Christianity 201

July 26, 2015

Uriah’s Wife and Potiphar’s Wife

One of the Lectionary readings for today is the story of what the paragraph header in one translation calls “David’s Great Sin.”

2 Samuel 11:1Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

      2Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her

As it was read in the church we visited this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between this story and the story of Joseph with Potiphar’s wife.

Genesis 39:4Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his [Potiphar’s] attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate...

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8But he refused…

11One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

You wouldn’t know it by the classical art paintings shown at Wikipedia, but I’m sure in that time and place Potiphar’s wife — whose name is never given — was in her day equally hot as Bathsheba, who by today’s standards doesn’t fare well in similar paintings either. Rather, there’s something else going on here; we ascribe Joseph’s refusal of the woman’s seduction to his character whereas we look at David’s actions as showing a lack of character.

Joseph was doing his job. While today leaders — Christian or otherwise — are advised not to put themselves in a place where they are alone with a woman, he was after all where he was supposed to be. Responsibilities for Potipar’s household was written into his job description.

Like Joseph, there are many times in my life where I can look back and say that I held my convictions and remained strong in the face of sexual temptation. But as a I grew older, I realized that if I was really strong, I wouldn’t have put myself in those situations in the first place.

Many pastors and counselors who must meet with a person of the opposite sex often do so with their office door kept open, or meet in a public place. Temptation can happen at any time. Under the circumstances — and let’s face it, without warning in the book of Genesis to read — Joseph did well.

David, on the other hand, was not where he was supposed to be. You could say his observing the woman on the roof was a chance accident, but the first verse in the text simply doesn’t give us that option. He was at that time in the wrong place, and worse, he initiated the sexual encounter with Uriah’s wife.

Where Joseph ran away from the temptation, David ran toward the temptation. Where Joseph did everything he could do to avoid a sinful situation, David engineered the circumstances to both commit adultery and attempt to cover it up.

When Potiphar’s wife didn’t appreciate having her advances spurned, she fabricated a story that ended up with Joseph in prison. Despite this, God was orchestrating a plan that would see him returned to the same position of power, or one even greater, that would save the nation and even save his own family.

It’s a stretch, but because through the years in prison it came about that Potiphar learned that Joseph could interpret dreams, I can almost hear Joseph saying to Mrs. Potiphar what he would later say to his brothers,

Gen 50:20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

David recognized his sin, and we believe his prayer of confession and his plea for God’s mercy. But there were long-term consequences. The wound healed, but the scars remained.

Ask Yourself: Because temptation is everywhere, when I encounter it, am I going to be Dave or Joe?


Bible verses today are from BibleHub.com; each verse number is also a link.

 

 

June 15, 2015

Living as a Stranger and Living in Exile

Today we pay a return visit to the writing of Raymond Powell, at the blog, The Philippian Jailer. Note: This story was posted in March, and references events taking place at that time. Click on the title below to read at source.

The Relevance of Strangers and Exiles

This week, the headlines shouted and celebrated another high-profile example of the American church bending to accommodate the values of our prevailing culture. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), whose membership has declined 47% since 1967, has once again updated its constitution … this time to embrace same-sex marriage. By doing so, it has doubled down on its bet that “relevance” is achieved when the church molds itself to more closely resemble the world around it.

But is “relevance” where this quest actually leads? No, this kind of relevance is a chimera, as attested to by the collapse of the PCUSA’s membership. In fact, it is worse than that, for while it draws on our deep desire to fit in with our culture, the quest for the world’s good regard is really poison to the church. This leads us into an astonishing place, for by pursuing relevance at all costs, we are gradually slouching into irrelevance.

This is because we don’t understand what is supposed to make us relevant.

The church’s relevance is born not of our identification with the world, but by our love for the world while identifying with Christ. Until we stop trying to be the church the world thinks it wants, we cannot be the church the world really needs.

How shall we then live, now that the culture has decided en masse that our views are no longer merely quaint or weird or puritanical, but hateful? Surely we must change?

Well, yes we must, but not in the way we seem to have decided. First, we must understand that our supreme example, Jesus Christ, wasn’t crucified for his irrelevance, but rather for the way His extreme relevance threatened the culture’s arbiters of what was acceptable. His relevance was built not on the compromise of his principles, but rather on his commitment to them, which was enveloped in a life-giving gospel of love.

What we must do, therefore, is much, much harder than simply repudiating the values and principles of our forebears in favor of the enlightened, modern, accepted truths of our contemporaries. Nor is it profitable to simply rail against the culture in favor of what was “traditional”, a clumsy and loaded word that ensnares many into a sinister trap of arrogance and judgmentalism.

What is required of us is a bold love–one that risks rejection, isolation, stigmatization, and even real persecution for the sake of clearly speaking the truth about God’s salvation–yes, including the hard parts about His wrath and coming judgment–to this lost and dying world in need of a Savior. This is the gospel of the faithful, of those who paid the last full measure of devotion:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

The relevance of the church is tied up completely in the inherent relevance of the gospel … a gospel which does not seek to minimize sin, but rather to maximize Christ and His grace. It means moving boldly but lovingly into the lives of those who reject Him and His truth, in order that they may see Him in us, receive His love and message and Spirit, and thus be saved.

Living the reality of the “stranger and exile” means that we recognize the sinfulness of what the Bible clearly identifies as sin, but do so with compassion instead of condemnation, because we are so keenly aware of the truth of 1 Timothy 15:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Deciding to live this way will hurt, both because of the world’s rejection, and because we will pour our hearts out for so many who will respond with indifference, ambivalence, and sometimes even rage. But Jesus did not promise that He would deliver us from pain in this life–in fact, quite the opposite. Our promises are anchored primarily in the hope of the indescribable happiness that will come with eternity in God’s glorious kingdom, and also in the supernatural strength, comfort and joy that He provides us here, in the land of our sojourn.

June 14, 2012

Devotional Potpourri

From Jeff Mikels in January:

He Came

  1. Jesus came as Prophet to bring the Word of God to us.
  2. Jesus came as Priest to represent us to the Father.
  3. Jesus came as SON to bring us into God’s family
  4. Jesus came as Savior to take away our sin.
  5. Jesus came as King to receive our submission.
  • to have 1-4 without 5 is pointless mercy
  • to have 5 without 1-4 is Islamic legalism
  • to have them all together is the beautiful harmony of grace

Dan Delzell looks at the question Can Deliberate Sin Negate Your Conversion Experience?

Every Christian hits rough spots at times where a particular sin just seems to get the upper hand for awhile. It might be a grudge….or impure thoughts….or jealousy….or whatever. By God’s grace, believers somehow manage to bounce back and get beyond these spiritual setbacks. It’s so much better to be living “in the zone” of God’s abundant love, power, and boundaries.

But what about the professing believer who never bounces back? He just continues charging into sin while pursuing those desires which are contrary to God’s will. What are we to make of such a person?

Well….the Arminian might say that such a person has lost his salvation….while the Calvinist might say that such a person was never saved in the first place….or that he will eventually repent and return to God. What does God’s Word say? Can deliberate sin negate your conversion experience? It’s a question worth addressing because it’s a question that comes up quite often.

[continue reading here]

Finally, Canadian counselor George Hartwell at Listening Prayer on Head versus Heart Prayer.

Creativity cannot be forced. Memory cannot be forced. Instead we find that creativity follows when we give ourselves a break or after we are asleep. Writers who know that they cannot force inspiration learn to live with the flow of creativity.

Our heart, what psychology calls the unconscious mind, is like a stubborn child. It is quite difficult for our head to control our heart. See Romans 7. Forcing the heart does not work.  Learn to cooperate with your heart.

I don’t know if over-dependence on the rational mind is the death of us, but I do remember that the serpent seduced Adam and Eve with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This Bible account at least suggests that life based on head knowledge  shut down the life-giving flow of God’s presence to Adam and Eve.

Is pride in head knowledge our downfall?  Does life based on head knowledge mean life independent from God.  When we try to figure everything out are we trying to be ‘like God.’  Does head control generate a false sense of power, control and independence?  

Timothy Galway, The Inner Game of Tennis, points out that too much instruction hinders a player from playing their best game. When the head is out of the way we may find ourselves playing better than normal – ‘beyond ourselves’.

With humility do I recover the realization that real freedom comes in being who God created me to be. Real power comes from the presence of God, as we encounter God, while listening and obeying God. Real faith is a gift of God comes in the presence of God, as we encounter God, as we listen to God. Real healing occurs in the presence of God, as we encounter God and listen to God.

 Real prayer is not based on head knowledge. Real prayer is based on coming into the presence of God, an encounter with God, listening to God.