John: The Topless Prophet (part one)

KEEP YOUR HEAD ON.

That’s what the pundits started saying when John spoke against the sexual sin of the unrepentant one in power. ‘It’s contrary to God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife!’, the prophet firmly proclaimed.

His friends are probably telling him to tone it down a bit. But John is an Elijah Man. In fact, he is the uniquely prophesied Elijah Man talked about by Malachi 400 years earlier. And his prophetic rebuke rings out over the swirling desert sands, disturbing the comfort of everyone who had become laid back and tolerant over such matters.

From our sophisticated, 21st Century, Western perspective, we wonder if John couldn’t be just a bit nicer. After all, it is being said that when our dear queen first heard John’s cruel words, she went back to her castle to cry, indulge in chocolate ice cream, and garner social media sympathy points. ‘That John is such a hater!’ She tweets as she lambasts the preacher’s ‘toxic masculinity’.

The poor cupcake. She is, after all, just a desperate castlewife. Preachers aren’t supposed to say things that offend rich, powerful, and sexually immoral women. Are they?

When hearing statements that cut across our comfort levels, we should ask, Is this true? John’s rebuke against Herod’s sexual sin is based on a law in Leviticus. It is stated in chapters 18 and 20. And though Scripture directs us to usually give rebukes in private, Herod was a public figure sinning publicly and unapologetically―therefore a public rebuke was appropriate. It is the same today. (1 Tim 5.20)

Is the Bible Understandable?
Have you ever worked with children? One of the things mine do, when I ask them about something they’re uncomfortable with, is to pretend they don’t understand what I’m saying.

Me: Did you clean your room like I asked you to?
Child: Room? Which room? Our house has lots of rooms.
Or
Me: Did you hit your little brother?
Child: Brother?
Me: Yes, your little brother. The one who is six.
Child: What do you mean by ‘hit’?

We are big children and we do this with the words of our Heavenly Father when he says things in Scripture that we are not comfortable with. Here in the 21st Century Anglo-Saxon world, we have become masters of this art. If John lived in our day and issued his rebuke, the crowd around him would give him feedback along these lines:

John: It is not lawful for you to marry or sleep with your brother’s wife!
Us: John, are you sure that’s relevant? There are far worse sins happening.
Us: Moses is no longer the ruler of Israel John, we’re in Greco-Roman times now. We know things the ancients didn’t.
Us: Sheep and the Goats John―at least Herod feeds the poor. That’s what counts.
Us: Don’t judge John. Focus on your own sin.
Us: But John, that rule is taken from Leviticus―and that book has some weird stuff in it.
Us: John, you should stick with your message about sharing our clothing with the needy. That bit went down well in the media.
Us: But God is love, and if Herod and Herodias really love each other, why would you want to keep them apart?
Us: Moses wrote that in Hebrew 1,500 years ago. We speak Aramaic. You need to understand the word for ‘brother’ meant something different in the original dialect.
 
Clarity
When the serpent got Eve to sin, he first fed her the idea that God’s Word was vague and confusing. ‘Did God really say…?’ he whispered. By contrast, God’s people are at their strongest when they reflect on Scripture and say things like: ‘The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.’(Ps 119).
It is blasphemy to excuse our laziness in the study of Scripture by blaming God for not being clear enough on an issue.

Yes, there are some issues that the Bible does not address and we are either ignorant or uncertain in these matters. There are things we may wish the Bible did clearly address, but it doesn’t. The Bible may direct you to care for your body, but it won’t tell you exactly what diet or exercise program to embrace. It is wrong to assume it speaks on things it does not―and thus add to the Word of God. But it is equally wrong to take from Scripture by feigning an uncertainty that careful study will show is unwarranted. Finding solid, relevant answers usually does not require formal theological education. At best, the training involved in getting a theology or Bible degree may help us explain why some of the new, creative, and contortionist interpretations―the ones that get the passages to say something other than what they obviously mean―are in error. Deception relies on confusion. But John takes his Bible like we should take our whisky. Straight.

(See part two HERE.)

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