“You are Free” vs. “You Must Not”

I recently listened to a podcast episode featuring Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries, as she recounted her story of almost losing her marriage to infidelity and then almost losing her life to cancer.

Lysa’s story reminded me of the verse we’ve based our recent study on at White Fields, called Remember the Prophets, which comes from James 5:10 – “My brothers and sisters, remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering.” Lysa struck me as someone who is an example of patient endurance under suffering.

In the interview, Lysa mentioned something interesting: Compare the first words that God spoke to the man and compare them with the first words that the Enemy spoke to the people in reciting God’s message to them:

The first words God ever spoke to man were: “You are free”

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

The first words the Enemy spoke when reciting God’s words were: “You must not”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

Same Words, Different Emphasis

First of all, the serpent did misquote God by saying that God had commanded them not to eat from any tree in the garden.

But the other thing the serpent did was to change the emphasis or the tone of God’s words to the people.

Whereas God had emphasized their freedom, the serpent emphasized the restriction.

That’s an important difference! Does God give commands? Of course. Does God prohibit some things? Absolutely. But the reason for God’s commands and prohibitions is for our good, to promote our freedom!

God had told them that the reason for the the prohibition (eating from the one tree) was because if they did they would die. Nothing restricts your freedom more than dying! In other words: God’s prohibition was to protect their freedom.

True freedom is often found in submitting to the design for which you were made. For example: A BMW automobile gives you incredible freedom to get around, and do so very quickly! But in order for you to have that freedom, you have to follow a few rules due to the nature of the BMW. For example: it’s not made to go underwater, so if you drive it into a lake, you will lose the freedom the car provides! If you fail to change the oil, fill up the tires with air or put gas in it, you will lose the freedom it provides. All freedom, in other words, depends on following the rules of the design. Therefore the right prohibitions can serve to protect freedom.

The serpent’s emphasis was on the restriction, not the freedom. He painted God as an insecure, petty kill-joy, who was trying to restrict them merely for the sake of restricting them. Many people view God in this way today as well.

“For Our Good Always”

This past Sunday, in studying through Hosea (listen to that message here: Hosea: Living Out the Gospel) we talked about how God’s commandments are for our good. As I often say:

Sin isn’t bad because it’s forbidden, sin is forbidden because it’s bad.

In other words: When God tells us to do something, or not to do something, it is because He loves us and wants the best for us.

In Deuteronomy 6:24, in describing the God’s law, Moses describes it in this way: God’s law, which was for our good always… 

The emphasis is on our good and our freedom. The idea that God is petty and arbitrarily restrictive is wrong, and leads us to question God – as the serpent led the first people to do.

Consider this great quote from Charles Spurgeon:

When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin. But when I found God so kind, so good, so over-flowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could have ever rebelled against one who loved me so, and sought my good.

When you clearly see who God is and understand His love for you, it makes you want to do what He says, because you know it’s for your good.

As Paul wrote to Titus: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13)

Did you see that? It is the grace of God that teaches us to reject ungodliness! May we see God’s grace and love in his instructions to us.

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Thoughts on Representative Klingenschmitt’s Comments about the Judgement of God and the Assault in Longmont

Last week Colorado State Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt from Colorado Springs stated on his YouTube channel that the Bible says that the Longmont woman who was assaulted and had her baby cut from her stomach was the wrath of God coming against America because we have failed to protect unborn children. To make this point, he quoted from Hosea 13:16.

Since then, both conservatives and liberals have distanced themselves from Klingenschmitt and he has been removed from at least one comittee that he was a member of.

I went and checked out the statement he made, because I know how sometimes things can be misconstrued when relayed by media – I was curious if that was the case here.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. The one way that Klingenschmitt might have been misrepresented was that he was not saying that God was judging this woman individually, who was the victim of the assault – rather he said that God is judging our soceity in general, and what happened to this woman was part of that judgment.
  2. He quoted from Hosea 13:16, a verse about how both Israel and Samaria would face God’s judgment (in the form of war) as a result of their rebellion against God. The prophet describes what will happen when war comes: no one will be spared; children will die, and even pregnant women will be killed with the sword (cut open).
    This is, first of all, not even talking about the kind of assault that took place in Longmont. Secondly, the important detail in understanding what is being said by the prophet is that judgment will come in the form of war, and in war, these are the kinds of atrocities that happen.
    In other words, it isn’t God saying that He’s going to judge them by sending people to kill their children and cut open their pregnant women, it’s God saying that he will allow a time of hardship by removing His hand of protection and allowing a foreign nation (the Assyrians in this case) to overrun them. Historically, this is exactly what happened. However, in the context of the Book of Hosea, it is important to note that this is said as a warning of the judgment that will come if the people continue in their wickedness and rebellion, and is followed in the next chapter by the urging of Hosea about the blessings and restoration that repentance would bring to the nation instead.
    In other words: “You have a choice to make. It’s not too late! You can choose to continue rebelling against God, in which case God will not protect you from the impending onslaught of the Assyrians (and just to remind you, here are the kinds of terrible atrocities that happen in war…), or you can repent and turn back to the Lord and he will restore you and heal your nation.”
    Conclusion: Klingenschmitt is clearly taking this verse out of context.
  3. The difficult question this brings up is: when do we consider something to be God’s judgment, and when do we not? In the Bible, it seems that many times things happened that were indeed the judgment of God, which, if they were to happen in our day, we might not see them as such.
    For example, in the Old Testament, in Korah’s rebellion, people got swallowed up by the Earth as God’s judgment upon them. Nowadays, if someone gets sucked up in a sinkhole, calling it the judgment of God is not exactly politically correct. In the Old Testament, wars and attacks from foreign nations were often related to God’s judgment. Do we still consider that to be the case? Or how about Ananias and Saphira – they lied to make themselves look good, and God struck them dead. We don’t often think in our day about heart attacks as being God’s judgment on a person. I’m sure that not all heart attacks are God’s judgment on people – but it would seem that sometimes they might be.
    It is incredibly difficult to discern or to say with any amount of certainty which things are God’s judgment and which are not, apart from divine revelation.

My conclusion is that this man is not evil or heartless, but perhaps a bit misguided and could use some lessons in exegesis, because he is very dogmatic about some things which he doesn’t have proper basis to be so dogmatic about. Furthermore, having a platform like the one he does as a State Congressman, he should be much more careful about what he says.

Much more importantly, my heart goes out to the victim of this terrible crime. We pray for her physical and emotional healing. We pray that she will be able to have more children after this. I have been so impressed by her graciousness in her public statements, and we do pray that she would sense the love of God and presence of God and the hope of the Gospel.