Bible reading for Sep 2.
I Samuel 26.
"Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?" (1 Samuel 26:9)
SAUL SPARED AGAIN. David again refrains from killing Saul. Many of his day would say that he was being foolish and neglecting a good chance to remove a wicked king. Yet, David is ordering his life and behavior before the Lord in reverence. God placed Saul as king ("anointed"), and David was trusting that God would remove him in time.
ORDAINED BY GOD. What does it mean when we say a ruling authority has been ordained by God, especially if it is an evil ruler? First, it does not mean that God approves of evil. God has made his moral will clear to us in the teachings of the Bible. But God also has a will of decree, meaning that he approves that certain things come to pass. God's decree -- what he wills or ordains to come to pass -- takes into account, and uses, free human agency. When something comes to pass in history, either one of two things must be true: a) that God approved that it should come to pass; or b) that God did not approve of it coming to pass. What God wills (ordains) is true in the former sense. Otherwise, God is not actually in control of history. The prime example of God's decree, using evil to bring about good, is the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, which was both an evil act by humans, and at the same time the divine plan of God (Acts 2:23; 4:28).
EVIL RULERS. How can God use evil rulers and evil people? The book of Habakkuk (not to mention the book of Job) was written to answer that question in some measure (Hab 1:6, 13). God does not take pleasure in wickedness (it offends his moral will), but he is so wise and powerful that he can use evil instruments to accomplish good purposes, just like a stone mason can use rough tools -- saws, chisels, mallets, drills, abrasives -- to create an architectural marvel. His will of decree ultimately brings into existence the world where his moral will is universally loved (Matt 6:10). We, like David, are to humbly recognize that God is at work in all of history. The Lord says, "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things" (Isa 45:7).
SUBMISSION? This teaching of the sovereignty of God does not mean that we always submit to such leaders in every case (Acts 4:19; 5:29), whether rulers, employers, husbands, parents. No authority except God's is absolute. Whenever a ruler commands God's people to do something God has not commanded (what is evil), or not to do something that God has commanded (the good), then we have a moral obligation to disobey those authorities. The Hebrew midwives (Ex 1:17) and Rahab (Josh 2:14) disobeyed the authorities in order to save lives. God is the highest authority. But much wisdom is needed to know when that line has been crossed. Like David toward Saul, or Habakkuk toward the Chaldeans, or Jesus toward Pilate (John 19:11), or Paul toward the high priest (Acts 23:1-5), or Peter toward Emperor Nero (1 Pet 2:13-17), we must humbly recognize that God has placed those authorities in history for his own purposes (Dan 2:21; 4:17) and we need to be wise and careful in our responses toward them.
1 Corinthians 7.
"I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:35)
MARRIAGE ISSUES. In the Greco-Roman world there were two popular views regarding sexual relations. One was that sex is no big deal and it was just like eating food, with whoever, whenever, wherever. The other view was that sex was an earthly thing that the unenlightened involved themselves with. In other words, the knowledgeable person rises above such material matters. In chapter 6 Paul addresses promiscuity (one extreme), and here he addresses asceticism, the other extreme (see Col 2:18; 1 Tim 4:1-5). Sex is good and serves a preventive purpose, in restraining immorality (v 2). Elsewhere the Bible says that it is good because it results in children (procreation) and because it brings joyful union (pleasure) to the married couple. (That's easy to remember: procreation, pleasure, prevention.) In this chapter he also writes about separation and divorce. (See the NET Bible notes for more detailed commentary.) However, in giving advice about getting married or staying single Paul makes a distinction between that which is the Lord's command and that which is his own personal advice (vv 10, 12). He gives reasons for staying single: marriage and family are not the highest goals in life. Christians are not to act as if this world is permanent -- and so spend too much time and effort in changing their lot in life -- but rather, they should give primacy to "undivided devotion to the Lord" (v 35), whether married or single.
FIRE IN THE FIREPLACE. Sexual relations will one day pass away as part of the first creation, but they are indeed legitimate for us in this life. This illustration may be helpful: Sex is like a fire in a fireplace. It is God's plan for it to be in fireplace, that is, within marriage. The fire needs to be in the fireplace or the home grows cold. But there are boundaries to the fireplace. The fire needs to stay in the fireplace or it burns the home down. It can be warming, but it also can be destructive. Couples should communicate and work together to make sure that this area of their marriage glorifies God and brings satisfaction to the partners.
Image credit. Photo courtesy Edinburgh & Lothians Stonemasons.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The NET Bible is a free, online resource, and a ministry of bible.org.