Meet the Jebusites!

4 Jul

An Old Chestnut

A variety of Bible verses are regularly ripped out of their contexts and made to say what their author’s never intended them to say. One of the verses which has suffered more than most is 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Recently this verse once again suffered (albeit briefly) at the hands of a renowned SA evangelist, as he spoke at Hillcrest Christian Fellowship. He believes that South Africa is on the brink of revival, a complete and utter turnaround, because SA is turning back to the Word (mostly because of his preaching!).

Sadly, he forgets that those words were written at the time of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, to the Israelites; not directly to us! Of course I long for revival, but revival can only ever come through Christ, not by people attempting what they could never achieve: namely humbling themselves and turning from their wicked ways. Following the preacher’s advice sadly does away with the need to turn to Jesus altogether. And THAT’S a problem…

A New Chestnut

A newer chestnut though, came with his explanation of Exodus 33:2, “I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.”  The interpretation? “I see this as sickness, disease, fear, stress, depression. That’s the enemy.” Well that’s a new one for me!

Originally, these words were spoken to Moses, after the incident with the golden calf, about the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. And interestingly, the verse is followed by God saying, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey, but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you along the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

To understand the physical enemies of the Israelites in the terms suggested, is to loose sight of the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham to give him and his descendants the Promised Land; and it misunderstands the enemies of God’s people.

The enemies of God’s people were twofold: their own sinfulness (as illustrated with the golden calf) and the sinfulness of the pagan nations in the Promised Land. God commanded the removal of the nations, so that they would not be a thorn in the side of the Israelites. If left in the land the Israelites would quickly become like them (Deuteronomy 7:1-6, 12:29-31, 18:9-14). Sin had to be removed. Sin was, and is, the enemy. The Israelites had to acknowledge their sin with the golden calf and they were to be aware of the sin of the pagans around them. Likewise, people today are challenged, in the gospel, to acknowledge their sin and turn to Christ for his forgiveness. Having done so, having been made holy, having been incorporated into God’s new ‘land’: the church, they are to flee the sin around them. The NT is full of warnings to Christians to not become entangled with the sin of the world. The church is to be a place of holiness. It should look like heaven, where there will be no sin.

But sadly the preacher confused the removal of sin from the land, with the removal of suffering from the land. The nations represent sin, not suffering. Suffering is always characteristic of God’s people, and is not sin. We suffer because we live in a broken world where people get sick physically, mentally and emotionally, before they one day die. (I acknowledge of course, that some suffering is caused by our sinfulness, or the sinfulness of others, but not always). Suffering is not the mark of being an unbeliever – it is one of the marks of God’s believing community. We don’t always know why, as we see with Job, but we are told that God uses suffering to refine us to greater holiness (1 Peter 1), and to cause us to long, with hope, for heaven (Romans 8), where there will be no more suffering (Revelation 21:1-5).

The preacher concerned is certainly a Christian man, who loves Christ, who hates sin, and who wants others to do the same. But the danger of his poor Bible teaching is that people will see sin and suffering as being synonymous with each other – which is not Biblical. It is sin that must be removed: from the Promised Land, from the Church and from our lives. And only Christ can do so. But suffering will always be part of the true Christian experience. Saying that should not, or will not, be the case for Christians, will cause people either to deny their suffering or to pretend that it is good, or to become hopeless, all of which are the very opposite of the way the NT deals with suffering. It is real, it is bad, but it offers us hope: hope of an ETERNITY where there will be no suffering, because of the suffering of Christ on our behalf, as he carried our sin on the cross.

Exodus 33:2 ESV  I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
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One Response to “Meet the Jebusites!”

  1. Sarie July 5, 2009 at 02:29 #

    Nice Piece Michael.
    Thanks too for the ENTRUST post of Al Barth.

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