Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wives are not property (part 2) Dt 21:10-14

"She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife." (Deuteronomy 21:13)
As husbands, we often loose sight of how much our wives gave up to be married to us. This is especially true in marriages that adhere to traditional male/female roles within the marriage. The sacrifices a woman makes to be married to a man can be substantial. Not only does she give up her last name but her relationship with her immediate family often change as she increasingly identifies with her new "family", thus leading to a diminishing closeness with her previous familial relationships. Often a woman is called upon to sacrifice her goals, plans, and future to be joined with, and aid in, her husband's goals, plans, and future. This sacrifice is further compounded when children come on the scene. It is most often the woman who sacrifices her time and plans in giving herself as the primary attendant in the raising and nurturing of the couple's children. This is not to say that men do not also sacrifice for a relationship of marriage, however, in most cases, the woman's sacrifice is of greater magnitude and more keenly felt by her that those of the man.

Too often, husbands view their wives as someone to meet their own personal needs; they are for cooking, cleaning, raising children, and performing other physical responsibilities incumbent with marriage. In doing this, they place their needs above those of their wife. The lesson of this scripture is clear; a husband ought to put his wife's emotional needs above his own physical needs. Just because a husband cannot empathize with or understand what his wife is going through, it does not mean that her needs and feelings are unimportant or that they can be ignored. Peter put it this way,
"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7)
It is interesting that this verse is translated "in an understanding way." Peter does not say that men have to understand their wives, but they do have to be understanding. A lot of husbands view their wives as being weaker; not only physically but also emotionally. This causes many husbands to "look down" on their wife's emotions and to minimize what they may be going through. They chide their wives to "get over it", in hopes of "fixing" them, with a goal of making them act, respond, and behave like themselves. However, Peter reminds men to realize that our wives are different, they are "woman", and we need to teat them as so. We need to be gentle and tender in regards to their needs and emotions; giving them grace, support, comfort, and space for the things they are experiencing and feeling. We must not be quick to have them "get over it" so we can get our needs met, rather we should be willing to set aside our needs that we might minister to their needs. Husbands, let the needs of your wife be of greater priority than your own needs and, in doing so, you will be truly blessed. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

More to come... David Robison

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wives are not property (part 1) Dt: 21:10-14

"When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her." (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
At times, when reading the Old Testament, it is hard to distinguish between those social behaviors that God tolerates and those He condones. This passage describes a practice that most of us would find intolerable but one which was very much accepted and practiced in that day. I believe that in addressing this practice, God is not condoning the practice but rather trying to teach us some principles of marriage using this practice as a backdrop.

The backdrop is the taking of wives, either through arraigned or forced marriages or though the spoils of war. Marriages where the women had no say in the arrangement of their marriage. These women became wives completely apart from their own volition and often contrary to their individual consent. While in the western mindset such "arraignments" seem antiquated and belonging to an age long ago, these practices still persist in many part of the world today. God describes the practice as "humbling". This is the same term used to describe the forcing of a woman into an unwanted sexual encounter; it degrades and humbles the woman as a person. However, once a marriage has begun in this way, God's word seeks to remind the husband of his duties and obligations to his wife.

There is an innate tendency in husbands, irrespective of how their marriage came about, to view his wife as his property. Especially, in this case, where she became his as the result of the spoils of war. It is easy for him to see her just as property; property to be used for his own pleasure and purpose. However, this attitude can exist in marriages where both parties entered into the marriage relationship through mutual consent. I have met husbands who treat their wives as objects to be ordered around, items to be used to serve their own needs and interests, and, just like their children, someone to be punished when they do not measure up or meet their particular needs. God outlines in this verse some important principles that can be applied to any marriage, but especially to marriages that may have gotten off "on the wrong foot."

Remove the clothes of her captivity: There are many reasons for getting married, but God intends the married life to be better than the single life that each partner is leaving behind. Marriage is not intended to solely, or even primarily, benefit the husband, but rather should also benefit and be a blessing to the wife. Unfortunately, many wives find themselves trapped in marriage, their marriage has become their captivity, and many desire to be unshackled and once again be set free to an independent life. God intended marriage to be liberating, God intended that wives would find in their marriage new freedom to be and express who they are, to be and become all that God has created them to be.

Jesus warns us against exercising dictatorial rule over those under our care. "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.'" (Luke 22:25) Unfortunately, too many husband try to rule their homes in this manner; they are the masters of the home and everyone else exists to serve and meet their needs and wants. Jesus, however, teaches us a better way. "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant." (Luke 22:26) It is a wise husband that learns to go low and lift up his wife and children; to be for them launching pads from which they may fully realize all that God has called them and made them to be. Only when we, as husbands, learn to let others become the "benefactors" within our homes, will we truly experience the blessing and joys of marriage and family. Husbands, remove the clothes of your wives' captivity and let them be set free in your love and in your marriage.

More to come... David Robison

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

A National Faith: Dt 21:1-9

"If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one. It shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man, that is, the elders of that city, shall take a heifer of the herd, which has not been worked and which has not pulled in a yoke; and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley... All the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; and they shall answer and say, 'Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it. Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O Lord, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.' And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them. So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)
We have previously looked at how bloodguiltiness can be charged to an entire nation. National bloodguiltiness is washed away by the process of justice and the executing of judgment upon the guilty. However, this passage deals with unsolved crimes; the shedding of innocent blood where the perpetrator is unknown. Without the punishment of the guilty, the bloodguiltiness assigned to a nation remains. There needs to be a way for a nation to expunge itself of bloodguiltiness when the guilty cannot be found and punished. In these cases, God accepted the blood of a heifer as payment for the innocent blood, thus removing the land's bloodguilt.

To this day, each of our nations bear a measure of bloodguiltyness for crimes committed but never atoned for. However, today we don't need to shed the blood of bulls and goats for the blood that covers all sins has already been shed upon the cross of Calvary. If the people of a nation will repent and ask for forgiveness then God will forgive their bloodguiltiness. "And [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It is not sufficient for a nations institutions to be godly and to be founded upon scriptural principles and wisdom, a nation must also possess a common faith in God. This is not to say that everyone must agree on all points of faith and religion, but simply that a common national faith in God and in His providence and governance over them is essential for the prolonged live and prosperity of any society. There will always be instances where, in the course of events, guilt is imputed to a nation and, at times like these, the people may be called upon in their common faith to ask for the forgiveness and favor of God upon their lives and their nation. The saving power of a national faith is no where more clearly demonstrated than in the story of Nineveh.

The sin of Nineveh had piled up and it was time for God to act, so God spoke to Jonah saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." (Jonah 1:2) After a miraculous trip in the belly of a great fish, Jonah arrived in Nineveh and began to declare to them God's judgment upon their sins. "Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.'" (Jonah 3:4) Upon hearing of God's impending judgment, and much to Jonah's displeasure, the people of Nineveh turned to God, repented, and prayed. "When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, 'In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.'" (Jonah 3:6-9) Upon seeing their repentance, God relented of the punishment He had determined for them and He forgave their sins. "When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it." (Jonah 3:10)

It was their corporate response to God, their common faith in the goodness, rightness, and mercy of God, that brought about their deliverance from impending doom. There is no indication that the Ninevehvites had a national religion or state sponsored church, but they did have a common faith in God and, when the situation demanded it, they knew where to turn for mercy and forgiveness as a nation. God never intended for nations to be secular. He never intended for faith and relationship with God to be removed from the public discourse or from public life. Rather He intended that a nation's shared faith in God would provide the sure foundation and stalwart pillars of all corporate life and of the nation as a whole.

David Robison

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