Dealing with Insults

insult 1

Q. People around us are continually criticizing us, with words which are insulting. I don’t know whether it has to do with racial discrimination or not, but it is very difficult to bear. What should we do?

A. First, distinguish who you are dealing with. Are they scoffers or mockers? To scoff or scorn is to show contempt by insulting words or action. It combines bitterness with ridicule. The inner emotion is a sense of superiority, which outward expression is to scorn or mock. If you are dealing with a scoffer, do not descend to their level. Ignore them. Don’t give them fuel:
Prov 9:7-8 He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you.

Second, listen to what your critics are saying. Although you do not like to hear them, is there any truth in what they are criticizing you? If there is, correct those things. They are doing you a favor by pointing them out to you, although with hurtful words.

Third, discern why are they so critical? It could be racial discrimination as you surmised, which is never justified. Or they may be jealous, so they try to put you down to prop themselves up. In these cases the problem is with them, not you, so don’t worry. Or it could be because of your stand for the Lord, in which case you should rejoice and be glad, because you are considered worthy to suffer shame for Him, and your reward in heaven is great.

Mt 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
• Lk 6:22-23 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
• Acts 5:41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Fourth, consider the how. Positively, learn to:
• cast all your anxiety on Him,
• be content, and
• give a blessing instead, because
o He cares for you,
o when you are weak and rely on the Lord, then you are strong because He is strong,
o we will inherit a blessing.
Negatively, never take your own revenge. Never return insult for insult. The world’s way is to retaliate, give them their due, but that’s not the way for Christians. Leave it in God’s hands. He will repay the scoffers.

Rom 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
• 2 Co 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
• 1 Pet 1:7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
• 1 Pet 3:9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

Hope this helps.

Was Uzzah’s Punishment too Harsh? (2 of 2)

???????

(Continued from yesterday)

Now let’s return to Uzzah’s case. Who carried the ark, and how?
2 Sam 6:2-3 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim. They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart.

Some assumed that Uzzah was a Levite, based on Josephus (Ant. 6.1, section 4), but the Bible does not state this explicitly. There is no biblical genealogy to prove this. He lived in Baale-judah, another name for Kiriath-jearim (see NASB footnote), also called Baalah (Josh 15:9, 1 Chron 13:6):
1 Chron 13:6 David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim, which belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, the LORD who is enthroned above the cherubim, where His name is called.
Kiriath-jearim was in Judah (Judg 18:12, 1 Chron 13:6), but was not one of the 23 cities (Josh 21:4-5) given to the Kohathites by the other tribes (Josh 21:9-26; 1 Chron 6:54-61, 66-70). It is possible that Uzzah was a Kohathite not living in a city given to them, but there is no evidence to support this claim. If he was not a Kohathite at all, then he had no business escorting the ark.

Furthermore, they placed the ark on a new cart drawn by oxen, which is definitely against God’s instructions. God’s work must be done God’s way.
1 Chron 13:7, 9-10 They carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. … When they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, because the oxen nearly upset it. The anger of the LORD burned against Uzza, so He struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.

Some believe that Uzzah (Uzza) reached out his hand to steady the ark as a natural reflex, but that’s an assumption, eisegesis and not exegesis. The text said God struck him down for his irreverence (2 Sam 6:7). A more likely explanation is that the ark remained at Abinadab’s house for twenty years, and familiarity breeds contempt:

1 Sam 7:1-2 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the ark of the LORD and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

Uzzah no longer considered the ark as the most holy object, and treated it as common. The ark was only nearly upset. Uzzah probably thought if it fell, it might be damaged or soiled by the ground, but did not realize the hand of a disrespectful sinner was more defiling than the dirt, and God struck him down for his irreverence. This punishment was clearly spelled out and had overwhelming precedents. He had no one to blame but himself.

One last point is the distinction between justice and mercy. God was just in punishing Uzzah for what he deserved. The punishment fits the crime. We don’t know Uzzah’s heart, expected God to show mercy, and are dismayed when He did not. But mercy is always voluntary and cannot be expected:
Rom 9:15 I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.
God saw Uzzah’s heart and judged it to be irreverence. He had not treated God as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel (Num 21:12), therefore God gave him justice. Never complain to God “that’s not fair! I want justice!” If God had dealt justly with us we would have died many times over, because the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Beg for His mercy, which we don’t deserve. Never stand in judgment of God.

Was Uzzah’s Punishment too Harsh? (1 of 2)

Uzzah 11

Q. Was God’s punishment of Uzzah too severe for the crime?

A. Uzzah’s incident is in 2 Sam 6:6-7:

But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

Some felt this was grossly unfair. The oxen nearly upset the ark of the covenant and Uzzah out of the goodness of his heart tried to steady it, yet God immediately struck him dead. Didn’t God over-react? What’s the big deal? He was only trying to help. Why kill a man for such a small thing? Before you decide a case based on your feelings, let’s review what the law says.

First, who should carry the ark?
Deut 10:8 At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day.
• Num 4:4 This is the work of the descendants of Kohath in the tent of meeting, concerning the most holy things.
• Num 4:15 When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they will not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.
• Num 4:18-20 Do not let the tribe of the families of the Kohathites be cut off from among the Levites. But do this to them that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy objects: Aaron and his sons shall go in and assign each of them to his work and to his load; but they shall not go in to see the holy objects even for a moment, or they will die.

God had chosen the tribe of Levi, in particular the families of Kohathites, to carry the ark of the covenant, the most holy object in the most holy place (holy of holies). No one unauthorized may look at the objects and live.

Second, how should the ark be carried?
Ex 25:14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.
• Ex 37:5 He put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry it.

The ark should be carried by poles through the rings on its sides, on the shoulders of the Kohathites.

Third, are there any precedents of what happens when the rules are violated? Yes:
1 Sam 6:19 He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter.
Beth-shemesh was at the Judah-Philistines border. The men of Beth-shemesh were Israelites. God struck down 50,070 of them for looking into the ark. He meant what He said.

(To be continued)

Leading Seniors to Christ

seniors 2

Last Sunday we received an urgent call from a former church member C. (name changed), asking whether we could visit her parents before her mom goes for surgery next week. They are in their mid to late 70’s, with health issues.

The mom had been a staunch Taoist, even pledging herself to be a disciple of Zhang Daoling, the first Celestial Master (張天師) in second century BC. However, when she had a near fatal illness nearly 10 years ago, she professed faith in Christ, but hesitatingly, as her husband was not a believer. He had been a businessman in Hong Kong (HK), but does not believe in any religion. Both retired and emigrated to Canada to live with their daughter in 1997, when HK was repatriated to China.

Two weeks earlier the church caring team had visited them to share the gospel, inviting them to trust in Christ alone for their salvation. The mom said she already believed in Jesus, but will follow her husband’s decision as head of the household, as many older Chinese wives are accustomed to do. The dad said he also believes in Jesus, otherwise why would he follow his daughter to church every Sunday? But he cannot trust in Jesus alone, since previously he followed Master Zhang and could not be disloyal. The team explained that Christianity is exclusive and that he could not put his faith in both, but he wouldn’t budge, as disloyalty is a grave sin with dire consequences. That’s when someone suggested C. contact us.

Prior to our appointment the team explained to us how their meeting went, so we were aware of the impasse. What the team said was correct, but there is a better way to present the truth to avoid the deadlock. After inquiring about their health to establish rapport, we transitioned to the gospel. We agreed with him that loyalty is important. Just as in a marriage the partners need to be faithful to each other and not leave room for a third-party, so in matters of faith one should commit wholeheartedly and not have divided loyalties. However, important as that is, there is an even more important issue to be resolved first. And that most important thing is to determine who the one true God is, and commit to Him alone and no one else.

We explained to him that in time past many Chinese did not know any better as they had not heard the gospel. They followed blindly the beliefs of ancestors without questioning, and were conned by demonic deception such as healing from a sickness or winning a fortune. Little did they realize that these are like sugar-coated poison, because the cost is to forfeit their soul (Mt 16:26; Mk 8:36; Lk 9:25). So the priority is to find out who the true God is, and then commit to follow Him only. He was a businessman and understood right away Satan’s tricks to lure people to follow him, so we invited them to settle their commitment once for all, which they accepted. After further clarification questions we asked them to pray to tell Jesus their commitment to trust Him alone. All were glad as we welcome them into God’s family. Hallelujah!

The gospel never changes, but how you present it can vary with the need. Always be ready to share with anyone, any place, anywhere. You’ll be glad you did, just as there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:10).

Did God Create Evil?

Isa 45 7 c

Q. Isa 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (KJV). Why did God create evil? Wouldn’t the world be better off if He hadn’t done it?

A. It would indeed be a problem if God had created evil, but He hadn’t. This erroneous understanding is the unfortunate result of a poor translation in the KJV. The newer, word-for-word, translations have the following:

• NASB The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

• Amplified The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing peace and creating disaster; I am the LORD who does all these things.

• ESV I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

If you check an interlinear, the Hebrew word for evil is ra, which as a noun can be translated “evil, distress, misery, or calamity“. Which is the correct translation?

Isa 45 7 a

You will note that Isa 45:7 is in the form of a parallelism. The first pair is light and darkness, which are opposites. The second pair in the KJV is peace and evil, which are not opposites. That’s why scholars feel it is not a good translation. The newer versions have peace and disaster (AMP), or well-being and calamity (NASB, ESV), which are opposites. They fit both the meaning of the word ra, and the parallelism structure of the verse, and are considered better translations.

Isa 45 7 b

So, when you read the newer translations, you can see that the verse says the LORD was causing well-being and creating calamity. In the context of Isa 45, God used Cyrus to subdue nations (Isa 45:1), He did not create moral evil as the KJV suggested.

Godfather

Infant baptism

Infant baptism

Q. Is it only Catholic children who have godfathers? Does godfather mean 契父, 契爺 in Chinese ?

A. It is not only Catholics. Protestant denominations which practice infant baptism, including Anglicans, Lutherans, some Methodists, and Orthodox also have godparents (godfather and godmother) who sponsor the child’s baptism.

In Mandarin godfather and godmother is respectively 乾爹 and 乾媽, although they are typically not religious in nature, but usually to fulfill the wishes of close friends who are childless to have a “son” or “daughter”. In Cantonese they would be 契爺 and 契媽.

Did Satan visit other Planets?

planets 1

This is a follow-up question from our 6-year-old grand-daughter who asked “Does God love Satan?”, which I expanded by incorporating common views. Children ask the most bizarre, and sometimes most challenging, questions!

A. Again, the Bible is silent on this one. The Bible provides answers to key questions that are essential to our salvation and Christian life, but also does not comment on a whole lot of subjects, including this. But there is an indirect clue:
* Job 1:7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
* Job 2:2 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
* 1 Pet 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Twice God queried Satan where had he been, and twice Satan replied “roaming about on the earth”. And the reason he prowls around is to devour people. His purpose is to create havoc on earth to destroy God’s people. He had no reason to roam uninhabited planets for curiosity’s sake. His main activities are to tempt and to accuse, and he wouldn’t blink an eye to lie to slander people. Since there are no people on other planets or in other galaxies, my opinion is that Satan did not waste his time there. But that’s only my view, with no hard evidence to support it.