Lessons for Taking the Word of God Literally

A lot of people have a hard time accepting all of the Bible as God’s Word to be taken literally. Those of us who see it just fine are getting attacked left and right by those such as atheists who focus on a verse out of context or a concept like capital punishment that they personally find abhorrent. So through this short post I’m going to give out a couple clues that solve the problems of defending the Word for many believers. We’re lacking in clues I think because of our own teachings such as splitting the Word into “old” and “new” testaments, “church” replacing “Israel,” an “age of grace” as opposed to an “age of law” (or whatever other ages we make up) and “Jesus died so we could eat a ham sandwich.” Two clues in particular are balance and continuity.

Balance means that all of the words from God are considered together. God (and His Word) is perfectly balanced between judgment and mercy, grace and law, love and holiness. He doesn’t stop being loving to judge wrongdoers. When He gives a Law, He is not diminishing grace. A penalty such as stoning given for the breaking of a Law is just as gracious as the offer of forgiveness if one repents of sin (not leading to death). The grace is in warning others that similar behavior results in death. Stoning is like a sign post telling other people not to drive off a cliff. People have plenty of warning that certain behavior will result in capital punishment. Usually people just bull ahead knowing that it is wrong in the first place. God-given conscience tells them it is wrong, but hard hearts won’t listen. When they cease listening, that is when they are truly “stoned.”

He doesn’t stop being gracious in order to tread the winepress of His wrath. How is this so? Would you believe that treading out the winepress of His wrath IS grace? In order to have cleanliness, you have to take out the trash! If He wants a perfect kingdom with tons of blessings and no death (and He does) God must insist on removing the rot.

Continuity means that He (or His Words) are always the same. What is holy is always holy. What is not holy is always not holy. False problems are created when we try to explain His Law any other way. If we manufacture a grace that excludes Law, then we have a problem explaining judgment. If we (falsely) say that Law is “old” and grace is “new” then we have to reconcile what happens to people who don’t accept it (usually turning to the mystic lie of universalism).

It’s not God’s Word that has the problems. It is people who look at only part of it, like the blind guys trying to figure out an elephant. Remember, we started out in perfection in the Garden. If you want to find a comparison to use for where we should be, use that one.

I Don’t Know

It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” especially when talking about the Bible or answering someone’s objections.


I don’t know for sure who the people before the flood (antediluvians) married. I assume brothers married sisters for at least a while, but I don’t know. Later, it appears this was not something to continue because God tells us to stop.


I don’t know who the “sons of God” were that took daughters from the “sons of men” in Genesis 6:1-4. I know that it wasn’t good. It seems to be connected to the wickedness of man being great on the earth (Genesis 6:5). But I don’t know for sure.


I don’t know for sure, but I’ve got a good idea that people in the Land before Israel moved in needed to be wiped out. They were asking for it. Every abomination conceivable at the time was in practice in Canaan. Children were routinely sacrificed. Sexual perversion was out of control. Leaders were defiant towards God and God’s ways. Their own actions caused the wiping. There were no innocents. The only option was to be removed from breathing for a while.


“Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 18:24–30, ESV)


I know. It sounds like today, doesn’t it? I certainly want to spew when I see actions from people like Miley Cyrus or other so-called entertainers. I don’t know why people are repeating the same abominations that caused the destruction of the antediluvians or the Canaanites, or that will cause the destruction of what we see very soon. But I know it’s going to happen. We’re asking for it.


Maybe my understanding needs a little help. Maybe the text is not translated correctly. Maybe I just need to keep reading and keep pondering. Or maybe there are more things from His Word I need to be doing in my life, and as I add those my understanding will increase and I’ll figure it out. I don’t know.


That’s okay though. It doesn’t affect anything, because I know that God is good and merciful and whatever He had to do was needed and the only option. Whatever He does with the current Canaanites and pagans will be in the same vein. He created; He can do what He wants with His creation. In the meantime my understanding is good enough to know what He requires of me. Do what He says. All the other stuff will become clear. What he wants from me is very clear. I may not know about some of the things in the Word, but I know this: He is love and will always act in accordance with love. Even His judgment is from love.


If I don’t know something, it doesn’t detract from who He is, or what He wants. When we get in the middle of talking with people it’s no shame to say, “I don’t know.” I don’t know about a specific thing that happened 6,000 years ago, but I know what He wants from me. And I know what He wants from you. Do what He says. Avoid abominations. Abide in His Word. Repent. Turn from our own ways to His.


That part I know is very clear.


Day of Wrath

Saturday is the Day of Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur. On this day, and this day only, when we had a temple the high priest would go into the holy of holies and apply the blood of the sacrifice to the mercy seat of the Aron Khodesh, also known as the Ark of the Covenant. He had to do it in a very specific way, with no deviation, or he would die. There was a time far back in history when the high priest had to go in with a rope tied around his ankle for fear he wouldn’t do things right and would die. If he did then others could drag him out without going in themselves and risking the same death.


The Day of Atonement was a day associated with wrath, smoke and burning. There are two facets to the smoke and burning. Either there was a sufficient sacrifice for sin, or there wasn’t. One type of smoke and burning was from the acceptable sacrifice, and God’s wrath was turned away. The other facet of smoke and burning was the wrath of God directed at people who did not have an acceptable sacrifice.


The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. (Zephaniah 1:14–17, ESV)


Before the death and resurrection of Jesus the Yom Kippur sacrifice looked forward to the offering of His own blood on our behalf. Now we remember that work in humility, but we still look forward to that final day of judgment and fast and pray for those who aren’t prepared. Those of us who believe have accepted His sacrifice and God’s wrath on this day is turned away. Those who haven’t accepted Jesus are risking the burning anger of God. This is why we “afflict ourselves” (fast) as it says in Leviticus 16:29 and other places. We bow our heads in humility remembering the sacrifice, and the cost of that sacrifice for our sins. We also fast and pray for repentance that everyone would likewise accept God’s Word and humble themselves.


Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation, before the decree takes effect —before the day passes away like chaff— before there comes upon you the burning anger of the LORD, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the LORD. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:1–3, ESV)


Some misguided people make a big deal out of exactly which day to have the holy days of the Lord. There is no procedure outlined for us in the Word, but there are people who want to help God out by splitting hairs about the new moon (which indicates the start of the month). They are missing the point about the whole thing. Majoring in the minors. Forsaking unity and brotherhood to push their “holier than thou” agenda. This kind of quibbling is proof that the Word does not dwell in their hearts, because love dwells with the Law and love is not in these arguments. I’ve seen many who not only quibble about this kind of minor detail but other non-biblical issues such as head coverings while at the same time ignoring more salient and weightier issues such as love and honoring others. It’s not just me, either. Watch them yourself and you’ll see what I mean.


Remember the Law in its entirety with love and the Spirit in a heart of flesh. Don’t get caught up in quibbling with the quibblers. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the seven churches. Repent. Love God. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.


“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:1–6, ESV)


Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24, ESV)


Applying the Law takes judgment. Most people are scared of this because either they don’t have it or they think of it only as condemnation. There is a judging that is outside of God’s Word, and that is wrong judgment. Or there is only a very loose effort to use His Word and we substitute our own knowledge for it. This is the opposite of right judgment. We also have to judge ourselves first, to make sure we are clean and properly prepared for judging with right judgment.


But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:32, ESV)


Some think no one can judge because they misinterpret Scripture. They use John 8:7 (“he who is without sin cast the first stone”) to say that the woman caught in adultery is excused by Jesus because no one can judge due to lack of perfection. This is incorrect. What Jesus was saying is that “right judgment” was not being pursued, therefore the trial was a sham. They were not going by God’s standard of right judgment. If indeed the crowd was a lawful court, and if the guy would’ve been there (hello, wasn’t he supposed to be there too if “caught in the act?”), if there were two or more witnesses, and if God’s other standards were properly applied, then the ruling would’ve been to stone her (and the guy too). That was not the case, so that was why Jesus pointed out that no one was without sin here.


Obviously Jesus tells us it’s okay to judge, and even commands it. But to judge with right judgment means we have to have a standard to judge by. If something is crooked we need a straight edge or ruler to check it against to see what’s out of whack. We who have all of His Words in our hearts, reading all of them and following all of them, are the ones who are equipped to perfectly judge with right judgment. It is those who don’t have His words, or only claim to have them (hypocrites, like the people in the crowd of John 8), that are unqualified to judge.


Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:2–3, ESV)


Equally obvious is the fact that the world cannot judge for beans. It is because they do not seek justice, ignore God’s Word, and judge according to appearance. Wealthy people get “more justice,” and poor people not so much. Sometimes skin color is a factor. Sometimes political connections. They are giving themselves permission to sin, because that’s what they want to feed their flesh. This is one of the primary reasons for our society going into the toilet. It is also one of the reasons for the church going into the toilet.


“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:15–18, ESV)


Coming in the next few posts: Applications of right judgment using His Standard in the real world.

The Wrath of God

I feel somewhat out-of-place in addressing this topic. Most messages from Christians are centered on a sappy Jesus who, to them, is like a refugee from the ’60’s hippie movement spouting one liners about human ideas of peace and love. They don’t read the Bible very much or we would hear a lot more about God’s wrath (hundreds of verses) and how it is surely building over the current state of the world’s culture. In my opinion it is also building over the church’s involvement in leading the way, too.


But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:16, ESV)


The reason for talking about God’s wrath is number one because it ain’t pretty yet it will surely fall; two maybe it will spur people to repent; and three that it might inspire those who are already elect to do good. Speaking of the wrath (or fierce anger) of the Lord is an act of love because we want people to stop despising His Words and scoffing at the prophets or messengers of God. If we keep on like we are there will be no remedy.


Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation, before the decree takes effect —before the day passes away like chaff— before there comes upon you the burning anger of the LORD, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the LORD. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:1–3, ESV)


The preachers of the false Jesus hippie dude whose teachings resemble those of Bill and Ted in their Excellent Adventure (“Be excellent to one another, and, Party on, dude!”) are presuming on the riches of His kindness. Obedience is not an option or a feeling. It is commanded by God that anyone who does not obey the gospel will be cast into outer darkness (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30).


Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:4–8, ESV)


Jesus is coming back soon, and many will be shocked and stunned to the roots of their soul at the sword in His hand and the fury with which He treads out the wine press of God’s wrath (Revelation 19:15). Don’t you be included in that number.


This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:5–8, ESV)


Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14–15, ESV)

God’s Acceptance

There are a number of ways that God indicates His acceptance. In Leviticus 9, fire comes out from before the Lord and consumes the first offering in front of the Tabernacle. God approves of the presentation, and His fire consumes it. People made an offering to God, and God seals the deal with approving fire. There are many other sacrifices after this that do not get the same treatment, but this sets the pattern of acceptance. So as long as the others are done the same way they are also acceptable.

There are at least five times mentioned in the Word where fire from the Lord consumes a sacrifice. The other four are in Judges 6 (Gideon), 1 Kings 18 (Elijah and the prophets of Baal) 1 Chronicles 21 (David’s sacrifice) and 2 Chronicles 7 (Solomon’s sacrifice). These examples illustrate for us what happens when God approves. When God disapproves, fire destroys the person rather than the offering.

Fire from God can show acceptance, or rejection, and it doesn’t have to be in connection with an animal sacrifice. When fire rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah, it was a rather obvious rejection of their behavior. Moses calls down fire on the Egyptians (Exodus 9). Fire from heaven also destroyed two captains of fifty and their men when trying to arrest Elijah (2 Kings 1). Fire pours from the mouth of God’s two prophets or witnesses of Revelation 11 if anyone tries to harm them. The second beast of Revelation 13 fakes a fire that looks like it comes from heaven, but it’s not from God. Not like the final fireworks that fall on the armies of Satan in Revelation 20.

If Nadab and Abihu had stayed within the Law, depending on God’s grace and doing exactly what He said when He said it, then there would’ve been no reason for the fire from God to consume them. Grace, in the Law, would’ve saved them. Just like it saved all the other priests who followed the rules. The grace was in telling them how to approach and be acceptable. Love, in following what God said, is the other way to look at, and observe, the Law.

Nadab and Abihu get toasted right after the accepted sacrifice of Leviticus 9. It was not only that they did the process wrong, it was also their hearts. They were willfully doing something they knew to be wrong. This is called a high-handed sin. When you’ve been told, warned, cautioned, and seen others punished for wrongdoing, and you do it too, there is no excuse. The sons of Aaron stepped out of God’s boundaries and tried to demand acceptance based on their own actions. Paul calls this “works of the Law” in Galatians.

From Berea at Whole Bible dot com – Manna, 26 Shemini

No Profit in God’s Law?

From the book ‘Whole Bible Christianity’
On the flip side of the punish coin is reward. Or lack of it. Some just don’t see the profit in following God’s laws. In fact, it looks like many who follow seem to have more problems than those who don’t. There doesn’t appear to be any big payoff for obedience.

13 “Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’ ” (Malachi 3:13-15 ESV)

Malachi was written a long time ago, but the problem is still with us. Many think that “keeping his charge” (following His commands) is not profitable. But pay is not the issue. Of course we will have problems in this world. It isn’t our world. It’s filled with perverse people who hate God and do everything in their power to subvert and besmirch every aspect of His kingdom. They murdered the Son of God, so how much more will they revile, slander, attack, and murder us?

There are blessings that accrue to believers, some of which we get now, like peace, and some we will get later, like a new body. The pay is good, and there is lots of it, but it’s not measured in gold. It’s not even measured in time. It’s measured in love, which has no limit when you are joined together with the source of love.