Tag Archives: Deuteronomy

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Deuteronomy 24:16 – “Blame and Excuses”)

“Blame and Excuses”

Deuteronomy 24:16, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”

This morning, people give “reasons” for doing things that really boil down to thinly veiled excuses for not doing that which is right. Years ago, I heard a preacher say, “When people start trying to hand me one of their excuses, I tell them, ‘I’ve got big pockets, and they’re already full of them.'” Since self-justification is a pastime participated in by all, we fill our bags with excuses ready to avail them to our own ends. Being a member of Adam’s race, I am no stranger to this thinking, and I freely confess to being guilty of this numerous times. Years ago, I kept a highly polished and much worked excuse at the ready. Whenever I lost my temper or got in a scrap, I would just shrug and say, “My people are Irish. Just in my blood.” No matter how many times I said it, it was never more than just a sad excuse for not doing better than I could.

From the text above, we see a plain spoken command of the law that deals with civil punishment in a capital way. Whole families were not to lose their lives for the sins of a few within their clan. Rather, civil judgment and punishment would try every man according to his own sins/merits. This form of jurisprudence may seem “normal” to us today as it what we have grown up with, but that kind of law was really novel (God’s way is always ahead of “the times”) as ancient kingdoms would make examples of people by slaughtering whole families for one transgressor. The Bible is replete with examples of this, even to New Testament times with the Romans. Jailors and their families would lose their lives if the jailor allowed a prison break. So, God’s law stated that people would stand and fall based on their personal conduct and adherence to His commands.

While that is the literal rendering and application of the verse from the context, let us broaden the thought to include something other than corporeal death from capital enforcement. Living in the excuse-laden world of the present, what is one of the most common blames around? As in my example above, people will many times blame their forebears for their behavior and tendencies. Now, we should here note that a lot of our proclivities can be derived from genetic transmission and environmental stimulation, but they are not “hall passes for life” to walk where we want acting as we please with no consequences whatsoever.

For those that grew up in underprivileged situations, I have deep sympathy. For those that were abused or endured horrors as children that even adults should never see, I can only say how sorry I am that one would have to live in such a mess. However, my sympathy cannot extend to the point of turning a blind eye and excusing any and all behavior for them. My bag of Irish excuses laid all the guilt for my temperament on the genetics handed to me from my parents, and whether someone is blaming what their parent’s transmitted to them or placed around them, the point is the same. Parents should not suffer the blame (death) for their grown children’s decorum, and sons and daughters should not suffer the blame as adults for the faults and failures of their parents.

We understand that bad names and reputations are hard to overcome, but they can be. We should strive to overcome them if we have them. We also understand that certain situations make it hard for people to rise above it, yet we should attempt to do so with all of our might. No matter the genetic code, personality makeup, or upbringing, we all have been given the same standard of conduct to follow. God’s way and God’s law does not have differing codes. Therefore, our present circumstance or past experience does not change the future expectation of God for us. What He expects is just and forever so.

Many times our excuses and rationale take routes that look like “well other people aren’t any better” “I’m still doing ok” and “I just can’t help it.” No matter the rationale, it does not change that God requires us all to live to the fullest in denying ourselves and following Him in obedience. Years ago, my father taught accounting classes at a junior college, and he said later that one of the best comments he got from a student in a class survey at the end of term was, “Mr. Conley is a tough instructor. He doesn’t cut corners, but he’s fair.” Dad said that this was one of the best compliments he had been given, because the class should not have been easy. However, he did not want to be unreasonable either. One of the easiest ways we can excuse ourselves is to think that someone is being unreasonable. Whether it is our parents, our pastor, our boss, etc., we can make ourselves feel better if we are convinced that they are unfair.

Consider though that He who gave the law and commandments is not unfair or unreasonable. He has shown us fully how reasonable and fair He is. When He assumed flesh and blood, He lived here for 33.5 years fully showing the keeping of His law and commands. Though King and Ruler over all, He submitted Himself to live and abide by His own law and commandments in the form of a servant. He showed the depths of them that rulers and leaders had not previously considered. He lived fully following and perfectly executing them. He required public worship and faithful attendance to the Lord’s day. So, His custom was to worship every Sabbath day. He required moral excellence. So, His life was marked by spotless purity. He required faithful attendance to prayer, and so He prayed often to His Father. In all points, He exemplifies the fulfillment rather than the destruction of those things that He laid. (Matthew 5:17)

Friends, no matter how our lives have been or are right now, we should not excuse ourselves or pass blame to others. Surely we can see that life has dealt us some bad hands and tough knocks. Surely we can see that others have been and are still doing worse than we are. None of these things change the fact that God’s law says we stand or fall based on our actions not the actions of others. Do we want His smiles? Let us live in accordance with His ways. If we follow our own path, we should expect the dark frown of righteous judgment. Even if we live in a cold and dark world that may go through trials and tempests from the hand of God’s indignation, we can still feel His calm and sweet peace during those storms when our actions follow His teachings. Consider how many times He blessed a faithful band that was enduring national distress. Daniel, Noah, Moses, and many others enjoyed sweet fellowship with the Lord during dark storms of indignation. Why? Because the Lord gave them sweet peace during those times. Let us seek His face and sweet fellowship likewise.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)

This subject is by request.

Deuteronomy 7:3-4, “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.  For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.”

This morning, certain subjects ramp up the “emotion meter” more than others.  Due to the intrinsic or inherent nature of the subject matter, emotions sometimes run away from reasoning.  Therefore, we hope to handle the subject matter before us as objectively as possible and not allow undue emotion to enter into the writing.  Today, there are opinions a mile wide on every hand about the subject of inter-racial marriages.  Some are for it.  Some are against it.  Some approve a little.  Some approve a lot.  Ask a random selection of people off the street how they feel, and you may get a dozen or so varied statements about it.  However, as disciples of the Lamb, we need only be concerned with the Scriptural pattern to see how we should think and look at the subject.  So, what does our source material state?  How should we think?

When I was growing up, I had the providential blessing of being raised in a supremely good home.  My parents attempted to bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  One of dad’s favorite statements in his exhortations to my brother and I was, “Be sure you pick out a God-fearing woman to be your wife.”  He would say oftentimes that many differences of opinion could be worked out if two people were devoted to making it work, but one issue could never be resolved if the woman did not believe in God.  Sometimes, I even think he secretly wanted us to find some woman of another order and help convert her.  But, I digress.  The point of his statement was that any other type of woman will eventually do what God warned the children of Israel about.  The seven nations of Canaan that they were about to dispossess from the Promised Land were idolatrous people.  They were not God-fearing.  Any marriage to them would have resulted in idolatry (and occasions in the future showed this to be true).

The study verses before us are the prohibition that we should look for in opposing certain marriages.  Was Israel prohibited from ever marrying someone of another nation?  Previously we read from the book of Genesis that Joseph had an Egyptian wife that bare him Ephraim and Manasseh.  Moses married an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12), and Aaron and Miriam spoke out against it.  As a result, God’s judgment came upon Miriam in the form of leprosy.  Ruth was a Moabitess, who Boaz eventually married in the book of Ruth, which union was blessed and honored by God to eventually bring forth King David and ultimately King Jesus.  Why were these marriages so prosperous and honored by God while the seven nations of Canaan were prohibited as spouses for the Israelites?

We can only speculate about the Ethiopian woman that Moses married as well as Joseph’s wife, but we can see plainly confirmed on the page that Ruth was a God-fearing woman that was honourable in all things.  This pattern seems consistent with the prohibition of the Canaanites.  They were not God-fearing nor honourable.  God would not recognize those marriages with His blessing and favour.  However, He blessed the other inter-racial unions and cursed those that cursed those unions (like He did with Miriam).  The lesson to this point seems to indicate that the state of the person’s attitude and heart towards God is of greater concern than the particular nationality that they hailed from.

Let us consider some failed inter-racial marriages from the Bible.  In Nehemiah, we read of those that the Israelites had married after returning from the captivity in Babylon.  The nations were so perverse and corrupt that the Israelites’ children were speaking part Hebrew and part language of Ashdod. (Nehemiah 13) The worldliness of their upbringing was stifling and stunting Israel’s spirituality, as seen quite clearly in the lives of their children.  Solomon married a great number of women from various and sundry nations, and his marriages ultimately led to his latter end being worse than his beginning.  Idolatry and wickedness marked his twilight rather than peace and prosperity from the God of heaven.  In both of these cases, idolatry is seen prominently and flagrantly.

So, how should we approach the situation today?  What are our prohibitions today?  Biblically speaking, I believe dad’s faithful and trusty old saying, “Make sure she’s God-fearing” stacks up pretty well with Scripture.  If the prospective spouse hails from a culture and upbringing that is quite idolatrous and shows no indication of desiring anything else, then do not consider such as a good choice for husband/wife.  However, if someone is honourable, God-fearing and truly wants to make things work, then consider such a one a possible choice for a spouse.

To be fair, we cannot discount the fact that there are differences of cultures across different ethnic groups.  Just on a food and clothing level, certain ethnic groups prefer certain types of foods and wear certain styles of clothing.  As a tame example, I would probably would have had a hard time marrying a Scottish lass if she expected me to wear a kilt all the time.  Though our skin tones are the same, there is a cultural difference there that would have taken extra effort to agree upon before entering into marriage.  There are many examples of cultural differences besides food and clothing, but these should suffice to make the point.  If I were asked by an inter-racial couple to perform their ceremony, one thing I would definitely encourage them to consider is that they will have extra hurdles to work through than other couples would.  Every couple is going to have hurdles to work through, but differing cultures adds another layer to the cake to sort out when trying to make a marriage work.  However, if they understood that and were willing, devoted, and committed to making it work anyway, I would have no problem performing their ceremony.

Beyond the cultural aspect, how else should we consider this today?  Should we stand for the idea?  Against it?  Indifferent?  I recall many years ago that I had a discussion with a minister who vehemently opposed the idea of inter-racial marriage – rather he only opposed one type of inter-racial marriage.  At the time, my son was less than a year old and crawling around on the floor.  When I tried to show him the Biblical pattern to observe, he pointed to my son and asked, “You mean to tell me that you would be ok if your son came home one day with a black girl?”  My answer floored him.  “I would rather he come home with a black girl who is respectful, God-fearing, and loves him in a lifelong and committed way, rather than him come home with a trashy, disrespectful, and God-hating white girl.”  Considering marriage and all of its inherent difficulties (two people living as one), why would one consider choosing someone fraught with problems just because the race or skin tone is the same?

Another thing that should be considered is simply this, inter-racial marriage is something that we can only legitimately say is acceptable for all races or unacceptable for all races.  Mixing and mingling the idea that this race is ok and that one is not is the height of hypocrisy.  God’s prohibition of those seven nations was due to their idolatrous ways.  Any other nation that acted similarly was to be treated likewise in the subject realm of the discussion of marriage.  Since the cultural differences exist between various races – even if the skin hue does not – the extra marital hurdles will have to be navigated in all cases.  Therefore, all cases of all different races need to be treated consistently.  The race is of less importance and value as the quality of the character of the individuals looking to wed.

Doubtless, we have all seen failed marriages between like races as well as differing races.  We have seen successful marriages between like races as well as differing races.  As previously shown, the Bible is replete with examples of all.  Similarly we have seen marriages fail when people were of differing faiths (denominations) as well as failed marriages of the same faith (same denominational order).  Rich and poor people have married to varying results.  Young and old have wed to mixed conclusions.  Each scenario, whether race, finances, age, or order, presents its own set of unique pitfalls and landmines to navigate around.  The point is not whether people find someone else with the same exact background.  The point is whether someone is willing to stay committed and devoted to their spouse through thick and thin, no matter what comes, as their vows require that they do.  Therefore, it goes back to character, integrity, and being committed which can only stem from being God-fearing.

As long as time shall remain, there will always be a variance of opinion on this subject.  Some will go to their grave disagreeing with me, while others will perhaps agree with these sentiments.  If I ever hear a compelling, reasoned, and – above all else – Biblical argument to change my views, I hope that I would do so.  However, no matter how high the emotion meter may rise or fall due to a certain subject, we must always strive as Christ’s disciples to seek to know His mind upon the matter rather than follow “my druthers.”  May we diligently devote our lives to seeking His counsel from His pages of Scripture and through prayer for daily guidance.  One thing His word plainly declares is that marriage is unto death.  May our endeavors in life keep this bedrock principle firmly in view and seek to honour the marriage regardless of any natural circumstances, whether race or otherwise.

In Hope,

Bro Philip