The Red Words #13 March 12, 2019

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery and having set her in the midst of the courtyard, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman; what then do You say?’ They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard this, they began to go out, one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone and the woman, where she was, in the center of the courtyard. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord’. And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on, sin no more.’  John 8: 3-11

In this account in John 8, Jesus confronts a band of cold, self-righteous religious leaders and a woman who was guilty of sexual sin, and He handles both with such wisdom and grace that we marvel at Him.

While some scholars argue over this passage, how much more important it is to meditate on ‘the Red Words’.

He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?

I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on, sin no more.

It is clear the Pharisees and Judges of the Law felt that they have Jesus trapped by this; they have an airtight case, this “let’s get-Jesus” committee!

You cannot read this, however, without asking yourself, “Where is the man in this adulterous union?” They had been caught “in the very act,” and yet only the woman is brought before Jesus. Some of the commentators suggest that perhaps they knew the man and let him go. We do not know. But this indicates that a double standard was very much in effect in those times just as it is today.

These scribes and Pharisees referred to the law in the book of Leviticus in which God, speaking through Moses, had said that adultery was to be punished by stoning. They knew that Jesus was “The Friend of Sinners,” that He was always on the side of the unfortunate and that He spent His time, not with the righteous, the wealthy or the respected, but with publicans and sinners. They obviously expected Him to forgive her and the minute He did, they would accuse Him of contradicting the law of Moses. They were sure they had Him trapped.

What he did was to stoop down and begin to write with his finger on the ground. Wouldn’t you love to know what He wrote?

Some have suggested that perhaps Jesus wrote a verse from Jeremiah: ‘O Lord, the Hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.’   Jeremiah 17:13 .  This could be but we don’t know for sure.

Whatever he wrote, the scribes and Pharisees apparently misunderstood him. They thought he was stalling for time, and they kept pressing him, asking him again and again to answer them. So, standing up, Jesus looked them right in the eye and stunned them when He uttered these famous words, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Actually the word he uses is “sinless,” “let him who is sinless…” This is the only time Jesus ever used this word.

Jesus does not minimize the seriousness of the sin, but He refuses to align Himself with the harsh and arrogant attitude of the Pharisees toward the sin. What He says, in effect, is, “You are no better than she is. Your hearts are filled with murder and hatred.”

adulterouswoman

The haughtiness and hatred for Jesus that was evident in their eyes and demeanor clearly revealed that they were willing to use this woman in order to ‘get’ Jesus.  They really cared nothing about her sin; she was a convenient means to their evil agenda.

Jesus saw right through them and addressed the corruption of their hearts.  When He stooped down to write, could it be that He quoted from the book of Daniel? “You are weighed in the balance and found wanting,” (Daniel 5:25-29).

Whatever it was that He wrote, it utterly derailed their carefully laid out plot.  One by one, they started walking away.

And you know the rest of the story.  With no one left to condemn the adulterous woman, Jesus uttered these remarkable words: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’

Notice how Jesus calls her attention to the fact that she has no human accusers. He has dismissed the jury; their own malice disqualified them to judge her.

As the only Sinless One, Jesus alone fulfilled the qualifications to stone her. But He did not do so because He clearly forgave her.

Without forgiveness, justice must be satisfied. God never dismisses sin as trivial. His own truth, his law, his holy character, demand that any deviation from righteousness be punished. Justice must be satisfied — unless sin is forgiven. So it is clear that the basis on which our Lord said these words is that he had found a way to forgive this woman her sin.

A legalist will protest, “How could he do this? There was no basis for it. In fact, she doesn’t even confess her sin, or repent of it, or even say she’s sorry. Didn’t Jesus himself go about preaching, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? What do you say to that?

The answer is, “Yes, there must be repentance.” God is not a grandfatherly type who says, “That’s all right. Forget it. I won’t hold it against you.”  There must be repentance. Even God cannot forgive sin which is not acknowledged.

But when you say, “Yes, I did it. It’s wrong. I agree with you,” that is repentance. Then forgiveness can come. “But where does this woman do that?” someone may ask.

The answer has to be, “Within her heart!” Remember we are dealing with One who knows the hearts of men. He knows what is going on in the inner thoughts. He knew her heart. Somewhere in the course of this incident she had to have repented.

Perhaps it was when she saw how Jesus handles this crowd of hypocritical judges, and she sensed the mercy and love that was in His face. Perhaps it was then, in His presence, that she realized how wrong she was, that she had sinned, and she repented. When she did, Jesus forgave her, obviously anticipating his death upon the cross for her.

The cross is always an eternal event in the mind of God. In anticipation of that cross, Jesus forgave her sin. The proof of it is in the words he next said, “Go, and do not sin again.”

If we have acknowledged our guilt, and received God’s forgiveness, the Lord is saying to us, “Go, and do not sin again.” He could never have said that to this woman unless something had happened within her.

This amazing scene speaks to all of us. When our sins are forgiven it is to free us that we might begin to live a different lifestyle; never to go back to the things that we have left behind. Forgiveness is always designed to set us free. That is why it is given.

Mark this truth: When Jesus forgave this woman that is what he did: He set her free to be a different kind of person than she had been before.

He does the same for you and for me. Sin is sin; it will always be sin and the only remedy we have is to sincerely repent, receive God’s forgiveness because of what Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary and re-commit ourselves to the Lord and to His Word.

I love the chorus written several years ago by Bill Gaither:

Something beautiful, something good,
All my confusion he understood.

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life.

Perhaps it was a sentiment like this that lived on in that woman’s heart for the rest of her life.

If we have found forgiveness from the Lord, remember always that we are forgiven so that we, too, might “Go, and sin no more!”

Thank God for His amazing love!

Shadow of Things to Come – Lesson #6 June 6, 2017

Potiphar is furious! Returning home after a long day at work, his wife presents him with ‘evidence’ that his favored servant, Joseph, attempted to seduce her.  As you and I know, the truth is just the opposite but having been spurned, her lustful desire towards Joseph turned to hate and a desire for revenge.

JosPrison

Joseph was in the worst possible position. There were no witnesses for the Bible says they were ‘alone in the house’. He was a slave with no status and therefore had no possible way of defending himself. The only one who could tell the truth was the very one accusing him to her husband. As the lady of the house, she would be believed far and above a slave. Escape was impossible, there was no recourse to a lawyer.  Before he knew what happened, Joseph was slammed into prison for a crime he did not commit.  This was the next test Joseph had to pass and it was profoundly difficult.

Betrayed again! First by his brothers and now by an immoral woman, Joseph might well have stared at the damp and dark prison walls and wondered, ‘Why, God, why?’  Yet in his heart, Joseph knew he had done the righteous thing when he said to Potiphar’s wife: How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? (Genesis 39:9)

Keep in mind that the Torah had not yet been given.  This was years before the event at Mt. Sinai.  Yet Joseph already knew that adultery was wrong.

Notice also that this was not a one-time attempt by Potiphar’s wife. And it came to pass as she spoke to Joseph day after day, that he would not listen to her. (Genesis 39:10)  She was persistent but so was he.

We may mistakenly fall into the trap of temptation if, after conquering it once, we think all is well and we let our guard down.  Temptation to sin is as persistent as Potiphar’s wife was with Joseph.  Just because you overcame an evil inclination once doesn’t mean it won’t come around again. In fact, it almost always will!  Like Joseph, we cannot let down our guard and we do well to imitate his behavior.  He not only refused her but when she kept repeating her request, he did all he could to even avoid her very presence. That means, if you have any idea where temptation will confront you, if at all possible, don’t go there!  Do not fool yourself into thinking, ‘I’m strong enough to handle it’.  Spiritual strength is not just the ability to resist temptation; real spiritual strength is demonstrated in refusing to go where you know temptation is waiting for you!

The lack of moral character in Potiphar’s wife is even more evident as we continue to read.  In front of other slaves, she even blamed her husband for the ‘alleged’ crime of Joseph. Speaking of her husband, she said, See, he[Potiphar] brought in a Hebrew to us to mock us. (Genesis 39:14) She stooped so low as to malign her own husband in the eyes of the household slaves.

A person filled with rage and a desire for vengeance will always say and do irrational things that expose the very weakness of their case.  Uncontrolled anger will always lead to more sin.  If this woman had been honorable, she would have said nothing at all but taken Joseph’s refusal as a wake-up call and perhaps come to her senses.  But no – she had to tell everybody how ‘terrible’ Joseph was.  And it wasn’t even true!  It reminds me again of Shakespeare: ‘The lady doth protest too much!’

Yet, despite his good and moral choices, Joseph ended up in prison.  Falsely accused and helpless.

God actually did Joseph a great favor for whenever we are in a helpless position, that is when God Himself takes over.  That is what He does when He is grooming a person for a position of influence in His kingdom.  The most important test that any person may have to pass before he/she is ever ready to be greatly used by God is to be punished for doing the right thing and to keep quiet about it, letting God Himself be one’s defense.  The tendency to self-righteousness, self-defense and self-justification is a powerful force to the ego.  It was not easy for Joseph; it is not easy for us.

But the reward of doing so is well worth whatever patience and humility it requires.  You may not know the future, but God does.  He is preparing you for an important task.

Application:

Fighting against what God is doing in your life only prolongs the period of testing. To turn to Him and humbly accept His work in your life is the only sane response. It’s in those times that the prayer of David, ‘I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall forever be in my mouth’ becomes the sustaining force.

As we will see, even in the prison, Joseph had the favor of the LORD. By that we know that he kept an attitude of faith and trust, even when he didn’t understand why he had to undergo such a difficult imprisonment.

Faith isn’t faith when you see and understand; faith that pleases God is when we trust Him without understanding why certain things have happened.

Joseph had a dream – in fact, more than one. In the darkest hours of his life, remembering what God had shown him in those dreams were a stabilizing factor.

A wise man once said to me: Don’t doubt in the dark what you knew in the light.  I pass that on to you in the hope that it may provide you with courage to trust and believe when hope and the future seems lost.

 

 

The Shepherd King – Part 26 December 13, 2016

Having seen David rise from a lowly shepherd boy through multiple trials to ascending the throne of Israel, we now arrive at a point in his life that painfully demonstrates how even those close to God and with a passion for Him are not immune to temptation and failure.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.  From the roof he saw a woman bathing.  The woman was very beautiful and David sent someone to find out about her.  2 Samuel 11:2-3

davidbathsheba

The messenger came back with information that should have stopped David cold right there and then.  He identified the woman as Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s soldiers.

To appreciate what’s about to happen we need verse 1 of this chapter:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.  2 Samuel 11:1

So all of David’s army is on the battlefield, including one of his captains, Uriah.  But at the moment, David is blinded by lust and sends for the woman.  They have intimate relations and shortly thereafter, she sends a message to the king that she is pregnant.

It is important to realize that in the culture of the day, a woman had no rights.  It was unthinkable to deny the king anything he desired.  Whether or not Bathsheba was a willing accomplice to adultery only God knows.  The focus here is on David who was overcome with desire on seeing her bathing and acted impulsively to satisfy his own wants.

The first lesson derived from this scene takes us back to the Garden of Eden.  Eve looked at the tree and saw that the fruit was good and desirable…  Gen. 3:6  David looked and what he saw was desirable.  Do you see the connection? Theologians describe it as the ‘lust of the eyes’; that is, when our eyes become the entryway for sinful thoughts that lead to sinful actions.  Our five senses were given to be vehicles for holiness but how often do they become vehicles for sin, as David’s did in this instance.  He saw but instead of averting his eyes and going back inside the palace, what he saw prompted him to foolish action that led to sin.  David had risen to such a position of power that anything he wanted was done by willing servants.

Therefore, the second lesson flows from the first: David failed to reckon with the interval between ‘wanting’ and ‘getting’.  There is no ‘romantic’ excuse such as that so often used in our day to justify this kind of behavior.  Rather, amid all of his integrity and humility in other areas of his life, self-control in sexual matters remained a weakness.  In 2 Samuel 5 we learned that ‘David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem.’ (vs. 13)

This event is a heart-stopping warning to all of us.  The great King David, a man after God’s own heart, was nevertheless subject to a weakness that hurled him headlong into a reprehensible sin that later prompted the writing of Psalm 51 which says in part:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love;

According to Your great compassion, blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Psalm 51: 1-2

The alarming rate of infidelity, even among God’s people in our day, demands us to take a hard look at David’s fall. But the application is not reserved only for sexual sins but for ALL manner of sin.

Notice:

1) he saw and what he saw propelled his imagination down a road it should not have gone.

2) he turned those thoughts into words by commanding his servant to go find out about the woman.  Virtually all temptations go from the mind to the mouth before they become action.

3) he sinned in actuality.

Application:

We need to learn from David where to stop sin, any kind of sin.  If wrong thoughts lead to wrong words that lead to wrong actions, then the arena of self-control must begin in our thoughts.  That is where we flex the muscle of self-control and stop sin at its origin.  The book of Proverbs tells us: As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.  Prov. 23:7

Whatever our area of weakness may be, the formula is the same.  I encourage you to memorize these two verses of Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the everlasting path.