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Judges 17 starts off with a confused story of a mother that curses a thief who steals 1100 shekels of silver who then turns around and blesses him when she finds out the culprit was her own son. I asked earlier when lying could possibly be Godly and now I must ask when is stealing righteous? Was the seemingly justified earlier lying a “bridge” sin onto further sinning? The author is clearly demonstrating how upside-down things were and continues with several undated events in order to sum up the moral and social deterioration during a time when “everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6) without a king. Revelation includes a harsh condemnation (“I will vomit you out of my mouth”) of the church of Laodicea for being filthy rich, spoiled, and deplorably indifferent to everything (even if they didn’t know it). Laodicea etymologically means “the rights of the people” that may suggest an era of democracy where the church is dominated not by its religious leaders but by its people. This description also fits for the Israelites of Judges as well as a warning for the church of today. Judges 17 tells of Micah stealing, setting up silver idols in a shrine in his house (perhaps as some insurance against his mothers curse as mom had already dedicated this silver to the Lord) and ephod (remember what trouble Gideon and his family got into with their homemade ephod – see http://www.templemountfaithful.org/Newsletters/2001/5761-9.htm for a depiction and use; the ephod held 12 stones as well as the Urim and Thummim, perhaps sticks, for determining the will of God by “casting lots,” with more than just “yes” and “no” replies), ordaining a son as a priest until hiring a Levite (Moses’ great-grandson, Jonathon), and expecting God to bless him even though each act violated commands found in the Mosaic Law – which Micah didn’t know. Micah thought the Levite at his door must be a sign of God’s favor – a common foolishness of those finding support for evil ways. Micah had created a syncretistic religion (one that teaches that all religions are different routes to the same goal) complete with self-supporting superstitious beliefs. The implication is that Israel needed a righteous leader to end such transgressions from ignorance. Micah became a corrupting influence for many generations. By the same token, the most serious hindrance to a Godly church is a Godless home - or, it is very difficult to sustain a clean government in a corrupt society of a corrupt government in a clean society.

Judges 18 adds to this ironic tragedy with an advance party from the Tribe of Dan obtaining the blessing from Micah’s priest (after running from the land God commanded them to conquer), stealing the shrine (to be later set up in a tribal worship center), plundering and killing, and making the Levite’s sons hereditary priests (who had abandoned his benefactor when a better deal came along). “What else do I have?” was the cry of the sincere idolater who had lost his idols and counterfeit priest. Much like Micah, the Danites don’t know and don’t care that their worship is in direct violation of OT Law. Similarly, many religious leaders today assert that the world will soon come under one World Church without denominations and where democracy and compromise will rule notwithstanding fulfilling end-time apostasy (of which most are unaware). In addition, the most rapidly growing religion in post-modern America and Europe is Wicca (with a doubling in size every 18 months to 30 months and an estimated size of 5-10 million by Phyllis Curott in her Book of Shadows), New Age mores based on Tibetan pagan Bon traditions brought with their form of Buddhism being increasingly inserted into Christian observances, education that gives the people what they want – high grades and little work, Christians making baloney like the DaVinci Code into a best seller, and the last presidential election being between two men who had both taken a secret blood oath to Satan and yet still applauded for their Christian convictions (discussed on Meet the Press at http://www.prisonplanet.com/010104kerryadmits.html in Skull and Bone initiations covered by 60-minutes at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5244.htm). There are, however, no natural, man-made, or spiritual laws for which ignorance is ever an acceptable defense (such as, “but officer, I didn’t know what the speed limit was”).

During the age of Judges (as today), the knowledge of God was slowly lost, being diluted by pagan concepts that found their way into the religious consciousness. One pagan posting states, for example, “To me, being a Pagan is basically believing whatever you want" and the first Wiccan Rede is, "Do whatever you wish." Biblical theology contains no such poorly defined, wide-path, relativistic principles or consequences! Core to New Age beliefs is that of relativism – where only subjective experiences define truth. In contrast to the scientific method, the failure of some practice to achieve expected results is not considered as a failure of the underlying theory but only as a lack of knowledge about hidden extenuating circumstances. This is very different from Pluralism, which is only about tolerance for different views. Relativism is about believing all answers are equally correct – devastating to any honest search for logic and truth. In a pluralistic society, everyone has the fundamental right to be wrong, while in a relativistic society everyone has the right to be right, all the time. “Is one religion as good as another? Is one horse in the Derby as good as another?” (GK Chesterton)

The fact that Jesus performed miracles as an agent of God was beyond logical dispute. This brought a Pharisee named Nicodemus (described in Jewish writings as the son of Gorion, supposedly so rich that he could have supported all of Jerusalem for a decade) at night (which may suggest a timidity of faith or just a desire to speak privately – but not interested in being baptized as they were never done at night as per Wetstein, but this would not have been required for a circumcised Jew) to question Jesus (and later, he comes to aid in embalming His body in John 19:39). As one of the Sanhedrin (“ruler of the Jews”), Nicodemus was certainly part of the Jewish council that had investigated John the Baptist and thus had heard his testimony that he as not the Messiah but that the Messiah was present (1:26-27). Nicodemus says, “WE know you are a teacher from God” and Jesus replies that (again only obvious to readers of the King James) Jesus spoke not only to Nicodemus but to “you all” that he represented must be born again. The Sanhedrin had come to believe that the “King of Kings” would free Israel from occupation while elevating the council and Jesus showed no inclination to do either. Instead He called for repentance, EVEN of the Pharisees. Despite the concept of a spiritual rebirth having roots in the Old Testament, Nicodemus was surprised by such an idea. Jesus goes on to explain the awesome cost to God of making eternal life available to mankind.

The requirement to be “born of water and the Spirit” could mean 1) water baptism as in Acts 10:47, 2) water as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as in “born of water, even the Spirit”, 3) water as a symbol of the Word (with similar imagery in Eph 5:26 and Pet 1:23), 4) born of water referring to physical birth, 5) born of water referring to the baptism of John the Baptist, and 6) an OT imagery of water and wind for the work of God as per Isaiah 44:405 and Ezekiel 37:9-10 with wind being an alternative translation for Spirit. Jesus uses “the wind” in 3:8 to depict the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit as something with incomprehensible origin and yet of definitive existence. “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” Born again could also be translated as born from above, but Nicodemus clearly understood Jesus to be speaking of a second “born again” birth that contrasts being born of flesh. Jesus rebukes Nicodemus and others (clear with another KJV “thee”) for being teachers of Hebrew Scriptures and whose job it is to guide the blind to the light of truth for being so deplorably ignorant and unacquainted with the necessity and nature of a new birth. Furthermore, Jesus asks if Nicodemus cannot nderstand earthly things, how he could ever understand the kingdom of God. It was the common opinion of the time that Gentiles, as sort of “God’s trash,” were predestined to be destroyed in the days of the Messiah, but Christ teaches a contrary doctrine that God intends the salvation (and not the destruction) of the world. Even though Paul later writes that as Gentiles we should learn from their mistaken views in order to not separate the world into saved and unsaved, TULIP Calvinism seems to make a similar separation before time of sovereign elect and reprobate.

The lines that precede the best know verse in the Bible explain how just such a rebirthing process would begin. Before John 3:16 (in which “world” may include all creation as per Rom 8:19-22 and Col 1:20), are verses 14 and 15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the first time eternal life is mentioned in John’s Gospel, but the message returns again and again. Why is Jesus equating His crucifixion with Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness? The story is found in Numbers 21:4-9: “Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore, the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” In the story, the fiery serpents represent death, and their bite that pushed believers back to God represents the sting of death, for "the wages of sin is death..." and "the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law" (Rom. 6:23 and 1Cor. 15:56). Just as the Israelites only had to look at the bronze serpent to live, all that anyone must do today is look at the cross to live; and just as there were Israelites who may have continued to irrationally refuse to look at the bronze figure while many were clearly being saved around them, many continue to refuse to look at Jesus Christ on the cross. Nevertheless, all it takes to leave “the Way of the Red Sea” to start on “the Way which they call a sect” (Acts 24:14) is with one real and believing look (“he that believes is not condemned”). Christ lifted up (as also per 8:28 and 12:32-34) on the cross gives sin the opportunity in us to be recognized and the penalty taken away. The problem with WWJD bracelets is that the answer to what would Jesus do is that He would personally shoulder the full wrath of God’s hate for sin, which is not my job. Christ asks in Luke 14:27 that we bravely carry our own cross, not His. In other words, a better question is What Does Jesus Want (WDJW)?

The “only begotten son” (more often today, the “only forgotten son”) does not necessarily convey the idea of birth as Hebrews 11:17 refers to Isaac as Abraham’s “only begotten” when he actually had two sons. While the father has many children through new birth, the Son of God has a unique glory and an unrivaled place of honor. While Jesus for came so that the world though Him might be saved, He will come again in judgment upon those who have turned away. Those who do not believe are “already condemned,” where condemnation refers to the reason for judgment. There are many excuses people give for refusing Christ (such as hypocrites in the church or supposed inconsistencies in scripture), but ultimately it is only because they don’t want to. While there is no suggestion of any change in Nicodemus at this time, we later find him publicly defending Christ when He was before the Sanhedrin.

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