Shellfish, women’s rights, and slavery. What do these three thing have in common?
Well I recently had a discussion with an old friend from highschool who has gained a sudden interest towards spiritual living and towards “god”. Though not a Christian we had an interesting discussion about which way to approach God (Hinduism, Christianity, none of the above etc.) and he listed quickly 3 big problem he has with Biblical Christianity. They were shellfish (or dietary laws), the value of women, and the acceptance of slavery. I did not want to get in to a huge debate or waste his time if he was busy so I let them slide. But the more I got to thinking about it these three issues often come up with people who do not see Christianity as a wholesome or true way to God. And I wanted to cast some light on these little problems that are blown out of proportion and misunderstood.
In the beginning everything was good (Gen 1:31), everything was as God intended it to be – perfect. So what happened? Why is everything so bad and why do we encounter such difficulty finding God? The perfection that God created only lasted until Satan disrupted the harmony that God had established. Now we find ourselves in the middle of the telling of a cosmic drama where God is working towards the restoration of everything that was lost, eventually God will put things back in order like they use to be (Rev 21:3). However, God is not doing nothing about the problems that currently exists. He is only doing it on His schedule and not our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Currently we await the return of Christ which is yet another step in God’s great plan to restore us to Himself as well as to restore the original glory to all that He created (Act 1:11). To know what it will be like when God restores everything in the end we can look at Genesis and see glimpses of what man enjoyed before sin as well as what we will enjoy after Satan is put away (Rev 20:10).
1. Being completely in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27)
2. Dominion over the Earth (Gen 1:26, 28, 29, 2:19)
The account of the Israelites worshiping the golden calf is among one of the most famous stories of the Bible, and probably the only one that most people know of when they think about the book of Exodus, or the Old Testament. Moses had been on the mountain for 40 days getting what I call the “Holy Spirit download” of the Law and perhaps Genesis as well. Can you imagine being in God’s presence for 40 days? Moses did this on 3 different notable occasions (and perhaps more) and fasted during some of them. If we set apart this much time to be with God imagine what we would know, what we would have experienced, and how much closer we would be to our God!
At the end of chapter 17 in Exodus is a short story of Israel’s engagement in battle against Amalek and his forces. As strange as it sounds, somehow Moses discovered that when he raised his rod, the Israelites began to win in the battle, and when he lowered it they began to loose. I wonder if Moses caught on to God using him and his rod, probably everywhere he went he took that rod, you never know when God would ask him to use it. God turned it in to snakes and back in to a rod before Pharaoh, He used it to part the Red Sea, He used it to bring water out of a rock, and now to be victorious over the enemy. Perhaps our modern equivalent to Moses’s rod is the memorized and spoken Word of God. We lean on it and God uses us as we use it (the scriptures) in obedience to Him.
22 “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
23 But He detected their trickery and said to them,
24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”
25 And He said to them “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Jesus not only encourages the following of civil laws, such as paying taxes, but uses it to demonstrate a bigger principle: to also give to God what legally belongs to Him. But what is it that belongs to Him which we are to give? If by looking at a coin we can see the identity of it’s authority, who’s identity do we find by looking at ourselves?
Soon after leaving Egypt, God led the Israelites to the Red Sea. By this time the Egyptian army was chasing after them because Pharaoh had changed his mind (again). God instructed Moses on what to do with his rod and he simply obeyed. As a result the Red Sea was split by a miraculous wind which allowed the Israelites to pass through to the other side safely. An important lesson to be learned from this is the unlimited ability of God to save you regardless of your circumstances (Ephesians 3:20). Never doubt because He is always able (Luke 1:37).
Often God deals with us as He did with the Israelites, He leads us to a place where we are unable to do anything so that He can show His ability and love to us. However, we often misinterpret this situation and feel abandoned by God, unsuccessful in our faith, or trapped without a solution. This is the farthest thing from the truth! God is willing and able to save you from any situation. Now I am not an advocate for “anything bad that happens in your life is from God” but I do believe that the bad things that happen, God can use them for His glory and your growth. These places can be the most uncomfortable to be in but they are the best for your faith. When we are trapped between our Enemy and a sea there we must fully rely on God to save us. We often have no other choice. The way we behave in these hard times decides if we mature in faith or not. Throughout the Bible there have been many impossible situations such as God’s promise of a son to old Abraham (Genesis 15), Mary’s virgin birth (Luke 1), and Jesus’ call for Peter to walk on the water (Matthew 14). Perhaps God led Israel to the Red Sea so that they could see the faithfulness of God and begin their journey with faith in God.
The People of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 430 years until they were rescued by God. They were the offspring of Jacob who’s son Joseph was at one time 2nd in command of all of Egypt (Genesis 41:39-45). After Joseph died and all the descendents of his fther lived in Egypt a new king eventually came to power who did not respect God’s people, the Israelites (Exodus 1:8-11). The Jews were not ruled fairly, we find one account in Exodus where their quota for bricks increased but their resources to do so were removed (Exodus 5:6-9). The Israelite enslavement in Egypt is similar to our enslavement to sin and the weight that rests on every person’s shoulders until he is redeemed by God (Rom 6:23, Jhn 8:34).
The culture of Egypt was that of carnality, materialism, idolatry, and polytheism. This is the exact opposite of the culture that God desires us to live in (Rom 12:2). The culture of Egypt had worn off on the Egyptians; they adopted the ways of the world and trusted in man instead of God. Like the Israelites of Exodus we were born in to slavery (of sin) we have no say in it and it plays no favorites (Rom 3:23, 5:18-19). Because of Adam and Eve’s choice we suffer. Some people see this as unfair on God’s part, but on the contrary it shows His unswerving character which holds to His agreements. God clearly informed Adam and Eve what not to do yet they did it anyway (Genesis 2:16,17). When He says something, He means it. It also serves as an example of how our decisions affect others mainly our own children. Your life is not an isolated set of events, the choices you make effect who you are which then effect friends, family, and later generations.
Passover is a Jewish holiday that is still observed to this day. The first Passover was the night before the Israelites left Egypt (Exodus 12). God gave the instructions to Moses who then delivered them to the people. Each household was to acquire a spotless lamb, cook it, and eat it. The blood from the lamb was to be smeared on the outside of their house’s doorpost. Interestingly enough the Passover is the only Jewish holiday that Jesus is recorded to of observing. This is significant because the Passover Lamb and blood is symbolic of Jesus as the Lamb of God that was killed to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and who’s blood is applied to each believer (1Peter 1:18-19). On the night of the Passover all 1st borns of every household died if there was no blood on the doorpost, this is symbolic of the spiritual death one encounters if they are not covered by the blood of Christ (John 3:16). Without it, their sins are not atoned for and they are not washed clean.
At the beginning of Exodus 12 God told Moses that he and his people were to have their own calendar separate from that of the Egyptians and that their calendar was to start with the month in which they left Egypt. When we first confessed our sins to God and accepted Him as Lord and Savior of our life our new life began at that moment. It’s important to draw the distinction between your old life and what is now your new life as a Christian. Your testimony is how God brought you to the place of decision and gave you your new life. In Deuteronomy 5:14-15 God says that the Sabbath is a day of rest so that you will remember that God has delivered you from slavery and labor. It’s important to remember where you came from so that you will always be grateful for God’s saving grace and working hand in your life. When we forget what God has saved us from and where He has taken us we become complacent and apathetic towards God. Make sure to take time and look back and acknowledge what God has done.