What do soap operas and reality TV have to do with the Bible?
First, let me say, I’m not a fan of soap operas or reality TV. Oh, there was a day when I didn’t miss an episode of Dallas. Yep! I admit it. Some of you are going, “Dallas? Isn’t that a city in Texas?”
I guess soap operas are still around, but today we have reality TV, modern-day soap operas lived out live before the camera. We seem to be fascinated by all the fussing and fighting, backstabbing and conniving. Maybe it makes us feel a little better about our own sinful hearts.
But sadly when you meet today’s cast of characters in our Old Testament reading, you’ll realize soap operas and reality TV have nothing on our spiritual ancestors.
The Bible is full of stories about love, sex, rejection, envy, jealousy, adultery, immorality, scheming, deceit, greed, thievery, contention, even murder (and that’s the short list)!
Why did God lay out humanity’s dirty laundry here and in other passage of Scripture? It wasn’t just for entertainment value. Continue reading →
Do you ever find yourself trying to help God out just a little? You believe He’s going to answer some prayer, but you keep trying to figure out how, and pretty soon, you’re trying to orchestrate one of those possibilities. Abram and Sarai had been given a great promise, but years had passed with no answer in sight and they took matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, just as it does in our lives, it led to all kinds of problems and revealed some things about their hearts.
In the process, they needed some reassurance from God. How about you? Do you need reassurance today … of His faithfulness, His goodness, or His trustworthiness?
We’ll also look at polygamy, a great passage on worry, God’s mercy and His wisdom for the upright. Continue reading →
Are you playing around with some sinful thought or thinking about something from your past?
Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it and it won’t get a hold on us. But sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.
Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown
We see an example of this in today’s Old Testament reading. Eli’s two sons, both priests, were stealing the sacrifices and sleeping with women in the doorway of the tabernacle. How could that happen? And, more importantly, could it happen to us?
1 Samuel 1-3
Sin’s Invisible Hooks
1 Samuel 1-3:
Multiple Wives: Provocation & Ridicule
There’s so much in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflicts and problems that resulted.
¹ Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.
It appears Hannah was Elhanah’s favorite. That may have provoked Peninnah to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way). In any case, she ridiculed Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself. And he, certainly, doesn’t seem to understand Hannah’s longing for a son.
“Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).
This was never the way God intended marriage to be.
11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
In the midst of it all, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah, and gave her a son. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord:
“Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).
Her son, by the way, was Samuel. He would become the first Prophet mentioned more than just in passing and would greatly influence the nation and God’s people. We will read more of his story as we continue through the Old Testament.
God’s Judgment on Willful, Unrepentant Sin
Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. All three were priests. Eli knew that his sons were stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (1 Sam 2.25) and God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening by removing His restraining grace.
Romans 1 explains it this way:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (emphasis added)
There is enough of God’s truth revealed through creation to make us all responsible for our actions. It’s not that we don’t know the truth, rather we choose to suppress it.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
This is sometimes called the downward spiral of sin. These two priests, not only had the truth revealed through general revelation (creation, including our consciences), but they knew God’s law. Yet their hearts were darkened by their own sin and then “God gave them up” (removed some of His restraining grace).
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
If we continue down that path of disobedience, God will remove even more of His restraining grace.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis added).
Finally, He will give us over to our own sinful cravings as He did with Eli’s sons.
Sin’s Invisible Hooks
How did these two priests end up where they did? How did it start? What compromises did they make in their thoughts and attitudes along the way? How did they end up sleeping with women in the tabernacle? And can that kind of thing happen to us? Continue reading →
“Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament?” I’ve heard that question many times. The truth is, it has always been sin, but at that time it was an acceptable sin by most people’s standards. What sins have you and I allowed to become acceptable?
In Judges 8.30-31 Gideon had fallen into the sin of polygamy. Though it was tolerated in that society, it was never God’s intent. It always led to trouble and often outright evil as it did here in chapter 9.
We are introduced to Abimelech his son by another relationship. Gideon didn’t even marry this woman. Sin always spirals downward unless repented of and forsaken. Abimelech, not only conspired to become king of Shechem, but set out to kill all of his brothers—70 of them. He succeeded in killing all but one who hid from him.
What is God saying to us through this story? What principles can we learn? Possibly about the dangers of compromise?
If we trace this story back to 8.27, we see Gideon went from his great victory (remember 300 men to fight an enemy whose army was “as numerous as locusts” and who had “camels without number”) to making an ephod and setting it up in his hometown. An ephod, generally, referred to a sacred garment worn by a priest.
Matthew Henry says this may have included some kind of oracle to divine God’s will. The end of verse 27 says, “But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.”
Our Acceptable Sins
Is there an area of your life, where you have allowed compromise to seep in? Is there some “ephod” you have created to remind yourself of a past victory? Is there something that seems like “a little sin” that you are allowing to remain in your heart or life? Maybe it’s unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, covetousness, worry, gossip?
“Gossip? Everyone does it!”
What about that guy you flirt with at work? … “Hey, I know he’s married, but we’re just friends. I’m not going to do anything!” What if it were your husband flirting with a female co-worker? Would it seem as harmless?
In reality, there are no “little sins”—just those at the top of that downward spiral of sin and are perhaps more acceptable. Worry isn’t even considered a sin by many, just as polygamy wasn’t by many in Gideon’s time.
Nothing much has changed since the garden. God had given Adam and Eve a clear command, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2.16-17).
One chapter later the serpent hissed, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
In other words, you can decide for yourself what’s right and what’s wrong.
About living together … “I know some people think it’s wrong, but if I don’t let him move in, I’ll be alone. God understands. He doesn’t want me to be unhappy.”
“I know God hates divorce, but I just don’t love him any more. I can’t help it. God will forgive me.”
“I know he’s an unbeliever, but it’s only lunch.”
“Gimme a break! I’m a man. There’s no harm in looking! My wife is just jealous!”
Verse 1, “The Mighty One, God the LORD …” El, Elohim, Jehovah will one day come, not as the Savior, but as the Judge of heaven and earth (vv. 4, 6). When He does, He will gather His saints (v. 5), but it will be a day of judgment and wrath for those who do not belong to Him.
Until then He is drawing people to Himself and He has called us to be part of that process:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28.19-20).
He doesn’t desire that anyone would be condemned. In fact, He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2.4). So let’s be about our Father’s business by faithfully sharing the Gospel with others. We can’t save anyone, but we can sow the seed, water what has been planted, and disciple those who have come to saving faith.
True Witnesses Needed
Verse 25, “A true witness delivers souls ….” Are you being a true witness for the Lord? Each of us is called to deliver souls from that Day of Judgment.
The Power of God for Salvation
Luke 16.31 should be a great encouragement to us in our witnessing. When the rich man implored Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, Abraham said:
“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
Witnessing isn’t about us. We don’t have to have some great testimony or some great preaching ability. It’s about the all-sufficient Word of God. It’s the power of God for salvation.
Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1.16).
What about you?
What keeps you from sharing your faith? Fear? Intimidation? Concern that someone won’t like you any more (fear of man)? Is it not having the right answers? What is hindering you from being that faithful witness?
If it’s lack of knowing how, there are many simple ways to do it. Learn one. Remember, it’s the Word of God, the Gospel, that is the power of God for salvation.
What sin have you allowed to become acceptable? Could you be sitting at the top of that downward spiral of sin? If you think you have it “under control,” you might be in more danger than you think (1 Cor. 10.12). Let’s pray for God’s help to be like the Apostle Paul who said:
“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5.9).
I would love to have you join me on this journey through the Bible. Just sign up for the BIBLE IN A YEARdaily posts so you don’t miss a single one.
Sign up nowand receive a copy of“Prayer for Busy, Imperfect Pray-ers: 5 Strategies to Jumpstart Your Prayer Life.”
You can also SIGN UP FOR SPECIAL“CHRISTIAN LIVING”posts, including the new series “A Marriage Make in Heaven?”
This post may contain affiliate links, but I only recommend books and resources that I believe are theologically sound and beneficial to the reader. Thank you for supporting this blog and ministry by supporting my links!
“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.