For three Transgressions and for Four Cont…

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“Thus says the LORD: ‘For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept His statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked.” (Amos 2:4)

It seems that this theme of following lies is rather prevalent throughout the prophets.  Now I’m also thinking, that there must be some things that all men were aware of, some truths that were just self-evident, and part of the nature of being human.  Because it’s not just Judah and Israel being judged for their transgressions.  The Pagan or Gentile nations surrounding them are also being held responsible as though they should have known better and as though they should have known the right way to treat others. 

It’s not like there is uneven playing ground here.  All men are held to the same standard and it must be that somehow all men know intrinsically.  And somehow, all these people got caught up in abundant transgressions, in abundant pesha. This word pesha is about revolt and rebellion.  It’s that kind of sin.  It’s not where someone happens to sin by mistake or without realizing it.  This is full on and deliberate.  When you revolt, when you rebel, there is no question in your mind what you are doing.  You know it and you choose it.

And that choosing happens to be where the Lord is leading today.  Because the Lord also pronounces judgment on Israel and gives a long list of wrongs that they had rebelliously committed.  And after that list of wrongs, You remind them and us what You had done, and how they had corrupted that.  In Amos 2:11 You share, “‘And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites.  Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?’ declares the LORD.”  I was wondering about those sons and young men.  At first I was wondering if the sons were always sons, or sometimes daughters.  And I wondered about the young men, too.  And I found out something interesting about Your plan and expectation and design for men and even women from asking those questions. 

The Hebrew word used for the idea of sons can sometimes mean daughter, but the Hebrew word expressed in this “young men” is bachur.  Now, in Hebrew, the way to make bachur feminine is to add an “ah” to the end.  But You won’t find that used for woman anywhere in the Tanach or Old Testament.  Instead, you find betulah.  It appears that Jewish sages of old posed a question about this.  “What is the essence of being a young man?”  A contemporary rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Lapin answers, “being on the cusp of vital choices.”  He sites Exodus 17:9 as an example, “And Moses said to Joshua choose for us men…”  It’s why men choose wives and careers and ways of serving others.  A bachur is a chooser.

Rabbi Lapin says that’s why most often it’s the man who chooses his wife, not vice versa.  He is the proactive chooser.  And it’s not that she can’t choose.  She also chooses things like careers and ways of serving others and she also chooses her husband but through acceptance or rejection.  As I think about this politically incorrect concept, it makes sense.  The young man is on the cusp on one of the most important decisions of his and her life.  At creation, God set a standard for marriage.  One standard is that it be between a man and a woman.  The other standard is that it be in His image, in the image of a holy and righteous God.  Another standard is that it be in self-sacrificial love.  The man may even actually be in the process of this simple choosing of being tested.  “Will you obey my statutes?  Will you honor me here?  Or will you rebel against the fundamental truth of the nature of the creation of man and woman?”  Here is a story about “a young man on the cusp of choosing a wife and a young woman making decisions that value herself and encourage him to choose wisely.” (Rabbi Daniel Lapin)

If that idea makes you cringe because it seems to give too much power to a man and not enough to a woman, maybe you ought to check yourself and see if you’ve bought into some lies, if you might be guilty of three transgressions or four.  It just doesn’t stop here.  Let’s go back to the beginning, to Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.”  That’s zakar for the male and neqevah for the female.  The root of zakar means to be sharp pointed, and the root of neqevah means to pierce.  As a verb though, zakar means to remember.  But in Hebrew, remembering isn’t just cognitive, it means doing what you remember.  You remember and take it to heart.  “[T]his cognitive activity is personal relational activity that results in volitional choice.  It is thinking that becomes doing.” (Skip Moen)  It’s this idea expressed in Psalm 103:18, “To those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them.”  Could it be that the man, yes, the man has the first responsibility to to remember who You are and to remember how You are related to mankind?  Is he the one held responsible for remembering who You are and his obligation to You?  You set everything before him. 

In the garden, Eve wasn’t present yet when you commanded the man about eating or not eating of the trees.  Eve wasn’t present when you formed every beast of the dust of the ground.  But Adam was there and I suppose he saw and You brought them to Adam to name which was a way of establishing his authority bestowed by You.  As a matter of fact, Adam was created outside the garden and You placed him there to dress it and keep it.  And even with all that, God knew that Adam was not complete, that Adam could not live up to the task on His own.  Only Adam didn’t see it until he took part in naming all the animals.  But all Adam knew was something was missing.  But You God, knew what was missing.

So you put Adam to sleep and take of his own flesh to make a woman, the partner that Adam needed to know unity like You know.  Flesh of the same flesh.  Bone of the same bone.  We are one!  We are not the same, but we are one!  Now how does man know how to handle that relationship?  He remembers his relationship with You, God, for he became a living soul from your breath, breathed into him.  He remembers how You handed over Your authority to him to keep order over chaos.  He remembers the love You have for him and how You met his innermost needs and he extends all of that to Eve as he remembers and follows suit. 

Is it such a hard thing to want the man to remember who God is, and how he is related to Him, to remember where he came from, who he serves, and whom he depends on?  Is it such a bad thing for him to have been given the responsibility of reminding us?  Is it so bad to think that “man is human in the action of bringing to mind the necessity of obedience to God and doing what is required”? (Skip Moen)    Abraham Heschel says, “to believe is to remember.”  Even the Hebrew word ish used for man in Genesis carries the essence of remembering what God said and doing it.

And isn’t that the problem we keep hearing over and over again?  Isn’t it that the men who should be remembering where they came from and who is over them, have forgotten?  And as they forget, doesn’t their relationship with their wife or their family or their fellow man break down with it?  Isn’t it that the farther man walks from God’s ways and His presence into his own thinking, that the value of others diminishes in his eyes?  Isn’t it that the farther from remembering God that we are, the closer we are to selfishness and the less we think about self-sacrifice for the good of others?

Now, none of this negates the value of Eve or the woman.  God said Adam needed her and it wasn’t good for him to be without her.  But she was God’s gift to keep him in God’s boundaries.  Adam is the rememberer who is to act upon that remembering.  Eve is the boundary keeper, being alert and discerning so that they don’t overstep God’s bounds.  Authority unchecked becomes tyranny.  God knew that.  It doesn’t happen with You God, because You have no selfish motives.  But authority can be a dangerous thing in our hands if someone doesn’t help us keep watching the boundaries of Your will.  This is God designed unity.  This is what fell apart in the garden on that day the tempter came.  Eve believed a lie that she could care for Adam and help him better by greater wisdom.  Adam chose to remember his commitment to Eve more than his commitment to the God who created him.  And we’re still stuck in that rut of thinking today, just as they were in the day of Amos.

It certainly is a far cry from creation.  It certainly looks a lot less human than what was intended.  And maybe that’s the problem.  We’ve created a lie about what humanity should look like and maybe we need to get back to seeing humanity the way You intended it.  “It is indeed conceivable that man may continue to be without being human.  One of the most frightening prospects we must face is that this earth may be populated by a race of beings which though belonging to the race homo sapiens according to biology will be devoid of the qualities by which man is spiritually distinguished from the rest of organic creatures.” (Abraham Heschel, Who is Man?)  Eve chose to believe a lie.  Adam chose to follow another.  How long will we choose to follow our fathers instead of following God?  How long will we choose to believe lies?  How much more rebellion will fill our lives? 

I don’t want to fight against You, Lord.  I want to know the truth and follow it because I know it will set me free.  And it doesn’t just set me free for a day.  It establishes my life in freedom and joy no matter the circumstances around me because in the truth of You, I can finally be fully human and fully who I was created to be.  I guess that’s what I’m looking for.  I just want to search You out until I know who You created me to be.  And being isn’t just about knowing, but about doing.  But I can’t forget that in finding out who I was created to be, You show me who I was not created to be.  And You show me who others were created to be.  So help us each to be who You created us to be in unity with You and each other.  And let us not usurp or misuse or misguide each others true humanness in You.   Let’s repent of our transgressions of being what we weren’t created to be.  Let’s not reject Your order and Your ways and Your heart.  Let’s embrace it and live it out instead.

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