Muslim Refugees?

Q. I had a brief discussion with a Christian lady. She thinks we Christians have to help Muslims as they need our help. I told her about the European countries which received and helped them, and were repaid with violence and welfare abuse by the Muslims. They want to take over the countries which let them in, and do not assimilate. They want to convert people to Islam, change the place into an Islamic state, and impose Sharia law. They resort to violence, riots, and terrorism. They abuse the welfare system, and drain the countries’ resources. I quoted Deut 7:2-5 and Mt 10:16 to her. Why did God want all Canaanites killed? If I apply Deut 7:2-5, would God want us to embrace these Muslims to love them, because God is love? I feel if I apply Mt 10:16 to refugees, we are to have love but also wisdom.

A. First, I think we need to make a distinction between real refugees forced to leave their country to escape war, natural disaster or persecution, and those coming under a pretense to perpetrate terrorism, create havoc, and cause disruption to overthrow and destroy. I don’t have statistics to prove it, but I expect the former to be in the majority, and the latter to be in the minority. Unfortunately, it’s the minority extremists that cause most of the problems and give a bad name to the whole. You’ve probably met people who claim all Christians are bigots and cause all the problems in the world, such as the crusades, the Inquisition, inciting hatred against LGBTQ etc. That’s not true, but the label that Christians are self-righteous snobs sticks, and you wished people knew better.

Like you, I deplore the fake refugees’ abuses of the system which showed them kindness. But I would not apply Deut 7:2-5 to Muslim refugees, because that’s misapplying Scripture. First, let’s examine the text:

Deut 7:1-5 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,
• 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
• 3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.
• 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.
• 5 But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.

From what you wrote, you are equating:
• Present day Muslim refugees = the seven nations living in the Promised land in OT times, and
• Current “Christian” nations= the ancient Israelites who utterly destroyed the nations to take over the land.

While there are similarities e.g. they will turn your sons (i.e. radicalizing youths) away from following Me (Yahweh) to serve other gods (Allah), there are also differences e.g. they are migrants, NOT nations greater and stronger than you (i.e. the European countries to which they escaped). In fact, the radical refugees see the analogy as:
• Present day Muslim refugees = the ancient Israelites in the minority, and
• Current “Christian” nations = the nations whom they are to utterly destroy to take over the land.
They would be wrong of course, but you can see how by misapplying Scripture you can twist it to justify any wrong action.

What we need, as you rightly pointed out, is both love and wisdom:
Mt 10:16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. (NASB)
We need to be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves, with no self-serving agenda (AMP). Our love need to abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment (Php 1:9). Only then can we discern who are the real refugees that need our help, and screen out the extremists that need to be blocked from harming our people.

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Strange Command

Q. I find 1 Kings 20:35-37 hard to digest. I don’t understand why the man who refuses to strike the prophet is punished so severely. Is there any other context that I should be aware of in understanding this? To simply have someone walk up to you and say “Hit me” is probably something I would refuse to do as well. And supposing that it was already known that the person asking was a man of God, wouldn’t the person being asked be even more fearful of punishment for striking the man that asked for that exact reason? How is the person being asked supposed to know that what he was being asked to do was permitted by God when it seemingly goes against how we are asked to treat each other?

A. This looked like a strange demand, until you examine the text carefully:
1 Kings 20:35 Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the LORD, “Please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him.
• 36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not listened to the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.” And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him.

First, “another” in v 35 is literally “his neighbor”, not someone living next door, but another “sons of the prophets”. This is clearer in the ESV or NIV:
ESV And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, “Strike me, please.” But the man refused to strike him.
• NIV By the word of the LORD one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” but he refused.

So he is not asking a stranger, but a fellow prophet, who should know better.

Secondly, he asked “by the word of the LORD” i.e. at the LORD’S command. The text did not say how much he explained, but one can infer from v 36 “not listened to the voice of the LORD” that, as a minimum, he did say that his request is the LORD’s voice, not his own, otherwise he couldn’t pronounce judgment on his companion for refusing to obey God’s command. There are no punctuation marks in the Hebrew. This interpretation takes the translation to be:
1 Kings 20:35 Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another, “By the word of the LORD, please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him.
This position makes it clear that the punishment was for disobeying God’s command.

In this connection, an earlier incident in 1 Kings 13:1-24 involving another prophet being killed by a lion for disobeying God’s command is instructive. There, the LORD commanded the prophet directly:
1 Kings 13:9 For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’
• 1 Kings 13:17 For a command came to me by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.’

Yet, despite his knowing God’s command, he listened to the lying old prophet and returned, with dire consequences:
1 Kings 13:21 and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you,
• 22 but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’”

God’s commands sometimes are not what we expected e.g. His asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but odd or reasonable, they are to be obeyed. They are not optional. So make sure whether what’s asked of us is from God or men. For that we need discernment, which God gives to those who seek for it:
Prov 2:3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding;
4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

God’s Training

God's training 1

Q. Everyone talks about discipleship but what should we really be trained in? Evangelism? Leading bible study? Praying? Is there a scriptural curriculum? What is the goal? How do we know whether we’ve done our job?

A. All the subjects you mentioned (witnessing, studying the bible, prayer), along with worship and fellowship should form part of a new believer’s basic follow-up. They contribute to the new Christian’s growth and balanced development. Having said that, the Bible does specify a few things we should be trained for, the process, and the desired end results:

Goals:
2 Sam 22:35 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 18:34 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle;
• Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
• Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

In the OT God trained David for battle. We apply this to NT times and today to spiritual battle, more specifically to discerning good and evil, and training for righteousness. These are particularly important in the last days when people reject the truth and lose their moral compass.

Process:
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

The training process involves applying God’s word from spiritual infancy. This requires discipline and practice over the long haul. There are no short cuts and quick fixes. The prevalent classroom method is not the best approach. On-the-job training is much more effective.

End-Result:
Luke 6:40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
The desired end-result is that the disciple will be like his Master Teacher. Conformity to the image of Christ is the standard by which we ought to be measured, not completion of number of courses or obtaining a certificate or diploma. In this sense our job is never done this side of heaven.

Knowledge of Good and Evil (1 of 2)

knowledge good evil 3

Q. What is the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2:17? What did the serpent (Satan) say it is in Genesis 3:5? In Genesis 3:7, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they realized they were naked and felt ashamed, this is not knowing good and evil. What did God mean in Genesis 3:22 ?

A. This is a good question, missed by many Christians. There are two levels of meaning. First, the literal. The knowledge of good and evil is moral knowledge to discern, to refuse evil and choose good, based on the following:

Discern good and evil:
2 Sam 14:17 Then your maidservant said, ‘Please let the word of my lord the king be comforting, for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and evil. And may the LORD your God be with you.’
• 1 Kgs 3:9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
• Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Knowledge of good or evil:
Deut 1:39 Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.
• Isa 7:15-16 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.

Second, the figurative. Good and evil is a figure of speech, an antithesis, a contrast of two things which are direct opposites. Biblical writers use two extremes to represent everything in between. A well-known example is Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that:
• neither death, nor life, i.e. all physical beings;
• nor angels, nor principalities, i.e. all spiritual beings;
• nor things present, nor things to come, i.e. all time;
• nor powers, i.e. all forms of power;
• nor height, nor depth, i.e. all space;
• nor any other created thing, a catch-all phrase;
will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here Paul used 10 things, including 4 pairs of antithesis, to indicate that nothing will be able to separate us from God’s love. Everything is included, with no exceptions. In Gen 3, good and evil is used as antithesis to represent all things in between; knowledge of good and evil therefore means all knowledge i.e. omniscience.

(To be continued)