Thou Shalt Not Covet

Lust, especially for men, can be an uncomfortable topic. Finding a woman attractive and giving her more than a passing glance is commonly understood to be sin, equivalent to adultery. As men are primarily visually oriented, it’s no surprise that men struggle here; it’s the focus of many an accountability session.

Women, on the other hand, don’t seem to find the topic troublesome at all and seldom discuss it, other than perhaps in confronting men. Evidently, most of us have bought into the lie that it’s primarily a masculine concern.

But what if, as in so many other ways, we’ve made up our own definition of lust, cherry-picking verses out of context to suit ourselves, and overlooking the heart of scripture?

God clearly defines lust in the 10th commandment – Thou shalt not covet (Ro 7:7): we’re forbidden to desire what belongs to another, such that we’d wrongly dispossess them if given opportunity.

This is different than thinking it might be nice to have what our neighbor does. Clearly, if we like our neighbor’s boat and offer him a reasonable sum — this isn’t lust, it’s basic economics: there’s nothing unholy or unloving here.

The definition of lust implies it violates the law of love in some way. (Ro 13:9) So, if a man finds a woman attractive, enjoys her beauty as he would a sunset, and seeks her welfare, where’s the harm? But in entertaining a plan to entice her, knowing she’s married, he’s crossed a forbidden line. (Pr 5:20)

We must define lust in the context of God’s Law (Ro 7:7), not in the context of common sentiment. Changing the definition of sin is harmful on so many levels. Finding a woman attractive is perfectly natural and wholesome, but seeking to use or defile her definitely is: it violates Torah. (Pr 6:29)

And we must not focus simply on sexual desire; lust relates to any unwholesome appetite: inappropriate diet (De 14:3), worldly attention and praise (Jn 12:43), materialism, the abuse or perversion of most any good thing. (Ep 2:3)

God has created us to enjoy beauty and pleasure, designing us specifically for this, and providing Himself as our ultimate satisfaction. (Ps 16:11) Unto the pure, all things are pure, but unto the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (Tit 1:15) Yet some are weak by design, some through a soul wound, some taken by false teaching. Torah enables us to sort out what’s lawful from what’s merely taboo, and Christ offers us the wisdom to know how to build up and encourage others in joyful living for God without becoming overly focused on mechanics. (Ro 14:17)

God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17), yet it’s better to forego than to encourage others to violate their conscience (1Co 8:12), or to bring a reproach on the name of Christ.

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Love Is Perfected

If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1Jn 4:12) God’s love is being perfected, or brought to completion in us, as we express God’s love to others. God is perfecting His love in us by loving others through us, for love is of God, from God: He is the ultimate source of love – the Author of love. (1Jn 4:7)

If we don’t love others then we don’t love God (1Jn 4:20), and if we don’t love God then we don’t know God. (1Jn 4:8)

It isn’t that we could ever earn God’s love by loving others; God’s love is unconditional: it can’t be earned. He loves everyone because He has made them in His image and chosen to love. We don’t grow in Christ’s love by trying harder and denying ourselves, but by beholding the glory of Christ as the Spirit transforms us from glory to glory. (1Co 3:18) As we behold the glory of Christ God reveals Himself in us and to us, until we know experientially His love for Man, filling us with all the fullness of God (Ep 3:19), enabling us to love others.

When we know and believe God’s love for us, since God Himself is love, and as we live each day receiving and expressing this love, we dwell in God and God in us. (1Jn 4:16)

Since love is so central, so fundamental in walking with God, He tells us clearly what His love for us looks like, and also what it means for us to love Him.

We might think loving God is a sentimental thing, a feeling of interest, pleasure or delight at the thought of God. While loving God naturally produces such feelings, it isn’t exactly the same thing, and this may be hard to fully grasp.

So, God explains that His love is much more than sentiment and feeling: His love is perfected in us as we keep His commands; if we don’t keep His commands we don’t love Him. (Jn 14:23)

Loving God is acting as if God is worthy, just and good; disobeying God is rejecting His authority, goodness and wisdom. In disobedience we’re despising Him, not loving Him; those who live like this don’t know Him (1Jn 2:4); it’s in obeying God that His love is perfected in us, accomplishing its purpose; it’s how we know we love Him and belong to Him. (1Jn 2:5) Earnestly obeying God from the heart is loving Him by definition. (1Jn 5:3a)

Torah itself is the perfect written expression of God’s love for us (Ps 19:7a), showing us how He loves us and unites us to Himself (He 8:10), how He transforms us to be in relationship with Himself (Ps 119:50,93); He gave us Torah for our good. (1Jn 5:3b) So, Torah defines both what loving God looks like, and also what God loving us looks like.

If we’re obeying Torah we’ll have no ill-will towards another (Ro 13:10), or envy or strife in our hearts (Ja 3:14-16); that’s not walking in love — it’s missing the mark altogether. (1Co 13:2)

While we harbor fear, fear of God’s displeasure because we’re willfully disobeying Him (He 10:26-27), or fearing and resenting His authority in our lives because we don’t believe He’s good (Is 33:14), or fearing what others might do to us because we doubt God’s sovereignty and justice (Mt 10:28), then we aren’t yet made perfect in love. (1Jn 4:18)

Obedience also isn’t merely about outward observance to ritual and mechanical rules; nor is it about honoring God with just our lips. If our hearts are far from Him, if we’re not in awe of Him (Ps 4:$), seeking His face, rejoicing in Him, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, it isn’t obedience at all (De 6:5): it’s nothing. (Mt 15:8)

In living out God’s love, ordering our steps in His Word so iniquity has no dominion over us (Ps 119:33), the purpose of God’s love is accomplished, completed and perfected in us; this gives us boldness before God on Judgment Day because we’re living divine expressions, incarnations of God in this world. (1Jn 4:17) In so abiding in God we have confidence, and aren’t ashamed before Him at His coming. (1Jn 2:28)

Bringing all of these concepts together shows us God’s love has a purpose or a goal: to conform us to the image of Christ (Ro 8:29), the very goal of Torah. (1Ti 1:5) When we love God, we will want to be like Him (Mt 11:29), and walk as He walked. (1Jn 2:6)

Knowing God’s love for us enables us to walk in benevolence, mercy and love toward all, wishing ultimate good for everyone, as God does. (Mt 5:44-45) We don’t love because others are good, but because they’re made in the image of, and loved by perfect Goodness. (1Jn 4:21)

The more we behold and grasp the love of God, the more completely we’re able to display God’s heart towards others as He loves them through us. (Ro 5:5) We love Him, and therefore others, because He first loved us. (1Jn 4:19)

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Sound In Thy Statutes

God’s statutes are His laws, His commandments. (De 4:40) We ask God to cause our hearts to be sound in His statutes so we won’t be ashamed. (Ps 119:80)

To be sound in something is to be grounded, trained, established and rooted in it. It’s to be fully aligned and consistent with a standard or principle. If we’re sound in God’s statutes our entire lives are conformed to His laws. There is no area of our mind or heart set apart or estranged from God’s law. To the degree that we’re deliberately out of step with His ways we’ll be ashamed. Why is this so?

Shame comes when we sin intentionally, presumptuously, when we have the opportunity to do good and we choose not to. (Ja 4:17) Such guilt brings shame, knowing we deserve contempt and rejection, because there’s no excuse for such wickedness.

Rebellion against unjust, wicked laws can be understood, but not against perfectly just laws. (Ps 19:7) What explanation can be offered for willful ignorance, neglect or violation of God’s commands? If there’s no way of knowing about a law there’s mercy (1Ti 1:13), otherwise rebellion is exposed and dealt with. (Ro 2:5-6)

Since our hearts are naturally inclined against God’s laws (Ro 7:23), we do well to plead with God to direct our ways to keep His statutes (Ps 119:5), to teach us His statutes. (26) The godly tremble at the thought of displeasing Him, afraid of His righteous response to sin. (120) It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (He 10:31)

He’s already trodden down all who err from His statutes (118), who flagrantly and continually trample His laws underfoot — it’s as good as done. There’s no salvation for those who aren’t seeking His statutes (155), no mercy for those committed to rebellion. (He 10:28-29) Those who know Him keep His commands as well as they can. (1Jn 2:4)

As with learning a trade, a sport, or any discipline, we’re to pursue excellence in obedience (Php 1:10), training our souls unto godliness (1Ti 4:7), continually asking God to make us understand the way of His precepts (Ps 119:27) and to make us go in the path of His commands. (35) Without holiness, no one sees Him. (He 12:14)

As we learn God’s statutes our hearts rejoice (Ps 19:8) and our lips utter praise. (Ps 119:171) Suffering itself becomes a blessing to help us learn God’s statutes. (71) Our new nature delights in God’s laws (Ro 7:22); they become our songs (Ps 119:54) as we delight ourselves in them. (16)

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I Am JEHOVAH

When God reveals Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He introduces Himself as JEHOVAH (Yeh-ho-vaw, or Yah-weh). (Ex 6:4) Yet most of the time translators come to God’s name, in the Hebrew – YHWH, they refuse to translate it, rendering it the LORD. Why?

The choice is likely rooted in long-standing Jewish tradition to not pronounce the name of God, or to even write it, in order to avoid misusing it or taking God’s name in vain. (Ex 20:7) Yet this has resulted in obscuring God’s name altogether, such that there’s serious debate about how to even pronounce it, which doesn’t seem very good either; now, we’ll need to wait until He returns just to know for sure what His precious name sounds like.

This fact been bothering me for a while, that the KJV in particular has this problem most of the time, such that when I’m quoting scripture which contains the tetragrammaton I’ve been saying Jehovah; it seems to me the most respectful way to navigate this one. Personally, I’d be displeased if no one was willing to pronounce my name when talking about me or addressing me; I’d see it as a subtle way to dishonor me. So, in loving God fully I mustn’t do that which might dishonor Him.

However, recently, I noticed that when Paul quotes Ps 117:1 in Ro 15:11 he does the same thing, replacing YHWH with the Greek kurios: Lord. If Paul himself does this under inspiration, it appears reasonable for translators to do so as well. This is sufficiently conclusive to settle the matter for me; it just isn’t an issue.

Yet some argue that Paul wrote Romans in Hebrew, not Greek, claiming he didn’t actually translate God’s name; they’d claim the Greek kurios came to us later through a scribe, and it’s not inspired. But this doesn’t pass the sniff test: in Romans, Paul addresses Gentiles (Ro 11:13) as well as Jews (Ro 2:17), and Gentiles in that day weren’t expected to be fluent in Hebrew. Paul wouldn’t write a letter to a mixed Jew-Gentile congregation in a language many in his intended audience didn’t understand.

If the Pauline answer isn’t enough, the Gospel of John also follows this pattern (Jn 12:38), and was clearly not written in Hebrew – within the text itself John translates common Hebrew terms for his reader, such as rabbi (Jn 1:38) and messiah (41), and explains basic biblical feasts (Jn 6:4); this wouldn’t be the case if John wrote in Hebrew to a Jewish audience.

We should certainly be careful to respect God’s name, and it’s clear that God originally reveals His name in Hebrew. So, it certainly isn’t wrong to use His Hebrew name as well as we can, especially when quoting the Hebrew scriptures, and many of us prefer using God’s Hebrew names. But insisting that others do so, or that God’s name must be transliterated, or not replaced with the LORD, is inconsistent with God’s own manner of inspiring His Word.

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Horror Hath Taken Hold

Horror stories focus on shocking, intensely revolting, frightfully repugnant themes, the most unjust suffering imaginable, portraying evil in the extreme, often with a supernatural component. Imagery generally involves some grotesque distortion of humanity, and if innocent human suffering perpetrated by evil incarnate isn’t somehow part of the narrative it’s hard to see it as horror.

Interestingly, the psalmist describes a scene which fills him with horror, latching onto his soul and not letting go, taking hold of his inmost being: he contemplates the wicked forsaking God’s Law. (Ps 119:153) When he considers how evildoers neglect, dismiss, spurn, despise and reject God’s righteous standard, he finds it painfully revolting, repugnant and distasteful. (Pr 28:9)

Horror is perhaps the most intensely negative expression of emotion we have, and it even has a spiritual dimension, yet in this case it’s clearly over something most of us don’t find the least bit horrifying. The significance of this can hardly be overstated: we simply aren’t connecting with God at all on His terms; in other words, we haven’t a clue what either sin or God are really like. (Job 42:6)

The victim in this horrific scenario before the psalmist is evidently God Himself, Who’s grieved and angered by those who despise His Law. (Ge 6:6) We mortals aren’t typically horrified by disrespect for Torah because we lack divine perspective: we evaluate good and evil based on how it impacts human suffering; we have little appreciation for divine suffering. (Ep 4:30)

When we view horror from the human perspective we’re repulsed by offenses against mankind, but if we’re driven by God’s glory then crimes causing unjust suffering in God are infinitely more horrifying.

And the primary way we cause divine suffering is by trampling underfoot what God loves: Torah, His Son, the Word, all perfect expressions of God’s holy nature. (Ps 19:7) His attitude toward sin is reflected in the most intense suffering known to Man: the Cross. (Php 2:8) God knows about suffering, and He knows about it firsthand: He became sin for us. (2Co 5:21)

This is helping us identify what the psalmist calls the great transgression, a certain type of presumptuous sin he by all means intends to avoid. (Ps 19:13) Willful, deliberate, intentional transgression of Torah, done in open defiance of God, angers Him fiercely. (He 10:26-27) Yet when we sin so against God while claiming God Himself is unjust and unrighteous, when abundant proof of His mercy and benevolence and love abounds (29), we’re sinning on an altogether different level. (Ge 3:5) It’s the kind of sin the wicked pursue. (Jud 15)

Presumptuous, self-righteous sin, isn’t the creature merely in rebellion, but also exalting itself morally above the Creator in that rebellion (Ro 1:25), comprising the kind of intrinsic blasphemy we’re accustomed to on Earth (Job 15:16), but which is most appalling to those with Heavenly perspective. (Is 6:5)

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Thy Judgments Are Right

The goodness of God ensures His judgements are right (Ps 119:75); the righteous understand that any affliction or punishment He prescribes is perfectly appropriate, faithful and just, more than deserved. (67,71) To resist or complain when God afflicts us is to defiantly reject His goodness and claim He’s inherently malevolent and evil; it’s exalting ourselves above God, arrogant presumption of the highest order (Ps 19:13), insisting we know better. (Ge 3:22)

This includes all those suffering everlasting punishment (Mt 25:46); to believe in God and receive Him from there, from Hell itself, which the wicked should certainly still do (Re 22:17), is to acknowledge that all divine punishments are appropriate in response to offenses and crimes committed against God; the wicked shouldn’t complain against or resist the wrath of God, even from Hell. (Re 15:4) They should exclaim with all Heaven that God’s judgments are true and right. (Re 16:7)

However, the wicked will not do this (Ge 4:13), because the very wellspring of wickedness is the belief that God is not good, that He is unjust. (Ge 3:5) Even to escape the fires of Hell itself, the wicked won’t repent of this sin against God; they’ll stubbornly persist in it. (Re 6:16)

Consider the story Christ tells of a rich man in Hell, lifting up his eyes in torment, pleading with Abraham to relieve him in his misery. (Lk 16:23-24) He plays on mercy to tempt the righteous to do what God will not do, and thereby admit God’s justice is too severe. Yet Abraham aligns with God and refuses, reminding the rich man of his sins against God and Man, having profoundly neglected the helpless in their earthly suffering (21), and of the righteous consequences. (25)

The rich man’s next move is to again beg Abraham to do something else God will not do: send someone back from the dead just to warn his family to flee the wrath to come. (27-28) This is a second attack upon God, directed at His self-revelation, claiming it’s insufficient, again implying His punishments are unjust. Abraham again refuses, pointing out that his family has perfectly sufficient proof of God’s character and expectation: God has plainly revealed Himself in Torah and the Prophets. (29)

The rich man persists in his denial of the sufficiency of God’s provision, insisting that his family would repent and be saved if they witnessed such a spectacular miracle. (30) This is a third arrogant attack upon God, directed at His knowledge of Man: his presumption is that God is misinformed, that we’re mostly reasonable people, his family in particular, undeserving of eternal punishment; we simply lack sufficient warning to live in light of eternity. Yet Abraham remains faithful: God knows Man’s depraved heart and is revealing Himself to mankind accordingly.  (31)

What would God do if the wicked softened their hearts in Hell and acknowledged His goodness? If we know God well we know how He’d respond: His mercy is infinite toward those who fear Him. (Ps 103:11)

Why won’t the wicked honor God then, even from Hell? Why would anyone ever deliberately sin against God? This is indeed the true mystery, the mystery of iniquity (2Th 2:7): the desperate wickedness of Man; the godly are horrified by it; we may never fully understand it. (Je 17:9)

In repentance, regardless of our suffering at God’s hands (La 3:9), we admit to receiving the due reward of our deeds (Lk 23:41) and heed God’s warning to flee the wrath to come. (Lk 3:7) This is God’s gift to all who are willing to acknowledge that He is, and that He faithfully rewards all who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6)

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Divers Sorts

When we first seriously consider trying to obey all of Torah, as much as we can anyway, we’re confronted with commands which seem arbitrary and difficult, such as the law governing the kinds of materials used in clothes. It appears twice: “neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee” (Le 19:19), and “Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.” (De 22:11)

The topic initially raises eyebrows for the submitted believer, since most of the clothing we wear today contains a mixture of fiber types. Garments of cotton and polyester are quite common, inexpensive, durable and comfortable. Why would God forbid clothing like this?

In order to get back to a reasonable place, we must, as always, read this command VERY carefully. In both instances, the kind of diversity forbidden is specified very explicitly and clearly; and for anyone who knows anything about textiles, it’s no surprise. The command does not forbid mixing just any two kinds of fibers, but fiber types that are distinctly different in fundamental, incompatible ways. The example given is linen and wool.

Textile manufacturers understand that wool and linen are fundamentally incompatible: linen is a plant-based fiber that creases easily and wool is an animal-based fiber that shrinks easily. The two types of materials also wear very differently and require very different types of care. Wool requires a different type of storage than linen due to susceptibility to mold and moths, and a different cleaning protocol to keep it from shrinking. When only a portion of the fibers of a garment shrink while other fibers don’t the entire structure and weave of the fabric is compromised.

Further, recent scientific studies have confirmed that wool and linen have very strong electrical properties when reacting with light, and these two materials happen to work in opposite polarities. By themselves, garments of either wool or linen tend to energize the human body electrically and even provide healing benefits, but together these materials work against each other and cancel each other out. This effect tends to sap the strength of the wearer and may even cause discomfort or blistering. Any garment made from these two materials would be difficult to care for and unhealthy to wear.

God knows what He’s doing when He gives us commands; His laws are good (Ro 7:12), but if we aren’t careful we may easily misapply them and cause ourselves and others needless inconvenience. (Lk 11:46) When we interpret Torah, we must do so lawfully (1Ti 1:8), being careful to keep it in full context, and in accord with the law of love. When God’s law appears overly burdensome, it’s likely we’re missing something basic: His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Mk 11:30)

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The Law Is Spritual

Laws defining acceptable behavior are spiritual in nature, not physical; they express a moral standard by which we may evaluate our actions. In this sense, God’s Law, Torah, is spiritual, perfectly expressing God’s Way. (Ro 7:14a)

We, on the other hand, are carnal, sold under sin, tending to violate God’s perfect standard. (Ro 7:14b) In this state our sin nature is always looking for ways to justify breaking God’s Law (Ro 7:21); the carnal mind won’t ever submit – it’s at war with goodness itself. (Ro 8:6)

Attempts to subvert Torah can be extremely crafty, using sleight of hand to make the point. (Ep 4:14) One such teaching is that since Torah is spiritual, we need not bother with the letter of the Law. In other words, as long as we’re in keeping with what we think is the spirit of a command, it’s OK to ignore its actual wording and break it. For example, if the spirit of Sabbath is a weekly rest, does it really matter whether we rest on Saturday or Sunday?

This begs the question of whether we can properly honor the spirit of a command while we’re despising its letter, what it actually says. If the sabbath command tells us to rest on a particular day of the week, which it does (Ex 20:10), and we choose to rest on a different day, are we breaking the command? Of course we are, by definition.

While it’s true that God’s laws have spiritual applications, perhaps many such applications, it’s a mistake to think each law doesn’t also have a specific, practical application; it is presumptuous to claim we’re keeping a law in spirit – spiritualizing it – while we’re disobeying it literally. Who are we to say what all the spiritual applications of a particular command are, or even the primary application?

The words are what God has given us, and what He expects us to obey (De 27:26); as we look at the words of all of His commands, as well as all His examples, we begin to understand some of the spirit and intent behind His laws, the precepts. But all of this is based on the very words He uses, the letter, if you will. We can’t rightly divide the Word while we’re ignoring the actual words; we can’t respect the intent of His Law while we’re routinely breaking it; this is handling His word deceitfully and corrupting it. (2Co 2:17)

Certainly, there may be extenuating circumstances where the spirit of a command might be respected while we’re violating its letter. For example, in an emergency we might technically violate the sabbath to preserve life, even of an animal. (Mt 12:11) The sabbath was made for us; we weren’t made for it. (Mk 2:27) We must use common sense in the application of God’s law, and not violate the Law of Love as we force technical obedience to the letter of the law.

God’s Law is written such that it’s the exception to properly violate the letter; for the letter perfectly captures the intent, as a general rule. If we love God’s law, and He’s writing it in our hearts, we’ll be keeping it as well as we can, both the letter and the spirit, as a manner of life. (Mt 5:19)

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A Cheerful Giver

What are the biblical principles related to raising financial support for a Christian project or ministry? We see a wide variety of approaches, from George Mueller, who never told anyone about any particular need except God, praying for everything required to care for hundreds of orphans for years, to organized religions claiming they’ve replaced Israel in some way and have a right to demand a tenth of our income, to cult leaders promising God’s blessing and favor on generous donors. Where’s the biblical balance?

If we consider the example of Christ and the Twelve, we’ve no record they ever asked anyone for money. Given that the temple was still functioning, they couldn’t pretend to merit the priestly tithes and offerings like the Church does today, and it seems contrary to their spirit of dependence on God to be asking the public or each other for money. It seems our dear brother Mueller may have got it right.

However, we do have an example of the Apostle Paul taking up a collection for the poor saints which were at Jerusalem (1Co 16:1); though he didn’t specify an amount or percentage, he expected everyone to give something in accordance with how God was blessing. (vs 2) How do we integrate this with the example of Christ and the Twelve?

In this particular instance, Paul said it was a matter of spiritual duty for these particular people to give to this particular cause, and he derives this duty from the fact that Gentile believers were indebted to the Jerusalem saints for the blessings of the Gospel. (Ro 15:26-27)

If someone has a duty to donate to a particular cause, then it’s reasonable to ask them to give accordingly. Torah provides many examples of this kind of obligation, specific instances of how we’re to care for the poor and vulnerable. (De 15: 7-8, 12-14, 16:16-17, etc.)

But apart from formal obligation, the rule of common charity must apply. Do we appreciate being asked to give to a ministry we already know about, which we have not already purposed in our hearts before God to support? Does this edify and encourage us, or do we feel pressured to give when we’d prefer not to? Does it feel intrusive, as if someone is meddling in our personal affairs? If we decide not to give, do we feel obligated to justify ourselves? Do we ever decide to give just to make ourselves feel better, or to appear generous to others?

Once we’re aware of a need, directly asking us to donate tends to put most of us on the spot and make us uncomfortable. This should tell us what kind of behavior it is: uncharitable. Unless we’re already interested in donating, most of us feel a sense of pressure in this context, a requirement imposed on us to make an immediate decision: to either decline to give and justify ourselves (as if the ask implies an obligation), or to give so we’ll feel better and appear generous to others. In either case, we perceive the act of being asked as a form of manipulation, to get us to give when we wouldn’t otherwise. This isn’t giving from a cheerful heart; it’s something neither Paul nor Christ would promote, even if it happens to increase donations.

When we desire to support a particular cause that excites us and aligns with our goals and world view, sensing God’s pleasure that we do so, we give with cheerful hearts without being asked. This is the kind of giving God loves (2Co 9:7), and it’s the only kind we should be encouraging in others, outside formal obligation.

Making someone aware of an opportunity to give, informing them of a ministry, its mission and how it’s funded, is perfectly consistent with charity: it doesn’t directly pressure anyone. As we have opportunity to spread the word and inform others of a godly cause, we should leave the commitment between them and God, as they seek His will in the stewardship of their time, money and resources.

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Rent in Twain

When Christ died, the veil of the Jerusalem temple ripped into two pieces, from the top to the bottom. (Mt 27:51) From what we know of this veil*, it is evident that this was a supernatural event: God Himself tore this veil. What does this signify?

Most Christians claim this event signifies the abolishment of Torah, the Mosaic Law, or at least the sacrificial system and the ceremonial aspects of Torah, but Christ says the entire Torah will be relevant until Heaven and Earth pass away (Mt 5:18); last I checked, both are still here, so this event must signify something else.

The veil of the temple represents the physical body of Christ (He 10:20), so on one level the tearing of the veil might signify the death of Christ, the destruction of His earthly, mortal body: the veil was torn as Christ was crucified. The breaking of His body for us (1Co 11:24), His atoning death for our sin, provides a living Way, an eternal way to God, outside time and space, always new (He 10:19-20), the only way anyone has ever connected with God, or ever will. (Jn 14:6)

We might also observe that we aren’t told which temple veil was torn; there were two (He 9:3): the most visible veil, the one most people would be more familiar with, separated the outer court from the sanctuary. (He 9:2) A torn inner inner veil, separating the Holy of Holies from the sanctuary, could easily have been concealed by the priests and never verified. Perhaps both veils were symbolic of Christ in some way, but it is perhaps the outer veil that is the most relevant, for Christ is that essence of the Father Whom we can all see. (Jn 12:45)

God destroying this outer veil in a publicly visible manner may have been a declaration of His departure from the temple. (Mt 23:38) The temple had already been destroyed twice, abandoned by God in advance (Ez 10:4, 18-19a), and it was ready to vanish away again. (He 8:13) It makes sense that God would depart from the temple well prior to it’s being destroyed, and to make this known, giving the people a sign they should repent and seek Him in the context of pending divine judgment and immanent danger.

Since God hasn’t actually yet told us explicitly what the rending of the veil of the temple means, this isn’t something we need to know. What we do know is that the veil is not obsolete; it is essential to a functioning temple, so it will return with the rest of the earthly temple of God. (Re 11:1-2) Any reasonable speculation on this point, why God tore it during the crucifixion of His Son, must be consistent with the whole of scripture.

  • See comment below.

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