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Another question that often arises when it comes to Biblical matters is the matter of so-called “white lies.” There are a good many of these in the Scriptures, and we will not attempt to consider all of them here. Instead, we will make note of a few pertinent examples. First of all, there are times when things that seem to be “white lies” are commanded to be spoken by the LORD. For example, the LORD commanded Moses to say to Pharaoh:
Exodus 3:18. Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, “The LORD God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.”
We know that this was communicated to Pharaoh, as we are clearly told this in Exodus 8:27.
27. We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He will command us.”
So the LORD seems to make out that all He wants is the freedom for His people to go three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to Him. He does not act like what He actually wants is for them to be able to go free and leave the land of Egypt altogether. Yet when the Egyptians actually let the Israelites go, we read in Exodus 14:5:
5. Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”
So when the time came, the people fled from Egypt altogether, and didn’t just go three days journey into the wilderness. Did the LORD, therefore, command Moses to lie to Pharaoh in making this claim? Read the rest of this entry »
In our first message, we introduced the difficulty found in Scripture when God seems to command people to do things that are sinful. We examined specific cases of “sin by command” and considered the reasons for them. First, we discussed the command for Hosea to marry a prostitute; and not just a former one, but one who was still practicing. Yet we found that there was no specific command against anyone who was not a priest marrying a prostitute, though a woman who was a prostitute should have been punished herself. Second, we viewed the command to Ezekiel to eat meat defiled by being cooked on human dung. Yet we pointed out that the only reason food was unclean is because God proclaimed it unclean. Since it was not something inherent in the food itself and God made the clean and unclean laws, He certainly had the right to tell someone not to keep them, if He so wished. The same applies to the command to Peter to kill and eat unclean things in Acts 10.
From there we examined more examples. First was the case of the prophet in I Kings 20 who commanded a man to strike him. When the man refused, he was punished with death. Yet we established the principle that the ultimate good is always to obey the voice of the LORD, and the worst of sin is to disobey Him from I Samuel 15:22-23a. Read the rest of this entry »
30. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. 31. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32. Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed.
Elijah is said to have built this altar “in the name of the LORD,” which we would take to mean that he did it by the LORD’s command and with His permission. Yet the building of such altars would seem to be forbidden by Deuteronomy 12:1-6.
1. “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4. You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.
5. “But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. 6. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”
It is clear from these verses that the LORD wanted “burnt offerings, sacrifices,” and so forth to be offered at the place He would choose, which we know at the time of Elijah had become Jerusalem. “On the high mountains and hills” is listed especially as a place where the LORD did not want them to sacrifice, because these were “the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods.” Yet Mount Carmel is a high mountain or hill. This is exactly the sort of place the LORD seems to have been careful to forbid them to commit sacrifices on. Deuteronomy 12:26-27 makes this even clearer. Read the rest of this entry »
4. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
Yet when the LORD gave commands for the making of the ark of the covenant, He commanded the making of two cherubim to be placed on the mercy seat in Exodus 25:18.
18. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat.
Moreover, there were cherubim woven into the fabric of the tabernacle, according to Exodus 26:1.
1. Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.
Solomon made two cherubim for the temple as well, as we read in I Kings 6:23. Read the rest of this entry »
In previous messages, we introduced the difficulty found in Scripture when God seems to command people to do things that are sinful. We gave examples of this idea of “sin by command” and examined the reason for them. First, we considered the command for Hosea to marry a prostitute, not just a former one, but one who was still practicing. Yet we found that there was no specific command against anyone who was not a priest marrying a prostitute, though a woman who was a prostitute should have been punished herself. Another problem we considered was the command to Ezekiel to eat meat defiled by being cooked on human dung. Yet we pointed out that really the only reason food was unclean is because God proclaimed it unclean. This was a ceremonial law He made, not something that was inherent in the food itself. Therefore, since God made the clean and unclean laws, He certainly had the right to tell someone not to keep them, if He so wished. The same applies to the command to Peter to kill and eat unclean things in Acts 10.
Yet we also established it as a principle that the ultimate good is always to obey the voice of the LORD, and the worst of sin is to disobey Him. We considered I Samuel 15:22-23a in this connection. Read the rest of this entry »
The charge of “sin by command” could be brought against the Lord in Acts 10, when, confronted by a great sheet full of all kinds of unclean animals, Peter is commanded, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” (Acts 10:13b) Why would the LORD command Peter to do something Israelites were forbidden to do?
The complete vision Peter had is outlined in Acts 10:9-16.
9. The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11. and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14. But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
15. And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16. This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
Peter is shown unclean animals in a great sheet and told to eat them three times. When he refuses, just as Ezekiel did, based on the fact that he had never done such a thing before, the Lord corrected him all three times with this word, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This declares the very thing we argued in Ezekiel regarding clean and unclean things. It was because God declared a thing unclean that it was unclean in the first place. If God changed the command and declared a thing clean, then that thing became clean, and it would be a lack of faith to continue to declare it unclean. This is the very thing God has done with unclean meats today, though that was not the point of His message to Peter, but rather that God was declaring certain Gentile men clean. That all meats are now clean is the message of I Timothy 4:4-5, however, written to us in the dispensation of grace. Read the rest of this entry »
12. “And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”
Human waste was considered unclean, and eating food cooked on human waste was something no Israelite should do. Yet here the LORD commands Ezekiel to do this! Ezekiel protests and gets the LORD to substitute cow dung for human dung (Ezekiel 4:14-15,) but this does not change the fact that the LORD seems initially to have commanded Ezekiel to sin.
The word for dung here is the Hebrew gelel, which is used only four times, and seems to indicate a ball of dung. This word we cannot confirm is unclean, but we do know that there is uncleanness that comes from humans from Leviticus 5:3.
3. Or if he touches human uncleanness—whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty.
This verse indicates that to touch human uncleanness is to become guilty. The verse does not clearly say that dung is human uncleanness, but this seems clear from Deuteronomy 23:12-14. Read the rest of this entry »
When it comes to seeming discrepancies and problems in the Scriptures, one of the more interesting and unique is that of “sin by command.” That is, there are times in the Bible when God seems to directly command a person to do something which could be considered a sin. This sort of command seems a difficult one to understand and deal with, and it is this type of contradiction, wherein the sinless God commands one of His followers to do something that seems sinful, that we will consider in this article.
In case my readers are not familiar with the sort of passages I mean when I mention God commanding someone to sin, we will consider some of them. Look, for example, at Hosea 1:2.
2. When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea:
“Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry
And children of harlotry,
For the land has committed great harlotry
By departing from the LORD.”
Certainly, we would not consider it wise to marry someone who had been a prostitute, and certainly not wise to marry someone who still was involved in this activity. But beyond unwise, such an action would seem to be downright sinful. When we consider the fact that “harlotry” in the Bible is often used as a symbol for idolatry, this gets even worse. Here was a woman who was probably an idol-worshipper and a prostitute, for the two usually went together. Surely it could not be right for any Godly Israelite to marry such a woman. Yet here the LORD commands Hosea to do this. Why would He do such a thing? Read the rest of this entry »