Monthly Archives: July 2014

Selective Biblicism: WWJD Part 1

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Selective Biblicism. Click here to see the entire series.

The popular evangelical catch phrase, “What would Jesus do?” defines the evangelical doctrine of the nature of God. What would Jesus do? We are told that He would love. He would say soft, kind, words of compassion and mercy. He would tell you that He loves you. He would forgive. He would say things like, “My precious, precious child” and “Let me take you into my loving arms”. My premise is simple, the blue-eyed, lamb slung over His shoulders, warmly smiling Jesus of evangelicalism is an idol. He does not exist. Due entirely to the practice of the selective reading of Scripture, the nature of the Second Person of the Trinity has become corrupted and destroyed. Evangelicals have no idea what Jesus would do because they have no idea who the Jesus of the Bible really is. Their Jesus is the Jesus of paintings on the walls of the church, inscriptions on Christian trinkets, T-shirts and popular Christian slogans. The Jesus of the Bible is an entirely different God altogether; He is the true and living God.

In this section I am going to explain twenty different passages of Scripture wherein we see Jesus doing something. Eighteen of these passages are from the Gospel of Mark and two are from the Gospel of Matthew. I have elected to ignore most of the miracles of Jesus as well as the portions of the Gospels that deal with the Passion Week. (There are too many other theological issues related to the miracles that I do not want to deal with here and the Passion Week was entirely atypical of a normal day in the life of Jesus.) These twenty examples come from His day-to-day life and interactions with the people of the land. The examples will include some of His preaching, some of His teaching, and some of His social interactions at parties and religious gatherings. Most believers will have read these twenty passages many times in their lives without ever stopping to take a moment to consider what was really going on. In that sense, this is not strictly a case of selective biblicism. On the other hand, it is entirely possible to read a passage and, due to an overwhelming incorrect presupposition, come to an erroneous understanding of what the passage contains. In that sense, this is a dramatic illustration of selective biblicism. For example, when a believer assumes that God does not hate anyone and then reads the Bible passage that says, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated”, what does he do? He says that God does not really hate Esau! That is selective biblicism, even though the passage was read, it was not understood nor was it believed. Because Jesus is presumed to be a lamb-carrying nice guy who is always going around telling us to love and forgive each other, a foundation has been established for erroneous interpretations of His words. The picture that is painted from these twenty passages is a very different one than the Jesus of evangelical idolatry. The answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?” is very different than the answer offered up by evangelical teachers and preachers. The Second Person of the Trinity is not at all like most believers think He is.

Matthew 2: 13-18

The story of Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt with the newborn Messiah is a popular one. Verses 13-15 describe the event and point out that it was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea. This passage makes for a pleasant Christmas Eve reading. There is certainly nothing objectionable in the passage and reading it would give no one cause for offense. That cannot be said for the three verses that follow the account.

Verses 16-18 recount the outrage of Herod at having been tricked by the magi. Herod, of course, was afraid of what was being said about the baby. People were saying that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Herod was an insecure king and he was not about to accept any challenger to his throne. He had hoped to trick the magi into betraying the baby into his murderous hands, but he had failed. As a result, he decided upon a more comprehensive course of annihilation. When Herod discovered that he had been tricked “he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi.”

Most people never take the time to contemplate this horrific event. What is utterly fascinating about this story is that it records the first major consequence of the first coming of the Messiah. Although it is certainly the case that Jesus Himself was not the one who killed the male children of Bethlehem, they were nevertheless executed by Herod as a direct consequence of His appearance. It is not unfair to say that the first thing Jesus did, even while an infant baby, was bring about the death of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of “innocent” children! Even more, Matthew tells us that the slaughter of the infants was a direct fulfillment of a prophecy of Jeremiah. Jesus fulfilled a prophecy by coming to His people and, as a result, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of “innocent” baby children were killed.

God certainly did not have to do it this way. There were other options. Why did God not just kill Herod directly so as to avoid the slaughter of the babies? After all, Herod died shortly thereafter as a direct result of his pride and arrogance in allowing the people to call him a god. Why didn’t God just kill him off a little bit earlier? Why would God, the loving God of the New Testament, decree through the prophet Jeremiah that many babies would die as a direct result of the entrance of the Messiah into the world?

The answer, of course, is God did it exactly the way He wanted to and it is absolutely certain that the way Jesus came into this world maximized His glory. The fact that a few dozen “innocent” Jewish babies were killed is all part of the great plan to maximize the glory of God. Christians much prefer to quote the prophecies about the coming Messiah that describe Him as kind, compassionate, helping the weak, healing the sick, and not even bruising a bent reed. All of those are true. So to, are the prophecies that describe Him as coming to bring death and destruction to the Jews. The happy prophecies are read, the hard prophecies are ignored. But don’t just take my word for it. John the Baptist had some very interesting things to say about the coming Messiah.

Matthew 3: 11-12

John was baptizing in the wilderness and preaching to the Jews that they needed to repent of their sins because the Messiah was coming. When some Pharisees and Sadducees came to him to be baptized he greeted them in a most hostile fashion. He said, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (vs. 7) What “wrath to come” was John talking about? All we ever hear about in our churches is that Jesus came to save those who were lost. We never hear anything about Him coming to bring wrath upon anybody. Nevertheless, that is not what John preached.

John’s message was very simple. He said, “As for me, I baptize you in water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not even fit to remove His sandals; He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

We know that Jesus will gather His wheat (us) into His barn (heaven) but we know nothing about all this nasty business of burning up chaff (who could that be, doesn’t God love everybody?) with unquenchable fire (isn’t only Hitler in hell?). We have been very selective in what we read about the coming Messiah. The things that we like to read are those that make us feel good about ourselves. The things that allow us to tell everybody that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives, we believe. When it comes down to reading and believing the hard things about Jesus coming to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the wolves, the elect from the reprobate, we choose to skip those difficult sections. Those sections just do not fit into our preconceived notions about whom God is and what He is supposed to be doing.

John made it very clear. One of the primary reasons the Messiah was coming was to judge His covenant people. The Jews were to be measured according to the terms of the covenant that God had made with them. They were going to be found to be covenant breakers. The Messiah was coming to sever His relationship with national Israel and establish a new and better covenant. The Jews erroneously believed that they had earned the eternal favor of God. John made it very clear that they had not. He said, “…and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees…” Jesus, according to John, was the axe laid at the root of the trees. He was already chopping away. It would be in that generation that the tree of Israel would come crashing to the ground, to be used as firewood.

These are not things that we frequently contemplate about the coming Messiah. They are too unpleasant. They do not fit in with dispensational theology. They certainly cannot be read if one is trying to convince visitors to the church to come back next week. So we ignore them. We also ignore the words of Jesus. The following eighteen passages from Mark illustrate my point.

Selective Biblicism: Jonah vs Nahum Part 4

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Selective Biblicism. Click here to see the entire series.

God is Slow to Anger

The fact that God is slow to anger does not mean that He is not angry. Verse 3 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” If Jonah had understood this about the nature of God he would never have acted like a child when he was commanded to preach to the Ninevites. Evangelicals love to talk about how God is “slow to anger” but what they mean by that is He never becomes angry. That is simply untrue. Verse 3 makes it abundantly clear that God is slow to anger so when He does finally become angry it will be a “whirlwind” and “storm” of wrath upon the object of His anger. Jonah should have realized that even if the Ninevites repented, it was extremely unlikely that they would persevere. Therefore, the repentance of the Ninevites would actually serve to increase God’s wrath upon them at a later date. Since Jonah wanted to see the Ninevites judged, he should have been happy that they experienced a momentary repentance.

Christians are uncomfortable with the idea that God delays His anger in order to allow time for it to build up. However, that must be the case because God assures us that He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. The mere fact that the guilty are not currently being punished does not mean that they will not be punished. In fact, it means just the opposite. The guilty will be punished, and the longer it takes for God’s wrath to fall upon them the more terrible the punishment will be. Nahum begins by telling the Ninevites that their time has come. The momentary repentance of 150 years earlier had allowed them time to fill up the measure of their evil so that the wrath of God against them could be stupendous.

This principle of delayed wrath is presented very early in the Bible. Genesis 15: 13-16 says, “And God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. And as for you, you shall go to your father in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.'” Why did the Israelites languish in Egypt for 400 years? Because the iniquity of the Amorite was not complete. Then, four hundred years later, the children of Israel conquered the promised land and wiped out the people who lived there. God was slow to anger but when He had allowed the Amorites to fully mature in their evil, He came in devastating destruction. This is the message of Jonah/Nahum.

God is Good

Verses 7-8 say, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him. But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of its site (Nineveh), and will pursue His enemies into darkness.” Sinful men try to discredit the character of God. They accuse Him of being unjust and unfair. Sinful Christians also try to discredit the character of God. They accuse Him of being unfair when He judges men for their sins that He had predestined to occur. They accuse Him of being unjust for holding men accountable for their actions when He is sovereign. These ravings against the character and nature of God need to be stopped. God will not allow anybody, pagan or those who claim His name, to rail against Him.

Evangelicals love to say that “God is good” but they have a false god in mind when they chant that mantra. Their god is good in the way Santa Claus is good. He wants to do good things for mankind but he is unable to do so because he is constrained by the free will of men. Hence, God is good but He is not omnipotent. This idol god is good only in that he tries to do things that are nice from the perspective of human beings. He is good when a baby is born but he is powerless when a baby is stillborn. He is good when a drunken teenager does not die in a car crash but he is powerless when that drunken teenager does get killed. He is good when I get a high paying job and he is powerless when I get fired. All of the “good” things that happen to us come from this good god and all of the bad things that happen did so because he was unable to prevent them. After all, he would never violate the sovereign free will of men.

The biblical God is both good and omnipotent. The verses quoted above prove that. God is good when He shelters His elect and He is good when He judges His reprobate. God was good when He protected the Jews and He was good when He annihilated the Ninevites. God is good to those who take refuge in Him and He is good when He pursues His enemies into darkness. Everything that happens to those under God’s favor is good (Romans 8:28), no matter how ungrateful men might perceive it. The stillborn baby, the dead teenager, the lost job; all of these are good for the true believer. God is good all of the time. The Old Testament God is good just as much as the New Testament God is good. In fact, they are the same God.

The fact that God is good should terrify sinful men. The Ninevites should have fallen on their faces in the presence of a good God and cried out for grace and mercy. The Ninevites should have known that a good God would protect His people from their depredations. The Ninevites soon learned that God was good when He came against them in their destruction.

The Rest of the Story

Nahum 2:13 says, “‘Behold, I am against you,’ declares the Lord of hosts…” I would suggest that those are the five most terrifying words in the history of the world and in the entire Bible. To have the God who created the universe come before you and say, “Behold, I am against you”, should cause a man to drop dead in his tracks with fear and desperation. This jealous, avenging, wrathful, slow to anger and good God has just announced to the Ninevites that He is against them. That is the end. That is death. That is eternal destruction. That is the complete story of the Ninevites as told by Jonah and Nahum.

In 3: 5-6, God continues to describe in graphic terms how He is going to oppose the Ninevites. It is worth reading. “‘Behold, I am against you,’ declares the Lord of hosts; ‘and I will lift up your skirts over your face, and show to the nations your nakedness and to the kingdoms your disgrace. I will throw filth on you and make you vile, and set you up as a spectacle.” God’s people had been tormented, oppressed, mocked, tortured, and killed by the Ninevites. Now it is God’s turn. He is going to strip the people naked and parade them around in public. He is going to cover them with feces and make them vile. God does not apologize for His terminology. These graphic descriptions of His jealous anger for His people make believers squeamish. They shouldn’t. These descriptions are coming from the heart of the God of the Bible. These graphic descriptions should bring great comfort to the heart of a true believer and instill mortal terror into the heart of the unbeliever. The evangelical however, simply ignores them. After all, that God no longer exists in his theology.

The conscious decision to teach everybody the story of Jonah (incorrectly, I believe) and to entirely ignore the rest of the story in Nahum has directly led to the creation of a false god in the Church today. All of Scripture is inspired. Nahum has as much to say to us today as Jonah does. Nahum is ignored because the message he delivers is not consistent with the evangelical idol that is worshiped today. Selective biblicism is destroying the Church.

Selective Biblicism: Jonah vs Nahum Part 3

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Selective Biblicism. Click here to see the entire series.

God is Avenging

Verse 2 says, “A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; the Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.” Immediately after telling the Ninevites that God is jealous, Nahum proceeds to tell them that God is avenging. At this point the Ninevites should have fallen on their faces in repentance. Nothing more really needed to be said. The Assyrians had horribly persecuted the Jews, and, by logical extension, God Himself. Now they find out that He is avenging. He takes vengeance upon His adversaries and the Assyrians had made a clear declaration of their adversarial relationship with God by the way they had treated His people Israel.

The Hebrew word that is used for “avenging” conveys the idea of a formal, judicial position adopted by God. It is not a personal statement; rather it is the statement of a judge. God is the judge and He has declared that the Assyrians have taken up arms against Him by persecuting His people. As a result of their attack upon His people they had become His enemies and they are about to find out that He has “reserved wrath for His enemies”. Furthermore, the formal, judicial wrath of God is reserved for the reprobate. When the elect of God also experience the discipline of God it can outwardly appear to be the same thing as His vengeance. However, God’s vengeance is always reserved for His enemies. The discipline of God is reserved for His elect.

Why is this message not being preached today? Why are persecuted Christians all over the world ignoring this truth? Why are persecuted believers instead being told that they need to suffer in silence and unilaterally forgive from their hearts those who torment them? Where is our love for the world that demands that we warn them that our God is jealous and avenging? Where is our love for the world that demands that we warn them that an attack upon us is an attack upon God Himself?

I know, I know, Marcionites will say that this is the God of the Old Testament. The New Testament God does not act like this. Oops, we had better remove Hebrews 10: 30-31 from our Bibles. It says, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

God is Wrathful

Verse 2 says, “…The Lord is avenging and wrathful…” The word that is used here means to undergo a formal change in position. When God brings His wrath upon a person or nation, that person or nation is no longer subject to His common grace that has allowed them to live and prosper to that point. Even more, the form of the Hebrew word that is used emphasizes mercilessness and ferocity. This word is the strongest word Nahum could have used to impress upon the Ninevites the fact that God was mad and He was coming to destroy them.

Unlike the concepts of jealousy and vengeance, both of which have reference to His people, the concept of wrath has reference to the recipient of that wrath. By this point it does not matter why God is mad. It no longer matters that He is jealous for His people nor that He is avenging a wrong done to His people by the Assyrians. All that matters now is that He is coming and He is as upset as He can possibly be. There is no mercy left. Time has run out for the Assyrians.

It is important to realize that God’s wrath is also never directed against His people. Jesus received the full and complete wrath of God on behalf of His people and they, therefore, are not subject to it as long as they are in Him. Psalm 6 says, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in Thine anger, nor chasten me in Thy wrath…” David realized, even as an Old Testament saint on the far side of the cross, that the rebuke of God is His hand of discipline. He realized that the hand of discipline is not based upon the anger or the wrath of God.

As an interesting theological side point it is significant to note that those who believe in the doctrine of a general atonement (that Jesus died for everybody, not just His people) rather than a limited atonement are at least being logically consistent when they also assert that the Old Testament God has either died or changed His mind. It is not possible for anyone to be subject to the wrath of God if Jesus died for everyone since His wrath has already been satisfied by Jesus’ universal atoning death. Therefore, it is necessarily the case that all biblical references to wrath and anger no longer apply to anybody. The wrath of God does not come upon a man because God has ordained that man to be reprobate. The wrath (they would never call it that) of God, according to the modern, comes upon a man because he elected to use his free will to not accept God’s free offer of salvation in Christ. When a man exercises his free will to reject God, that causes God’s feelings to be hurt, but we must realize that there is nothing He can do about it. His hands are tied. No matter how much God wants to save somebody there is nothing He can do in the presence of an individual’s sovereign free will. Interestingly, if the evangelicals are correct on this issue then the Marcionite heresy is actually orthodox theology because the Old Testament God could no longer exist in this era!

Selective Biblicism: Jonah vs Nahum Part 2

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Selective Biblicism. Click here to see the entire series.

The Real Message of Jonah

The real message of Jonah cannot be known until the rest of the story is told. The prophet Nahum tells the rest of the story. I will get to his message shortly. For now, however, it is important to note that the primary emphasis in Jonah is not upon the salvation of the Ninevites (something which, as we shall see, did not happen). The primary message of Jonah is about the sinful attitude of Jonah and his refusal to obey the direct commandment of God to preach to people that he found personally repugnant. God uses the Ninevites to make that point to Jonah. To confuse the delayed judgment of the Ninevites for the primary message of the book is to make a great error. The Ninevites were spared for a short period of time from the wrath of God but their being spared was only a secondary issue. The primary issue was the sinful attitude of Jonah.

It is hard to say if Jonah learned his lesson. When we last see him he is crying like a little baby because the plant has died and he is experiencing some minor physical discomfort. After God makes His statement about showing compassion upon the Ninevites the book comes to a quick end. What did Jonah do in response to God’s statement? We are not told. Did Jonah learn that God is free to do whatever He wants to do? Did Jonah learn that God is no “respecter of persons”? Did Jonah learn that God is able to save people outside of national Israel? Did Jonah learn that God will save people that he personally dislikes? Did Jonah learn that God will use immoral people and nations to judge His own people? Did Jonah learn that God will eventually judge sinners in time and space? Did Jonah learn that God will not allow His name to be mocked by anybody? Did Jonah learn that when God issues a direct command, He expects it to be followed? Did Jonah learn that to obey is better than sacrifice? Did Jonah learn that a man cannot love God and disobey His commandments? These are the messages of the book of Jonah. We do not know if Jonah learned them. Have we learned them?

Current applications of the book of Jonah also miss the point. To emphasize the compassion of God is to ignore that the primary message of Jonah is the sinfulness of men in general and Jonah in particular. The sinfulness of men is not a popular message in our mega-churches so it is ignored when Jonah is preached. Jonah was a colossal wimp. He hated the Ninevites despite the fact that God ordered him to preach a message of repentance to them. He tried to run from his responsibilities and duties to God. When he realized that he was not going to get away from God he at least agreed to do what he was told, but he was not about to like it. He moped around Nineveh preaching his message, all the while hoping that nobody would respond to it. When the Ninevites did respond to it, he became depressed because he was not getting his way. He sat down outside of Nineveh, hoping that God would destroy them anyway. When God did not destroy them anyway he began to complain bitterly. He was so upset that God did not give him what he wanted that he asks God to “take my life from me for death is better than life for me.” Is there a better example of a sniveling, whining, complaining little wimp in all of Scripture? Is there a better example of today’s evangelical who immediately throws a fit, gets angry with God, and sits around moping the moment anything negative comes his way? The message of Jonah is that we are just like him. We are all sniveling little wimps who expect God to serve us and our whims at all times. If He doesn’t, we consider ourselves to be victims and talk about how hard our lives are! The real message of Jonah is not a positive message. Hence, the real message of Jonah is ignored.

To prove that the compassion of God upon sinners is not the message of Jonah, we need to move on to the rest of the story. That is found in the book of Nahum.

Historical Background for Nahum

Jonah had preached to the residents of Nineveh, the principle city in Assyria, in about 775 B.C. Nahum preaches to the residents of Nineveh about 150 years later in 625 B.C. Asshur was the capital city of Assyria. Asshur fell to the Babylonians in 616 B.C. and Nineveh fell two years later. That was effectively the end of the Assyrian empire. The city of Nineveh itself was quite impressive. It was reputed to have 100-foot high walls with a total of 1500 towers protecting the walls. To walk around the city would take a normal traveler about three days. The military destruction of Nineveh was something that many did not think could be done and constituted an amazing accomplishment for that time. As should be expected, the Ninevites were very arrogant and considered themselves to be safe inside their impregnable city. It is to these people that Nahum brings a message of the impending judgment of God against them.

The Nature of God in Nahum

Verses 2-8 of Chapter 1 describe the nature of God to the Ninevites. It is a classic statement of God’s nature as an avenging God. For that reason, and due to the adoption of the Marcionite heresy, preachers of the Gospel ignore it today. These verses are worth a detailed examination.

God is Jealous

Verse 2 says, “A jealous and avenging God is the Lord…” Both of these concepts need to be explored. What does it mean for God to be jealous? Our popular understanding of jealousy is of a dangerous, sinful, often violent emotion that leads men and women to commit unspeakable acts of violence and hatred. We all know of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of personal stories of people who, in a jealous rage, committed acts of violence. Jealousy, along with greed, is probably the most common reason people commit murder. How can God be involved in something as tainted as jealousy?

It is important to understand that our sinful and corrupt expressions of jealousy are not consistent with the nature of God. However, at the root cause, we find that our jealousy and God’s jealousy are the same. Jealousy is properly defined as exercising protective control over that which a person has a right to possess. With that basic understanding it is easy to see how we get in trouble with sinful jealousy so often. Since people spend most of their lives trying to control the thoughts and behavior of everyone but themselves, it is necessarily the case that there are going to be frequent displays of sinful jealousy. An example might help here.

If a husband sees his wife talking to another man, he might feel a strong sense of jealousy and lash out at both his wife and the other man. That is sinful jealousy. The husband has no right to control who his wife talks with. On the other hand, if a husband sees his wife having sexual relations with another man he is most likely going to experience proper jealousy. He has a right to control his wife’s body (I Corinthians 7:4). Furthermore, he has a right to protect that exclusive relationship. He may not take the law into his own hands and personally avenge the adultery. However, he has every right to press the State to do its duty as an “avenger” in the name of God and bring charges of adultery against them. Of course, today everyone believes that to be nonsense and adultery is no longer considered to be a problem. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why we see so many people taking justice into their own hands and executing adulterers.

God is jealous. His jealousy is not sinful. What is He jealous for? The answer to that depends on what He considers to be His that He desires to protect. Simply put, God is jealous for His own name and for anyone on whom He has put His name. Hence, God is jealous for Himself and for His people. His people in the Old Testament was national Israel. His people in the New Testament are the Church. This point is vital to understand if we are to comprehend the wrath of God. God takes personal offense whenever one of His people is attacked. To attack the Church, or a Christian, is to attack God Himself. In Nahum’s time, to attack a Jew, or national Israel, was to attack God Himself. It is not wise to attack God.

The sense that God is jealous for His people and that He will defend them from attack has been entirely lost in our time. In our time God is either too weak to do anything for His people when they are attacked, or attacks upon His people are distorted by His people into some sort of validation of their spirituality. Although it is true that God has promised that His people will be persecuted, it does not follow that there is virtue in just rolling over and allowing the attackers to do their work. The hideous evangelical doctrine of forgiveness that tells us that we must submit to persecution and then issue unilateral declarations of forgiveness to our persecutors in order to be saved is an example of how far we have departed from the truth. God is jealous for His people. If we are under attack we should have enough love for our persecutors to warn them that their attack upon us is an attack upon God. We should warn them that He is a jealous God. We should warn them that they stand in a very dangerous position if they do not repent. It is not a coincidence that Nahum begins his description of God with the assertion that God is jealous for His people. That statement should have struck terror into the hearts of the Ninevites.

Selective Biblicism: Jonah vs Nahum Part 1

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Selective Biblicism. Click here to see the entire series.

Is there anybody who does not know the story of Jonah? I believe it is required for all Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Schools alike. No child who is raised in the church (or invited to attend a church) will go long without learning the great story of how God used Jonah to exercise His mercy upon the Ninevites. It is a great, highly dramatic, story that allegedly illustrates a favorite theme of all believers, the mercy of God.

Nahum, on the other hand, would probably not even be recognized as a book of the Bible by the majority of believers. Those who might have learned a song that helped them memorize the books of the Bible might recognize it as a book but it is highly unlikely that they have any idea what the book is about. The book of Nahum picks up the story of the Ninevites about a generation or two after the ministry of Jonah. It has a very different ending. Nahum is the “rest of the story”.

The fact that the message of Jonah is known to all and the message of Nahum is known to none is an important illustration of selective biblicism. In what follows I will examine the messages of the two books and see what has been emphasized and what has been lost. Sadly, we will discover once again that this example of selective biblicism has led directly to the worship of a false god.

The Message of Jonah

Jonah, as you recall, was called to go to Nineveh to preach. His calling was during the time of Jeroboam II as king of Israel (late 700s B.C.). Nineveh was the dominant city of Assyria. The Assyrians were destined, in the very near future, to brutally deport a good portion of the Israelites from their land. Needless to say, there was not much respect for the Assyrians among the Israelites. When Jonah was called to preach to the Ninevites he was fearful that they might respond positively to his preaching and repent. The last thing Jonah wanted to have happen was for the Ninevites to repent and for God to not bring His wrath upon them. Therefore, immediately after receiving his call to preach, Jonah attempts to flee from the presence of God.

Everybody knows the story of how Jonah booked passage on a ship that was engulfed in a dangerous storm. The captain of the ship determines that Jonah was the reason for the storm so, in an attempt to please God, they throw him overboard. The ship was saved and God appointed for Jonah to be swallowed by a great fish. Jonah, while in the belly of the great fish, confesses his sin to God and the fish vomits him out onto dry land. Thereafter, God comes to him a second time and again commands him to go to Nineveh to preach.

Jonah had learned his lesson so he obeys the command of God and goes to Nineveh to preach. Chapter 3: 4 records the content of his preaching as he said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Much to Jonah’s chagrin, the Ninevites repent and “God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.” (3:10) However, the fact that the Ninevites had escaped the destruction of God “greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry.” (4:1) Like a spoiled little child, Jonah did not get what he wanted so he throws a fit.

Jonah, hoping that God would destroy the Ninevites despite their repentance, sits down outside the border of Nineveh to “see what would happen to the city.”(4:5) God causes a plant to grow up that gives shade to Jonah while he is sitting around waiting to see what will take place. Then, God destroys the plant so Jonah becomes hot and uncomfortable. As a result of the death of the plant, Jonah, in what must stand as one of the best examples of hyperbole in the entire Bible, protests, “Death is better to me than life.” (4:8)

God concludes the message of Jonah with this message, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (4: 10-11)

The Popularity of Jonah

The message of the book of Jonah strikes a responsive chord at many different levels. Missionaries like to use the book to illustrate that, once you come under the conviction that it is necessary to be a missionary, you should never flee from that calling. To do so, they say, is to invite a life of misery and unfulfillment. Animal rights activists emphasize the fact that God was not only concerned with the people in Nineveh, but He was also concerned about the welfare of the “many animals”. Opponents of the doctrine of predestination like to point out that God “changed His mind” and that it was therefore impossible for the destruction of Nineveh to have been predestined. Opponents of the doctrine of original sin like to point out that God describes the Ninevites as “not know(ing) the difference between their right and left hand.” They interpret this phrase as a positive assertion of the doctrine of the “age of accountability”. It is unquestionable, however, that the amazing popularity of the book is related to the fact that it is said to contain a strong message about the compassion of God upon sinners.

Notwithstanding the fact that most evangelicals have adopted the Marcionite heresy and, therefore, believe that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament, they nevertheless flee to this final passage in Jonah to establish their doctrine of the compassion of God upon all mankind. It is a strange contradiction that evangelicals prefer to ignore, but they continually point to Jonah as an example of the mercy of God upon men who are trapped in sin, despite the fact that they also continually proclaim that the Old Testament God is a God of vengeance rather than mercy. But, they will take good news wherever they can find it, even if it is in the wrath filled Old Testament. Logical consistency never gets in the way of a good story.

Sermon after sermon has been preached in which it is authoritatively declared that God does not “want” to judge anybody. It is repetitively asserted that God wants to show mercy upon all mankind, if they will only exercise their free will and turn to Him. The Ninevites, we are told, did precisely that. The Ninevites exercised their free will and followed the directive of the King, which told them to “let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.” (3:8) As a result of their freely turning to Him in repentance, God upheld His part of the bargain and agreed to not kill them. We, so we are told, have this same opportunity today. If only you will walk down the aisle and pray this prayer, you too can be saved and avert the wrath of God.

Selective Biblicism: Final Selective Psalmody

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Selective Biblicism. Click here to see the entire series.

Psalm 137

Psalm 137 is omitted. This psalm is ignored by almost all sensitive evangelicals because it contains what is considered by many to be the single most offensive statement in all of Scripture. The author of the psalm is lamenting the state of the chosen people of God as they languished in Babylon during the captivity. The Babylonian people were making sport of the Jews by demanding that they play instruments and sing for them. The psalmist, grief stricken by the experience of the exile, is unable to perform for the Babylonians. In fact, the psalmist is enraged by the behavior of the Babylonians. Verses 7-9 are his response to the taunting of the Babylonians.

“Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, ‘Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation.’ O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, how blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.”

How many people are going to come back to a church that they have just visited when they have read a responsive reading in which they talk about God blessing people who grab infants and smash them against rocks? For a church to experience numerical growth in our time it is vital that psalms like this one be extricated from the Psalter Reading. However, has the God who blesses those who destroy His enemies changed? As we have seen previously, the mere mention of the fact that God (both the Old Testament and New Testament God) has enemies is unacceptable to evangelicals. To go further and assert that God takes pleasure in the destruction of His enemies is abhorrent. To go further and assert that God blesses His people who are the instruments of His wrath against His enemies is unmentionable in Christian society. As a result, the nature and character of God is actively changed into the character of a god that we are much more comfortable being around. The OT God is far too dangerous. The evangelical god is the type of god you want to introduce your friends to.

Psalm 140

Psalm 140 is omitted. This psalm records a prayer of David for the protection of God against the wicked. If there are no longer any wicked people in the world, this psalm is obsolete. If wicked people no longer oppress the people of God, this psalm is obsolete. However, if wicked people still exist and they still continue to persecute the Church, why should this psalm be removed from our list of inspired prayers?

David begins, “Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who devise evil things in their hearts; they continually stir up wars…. Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; persevere me from violent men, who have purposed to trip up my feet.” If we make the correct assumption that David had an accurate view of reality, then it necessarily follows that there were people who were persecuting him because of the fact that he had decided to live according to the revealed will of God. The persecution that resulted from his decision causes him to cry out for protection. If we are being persecuted for following the revealed will of God, why should we not also cry out for the protection of God? Why should we not pray the prayer recorded in this psalm? Why did this psalm have to be removed?

Verses 9 and 10 say this, “As for the head of those who surround me, may the mischief of their lips cover them. May burning coals fall upon them; may they be cast into the fire, into deep pits from which they cannot rise.” Those verses should sound familiar. They are utilized by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. It is worth our time to see how the New Testament author uses this Old Testament verse.

Romans 12: 17-20 says, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.'”

Paul begins his discussion on Christian behavior by restating the teachings of Jesus about not taking personal vengeance upon an enemy. Jesus had made this point very clear in His Sermon on the Mount. However, Paul goes a bit further. After exhorting the Romans to never take their own revenge he adds this exhortation, “but leave room for the wrath of God”. Now why would Paul, a worshiper of the New Testament God, mention that believers need not practice retribution in order to leave room for the wrath of God? The reason is described in the very next set of verses (chapter 13). Paul goes on to say that the State is “established by God” and that it exists for the purpose of being “an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” The point that Paul is making is that individual believers are not to take justice into their own hands when they have been wronged. Rather, they are to appeal to the State to perform its function as the “avenger of God”. It is the duty of the State to follow the law of God and avenge the injustices that men perform.

What Paul says immediately after ordering the individual to not take justice into his own hands is familiar to all of us. He again quotes from Jesus and tells the Romans to give food and drink to their enemies. This is a nice, pietistic statement that plays very well in Sunday morning sermons to mega-church audiences. However, Paul does not stop there. He goes on. What he says next is the reason why we are to give food and drink to our enemies. What he says next is almost always ignored by everyone who deals with this part of Romans. The reason to be kind to our enemies is to judge them! He quotes from Psalm 140 to support his position. This reality is totally unacceptable to today’s believer. Nobody is to ever judge anybody. Certainly, kind actions do not result in judgment. But they do. All of our actions are judicial. All of our actions result in others either increasing their blessing or judgment. There is no escape from this reality.

Something that is frequently misunderstood is that when David asked God to judge his enemies, he also acted in the capacity of the State representative head. Therefore, David had the right and the responsibility to be both the victim of injustice and the one who enforced the law of God against the sinner who was persecuting the righteous. David was both the victim and the avenger that brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. That has changed, for most of us, in our time (the exception would be a man who is a judge). Today, we are required to do the exact same thing that was required of the Old Testament saints when they were persecuted. We cry out to God for justice and we implore His representatives in the State to bring the wrath of God upon those who persecute us. In the meantime, we are to be kind to our enemies. However, our kindness is not some perverted example of emotional schizophrenia where we try to manufacture feelings of fondness for someone that we despise. We are kind for a purpose. We are kind because that adds to the measure of the fullness of the wrath of God against our enemies (unless our enemy repents, in which case our kindness adds to the blessing of God upon that person). This doctrine is either lost or ignored by almost all evangelicals.

Conclusion to Selective Psalmody

Most of the 150 Psalms are in the Psalter Readings. Those that are omitted, however, are all of the same class as the twenty listed above. If a Psalm mentions the wrath of God against His and our enemies, it is omitted. If a Psalm contains an imprecatory prayer against an enemy of the Church, it is removed. If a Psalm describes in detail how God derives glory for Himself by judging the reprobate, it is excised. Psalms that mention concepts such as enemies, sin, judgment, wrath, hate, curses, and evil men are systematically removed from the Psalter Readings. Is it a conspiracy? I don’t know. But it is obvious.

What remains in the Psalter is all good and true. However, by removing a significant portion of psalms that deal with the concepts of sin, wrath, judgment, and the enemies of God and His people, it is necessarily the case that a false view of God is created. A half-truth masquerading as a full truth is an untruth. The Psalter Readings have been redacted in order to make them more palatable to the evangelical believer of our era who is unwilling to deal with these harsh and intolerant doctrines. Today’s believer has gathered around himself “leaders” who will promise to always “tickle his ears” with buoyant sermons that will aid him in his work and family life. As a result of this selective biblicism, there is strong reason to suspect that the god of evangelicalism is not the God of the Bible.

Selective Biblicism: Selective Psalmody Again

Psalm 68

Psalm 68 is included in the Psalter Readings, but only through verse 20. Verses 19 and 20 say, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.” Verses 21-23 say, “Surely God will shatter the head of His enemies, the hairy crown of him who goes on in his guilty deeds. The Lord said, ‘I will bring them back from Bashan. I will bring them back from the depths of the sea; that your foot may shatter them in blood, the tongue of your dogs may have its portion from your enemies.'”

It is not hard to see why the editors decided to stop with verse 20. Up to that point we are able to read about nice, pleasant, uplifting things like the faithfulness of God to us and His deliverance of us from our sins (whatever those are). However, when the talk turns to the enemies of God, things like shattering heads and dogs licking up blood, those things are much too distasteful for today’s worshippers. Is this because God no longer has any enemies? Do we no longer have the stomach for this kind of language? Should it be removed from our responsive readings so as not to offend our more sensitive members?

It is true that many, if not most, evangelical churches no longer believe that God has any enemies. The God of evangelicalism is a weak, impotent God who sits around in heaven pleading with people to let Him into their hearts. He spends a lot of time crying because so few people open the door and let Him in. But to call those who refuse to open the door His “enemies” is unthinkable. God has no enemies, say the evangelical theologians; He just has friends that He has not yet made. As a result, the later part of Psalm 68 needs to be removed.

Psalm 70

Psalm 70 is omitted. This psalm is a prayer of David for the help of God in the face of persecution that he was facing from his many enemies. He says, “O God, hasten to deliver me; O Lord, hasten to my help! Let those be ashamed and humiliated who seek my life; let those be turned back and dishonored who delight in my hurt. Let those be turned back because of their shame who say, ‘Aha, aha!'”

The concept of shame has been a recurrent theme in the psalms that have been removed from the Psalter Readings. It is a shameful thing for a person, group, or government, to persecute a man (or church) who is declaring the truth of God to the world. In our world today there is no sense of shame when righteous, godly men are persecuted by others, prosecuted by governments, and attacked in the media. In fact, the usual response of evangelicals is to feel ashamed to be associated with the men who are being persecuted. Evangelicals are quick to point out to the world, with which they are so comfortable and so desirous of its esteem, that they are not really like that man who is stirring things up. They are much more tolerant, likeable, and open-minded. Come, they say, to our mega-church and we will show you just how tolerant we can be. Everybody is welcome!

However, it is a rock solid truth that anybody who attacks a man who is declaring the truth of God is engaging in shameful and disgusting activity. Anybody who attacks a man of God should be ashamed of himself. Why is it wrong for the man who is being attacked to invoke God to his defense and cause the persecutor to “be ashamed and humiliated”? Why did this psalm have to be removed from the Psalter Readings?

Psalm 79

Psalm 79 is omitted. This is a psalm of Asaph in which he laments over the destruction of Jerusalem and invokes God to judge those who have persecuted His holy people. Are God’s people being killed today? Is His Church being attacked, killed, and destroyed by those who hate Him and His people? Absolutely yes! Yet, what is the response of His people to the attacks and murders? We are told that we must “love our enemies” and that means we must “pray for our enemies” and that means that we must work really hard to develop feelings of fondness and affection for those who are murdering righteous men and women of God. Above all, we must forgive our enemies, even when they do not ask for, nor desire, our forgiveness. (I will have more to say about the doctrine of forgiveness in a future essay.)

Psalm 79 is God’s inspired prayer for His people when they are being attacked, when their buildings are being burned to the ground, and when their leaders and members are being abused and murdered. It says, “Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations which do not know Thee, and upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Thy name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his habitation…. Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Let there be known among the nations in our sight, vengeance for the blood of Thy servants, which has been shed.” This prayer sounds very close to the prayer of the souls beneath the Throne of God in Revelation. Perhaps they were actually quoting Psalm 79 as they invoked God to bring vengeance upon those who have killed the saints and persecuted His Church. Should we not be doing the same?

Psalm 83

Psalm 83 is omitted. This is a psalm of Asaph in which God is implored to confound His enemies, who also happen to be the enemies of the people of God at that time. He says, “O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent, and, O God, do not be still. For behold, Thine enemies make an uproar; and those who hate Thee have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Thy people, and conspire together against Thy treasured ones…. Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever; and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that Thou alone, whose name is the Lord, art the Most High over all the earth.”

This psalm raises an interesting question. When evangelicals insist that God has no enemies, despite the fact that He does, and behave as if every enemy of God is just a friend waiting to be made; does God become known as the “Most High over all the earth”? Absolutely not! Where is the fear of God? Where is the acknowledgement that God is King of the earth? Where is the holy reverence for the name of God in all the earth? These things will never come about in a world in which the Church tells the world that God has no enemies. When God has become a gigantic Santa Claus who is invoked to serve our every whim, it is difficult even for the Church to have any fear of Him. How can we possibly expect the world to fear Him?

Yet, should not the world fear God? Is not a huge part of the responsibility of the Church in propagating the Gospel to warn the world that our God is a God to be feared? Should the world not know that He will not be mocked? Should the world not know that He is angry at sin and sinners? How is the world ever going to find any of these things out if the constant message being delivered from the churches is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”?

God is seen to be great, both by the world and by His people, when He shames and judges His enemies. Why do we not pray for Him to do so? Why was this psalm removed from the Psalter Readings?

Psalm 109

Psalm 109 is omitted. This is a prayer of David in which he invokes God to bring vengeance upon his enemies. David rightly assumes that those who are his enemies must also be the enemies of God. He begins, “O God of my praise, do not be silent!…They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without cause….Thus they have repaid me evil for good, and hatred for my love.” David equates the opposition of evil men to his cause to opposition to God’s cause. Near the end of his prayer he says, “…let them know that this is Thy hand; Thou, Lord, hast done it.” Clearly David has taken up the righteous cause of God and he passionately invokes God’s vengeance upon all who oppose that cause.

The curse that David prays upon those who oppose him is typical of many we have seen before from him. He says, “Appoint a wicked man over him; and let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him come forth guilty; and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children wander about and beg; and let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes. Let the creditor seize all that he has; and let strangers plunder the product of his labor…. Let his posterity be cut off; in a following generation let their name be blotted out.” In our day millions of men take pride in their ability to curse. The interjection of profanity and obscenity into practically every sentence is seen as a sign of power, strength, and manhood (even among the many women who engage in the same practice). However, today’s mundane and repetitive curses pale in comparison to the beautiful righteous curses of men like David in this psalm.

Of particular interest in this psalm is verse 8 which says, “Let his days be few; let another take his office.” Astute readers will note that this is the passage quoted by Peter in Acts (1:20) as a description of the apostate apostle Judas. Judas was a miserable and disgusting reprobate who sold out the Son of God for a little money. Truly his days were few and his office was taken by another. Many evangelicals have tried to soften the evil nature of the traitor Judas. It cannot and should not be softened. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of a reprobate man who opposed the cause of God and who was subjected to the wrath of God. Amazingly enough, the fulfillment took place in the New Testament; when, according to most evangelicals, the Old Testament God had either died or changed His opinion about things. Peter’s interpretation of Psalm 109 is a pretty strong confirmation of the doctrine of the immutability of God.

Selective Biblicism: Another Selective Psalmody

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Selective Biblicism. Click here to see the entire series.

Psalm 54

Psalm 54 is omitted. It is a psalm of David in which he prays for protection against his many enemies. He says, “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me, and violent men have sought my life…”. Once again the idea that a man could have enemies seems difficult for today’s believer to comprehend. Why should this psalm be included in the Psalter Readings when strangers have not risen against us and violent men have not sought our lives? We are far too assimilated to the world to have any measure of conflict with people who desire to harm us.

David continues in this psalm to make a fascinating assertion. In verse 5 he says, “He will recompense the evil to my foes; destroy them in Thy faithfulness.” The faithfulness of God is a common refrain on the lips of believers. However, His faithfulness is almost always in the context of providential care for His elect. I have never heard a Christian praise God for His faithfulness in destroying His enemies. Nevertheless, it is certainly the case that God is just as faithful in destroying the enemies of His Church as He is in blessing the members of His Church.

It is very disconcerting for Marcionite heretics to realize that the prayer for vengeance upon the enemies of the Church is also a New Testament prayer. Revelation 6: 9-10 says, “And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'” When was the last time a pastor led his congregation in prayer and asked God to avenge the blood of the martyrs? That concept is entirely lost in today’s churches. Omitting psalms like Psalm 54 ensure that it will remain lost.

Psalm 58

Psalm 58 is omitted. It is a prayer of David in which he invokes God to punish the wicked. Since the evangelical church no longer understands the biblical concepts of love and judgment, it is not surprising that psalms that ask God to punish the wicked are eliminated. Has God changed His mind about the wicked? Does He now want us to stop praying for Him to judge them and instead pray that wicked men be blessed? Is the mass invocation of “God Bless America” (which contains hundreds of millions of wicked people) the new opinion of God? Does God now love the enemies of His Church? Is God going to judge anybody besides Hitler? Will anybody be in hell besides Hitler? It is hard to imagine that hell even exists since so many of the psalms that speak about judgment upon the enemies of God have been removed from the responsive readings of our churches.

David begins by describing the nature of wicked men and then asks God to, “…shatter their teeth in their mouth; break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord. Let them flow away like water that runs off…” David concludes by describing the reaction of the righteous to the judgment of God in the land when he says, “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. And men will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.'” This is too much for today’s modern believer to take. Talk about washing feet in the blood of the wicked is not going to cause a church to grow in numbers. After all, is it not the case that the New Testament God would never speak in this fashion?

Matthew 5: 43-45 will be quoted as biblical evidence that God has changed His mind about evil men. Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” This passage is worthy of consideration.

Evangelicals generally interpret this passage as proof of their assertion that God has changed. The Old Testament God is credited with saying that you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. The New Testament God brings the new message that enemies are to be loved, not hated. Surely, it is asserted, this is conclusive biblical evidence that God has indeed changed His mind.

The problem with this understanding of Jesus’ words is that it does not square with the book of Leviticus. Jesus is quoting from Leviticus 19:18 which says, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Notice that the phrase, “you shall hate your enemies”, is nowhere to be found in this quotation. In fact, it is nowhere to be found in the Bible. “Hate your enemies” was a phrase that unrighteous Jews had developed to justify their mistreatment of anybody who was not Jewish. Jesus was correcting that erroneous understanding on the part of the Jewish leaders. Also notice that “you shall not take vengeance” (of Leviticus 19) is precisely the point that Jesus is making in Matthew 5. It would seem as if Leviticus 19 and Matthew 5 are saying the same thing. Where has God changed His mind?

It is the case that God ordered His people to annihilate the residents of the promised land as Joshua conquered the territory. However, that was a one time, special commandment of God that had specifically related to His judgment upon the Canaanites and His use of the entire nation of Israel as an instrument of covenantal judgment. The iniquity of the Canaanites had been made full and it was time for them to be judged for their sin. There was to be no mercy. The killing of the Canaanites was not an act of personal vengeance. It was, instead, a holy war, directly commanded by God as an act of judgment. However, is it possible to argue that the extermination of the Canaanites was a loving act? I believe so.

In John 15:10, Jesus says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” The Israelites were commanded by God to kill the Canaanites. By obeying the commandment of God they were abiding in His love. It is crucial to remember that their holy war against the Canaanites was an act of judgment by God against the unrighteous; it was in no way an act of personal vengeance.

Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” As a result of rampant antinomianism in the Church today, the reality described in this verse is lost. Love is the fulfillment of the law. A man loves his neighbor when he behaves lawfully towards his neighbor. Sometimes the law requires a man to act as a witness against his neighbor and invoke the covenantal authority of the state to act as “an avenger who brings wrath upon one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4). In that case, it is entirely possible for a man to bring the covenantal wrath of God upon his neighbor and love him at the same time.

Going back to Matthew 5, Jesus commands us to “pray for our enemies”. I am always amazed at how Christians never ask, “how are we to pray?” in response to Jesus’ command. The Psalms are filled with examples of Holy Spirit inspired prayers for and about our enemies. Unfortunately, the editors of the Trinity Hymnal have removed most of them from the Psalter Readings. I will come back to the question, “how shall we pray for our enemies?”, in the discussion of Psalm 140.

Psalm 59

Psalm 59 is omitted. It is a Davidic psalm in which he prays for deliverance from enemies. In light of the fact that Jesus orders us to pray for our enemies, would it not make sense to retain some of the inspired prayers of Scripture that deal precisely with that issue?

Since Jesus ordered us to pray for our enemies, why would He not be pleased with a prayer like this: “Deliver me from those who do iniquity, and save me from men of bloodshed…. Awake to punish all the nations; do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity…. Destroy them in Thy wrath, destroy them, that they may be no more, that men may know that God rules in Jacob…. O My strength, I will sing praises to Thee; for God is my stronghold, the God who shows me loving kindness.”?

I suspect one of the main reasons that so many Christians are unable to bring themselves to pray a prayer like Psalm 59 is because they realize that their own causes are frequently unrighteous. Their “enemies” are merely the folks that they are irritated with. Their “enemies” are the people who do not drive the way they want them too. Their “enemies” are the people they do not get along with. Their “enemies” are the people at work who do not treat them the way they want to be treated. Their “enemies” are the people in the pews who do not recognize their amazing level of personal sanctification and defer to them in all matters. In those cases it would be utter folly to pray for God to bring righteous judgment because that would likely mean that the person praying the prayer would be judged!

It is important to realize that the biblical prayers of imprecation and defense from enemies are all in the context of biblical morality. Very few of us have biblical enemies because we are just as immoral as those with whom we have conflicts. It is almost impossible to conceive of situations like those in which David constantly finds himself. In David’s situations, he is behaving in biblical righteousness and his enemies are immoral. In David’s situations, those who oppose him are opposing the people of God and even God Himself. Few of us ever are involved in conflicts with others in which we can honestly say we are standing in the position of God and that those who attack us are also attacking the person and character of God Himself. This is a very sad commentary upon the state of the Church today. We should be involved in as many conflicts as David was. We should be taking stands that cause us to represent God to the world. We should be persecuted because of the stands that we take. Do we not understand that friendship with the world is enmity with God? We should pray that God would protect us and be faithful to us by judging His and our enemies.