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Posts Tagged ‘pharisee’

The line of Jesus Christ includes:

Jacob – Liar and cheat

JudahBetrayer and sexual pervert

Rahab – Canaanite gentile and prostitute

RuthMoabite gentile

DavidAdulterer and murderer

Bathsheba – Adulteress

Solomon – Promiscuous man-whore and apostate

ManassehBaby killer and murderer

What kind of King is this?

I just saw “The King’s Speech” last week and King Edward had to abdicate his throne simply because he wanted to marry a divorced woman! There is much more scandal in the line of Christ, severely tainted by sin and non-Israelites. Why would God choose this route? Why not choose Joseph over Judah and the child born through him sleeping with his daughter-in-law? If you’re going to bring Jesus through David, why not through another wife besides Bathsheba? Don’t bring the Son of God through the one he committed adultery with and then killed the husband. Why bring Christ through Manasseh? This man was so evil he was the final straw in the end of David’s Jerusalem, he even sacrificed his own sons in fire.  This is the lineage of son of God in flesh we’re talking about! God in the flesh!

Jesus ChristIllegitimate son born in a stinky manger, and poor carpenter

You use prostitutes, incest, infanticide, adultery, poverty, murder, and betrayal to bring your Son into the world. Then you bring your Son into the world as a poor illegitimate son who would become a simple carpenter. Why associate with such filth? Why associate with me, a lustful, cold-hearted, angry, selfish, self-righteous Pharisee? Because You are approachable! You are not a God far off! You are not afraid of my sin! You are a God who comes to us! You are a God who humbles Himself! You became unclean and tainted for us. How much more do I need to see of you to know that you are approachable? You are a God whose mercies are new every morning. You really do want us and love us.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

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In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. (1 Kings 16:29-34 ESV)

Ahab is introduced to us in 1 Kings as the worst of all the kings before him, sacrificing 2 of his sons to rebuild Jericho. That is our very first description of him! You could actually argue he might have done the most evil outside of king Manasseh of Judah. The statement above at the end of 1 Kings 16 is given almost like one of those historical context notes you see at the beginning of some movies. I say this because we are about to get a more detailed glimpse of Ahab, as well as his antithesis, Elijah, in 1 Kings 16:28 – 22. What’s the big deal about 5 chapters? Only Solomon is given more coverage outside of Ahab in either 1 Kings or 2 Kings! You have to ask the question: Why? It’s not just because of Elijah. Usually that is the mistake we make when we read this section. We equate ourselves with the hero, Elijah, and how much we want to be like him in his battle against the evil king, Ahab, and his evil wife, Jezebel, the classic battle of good versus evil. Elijah is equated with Moses as one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and there are some crazy powerful miracles that happen through him. From chariots of fire, to parting a river, to raising the dead, to running at warp speed, to an “octagon” like confrontation of 450 evil prophets, I can see the movie teaser now (can someone please make this happen?). However, these chapters bring light to the Gospel when we take Ahab seriously and examine how God relates to him not just the superhero Elijah.


Elijah: Ahab’s Constant Reproof (1 Kings 18-19)

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:17-19 ESV)

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:20-21 ESV)

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” (1 Kings 19:1-2 ESV)

Ahab cannot get rid of Elijah. His wife, Jezebel, certainly threatens to but they just cannot get their hands on him! Elijah is God’s constant voice and reproof in Ahab’s life. From attacking the prophets of Baal to rebuking evil actions of Ahab, Elijah is a thorn in this man’s flesh. Ahab views this as a threat and annoyance but it will prove to be a means of undeserved grace. God sends a super empowered prophet like Elijah because that is what it takes to get through to Ahab.

The Battle with Syria: God Has Not Given Up On Ahab (1 Kings 20)

When Ben-hadad heard this message as he was drinking with the kings in the booths, he said to his men, “Take your positions.” And they took their positions against the city.

And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (1 Kings 20:12-13 ESV)

Ben-hadad, king of Syria, moves against Israel after Ahab refuses to give him his wives and children and valuables. God sends a different prophet this time to him to assure him that God is on his side and that they will defeat the massive army of Syria. Remember, this is still the most evil king ever! Why is a prophet sent to Ahab to assure him victory? Why does God not allow for him to go to his death in battle and finally end this reign of terror? God does not do that. He assures Ahab that God is still fighting for this evil man! God seems to want to make sure that Ahab knows that He is sovereign and still helping him. God makes sure that Ahab will not be able to claim any other help when they see victory against the overwhelming numbers of Syria. This is the worst king so far for Israel and here is God still protecting him and working for his good!

At the end of chapter 20, Ahab is reproved for letting Ben-Hadad go after they claim a second victory over Syria. Ahab does not seem as hardened as you would expect, he does not balk at the prophet. He goes home “vexed and sullen,” meaning something akin to being both sad and frustrated. He feels it from the reproof. There seems to be a hint of disappointment. Is he starting to get it?

The Conflict over Naboth’s Vineyard (1 Kings 21)

This chapter is insane when you take a closer look. This is a side note that seems to have nothing to do with Ahab’s rule over Israel or the big picture of Israel as a nation. This happens a lot when Elijah and Elisha are in the picture. We are given much more detail about these men and the kings they spoke to. Think about this the next time you read 1 and 2 Kings. There is a reason the author takes a microscope here but rarely does this elsewhere.

But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.'” And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” (1 Kings 21:5-10 ESV)

Ahab takes possession of the land and Elijah, again, is the man to confront Ahab.

Ahab Repents? (1 Kings 21 continued)

Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD. Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel the LORD also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.” (1 Kings 21:20-24 ESV)

At this point, Ahab has already been proclaimed the worst king ever, he’s sacrificed two of his sons, he’s married an evil baal worshipping woman, his regime has essentially tried to wipe out every prophet of God and do everything to turn this nation to Baal. Yet God has not given up on him. God has given him Elijah as well as his second in command, Obadiah, who has hid prophets of the Lord and will not bow to Baal. God is after Ahab. It’s almost like God made a bet with Satan once Ahab sacrificed his children that God could still win his heart. In 1 Kings 21, it sure seems like God breaks through and Ahab repents with godly sorrow.

(There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)

And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.” (1 Kings 21:25-29 ESV)

God rubs it in Satan’s face here with a little “by the way, in case you forgot, Ahab was super evil and the worst king ever.” Then Ahab breaks down and repents! Now when I use to read this prior to this past June, I just glossed over it and brushed it off as Ahab simply repenting with worldly sorrow. But I mock God if I take that view because that is not how God responds. God rejoices and points it out to Elijah. “Did you see that? Did you see how Ahab responded? He humbled himself! He turned his heart to me!” It’s like God has been waiting for this one moment in Ahab’s life. He points it out to Elijah as if Elijah never could believe it would happen. Do we get this? Ahab was the worst king ever, the epitome of an evil king and yet God never gives up on him and even chases him down. This is why we get this anecdote about his conflict with Naboth. This is why we get a more detailed glance at Ahab. We need to see how Ahab is never without hope and that no one is out of reach of God. No single person beyond God’s forgiveness and justification. Ahab has to reap some of the consequences of his sin in 1 Kings 22 in his death on the battlefield but at least we get a glimpse of his repentance and brokenness before God prior to his final demise.

The Heart of God in the Gospel is Our Hope

God never waited for you to repent to send His only Son to suffer the worst kind of death on the cross. He doesn’t even wait for you to respond to the cross. God is a pursuing Father. The depth of your sin is not a hindrance to His adoption of you. He is the Father who runs to you. He is the Shepherd rejoicing over finding that one lost sheep, Ahab, out of a hundred. Just like He never gave up on Ahab and gave him Elijah and blessed him, God has not given up on any of us. His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness!

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

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For most of my walk, I’ve simply been annoyed when I get to the beginning of 1 Samuel. Saul, this tall, handsome, promising, young man, gets his first job opportunity and it just so happens to be the first king of Israel. He then goes out, gets the nation fired up, and promptly trounces the Ammonites for a major victory in his first battle. Saul then shows some class by not putting to death his initial doubters even with the people clamoring for it. What doesn’t this guy have going for him? He sounds a little like Barack Obama, only if the pres had been a part of catching Bin Laden in his first week in office, then forgiving Rush Limbaugh in a live public address soon after!

The Good Times Just Don’t Last

Saul is riding high, seems set to lead Israel to freedom over the powerful and oppressing Philistines, and then he starts to throw it all away…

Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. (1 Samuel 13:11-13 ESV)

Soon after that, he starts to get full of himself.

And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. (1 Samuel 14:24 ESV)

Even as he descends into self-aggrandizement, he’s still laying down the wood on Israel’s enemies. God has not abandoned him but Saul still does not get it.

When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them. (1 Samuel 14:47-48 ESV)

Finally, he gets exposed and the kingdom is essentially taken away when he blatantly disobeys a straightforward albeit difficult command.

“Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'” (1 Samuel 15:3 ESV)

And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” (1 Samuel 15:13-15 ESV)

From this point forward in the text, Saul grows angry and paranoid, descending into darkness as he fights tooth and nail to keep HIS kingdom intact. Saul becomes a little more like Kim Jong Il in his leadership style, entering the “Tyson Zone,” killing priests and turning against even his own son. We can take 2 views of Saul at this point both of which reveal the lurking Pharisee in our hearts.

View #1: Saul’s mistakes through 1 Samuel 15 weren’t that bad! David did much worse!

Do you realize that David actually has more outward sin, bigger national mistakes, and more severe worldly consequences for his sin than Saul? Think about it: the census, Bathsheba, killing Uriah, and the number of concubines he took. What did Saul do in comparison? He didn’t wait for Samuel to come make the sacrifice. He didn’t kill all the livestock after a victory. This was prior to the kingdom being deeded over to David! Once God’s Spirit is withdrawn, Saul heads into darkness fully given over to his flesh, fighting to keep the crown for himself and his legacy, going against anyone and everyone (including Levite priests and his own son, Jonathan) who would get in his way. This is without the Spirit though! So why is Saul hammered more than David? Why is Saul’s kingdom taken away while David’s leads to Jesus?

David practically has the perfect balance of understanding the weight of sin and yet never losing sight of his acceptance by God the Father. David rarely loses sight of his own sin and his own unworthiness. When he does lose sight, he immediately reroutes back to humility and to the ground. This gives David a lot of compassion for those who follow him, for even those who would be his enemies. David can do this because he pursues God, is honest with God, loves God, and understands closeness with Him. Saul is completely out of touch with the root of his sin and how his sin is against God. It’s an utter blind spot for him. He never seems to pursue God in relationship. He views the Lord as an ambivalent god who has delegated power to him to lead Israel. Samuel attempts to point this out to him:

And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:17 ESV)

Saul never rests in God’s acceptance of him. He lives to please others, not God. As a result, as king, he constantly swings from a rash, harsh, prideful leader to a soft, disobedient to God, people pleaser.

In my own struggles, I can identify much more with Saul than David. Saul does not see his sin in light of God. He justifies and simply sees thing horizontally. Just like him, I tend to view sin in levels, I judge myself by comparison to others. At least I’m not like that dad who yells at his kid at the grocery store. At least I read my Bible more consistently than that brother over there. When I do this, I downplay my sin and I’m attempting to establish a righteousness of my own. I see people as for me or against me, not for God or against Him. There’s no freedom there. I don’t know how many people I’ve hurt battling this area of sin in my life. Now make me king of Israel and give me success. Would I handle it differently than Saul?

View #2: Saul was a lunatic, I would never do the dumb things he did!

Saul, the first king of Israel, was a man who practically appeared to be a product of our 21st Century American culture. He was impatient, rash, and people pleasing. He gets jealous of David, and plots many times to kill him, at times just trying to manipulate David to walk into his own death. He tries to kill his own son, Jonathan. He kills the priests of Nob after they innocently aid David. Near the end of his life, he goes to a medium to seek answers as opposed to pursuing God. His life seems to be a wreck by the end and he is disconnected from the God who elevated him and entrusted the kingship to him. He acts like a lunatic at times in moments of rashness.

Put yourself in his shoes. You struggle with the source of your self-worth; even hiding behind some luggage on the day it is announced you are to be king. Yet you are tall and handsome and having everything going for you but you have not known closeness with God. You then get thrown into becoming the king out of no prior experience and no rise up the ladder. You love the praise of men and here you are in the most important position ever in the kingdom of Israel. Would that go to your head? If you live for the praise of men and secure an early victory turning hearts to you, do you think you could just flip a switch and just start living for the praise of God? Not apart from the grace of God, that is for certain. Saul is almost set up for failure and does fail.

Rest in God’s Acceptance of you and repent vertically!

After Saul is exposed when he doesn’t have the livestock killed in 1 Samuel 15, he is broken but only horizontally.

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may worship the LORD.” And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. (1 Samuel 15:24-27 ESV)

Half-hearted is not even the right word for his repentance here – I think he really feels like he is repenting but what is he repenting of? He seems to be repenting of being exposed and being embarrassed. This is why he still wants Samuel to come with him, and make an appearance with him despite all that has happened. I do this all the time. I deal with sin because I have been exposed. I am embarrassed. I seek forgiveness from my kids or my wife, and completely ignore how I have ultimately sinned against God. I inadvertently downplay my sin. I miss out on true repentance.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

The lesson of Saul’s life is that we must rest in the fact that God has adopted us and that he is pleased with us as our Eternal Father. God is not satisfied with us but He is pleased with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. There is no need to downplay or disregard or hide sin. Jesus paid for it all. We can view sin as it truly is, in us, and hate it and not fear rejection! Saul’s life is a tragedy because he never connected with this like David did. In Jesus, I can reject the way of Saul, the Pharisees, and myself because I am not condemned! I can hate sin and walk in freedom in the love of my Father.

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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This is what I posted on Twitter on Thursday, July 8:

“The overexposure & ridiculous “decision” special (compare to @KDthunderup) about to make @kingjames a villain unless he chooses Cleveland”

I then posted this, a retweet of The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons (@sportsguy33):

“RT @sportsguy33 Totally fine with LBJ switching teams. But doing that to Cleveland via a one-hour TV show was absolutely brutal. An unprecedented Eff You.”


The whole circus of LeBron James, an NBA basketball player, and his impending free agency team decision had been a bit much to say the least. As a born and raised NBA fan, I followed it hoping that LeBron would stay in Cleveland and show some loyalty. When he chose Miami, to play with Wade and Bosh, I was disappointed. His decision coupled with the narcissistic display of the decision show on ESPN, as well as his entrance to Twitter and calling himself @kingjames, soiled my opinion of him a bit. Glory hound. Narcissist. Prima donna. Selfish. Another millionaire self-focused American athlete.

What a Pharisee I am. Yet another way you can tell if you’re being self-righteous: making a person into a personality.

That’s exactly what my first response was. At worst, my judgments are correct and LeBron is no worse than I would be in his shoes. At 25, with a tens of millions, in the spotlight, deified by millions of fans, what would I do? I can have my own tv show where I announce what team I’m joining? Sign me up! Shoot, I get puffed up looking at my blog stats when I see all of 10 hits! Could I even handle what LeBron deals with and not yield to the praise of men?

But think about his decision. What would have been the typical NBA free agent decision for LeBron, Wade, and Bosh? Money! Every year plays out that way unless you’re an older player at the tail end of your career, like what Pierce, Allen, and Garnett did in 2007. NBA teams overpay, players gladly take their money and go to the highest bidder for the most part. Never has anyone made a decision like that these 3 did. They chose friendship and titles over money! LeBron chose friendship over fans! Think about that for a minute. LeBron made a decision that would leave him vilified by fans and tarnish his public image. He chose friendship and the chance to win over reputation and fickle fans and a company whose love for him was conditional anyway (as evidenced by this)! Isn’t that wisdom? Isn’t that what we might do? We might have crushed him even if he stayed with Cleveland and made an extra $100 million. One more thing: he chose less glory. He chose to join Wade in Miami instead of being #1 banana in Cleveland, Chicago, or even New York! Isn’t that something to be praise? I think when I first pushed out those tweets, I was just thinking like the world and poking at someone who chose less glory, less money, and less respect.

I don’t know where LeBron stands with Jesus. I pray that he treasures Jesus above all fame, winning, friendships, money, and worldly pleasures. But I have no place to just hammer this 25yr old millionaire kid. All of us have fallen short and all of us have need of a Savior, most of all me.

A few other good reads:

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A Pharisee would read about Jacob’s life and go, “Woah, that guy was wreck! Thank God I’m doing better than he did!” I definitely have walked away from reading about Jacob thinking that I wasn’t all that bad. But truthfully I am. For more about Jacob’s life and a little on why I even hope to be like him, see part 1.

Jacob’s deceive or be deceived lifestyle was isolating. Laban deceives him. His own sons deceive him. He tries to manipulate Esau when they meet again. Joseph even tries to get Jacob and the rest of his sons to lie to Pharaoh (end of Gen. 46). It never seems to end. He was not close with his dad, Isaac, Esau, his brother, or Laban, his uncle. His son, Joseph, was exiled to Egypt for most of his life largely because of Jacob’s outright favoritism. He was isolated by his struggle with being a deceiver and manipulator. God continually presses him, taking away his best friend in Rachel and his closest son in Joseph. Jacob was a lonely man. When I saw that, I really empathized with him. You could hammer him by saying that it’s his own fault but put yourself in his life with his flesh patterns. Would you do differently?

However, something happens during Jacob’s loneliest moments. God seems to show up. When he first leaves home and is on the way to Laban’s house, God speaks to him in a dream and promises to bless him. Next, when on the run from Laban, God works unbeknownst to Jacob speaking to Laban, essentially protecting Jacob. The night before he is to reunite with the brother he stole everything from; he’s all alone, separated from his family in total fear of what Esau will do. God meets Jacob in the form of a man. Jacob wrestles with God and is shown he has strength. When Simeon and Levi avenge Dinah’s rape, wiping out a whole village of men, Jacob is whining and fearful of retribution. God meets him almost immediately with gentle and kind words promising to protect them. In the midst of Canaanites, God again meets him, giving him a new name, the name of Israel. When Jacob is just about numb, without hope from the loss of Rachel, Joseph, and seemingly Benjamin, God restores his hope, gives him back Joseph, and meets him again in a dream. God steps in and meets Jacob every time he needs it. Does Jacob deserve this? Nope. Do we deserve for God to meet us in this way? Nope. Can we hope in God to meet us where we’re at as He met Jacob? Yes! Through Jesus!

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33 ESV)

Jacob is a sinner, but God is completely for him. Jacob‘s life encourages me greatly. God blesses and uses Jacob out of no merit of Jacob’s. Jacob even grows to have a good relationship with God. How? This puzzles us because we think Jacob is a lying, passive, wussy, punting, male. Why should he be tight with God and receive His blessing, father the nation of Israel, have dreams God meet him in, wrestle with God face to face, or get his sheep multiplied like crazy? He is not very righteous… Wait.  Then it becomes clear. God blessed Jacob, in spite of him! He does that with me as well!

I think I identify more with Jacob than with any other Jewish patriarch. Abraham left his home at a command and was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. We never really get to know Isaac that well, and Joseph fended off a very beautiful woman who was being very purposeful and strategic in trying to sleep with him. Jacob did not have a good relationship with his parents; it was run by sibling rivalry. He was taught to manipulate, so that is what he did. He was isolated and lonely and became the epitome of passivity. He took after his dad in the worst ways, he played favorites, was passive, and distant. In some ways, he’s not that different than me. But God uses him! In fact, God uses him almost more so than any of his seemingly more “perfect” fathers or sons. There is hope for me! There is hope! Even though my life can look much like Jacob’s, yet I can walk near with God and converse with Him as I am. Yes I need to grow (Jacob does seem to try) and yes I need to repent. I will be a sinner the rest of my life and yet I am free to know God in the closest way. That is pretty good news from Jacob’s life.

Another thing I love about God that we see from Jacob’s life is that God will be the decisive one to tell me who I am. Not my parents, not this world, not my friends, not Laban or Isaac or Esau or my wives! God alone tells me who I am. Pretty ironic that it is Jacob with whom God wrestles and gives a new name. Jacob, the “deceiver” is given a new name, a better name, by God. How can you not love that?

Abraham’s faith and willingness to nearly sacrifice his only son, David’s heart, Noah’s obedience, Joseph’s perseverance and forgiveness, make them like spiritual giants to me; much like men like Hudson Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, or John Calvin. The Pharisee I’m recovering from only sees Jacob as a man who just keeps messing up. A man that never could live up to those men who went before him. A man who never really got his life together and never really changes. As a Pharisee, I missed the profound change, a change Jacob may have never really seen: Jacob was a normal guy, impacted by his family and his circumstances, who struggles to rise above his sin. But Jacob walks with God and grows to see God as his God not just the God of his fathers. God loves Jacob deeply and speaks to Jacob. Just like me. Wow.

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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I think we all are born with the gift and ability to read the Bible through the eyes of a Pharisee.  You know you do it.  Why does Abraham lie about his wife and put her in jeopardy? I would never do that. Why is Jacob such a momma’s boy and trickster? What about Moses?  That guy heard God speak to him from a burning bush and then told God to have someone else do it? No way would I do that! King Saul, why not wait just a little more for Samuel before the rash sacrifices? Or all those kings after Solomon – so foolish. It’s a simply a little 3 step process that our flesh seems to have programmed into us:

Step 1. Stop confessing sin. Let your own sin become vague and distant to you.

Step 2. Make sure you’re comparing yourself to others around you, a lot.

Step 3. Be sure to only identify with people in Biblical accounts who are not in sin.

Over the course of the last 2 years or so, the way I read the Bible and see things in it has slowly started to transform, especially with regard to the lives that God documents for us in the Bible.  I am slowly learning to stop reading the Bible like a Pharisee (my flesh!) and to get more comfortable taking them off. I am slowly learning that the dudes in the Bible were real people just like us and I am just as much a sinful human being as they ever were. I am learning that the statements “I would have done the same thing” or “I totally did that last week” are much more accurate than “I would never do that” or “I’ve never been as bad as _____!” Maybe that is too much of a simplification but the key issue is this: Do I come to the Bible humbly as a sinner saved by grace or do I approach the Bible seeing things nearly all from just a religious legalistic perspective? Jacob is that passive liar. Ahab is that horrendous king. David was awesome (except for all that sin stuff with Bathsheba, you know, that was just a bad week). Joseph was the good brother who endured, and so forth. We judge these historical people in the Bible like the elder brother would in Luke 15. How about let’s be done with that? Let’s be done reading the Bible like a Pharisee. Maybe you don’t struggle with that but I certainly do. Tim Keller puts it like so:

“… we usually read the Bible as a series of disconnected stories, each with a “moral” for how we should live our lives. It is not. Rather, it comprises a single story, telling us how the human race got into its present condition, and how God through Jesus Christ has come and will come to put things rights. In other words, the Bible doesn’t give us a god at the top of the moral ladder saying, ‘If you try hard to summon up your strength and live right, you can make it up!’ Instead, the Bible repeatedly shows us weak people who don’t deserve God’s grace, don’t seek it, and don’t appreciate it even after they have received it.” – Counterfeit Gods (p.36-37)

In this series we’ll take a look at a number of men  of the Old Testament who have helped me, through whom I feel like I’ve seen in a new light recently, and whose stories give me a ton of encouragement in that new light. I am going to look at a few of the guys we classify as the “biggest losers,” and dig in a little bit:

Jacob (Genesis 25-50) – The deceiver. The passive whiner. The momma’s boy.

Saul (1 Samuel 8-31) – The people’s champion. The jealous king. The rash prideful fool.

Ahab (1 Kings 16-22) – The worst king of all? The weak husband of Jezebel. The enemy of Elijah.

These are men whom I would not instinctively name any kids after! But I have grown to love their stories and to really identify with them. Actually, you could say their stories teach me more about the Gospel than almost any other biographies in Old Testament.

The Series

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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Father’s Day 2010. Fathers and Pharisees – pretty much the theme of my day. It started off spending some time reading Jonah. Then turned to Dave Marsh’s message on Phariseeism and ending up later dwelling a bit more on the parable of the unforgiving servant.

Jonah’s Anger

I love the book of Jonah because of how the heart of God is revealed in both his heart for the sailors on Jonah’s boat as well as his heart for the Ninevites. But this time reading through it, I tried to dwell on why Jonah was so angry towards the end of the book.

When God saw what they [The Ninevites] did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

(Jonah 3:10; Jonah 4:1-4 ESV)
Why is Jonah so angry? The Ninevites listened and repented pretty genuinely! This would be like Jonah travelling to Las Vegas and the town gets turned upside down. He practically states that he is angry because God did not wipe out Nineveh. What? No way am I like that. No way do I wish the worst on my neighbor after their daughter appears to have been beaten. No way do I wish the worst for that crazy speeding driver who cut me off and then recklessly continues. And no way do I ever get angry with my kids because they didn’t obey and took away my well-earned peaceful morning/afternoon/evening instead of resting quietly in their beds. Not ever. I’m not like Jonah at all.
Jonah’s problem is the same as mine – his self-righteousness and entitlement and his detachment from his own sin. This leads to an utter deterioration of his own compassion, to the point where he cares more about a dumb plant than a people who “don’t know their left from their right.” Those Ninevites are sinners, debauched, they’ll never repent, they’re evil and just bring hurt on others. They’re at a level of sin that is beneath me. Of course, I would never make that last statement but isn’t that what we’re saying? The age old, “at least I’m not Hitler or Ted Bundy. Now those guys are definitely going to hell.”  And yet we deserve hell just as much. We all sin. All the time. Over the stupidest things. We hurt our kids. We selfishly hurt our spouses. We fight tooth and nail for our (not anyone else’s) own best life now. No different than Jonah.
Get in touch with your sin and you’ll find that compassion comes along with it. Don’t and you might end up continuing in anger, like Jonah, hoping for the Ninevites to simply die and go to hell.
The Symptoms of Phariseeism
Today was the first message given by my friend (and fellow engineer) Dave Marsh. Let’s just say he didn’t exactly water down the truth or hide his own struggles. His story to begin the message was worth the listen alone and left me in tears as Dave was. Listen to it here. I love how Dave tied together the thought of a loving accepting father with some thoughts on the Pharisees. We tend to make the Pharisees out to be the evilest and vilest of dudes. See the movie, The Passion of the Christ for a good example or any kids’ Bible. Why do we paint the Pharisees this way? Probably because Jesus can seem kind of harsh with them and also because we have to find ways to distinguish ourselves from these guys. In no way do we ever want to be associated with the Pharisees. We want to associate with a dude like the tax collector or maybe the younger brother of the parable of the Prodigal Son (a misnomer). But the reality is that most of us are more like the Pharisees – self-righteous, prideful, self-protecting, judgmental, status-seeking, and self-exalting. Dave delves into these a bit more in his message especially in his wrestlings with his own struggles over the past few weeks. Very convicting and powerful. We make the Pharisees out to look more evil and despicable because we think we’re not like them. But Dave makes it a point to describe them more accurately as people who genuinely were trying to obey and love God but their devotion to the Word and to tradition and to their own status simply ended up overpowering any love for the Father or trusting in His acceptance over their own efforts. Jesus absolutely takes their self-righteousness apart in the first half of Luke 14 and Dave really does a good job of expositing the passage. The point: glory in your weakness instead of your own efforts as the Pharisees did.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
This afternoon I was able then to get some down time journalling and praying and reading the Word. Somehow what I got directed towards Matthew 18:21-35 which topped off my day and was exactly what I needed to hear, especially in my personal battle with anger.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
(Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)
Now I have probably read or heard this passage maybe 50 times since I’ve known Jesus (about 15 years) and I have to confess that not once have I been taught or dug deeper to find out how much a talent is or how much a denarii is. I think I just always assumed that 10,000 talents is a lot and that 100 denarii is a little. But it’s a bit more than that and I calculated it today.
Let’s look at a denarii first. A denarii was equal to about 1 days wages for a laborer. So 100 denarii equals 100 days wages. Let’s say that a laborer’s wages in today’s age comes to conservatively about $30,000 per year. Rounding up conservatively, that makes this debt about $10,000. That average American’s credit card debt.
Now let’s look at the talent. A talent was equal to about 20 years’s wages for a laborer. Wow! Guess how 10,000 talents adds up? Using the $30,000 per year, it means that 10,000 talents equals an obscene 200,000 yrs of wages for a laborer. That equals about $6 Billion in debt. “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything”? Not a chance. Then the king forgives the $6,000,000,000 in debt and this guy goes out with practically a new life and won’t forgive a $10,000 debt. It’s laughable and meant to be. But extremely convicting in the satire.
Why did the first servant respond so unforgivingly after being forgiven that much? Why do we struggle with forgiveness so much at times? The servant had been forgiven an eternity of debt and yet I think he was still living in light of the temporal. He was given a second chance, new life, and he was still living in the old life. That’s his problem to me. He doesn’t get what he was really forgiven so he goes about his business still protecting his temporal life and fighting ultimately for his best life now. This wrecked me.
This is how I live most of the time – in light of the temporal. I fret over minor issues or high expectations or my kids’ disobedience like I’m in control and like I have no sin and like I’m not playing with house money. The unforgiving servant lived like a Pharisee – he still saw himself as under the debt of performance and amounting value instead of a man who was just given a new life.
Father, let me live in light of my own sin, glorying in my weaknesses, and then in view of your mercy, how I have been forgiven an eternity of debt through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Let me start with the first step.
Hi, my name is Anthony and I am a recovering Pharisee. Please pray for me.

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