Saturday, July 18, 2015

Discerning prescription from description



2 Samuel 1:1–2:32, 1 Peter 3:1–7, Psalm 133:1–134:3

Today’s OT passage poses a question. Is it okay to use something from the Bible to justify the way we live today? This passage describes David’s reaction to the news that Saul and Jonathan had died . . .

“And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. And David said to the young man who told him, ‘Where do you come from?’ And he answered, ‘I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.’ David said to him, ‘How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’ Then David called one of the young men and said, ‘Go, execute him.’ And he struck him down so that he died. And David said to him, ‘Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, “I have killed the Lord’s anointed.”’ ” (2 Samuel 1:12–16)

I’d not known this, but in those days it was customary tor warriors to kill an enemy if he was dying a slow and painful death. In other words, the custom was in war to put foes out of their misery. So, the issue is not that David killed this bearer of bad news, although that is an issue. It is about what the man did to Saul.

Wartime or not, plenty of people today think that a slow and painful death means that “the plug should be pulled” – all life support removed so the dying person does not have to suffer. The question is: Does the Bible justify euthanasia? Does the practice of ancient armies mean that it is okay for us to do the same thing?

This is a difficult question. My first thought is the importance of distinguishing between prescription and description. That is, not everything described in Scripture is a command from God. Much of it simply describes what people did, and since all people are sinners, some of that is going to be descriptions of sinful actions.

Other examples might be Pilate who took his own life and Saul who tried to kill himself. Does that justify suicide? How about Jaal who lured the enemy of her people to sleep in her tent and then drove a nail through his head? This doesn’t sound much like loving your enemies or doing good to those who hate you.

Some will use words like ‘justifiable violence’ when it comes to protecting loved ones. Others might use ‘white lies’ for the same reason. Again, using a description of an action in the Bible needs to be carefully compared to what the rest of the Bible says before using it to justify myself so that I can sin without guilt.

Another test is to compare. How does what I might want to do stack up with the life and actions of the Lord Jesus Christ? This is not to fall into the practice of trying to guess ‘WWJD’ (what would Jesus do?) but carefully considering His character and mission, and also my own. Am I planning  a selfish act without seeking the will of God? Are there alternatives for my plans that the Word of God sanctions? If the solution is difficult, does that mean it is wrong?

The NT reading is another example of a tough issue. In this case, the passage gives more insight. It explains the reason for the command in the first verse by the verse before and after it . . .

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:1–4)

The “likewise” refers back to the example of Jesus Christ: “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:20–23)

God wants His daughters to be like Jesus, to be gentle and calm, to be women who trust Him completely. Most Christian women have been in the position of seeing their spouse disobey God. What would Jesus do? He was in the position of seeing the entire human race disobey God, but did not retaliate. In silence, He trusted His Father to make things right. He continues to be patient and calm while we, the people for whom He died, continue to sin and behave in rebellious ways. His example has rescued me many times from doing what I wanted to do, even to justify it with, “but the other person sinned . . . .”

God’s goal for His people is that both women and men totally trust Him, leaving behind our sinful responses and retaining the gentle and quiet spirit of our Savior. This goal also applies to husbands (read 1 Peter 3:7)

As a child of God, I want to serve Him and do His will. If I were put in a life/death situation, would I seek His face before I responded in sin? If I can praise Him because of what I do, would that not be another good test for the godliness of my reactions!

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!” (Psalm 134:1–2)


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