The importance of purity for God’s people – Part 2
[From Part 1]
The caveat, the conduct and the consequence
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord. See to it that no-one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no-one is sexually immoral (a fornicator), or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest. Afterwards, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears” (Hebrews 12:14–17).
- This is another call to be holy. We are to be holy (body and spirit), for without holiness, no-one will see God. This is a sobering statement and it brings a severe warning, to believers. Again, it implies the principle of holy, common, unclean – sacred, secular, sinful. That which is sin (unclean) cannot dwell with that which is sacred (holy) – and God is holy.
- After Paul informs us to be holy and warns that without being holy we will not see the Lord, he addresses God’s grace and then sexual misconduct, warning that no-one be a fornicator. The implication is that if they are, they will be rejected.
- Paul refers to Esau as being godless (profane – God-dishonouring). Why, because Esau treated as an unholy thing that which was holy; he treated as valueless that which was very valuable. He treated with disdain that which God held in high esteem. And in so doing, Esau dishonoured God. As a result, he was rejected, despite his pleading afterwards.
- If we treat the purity of our bodies, chastity, as common where God holds it sacred; or if we debase it where God holds it with high esteem; or if we treat it as being valueless where God places a high value on it, thus we dishonour God where we should honour Him, we are placing ourselves in the same position as Esau – rejected and hated. Why have I included the word ‘hated’ as well? It is explained in the next point.
“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13 – reference to Malachi).
“‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ the LORD says. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals’” (Malachi 1:2b).
- Why hated? For the very reasons as mentioned above – Esau was godless, profaning and dishonouring God by treating unholy that which was holy, by treating as valueless that which was valuable, and by treating with disdain that which God held in high esteem. By contrast, Jacob saw the value of the birthright and did everything he could to get it! He honoured that which God honoured, esteemed that which God esteemed, valued that which God valued, and treated as holy that which was holy in God’s sight. Therefore, God loved him.
- Our purity, our chastity – in God’s sight it is holy, valuable and to be honoured. If we do not see it this way, we are debasing what is holy, despising what is highly esteemed, and disgracing what is to be honoured. We are literally saying that it is worthy of nothing more than a morsel, a bowl of pottage, and that if it be relinquished cheaply it would be of no issue. We are then being godless like Esau, who was rejected by God and hated by Him.
- “Because of all their (the 10 tribes of Israel) wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious” (Hosea 9:15).
- The above verses in Hosea sound very much like Jesus’ call to the churches as recorded in the early part of the book of Revelation.
- To the church in Pergamum: “I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14).
- To the church in Thyatira: “I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest (allow/tolerate) that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce (mislead) my servants to commit fornication (sexual immorality), and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space (time) to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed [of suffering], and them that commit adultery with her (promote her ideas/ways) into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds” (Rev 2:20–22).
- God is not tolerant of such promotions, perspectives and performances. To the church in Thyatira, God terms it as having learned, or known, or experienced the depth of Satan. Such people, unless they repent and turn, will be driven by God from His kingdom. They will be seen and treated as unbelievers!
- “For this ye know, that no whoremonger*, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:5,6).
- Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality (fornication), or of any kind of impurity (uncleanness), or greed (covetousness), because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph 5:1–3).
The book of Hosea provides a vivid indication of what God thinks of unfaithfulness to Him, His honour and His covenants. He literally paints a picture through the prophet Hosea of Israel as a prostitute and an unfaithful woman who has not been loyal, having broken her covenant. God clearly reveals Israel’s idolatry and immorality. Hosea was the last prophet to the 10 tribes of Israel before God drove them from their land and sent them into captivity. God reveals His heart by saying that what is going to happen should not be, but that they have remained unfaithful and prostituted themselves in every respect and would not repent. God is a holy God and that which is unholy and unclean cannot dwell with Him. God also lays a charge of ignorance at their door, for they would not know Him. In other words, they would not take the time to learn about Him, His character and His ways, and what He desires should be the way we live – they continued in their own ways in ignorance and presumption.
God uses a particular word while revealing His heartfelt sentiments when addressing Israel; it is Chesed.
“For I desired mercy (Chesed), and not sacrifice; and the knowledge (knowing, following, revering) of God more than burnt offerings. But they like Adam (men) have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against me” (Hosea 6:6,7).
Chesed [or Checed] is a big word, almost indescribable. In the instance used, it incorporates mercy, faithfulness, loyalty, steadfast love, piety towards God. It is termed by some as ‘covenant love’. Superficiality is loathsome to God; it is a hypocrisy detestable to Him.
Furthermore, God says, “I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10). And He says, “As they (the priests) were increased, so they sinned against Me. I will change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of My people, and they lift their vitality to their iniquity. And it will be, Like people, like priest. And I will visit their ways on them, and repay (punish) them for their deeds” (Hos 4:7–9).
* in the original language of the Bible, whoremonger (a word found in the King James Version of the Bible) is anyone who has sex outside of marriage. We tend to rank different extra-marital sexual activity into categories of wrongness. But in the Bible, a loving couple who has sex before marriage and a man having sex with a prostitute are both termed porneia—and both are unrighteous and result in significant consequences. God calls His people to different standards from the world’s standards. Sex is meant as a gift between a married man and woman. Whoremongering is against God and harmful to the people involved.
(taken from Compelling Truth, What does ‘Whoremonger’ mean in the Bible?, as at 29/09/2018)
We are to honour what God honours, and in so doing be zealous for God’s honour. Refer also back to Phinehas and God’s response (see Part 1 – An additional warning).
This is what we see happening in the church today, and God sees it as unfaithfulness to Him, a failure to honour Him, and a breach of covenant.
‘A son honours his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will He accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands”’ (Malachi 1:6–10).
- Through Christ, we are God’s children, and He is our Father.
- “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a).
- As redeemed ones, Christ is our Lord. God is now our Master; we are His servants.
- “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22).
- As God’s redeemed through Christ, we are now priests, and filled with God’s Spirit.
- “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God” (Revelation 5:10a).
- As a royal priesthood, we are ministering before God’s altar, bringing sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.
- “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
- Because we fit the above profile, we dare not give God less than He expects or is due Him, for we would not be exempt from the words spoken in Malachi.
- How do we honour God?
- “You were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
- What are our sacrifices?
- “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
- How do we give God what He expects or is due Him?
- “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality (fornication), or of any kind of impurity (uncleanness), or greed (covetousness), because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph 5:1–3).
- “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord. See to it that no-one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no-one is sexually immoral (a fornicator), or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest. Afterwards, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears” (Hebrews 12:14–17).
- “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (do not follow their ways), but be transformed (changed) by the renewing (cleansing) of your mind (way of thinking and perspectives). Then you will be able to test and approve (discern and understand) what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will (what He wants and requires, not what the world says)” (Romans 12:2).
- “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29–31).
What about the Song of Songs?
- Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. Three times this aspect is mentioned in the Song of Songs; three times it warns (2:7; 3:5; 8:4). It is a charge (beseeching, entreating, imploring) from God – it is of vital importance. It needs to be kept in perspective too, for the translation, although referring to the woman, has its inference to the man.
- KJV – “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes (gazelles), and by the hinds (does) of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
- This is waiting for the Lord to awaken the desire of love; it is not for us to awaken it. We are to be submitted under God’s rule and directive. If we have submitted ourselves unto Him, this includes our love life and our awakening of love and its desires. If we awaken love before it so desires – in other words, before God gives His approval to it and stirs it – we are acting in presumption and possibly going to go down a pathway of potential problems. We cannot say, “It is time for love, my love, to awaken for I desire it.”
- Emotions and feelings, particularly when it comes to awakening love, should not be our guiding light, for they are influenced and swayed too easily by situations and circumstances, not necessarily by wisdom and sound judgement. As an example, take a movie: if it is joyous or funny, you feel happy; if it is sad and melancholy, you feel weepy; if there is suspense and trouble, you feel trepidation and angst; and the type of music that goes along with the movie is probably even more impactful than the movie itself. If this be the case, we surely need to keep a check on our emotions and feelings when it comes to that which is tangible and close to home. In fact, keeping one’s feelings and emotions in check is linked to guarding one’s soul. As God says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Proverbs 23:26). We need to submit our love (emotions and feelings) to our Lord and seek His guidance and direction. Anything less is walking outside of His will, and it has the potential of making common, and even unclean, that which is meant to be holy. The Song of Songs is both beautiful and poetic – it needs to be kept that way. It is also a representation of the King and His Bride!
Isaac and Rebekah – a match made in heaven
The story (Genesis 24) can also be seen as almost an affirmation, not quite an allegory, of what God desires should take place in the lives of His people. He is interested in every part of our lives – including our love lives, for He created it, good, and to be good.
- It is the story of Abraham (the father) sending his chief servant (the one in charge of all that he had) to get a bride for Isaac (the son). You have the first line from the covenant people being a model provided. It encompasses both the Old Testament Genesis account of God’s institution for marriage, and the New Testament affirmation by Jesus in His referral back to Genesis (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4–6).
- What is interesting is that it was Abraham who decided that it was time for Isaac to get a wife, not Isaac, and Abraham used his chief servant, not Isaac, to carry out this task. Furthermore, Rebekah was not idle, out doing her own thing, or seeking a husband. She was going about her business diligently, but when she heard the calling, followed the servant – in faith.
- God wants us to follow this example – allowing Him (our Father) to plan for us (the sons and daughters) and send out His Servant (the Holy Spirit) to accomplish a good work for Him, and to His glory. God wants us to submit under His Lordship and authority to plan for us, and to determine when this aspect needs to be fulfilled. God requires that we leave it up to Him and His Servant, to trust that He knows what He is doing; that the Servant will be successful in His purpose; and that He will provided for us what is right and in a timely manner. God also requires that we get on with our business, our work, for that is what we are meant to do – our “physical” work and our “spiritual” work and growth. God only had one girl in mind for Isaac, and we know that He was successful, for it is recorded that Isaac loved her.
- Yet, we are sold a lie, a deception – that love and intimacy is evil and that God is against it, not seeking our enjoyment and pleasure in this area. Also, that God is neither interested, nor adequately able to provide for us; if we don’t hurry up and go out seeking, we won’t get anywhere. On the contrary, God created it, not the devil. God also created it very good. You can be sure that He is interested in it. More so, for it is sacred and contains covenants and is a representation of our union with the Lord. The devil seeks to sully, pollute, and ultimately destroy this. In other words, God creates, Satan corrupts. Kept in the confines of God’s principles and provision, union remains pure, precious and sacred to the Lord.
What do we have and what do we observe?
If we stand back and take a good, objective look, we can see that the discussed shift has been from clothing to conduct, with what can only be termed as an immoral dress code being adopted, oftentimes with the express intent on the part of the woman to flaunt, arouse and seduce her male counterpart. Modesty has been trampled underfoot in the reckless rush, with the partakers many times getting what they sought, but not what they bargained for. As a result, broken hearts, ruined lives, destroyed families, and disillusioned minds have become the order of the day. Angst and depression have become like common marketplace commodities gracing household dinner tables. Propriety has been replaced with casualness, purity with concupiscence, and as a result, peace has been replaced with chaos. From a biblical perspective it can only be this way, for it grates against the very governance of God. This is a sad and sordid story, but it is history repeating itself. Sadly, this way of life is now what is expected and carried forward by our emerging generations, for whom it is no longer a shift, but the standard. Should we but heed the biblical accounts of the nations and particularly the recorded accounts within the nation of Israel, we would be silent and solemn, with a holy fear before our God.
A careless attitude does not have a place in God’s camp. We have become casual in our culture, and the church today, having followed in the ways of the world, has made casual and common that which is consecrated to God. We have become casual in our approach to God, and lost reverence for God and respect for that which is holy to Him. Through the restorative work of Christ on the Cross, we now feel that having been brought near to God, right into His presence, we are able to take liberties. We have removed reverence and respect for the King that should have been carefully maintained, and have replaced it with a casual conduct, seeing God as “pally”. The graces God gives us should be seen as privileges, with our awe of Him never waning. In fact, our reverence and awe should be increasing the more we learn and gain an understanding of His goodness, greatness and glory. As is revealed above, it is costly not to be careful to maintain cleanliness before God. It is costly to ourselves and to God’s church to be careless and carefree in our attitudes. Any old thing will not do for God. As is recorded in Malachi 1:10, God would rather have the church doors closed than have us sacrificing offerings that are useless and worthless to Him – and today we see this happening in reality right before our eyes.
Adam and Eve – the danger that lurks
God created union and intimacy before the fall of man. Therefore, as mentioned, it was created very good – pure, precious, and sacred to the Lord.
After the fall, corruption set in with Satan making every effort to defile that which is holy and sacred to God, with this area of union and intimacy being a high priority, because of its representation and importance to God.
The fall did not happen – as a once off. It happened, but it is still happening. It is not something that happened in the distance past, it is relevant, present and active today! For as God said, “For I desired mercy/faithfulness (Chesed), and not sacrifice; and the knowledge (knowing, following, revering) of God more than burnt offerings. But they like Adam (men) have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against me” (Hosea 6:6,7).
An illustration of this and its outworking:
God: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.”
Satan: “Did God really say?” … “You will not surely die …!”
Here we have the devil at work. First is the deception: “Did God?” Second is the defiance: “You will not!”
This is exactly what is happening today with the unhindered and unquestioned deception of the devil leading to liberality and impunity of attitude against what is sacred and what God holds holy. The end result is no lesser a consequence than the pronounced judgement against Adam and Eve – expel them from the garden!
God commands Satan corrupts
Be holy Do you really need to be?
It is holy It is common [unclean] – everyone is doing it
The wicked will not inherit God’s kingdom It will not really happen
Marriage should be honoured It is only a piece of paper
Jacob have I loved, Esau I hated God is universal love – no matter what you do
I am about to spew you out of my mouth It is not relevant for today
Repent and turn God accepts you as you are; no renewal needed
It is clear from the above that the libertine perspectives and practises are a profanity against the principles of the LORD. They are devoid of all goodness and godliness, leaving the lack of moral rectitude prejudicing the souls of mankind. The promotion of such liberality is a pernicious poison being injected into heaven’s passing stream, clouding its crystal clarity and tainting its fresh, sweet taste. According to the Bible, this shift, which has trod close on the heels of the world, is actually a deep rift leading to the depths of the abyss. It is not only conspicuous, it is ubiquitous in nature and its defining, staining ink has left God’s children, and particularly the youth, vulnerable to unwarranted trial and trauma, with the potential of spiritual suicide if unchecked.
God’s commands given to Israel before they crossed the Jordan river into the Promised Land were in the continuous tense.
- “Therefore thou shalt keep (observe) the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to fear (revere) Him” (Deuteronomy 8:6).
- Furthermore, Israel had to obey God’s commands in order to occupy the promised land. If they disobeyed, God would drive them out – and He did. Was this just relevant to the land and nation of Israel and confined to the Old Testament, or does it also have a spiritual significance and relevance today for all of us? What does Paul say? “Be not high-minded (arrogant and proud), but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches (the Jews), take heed lest He also spare not thee (the Gentiles)” (Romans 11:20b,21).
- Paul also says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1,2).
Note: A chaste Christian will also include someone who may have committed indiscretions in the past when unredeemed, but who, having been redeemed by the blood of Christ, has been washed and cleansed from all unrighteousness and now walks in chastity before the Lord while following His ways and commands. It is not exclusively the right of a virgin; such is the mercy and cleansing power of our God to those who truly repent and yield to His goodness, governance and glory.
Our reaction in action
Let us not play games with God. Let us not try His forbearance and put to the testing the fulfilment of His truth.
- We need to steer away from the potential of compromise, and run from the very look of sin.
- We need to hold to God’s principles and walk in the confines of His character and covenant.
- We need to hold to God’s perspective and honour Him in all ways.
- We need to have reverence for God and respect for His Glory.
- We need to have gratitude to God and embrace the very aspect of His sanctity.
- We need to guard our salvation and not take it for granted.
Let us not allow ourselves to be torn to shreds by the teeth of our Arch-enemy, the devil. Rather, let us extract the lion’s teeth by embracing God and clinging to His testimony and truths.
As Christians, we need to heed the words of Paul, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28,29).
He who has an ear — let him hear!