Archive for July 2014

Why does the widow of the brother have to spit in his face and take off his shoe? (Deut. 25:9)

428px-Family-bible[1]

Why does the widow of the brother have to spit in his face and take off his shoe? (Deut. 25:9)

by

Jose de Carvalho

 

 

This section concerns the applicability of the Law in context of justice, marriage and business. More directly to the question this section deals with the provision for widows. Deuteronomy 25:9 has its roots in the legislation of Leviticus 25:25-55, ‘redemption’ and Levirate marriage.

The primary concern in the narrative is the preservation of the family line/name via a Levirate marriage in a society where polygamy was allowed. Hence; “her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.(Deut. 25:5-6, ESV).

Although he has the obligation, he is however not forced into taking the widow as his wife, which is in actual fact to protect the widow from a reluctant husband. In which case a ceremony takes place (halizah) to officiate his decision not to marry her, after her husband’s his brother’s, death.

This is an official ceremony, intended on bringing shame and public humiliation for not cooperating, involving “pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face.” (v.9) by the widow of a brother who has died childless, through which ceremony he is released from the obligation of marrying her, and she becomes free to marry whomever she desires.

“Sandals were the ordinary footwear in the ancient Near East, but they were also a symbolic item of clothing, especially in the relationship between the widow and her legal guardian or levir. This is due to the fact that land was purchased based on whatever size triangle of land one could walk off in an hour, a day, a week or a month (1Ki. 21:16-17). Land was surveyed in triangles, and a benchmark was constructed of fieldstones to serve as a boundary marker (Deut. 19:14). Since they walked on the land in sandals, the sandals became the movable title to that land. By removing the sandals of her guardian (Rth. 4:7), a widow removed his authorization to administer the land of her household.”

In today’s contemporary society, the concept of levirate marriage as portrayed in the Law is not common. Nevertheless there are a few African communities that practice it, but its tradition is not rooted in the scriptures (allegedly in Lesotho this custom in Setswana is called Seya-ntlo they still practice Levirate Law, the Zulu (ukungenwa) nations certainly use it to look after vulnerable windows with small children). In many cases it tends to go against the wishes of the widow and therefore violates their rights (1 Cor. 7:39). Today’s western society would treat this kind of marriage as incestuous and the couple would suffer rejection.

Nevertheless the application of the spirit of the Law in terms of looking after the vulnerable like widows, in contemporaneous society by the Church is worthy of taking note.

James charges the Church to look after the vulnerable among us (1:27).

Paul repeats this theme in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”(ESV)

 

 

 

Providence in Prayer

praying

Providence in Prayer

By

Jose de Carvalho

So much is written about prayer.

Much of it begins with the premise that if believers pray their prayers will be answered.

Firstly let me clarify that God is not a cosmic Santa Claus, therefore if believers are good and exercise all of the prayer formulas documented in all the popular literature like persistence, positive confession and remain in faith without wavering, it does not mean that God is expected to respond positively to their prayer requests.

Given the premise that God should grant prayer requests, if prayer is not answered it is then classified as unanswered prayer. Therefore it stands to reason that if prayers are not answered it is due to incorrect application of the prayer formulas, lack of faith, or sin in the lives of the petitioners. More sinister, salvation is questioned, or God has just plainly rejected them at a personal level.

However, this is an incorrect understanding of prayer. God answers every prayer that is lifted to Him. Sometimes God answers “yes”, “no” or “wait.”

I cannot do justice to the complexity of the topic of God being ultimately sovereign and the effectiveness of prayer in a brief post, nor do I believe it to be necessary, so I will end will the words of Packer (1997:29)

‘Ask and you will receive’ is always true, and what they receive when they ask is always God’s best for them long-term, even when it is a short-term disappointment.

Some things are certain, and that is one of them.

Reading the Bible Out of Context

Jeremiah

Out of Context

By

Jose de Carvalho

Ben Irwin as compiled an interesting series of popular verses Christians keep quoting that do not mean what they think it means. Please follow the link for a paraphrased example.

Jer 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)

 

Jeremiah 29:11 reads like a Christian motivational poster. Wait, It is a Christian motivational poster. No wonder it was Bible Gateway’s second-most shared verse of 2013.

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Don’t worry. God has a plan for your day. Facing a rough patch at work? Take a breath. Your future is bright. Money’s a bit tight? Relax. God’s going to prosper you.

Except the words in Jeremiah 29:11 have nothing to do with bad hair days, corporate ladders, or financial success. In 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah. He rounded up 10,000 leading citizens of Jerusalem and dumped them in Babylon, 500 miles from home. They lost everything. They didn’t know what to do next.

From Jerusalem, Jeremiah wrote to the exiles — and told them to get on with their lives: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters.” In other words: you’re going to be there a while. Yet God promised this wasn’t the end for them. In 70 years, the exiles would return home. This was the “hope and . . . future” mentioned in Jeremiah 29:11.

Incidentally, that hope and future was something most of the original exiles wouldn’t live to see for themselves. (Seventy years was a long time then, too.) The future described in this passage would be for their children and grandchildren (Israel).

It is true that God know the plans He has for you and that He is a good God, as well as that our hope is sealed with eternal hope. Nevertheless Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t guarantee your personal fulfilment.

 

When is a lying not a lie?

Pinocchio           When is a lying not a lie?

By

Jose de Carvalho

 

I am following this question in a biblical platform that I very often interact on and post my very humble opinion to perplexing questions. Like many others in the body of Christ this is a contestable topic.

As expected the responses have ranged from believers can never lie, to a little white lie that does not cause warm is somewhat Ok. As well as the moral high ground, emphasizing that God does not lie, Jesus our perfect example could not lie, therefore we should conform to this example. Others have tried to re-contextually what is meant by a lie in the Bible. Nothing unusual!

Firstly I must affirm that I fully concur that lying is a sin and that God hates lies (10 Commandments; Levitical Law; Prov. 6:16), so I am not going to decontextualize, liberalise or somewhat condone it for the purposes of adding weight to my argument. 

However, apart from examples in the polemical life of David, Rahab (Joshua 2:5) and the Hebrew midwife (Ex 1:15-20) lied to protect the Israelites, God also used a form of deceit to punish Ahab in battle (1Kings 22:20), God is sovereign, thus uses whatever means He deems necessary to accomplish His Holy purposes.

Therefore what also appears to be true is that in certain circumstances lying to avoid a sin with much greater consequences maybe warranted; ‘Christian principal of greater good’. (I am aware that the western mind set has difficulties in accepting 2 possible contradictory ideas being true. This was not so in the Hebrew mind-set especially if the Word affirms it).

This line of reasoning is given validation by many secular ethicists*, but this is not my frame of reference.

In all the examples of lies for the greater good in the Bible, I am not aware of God’s condemnation ever being made.

*Teleological ethicists, affirm that actions are judged right or wrong on the basis of the result. Deontological ethicists, emphasize duty, asserting that actions are inherently/morally right or wrong.

Although the above ethical models may appear to have some credit, they both fail on account of the basis of appeal to reason; so then who decides what is right or wrong? Christian ethics must be grounded on biblical principles, dependant on a biblical world view for decision making processes. On this basis I offer as follows:

Christian ethics and behaviour models should just not be concerned with present situations and realities.  The impact of our decisions in the future must be considered, both now and eternally. Christians conduct in the present is challenged by the realities of living in a fallen sinful world as it impacts the community of believers everywhere. In this context, biblical principles, the Holy Spirit and Jesus are our guidelines for the principle of greater good as believers make decisions on a daily basis. Further believers have to be very mindful that they will be held accountable for all our moral actions.

I close with Lane Craig:

“Despite the inequities of this life, in the end the scales of God’s justice will be balanced. Thus, the moral choices we make in this life are infused with an eternal significance”

So I wait for our Lord’s return

Yours in Christ