, possessions and honor…She has not borne witness to the truth of God … By her own silence she has rendered herself guilty of a failure to accept responsibility and to bravely defend a just cause. She has been unwilling to suffer for what she knows to be right. Thus the church is guilty of becoming a traitor to the Lordship of Christ ” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Works, Volume 6, Ethics, p.117).
- As sin becomes established as the politically correct morality in the land, even though a President be its advocate, believers must redouble their intercession for moral repentance and national revival, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.
Eating grass with the crowned heads of Babylon
The God of Israel places a priority on getting world leaders to acknowledge that YHVH alone “is sovereign over all the kingdoms on earth and He gives them to anyone He wishes” (Daniel 4:25). When a world ruler refuses to acknowledge the God of the Bible’s authority and sovereignty, and the necessity of obeying His word, the Most High decrees that the leader must renounce this as sin or face heavenly judgment (Daniel 4:24, 27).
When Nebuchadnezzar refused to humble himself and fall into line with YHVH’s perspective, God decreed that Babylon’s mighty king would be driven away from people and would live with the wild animals. He would eat grass like the ox and be drenched every dawn with the dew of heaven – for a period of seven seasons (Daniel 4:24-25) until he repented.
After Nebuchadnezzar finally repented, he was restored. He then authored an Aramaic poem (“Shaltaneh shaltan alam umalchuteh im dor vador”) which is quoted daily in every Jewish synagogue across the face of the earth in its Hebrew equivalent (“Malchutcha malchut l’olamim umemshaltecha l’chol dor vador”).
The English words are “Your dominion is an everlasting dominion, and Your kingdom from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3, 34-35). The King of Babylon had learned a spiritual secret, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are to be considered as nothing; and He does according to His will among the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. None can restrain His hand, or declare to Him, ‘What are You doing?’” (Daniel 4:35).
- To put it plainly, what God calls sin is sin, and what declares righteous and holy remains that way as well. Don’t mess with His order!
Drinking wine from the holy goblets of God
Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar was a different story, however. Trusting in the impregnability of Babylon’s defenses, he called for a celebratory banquet of wine as Persian troops massed outside Babylon. As the evening progressed, the king thought that it would be appropriate to show how Babylon had crushed other peoples and their gods by bringing out for public display the holy vessels captured by Babylon’s overwhelming armies. And so it was the the gold and silver goblets once used to worship YHVH in Solomon’s Temple were brought out, and wine dedicated to pagan demons was poured into the vessels and drunk, while pagan worship songs were raised in merriment.
All of a sudden, the veritable hand of God appeared writing Hebrew words on the plaster of the king’s banquet hall walls. Daniel the prophet was brought in to give the interpretation of this ‘prophetic code.’ Like Paul in Imperial Rome, he did not mince words. He told Belshazzar that the king had not humbled himself even though he was aware of his own father’s spiritual history; that Belshazzar had dishonored “the God who holds your life and all your ways in His hand” (Daniel 5:23), and that he worshipped demons rather than the God of the Bible.
That very night the Persian army entered Babylon through a dried up water-supply tunnel, conquered and burned the city, and killed Belshazzar.
It is disquieting and very sobering to consider that YHVH judged the Gentile King of Babylon for both ignoring and mocking the holiness of God’s word – even regarding what some might consider to be merely Jewish matters – issues of Temple worship and offerings. That was sufficient to bring judgment on Belshazzar and on his nation.
As the nations of the world champ impatiently at the bit for a new government to get established in Israel, the baying of the hounds begins. Mighty nations are calling for portions of the land promised to Jacob’s children to be divided among Ishmael’s and Esau’s descendants (in violation of Genesis 25:6, 18; 27:29; 36:6-9. 43; Deuteronomy 2 and Joshua 24:4). Yet YHVH promises judgment on those nations who set their hand to divide the land of Israel (Joel 3:2).
- Pray for the leaders of your nation – that the God of Israel would grant them revelation of His own heart regarding the holy and the profane, regarding sin and righteousness
- Pray for the leaders of your nation – that YHVH would grant them courage and spine to uphold God’s word and ways
- Pray for the leaders of your nation – that they would not set their hand to lifting up God’s holy vessel Israel for unholy purposes, and that they would refrain from setting their hand to dividing the land of Israel
- Pray for the Jewish people and their new leaders – that the God of Israel would have mercy on us, grant us a repentant heart, and open our eyes to His word, His ways, and His Messiah Yeshua!
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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