Tag Archives: cross-dressing

Learning God’s heart [Should Christians Observe the Old Testament Law – Deuteronomy 21-25, part 5]

1 Feb
Image result for god's heart

Hey Christians, how do you feel about the Old Testament? Often we Christians find the New Testament to be relevant and easily applicable to our lives, while the Old Testament is foreign, difficult, often boring and long. All those laws, some of which seem bizarre or even wrong. They can leave us with a feeling that the Old Testament is utterly irrelevant for us. So let me say very clearly: The Old Testament matters to New Testament Christians! In this series of posts we have been learning David Dorsey’s four-step method that guides Christians to apply every OT Law to our lives. Finally, we come to step 4: How can we apply a law’s theological principle to our lives?  So if you haven’t read the four previous posts in this series, please go back and read them first: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

One law we’ve talked about is when God tells the people to build parapets, walls, around their roofs. In the previous posts you can read how to filter that law through Dorsey’s first three steps. When we did that, in Step 3 we saw that God has a heart for people to practice safety.  While we Christians are not going to make new laws about this, Dorsey’s Step 4 guides us in how we can apply the principle based on God’s heart.  You see God’s heart for reflected in all sorts of safety rules and regulations that just make sense.  Wear your seat belt when riding in a car.  Use smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your homes.  We could go on and on about guiderails, airbags, and sprinkler systems.  But know that when we are applying these principles, we Christians are not making new laws for the church or for disciples of Jesus.  Sure, our nation might have laws for the common good, and those we must obey, but just because we understand God’s heart doesn’t mean we are to make new laws. 

Instead we can learn God’s heart and apply it to our own lives, without making a law that is binding on others.  The difficulty that Christians have had with this process, though, is that many of the OT Laws have been wrongly applied for a long time, to the point where they seem to be Christian New Covenant standards. 

I’ve heard it said many times, for example, “Christians should not charge interest to other Christians.”   That is clearly what God says in the Old Testament in his covenant with Israel.  Israelites were not to charge interest any other Israelites.  That was part of God’s covenant for them.  It is not for us. 

So what was is for us?  The New Testament, which is God’s covenant with the church. So we have to ask is there any place that the New Testament talks about charging interest?  I encourage you to search the NT for yourself.

If the NT does not ban us from charging interest of our Christian brothers and sisters, then how do we apply this OT law?

We can learn the principle behind the OT rule, and seek to apply it to our lives.  What do we see of God’s heart in this law about interest?  There are potentially a number of ideas: Christians should practice love, care, kindness, and generosity.  We see God asking us to trust him rather than the ability to make money.  We see him saying, trust your brothers to pay you back, to treat you well.  That leads to a key question which will help us apply the principle: how can we express generosity to others?

We can choose to make a personal decision to not charge interest.  But if we do so, we must be very careful not to think of it as the best choice, and everyone else should do it as well, and get self-righteous about it, as if we are more spiritual, more committed to God than others.  We can even start to think that everyone else is wrong or sinful if they charge interest.  And then we have moved far away from God’s heart.  We must stay humble.

Through this process, Christians can learn about God from every single OT Law, while at the same time, clearly realizing that we are not bound to follow the letter of that law.  But don’t be discouraged…you don’t need to do this three-step for every law to be a good Christian.

God loves roof fences? [Should Christians Observe the Old Testament Law – Deuteronomy 21-25, part 4]

31 Jan

See the roof fence in this picture? It’s called a parapet. Did you know that God’s heart beats for parapets? Or does it? Does God care about that kind of thing? What does God’s heart beat for?

Do you know God’s heart? What makes God’s heart beat? Even in ancient laws created for the people of Israel over 3000 years ago, laws that might seem bizarre or even wrong upon first reading, we can and should find God’s heart under-girding those laws.

In this series of posts, we’re looking into how Christians can interact with the Old Testament Law. After introducing this topic in part 1, we began applying David Dorsey’s four steps that a Christian can use to interpret and apply every Old Testament Law. Step 1 was to remember that this law is not for us. Step 2 invites the Christian to do an investigation into the historical, cultural situation of the Israelites, so as to understand better what that law meant to them. Once we do the historical work, we arrive at Step 3, and that is to answer the question: What is the theological significance of this law?  In other words, what does that law show us about God’s heart?  Here we have to do a bit of creative thinking.  It can be easy to get way too literal. 

We’ve been referring to Deuteronomy 22:5 throughout this series of posts. There God says that it is detestable for women to wear men’s clothing, and for men to wear women’s clothing. Step 1 reminds us that this law is not for us. Step 2 revealed that Canaanite worship including cross-dressing, and God very much wanted Israel to steer clear of anything remotely connected to false worship. Now in Step 3, what does this reveal to us about God’s heart?

We could simply say, it reveals to us that God really wants men to wear only men’s clothing, and women to want only women’s clothing. But as I said before, that misses the heart of what he was hoping to accomplish in the lives of the Israelites.  Instead, what he really wanted was for them to remain faithful to him, worshiping him, and not getting mixed up in pagan religious practices.  His heart was for their purity and faithfulness to him. 

And that heart is something that we can carry over to our lives. 

Let’s try this method out with another law.  A few verses after the cross-dressing law, in Deuteronomy 22:8, God requires the Israelites to build parapets around their roofs.  Step 1 puts us in the right frame of mind: this law is not for us. Step 2, what it meant to them was that most dwellings in ancient Israel were built with flat roofs, and the people often used them as living space.  In the evening they would sleep there to get out of the sweltering heat inside.  As you can imagine, a flat roof is dangerous, especially for kids, and other accident prone people, because you can easily fall off the roof.  So the remedy is to build a fence around the roof, a barrier to keep people from falling off.  Was God concerned about fence building?  No.  He was concerned about their safety.  His heart was for the health and life of his people.  He didn’t want needless accidents.   Now that heart is something that we can carry over too.

See how we can learn God’s heart behind what seem to be strange laws? That brings us to step 4.  How can we apply that principle to our lives?  Check back in to part 5 of our series for that!

Hunger is the best pickle? [Should Christians Observe the Old Testament Law – Deuteronomy 21-25, part 3]

30 Jan
Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash

Hunger is the best pickle? Do you know what that means? Have you ever heard that saying before? Don’t google it just yet. Instead you’re going to need to time travel!

Think time travel is not possible? What we’re going to discover today is this if you want to understand the Old Testament Law, you need to travel back in time. Maybe not through a time machine, but certainly through research. While we might never be able to attain 100% understanding of the historical and cultural society of ancient Israel, we can and should learn about it if we want to understand the Old Testament Law. In this five-part blog series on the various laws in Deuteronomy 21-25, we are seeking to learn and apply David Dorsey’s four-step method for how Christians can interact with the Mosaic Law. After getting a firm grasp on Step 1, the idea that these laws were not meant for us, we now go to Step 2 asking, what did the law mean to the people of ancient Israel?  We have to investigate and seek to understand their time period, requiring some work, requiring removing, as much as possible, our contemporary filters, and stepping into the ancient world. We need time travel!

Michael Cosby illustrates this in his book Interpreting Biblical Literature when he mentions the quote above: “Hunger is the best pickle”?  Again, don’t google it yet!  Just look at it on screen.  Do you know what it means?  To understand what it means, it would help to know who said it.

Let me give you a clue: If you lived in the United States 250 years ago, you would probably know who said it, and you would know what it means. 

Ben Franklin said it.  One of our founding fathers, Franklin is famous for his humorous and wise sayings.  You can probably say a few yourself.  A penny saved, is a _____ ______?  But what about this one? “Hunger is the best pickle?”  What in the world is he talking about?

To understand what Franklin was talking about it would be really helpful to know something of the era that he lived in.  What about hunger and pickles is significant in the world of 1750s America?  Actually, we have a reference point right here in the county I live in, Lancaster, PA, in 2019.  If you live here, or if you have ever been here, you might have eaten at Isaac’s restaurants. What do they serve before the meal?  Little bowls of pickles, and pickled vegetables.  Most restaurants in our day and age, however, and most people in their homes, do not serve pickles as an appetizer.  Isaac’s does.  What you need to know to understand Franklin’s saying “Hunger is the best pickle” is that in his day and age in the American colonies that would become the USA, it was common practice for pickles to be served as an appetizer.  And what is the purpose of an appetizer?  To increase your appetite for the meal!  Now is the saying starting to make sense? 

Hunger, Franklin is saying, is the best appetizer!  He is kinda making fun of the whole practice of appetizers.  But you can’t know that unless you do a little work to understand Franklin’s time and culture. 

This practice of cultural investigation happens in our world today regularly.  When Michelle and I, and our son Connor, visited Michelle’s sister and brother-in-law and their family in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016, I experienced it.  My brother-in-law is the pastor of an international church there, and he asked me to speak, which was quite an honor.  I decided to adapt a sermon that I had preached here.  There was no way I could preach that sermon as is, even though I was preaching to Christians there just as I did here.  There, many of the people in the congregation are not from America.  In fact, they have 25 different nationalities in their congregation, speaking 40 different languages!  So I had to go through the sermon and remove a bunch of references to American or Lancastrian culture that they would not understand.  After the sermon, I got talking to an Iranian Christian, and our conversation eventually made its way to our cultural differences.  I told him that I had changed the sermon.  He asked me to give him an example of a change, to see if he could understand it.

I told him one, and I want to see if you can understand it.  Here’s what I said to him, “at one point in the sermon, I was talking about how it seems to me that the Apostle Paul is going down a bunny trail.”

Do I have to explain to you what a bunny trail is?  Nope.  You know it.  First of all, you are likely very familiar with rabbits.  You might have rabbits in your yard, and you might even have bunny trails in your yard.  You can picture it in your head.  When rabbits start hopping away from a perceived threat, they speedily dart around all over the place.  That is the literal depiction of bunny trails.  But you are also familiar with the figurative use of the concept.  Just like bunnies dart all over the place, we describe people who in their flow of thought or talk, get off track from the main idea, as going down a bunny trail.  If you are in school, you might have a teacher who loves to go down bunny trails.  Sometimes, students pick up on this, and try to get the teacher off track!  When I am talking about that kind of teacher, even though I am using the phrase “going down a bunny trail”, you know that I am no longer talking about actual bunnies and hopping.  Without having to explain all that to you, you have already made the jump from the literal image to the figurative application.  

Why am I saying all this about pickles and bunnies?  Because when we are trying to understand these Old Testament Laws, our first step is to remember that they are not for us, and our second step is that we have to figure out what they meant to the Israelites in their day and age and their culture! 

Let me give an illustration of this.  In part 1 of this series, I referred to Deuteronomy 22:5, the law that men should not wear women’s clothing, and women should not wear men’s clothing.  How should Christians interact this law?  It would be wrong for us to simply say, “Ok, I guess we Christians have follow that law,” because Dorsey’s Step One is “that law is not for us!”  Because it is not for us, we go to Step Two and ask what it meant to the ancient Israelites who were under a treaty and covenant with God.  This is when the historical work must happen.  What we find out when we do a bit of digging into their culture is that some of the pagan religions practiced by the people around them, the Canaanites, would sometimes cross-dress in their worship to false gods.  As we have seen, God wants Israel to have nothing to do with pagan religion.  His law for them, therefore, is no cross-dressing.  But take notice: God prohibits Israel from cross-dressing, not because God wants to create rules and regulations about what men and women wear, or because he is somehow preserving gender roles, but because he doesn’t want them to associate with pagan practices! 

If we Christians look at this law using our contemporary filter, we could easily believe that it tells us about how God feels about gender roles. We could very easily view a discussion that is happening now in our culture and apply it to Israel in a way God never intended.  That is dangerous.  If we did that, it would be called eisegesis.  That means “putting something into the text” that wasn’t originally there.  Instead we should practicing exegesis, which means “out of the text.”  That is when we do the work of discovering the message that comes out of the text.  In other words, we seek to answer, “What is the author trying to communicate to the original audience?”  That information is what we should be looking for.  That takes work sometimes, an investigation into the historical and cultural situation occurring when it was original written. The work, the investigation is worth it.

When we Christians seek to interact with each OT Law, after reminding ourselves of Step 1, that the law is not for us, we then move to Step 2, seeking to determine the historical and cultural situation that led to the creation of that law. After Step 2, we will be ready to proceed to Step 3, which we look at next in part 4 of our series.

God cares about cross-dressing and fallen bird’s nests? [Should Christians Observe the Old Testament Law – Deuteronomy 21-25, part 1]

28 Jan
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I wonder how many women reading this post are wearing some form of pants? Actually, what I should do is ask, how many of you are wearing clothing that is traditionally women’s clothing?  Some form of dress or skirt?

All of you wearing shorts, pants or jeans, why did you choose something so detestable?  You think I’m joking?  You’re not sure if I’m being serious. 

In Deuteronomy 22:5 we read very clearly that “a woman must not wear men’s clothing.”  Now it also says “nor a man wear women’s clothing.”  So men, are there any of you wearing women’s clothing?  If so, it seems that would be detestable too.

If this is true, then why do so many Christian women disobey this teaching?

Before we answer that, let’s keep reading more laws in Deuteronomy 22.

Look at verses 6-7, and God seems to have an interest in fallen bird’s nests.  If a nest falls from a tree, he says, you can take the young birds as your possession, but not the mother.  What could that be about?

And then in verse 8, he jumps to parapets around roofs.  You must build parapets on your roofs.  Reader, do you have a parapet on your roof? No…Neither do I. Are we disobeying God?

Then in verse 9, God commands them against planting two kinds of seed in one vineyard…not good…that will defile the fruit.  Again, what is God thinking here?

How about verse 10, any of you ever had to do plowing with animals?  Maybe some?  Well, take note…don’t plow with an ox and donkey yoked together. 

Verse 11, now check the tags on your clothing…any made with wool and linen mixed together?  Or in verse 12, any of you have tassels on the four corners of your cloak?  No???  Why not?

So many rules, and such a wide variety!

What do we do with these laws?  We’ve been studying the biblical book of Deuteronomy at Faith Church, and we’ve come to a section of the book, basically chapters 21-25, that lists a whole bunch of seemingly random laws. 

If you’ve read this blog for a year or two, you have most likely heard me talk about one of my seminary professors, Dr. Dave Dorsey.  He was a beloved, long-time professor of Old Testament at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.  There were many things I learned from Dr. Dorsey, but perhaps the one that I go back to time and time again is related to these laws in the Old Testament.  If I were to guess, this comes every couple months at Faith Church somehow or another.  What I am referring to is Dr. Dorsey’s four-step method for describing how Christians can interact with the Old Testament Law. 

There are plenty of these of these laws that come up in our day and age, even though we are 3000+ years removed from them.  Above I listed some bizarre laws, but there are also familiar ones too, and we Christians can have strong opinions about them.

Jump over to chapter 23:19-20 – charge no interest.  We hear Christians talk about this as if Christians are bound to follow this.  I’ve encountered people appalled that Christians would charge interest of their brothers or sisters in Christ in their church family, as if the person who is charging interest is some greedy, abominable sinner.  Are they? 

But what about the Sabbath?  The idea of not working on the Sabbath.  That’s in the OT law. Shouldn’t we keep the Sabbath?

What about tithing?  The idea of giving ten percent. 

What about tattoos?  What about eating shellfish?  Pork?  On and on we could go.  Are Christians supposed to follows these laws?  Why do Christians follow some and not others?  What we are going to see in this series of post is that Dr. Dorsey’s four-part method helps Christians understand every law in the Old Testament.  Check back in for part 2 where we’ll get started!