What Does the Bible Say About Borders?

What Does the Bible Say About Borders?

Should a country maintain borders, or should we do away with them? They’ve been a contentious issue over the last couple of years, so I thought it’s time to see if the Bible has anything to say about borders. It turns out that it does!

God Creates Nations

When God created the world, there was only one group of people. At first, everyone had descended from Adam and Eve. While they had established different cities and roamed about, they all spoke the same language, were of the same race, and they were all united.

Eventually, they started to migrate together instead of migrating in different directions, and set forth to build a city on the plain of Shinar, where they began to build a tower that would reach Heaven.

When God saw what a unified people would be capable of, he confused their language, and dispersed them around the world, effectively creating the races, civilizations, and nations that resulted.

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:8-9, NIV)

God Creates Borders

If God didn’t care about borders, why did He make sure that an extremely detailed description of Israel’s borders were included in the Book of Joshua? If you’ve read the Bible, you’d know how tedious–yes, I said it–it is to read the specific details of not just Israel’s borders, but how Israel was to be divided between the Twelve Tribes. Did you ever wonder why God provided such detail? Maybe it was to get your attention!

God Respects Borders and Boundaries

In the Old Testament, there are borders that delineate not only nations, but private property. In many cases these are identified by landmarks, and we are provided with a view of how God views the those who take it upon themselves to disrespect boundaries that have been set:

The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water (Hosea 5:10, ESV).

We see similar warnings in Deuteronomy 19:14 and 27:17, Proverbs 22:28 and 23:10, and Job 24:2.

Moses took the boundaries of a nation seriously enough that when the wandering Israelites wanted to pass through Edom, messengers were sent to the king to ask permission:

Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” (Numbers 20:17, ESV)

In the end, the king of Edom denied the request, and met the Israelites with a large army to make sure his rejection was adhered to. Did Israel complain to God? No, they turned away and took the long way around.

God Created Our Current Borders

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, (Acts 17:26)

Finally, we see that God is Sovereign over the history of nations, not just their physical boundaries, but their boundaries in time as well. In practical terms, this means that God put the starting boundary of the United States at 1776, and only He knows where the finishing boundary will be. It also means that He has put the northern and southern borders of the United States where they are, not man. It means that God has done the same with every other nation on Earth.

It is not the place of our government, or individuals, to disrespect the borders and boundaries of other nations, just as it is not their place to disrespect ours. To do so is to disrespect our Sovereign God.

Note: This has been cross-posted from Medium where it was originally published 13 December 2018.

Image credit: Robert Anasch on Unsplash

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Further Reading

Fisher, Bryan. The Bible and borders. RenewAmerica. Web: 9 Jul 2014. Accessed: 11 Jul 2018.

The Bible and National Borders. Bible Mesh. Web: 27 Oct 2015. Accessed: 11 Jul 2018.

Walker, Wes. SHOULD NATIONS HAVE BORDERS? A Biblical Response. ClashDaily.com. Web: 22 Aug 2014. Accessed: 11 Jul 2018.

Jesus Wasn’t the Rebel You Think He Was

Where Have All the Rebels Gone?

Every once in a while, I hear the claim made that Jesus was a rebel. And every time I hear it, it makes me cringe. I’ve read the Bible several times, and I have never walked away thinking, Jesus was a rebel. I’ve taken classes, and again, never walked away thinking, Jesus was a rebel. And after looking into it a little deeper, I’ve walked away convinced, Jesus was not a rebel.

While I’ve heard the claim from conservative and liberal thinkers alike, I’m making the assumption that the idea rose with liberal and/or progressive thinkers. Thinkers who tend to twist definitions, ideas, and ideologies to fit their own purposes without regard for truth and reality.

So, let’s start here. What is a rebel? According to the Oxford Dictionary a rebel is:

A person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or leader

Now we all can agree that Jesus did not lead an armed resistance against anyone, so the focus of this article will be on the idea that he rose in opposition, but to whom?

House Rules

It should be quite clear, from the start, that Jesus was not rebelling against God’s Old Testament Law. If God and Jesus are part of the the same Triune God, then rebelling against God’s Law, would essentially put Him at odds with himself. Simply put, this makes no sense.

The Bible also tells us that Jesus was sinless. He followed the Law to the letter, and told others to follow the Law. He told us that the Law would be fulfilled, but it would not go away, until God’s purpose was accomplished.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV)

In dramatic difference to what we see today, Jesus was obedient to His Father, even when He knew that it was going to get Him killed.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42 ESV)

Jesus did not rise against His family, or His family’s Law.

Civil Authorities

The Bible doesn’t record many interactions between Jesus and the Roman government or civil authorities, but we aren’t left clueless either.

The first instance is not direct contact, but rather, is a trap set by the Pharisees who want Jesus to either make himself look bad in front of His own people, or make a statement advocating breaking the law by not paying taxes. Jesus, however, knows their intent and answers brilliantly:

Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21 ESV)

Later, he is sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect in Judaea at the time. After interrogating Jesus, Pilate found him to be innocent, and not worthy of death.

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. (John 18:38 ESV)

Apparently the government wasn’t impressed with Jesus’ rebellion since they found him innocent. When He finally was sentenced to death, it was because Pilate caved due to political pressure, and told the crowd so, “I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24).

Religious Leaders

The final group, religious leaders, are a little more interesting because I think this is where the confusion comes in. Without going into detail, the religious leaders we’re talking about were made up of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and while Jesus and they were in conflict, I don’t think it was Jesus who was rebelling against them, but they who were rebelling against Him.

The Jews had been anticipating a Messiah for thousands of years. When that Messiah showed up, in the form of Jesus, He wasn’t what they were expecting. Some accepted this and followed Him anyway, while others, particularly the religious leaders did not. They rejected Him, and yes, rebelled against His teaching.

Throughout the Gospels there are examples of the religious leaders antagonizing Him and looking for ways to discredit Him: He healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath; His disciples ate with impure hands; and His disciples plucked wheat on the Sabbath when they were hungry. Despite the fact that He healed multitudes, exorcised demons, and fed thousands, they still kept looking for signs, accused Him of being a drunkard, and accused Him of healing through the power of Beelzebul, instead of God. They failed at every endeavor.

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, they came after him with swords–remember our definition of rebel?–but he went willingly and cooperated. His apostles put up a brief resistance but Jesus told them to stop, and even healed the ear of one of the assailants whom Peter had cut the ear of.

He was taken to the Temple and put on trial complete with false charges. Why false charges? Because they had nothing on Him. If he were truly a rebel, they would have been able to provide real charges. After the kangaroo court, He was handed over to Roman authorities, where He met with Pilate, which I already discussed.

Jesus wasn’t rebelling against the religious authorities of the time. Sure, He pointed out their flaws, and their hypocrisy, but that was usually in response to their attacking Him first! That’s not very rebellious. I would say it’s more of defensive in nature, and much more effective, since His responses generally dealt with the specific situation at hand.

Conclusion

Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus described as a rebel. He is described as a Savior. Those who were in charge at the time rebelled against Him. He brought Truth, and they didn’t want to hear it.

Jesus was condemned by the liberal elites of the time for not conforming to their politically religiously correct values. He threatened their man-made authority, prestige, and highly educated sensibilities; they knew better than the uneducated. He was condemned by a kangaroo court. The crowd was whipped up by what only could be considered a flash mob.

But, are we really any different? From the time of Adam, man has rebelled against God in one manner or another. There have always been those who follow, and those who rebel. They tried to make Jesus conform to their version of the Law, instead of conforming themselves to God’s version of the Law. To this day, we’re still trying to make Jesus fit our image of Him: teacher, rebel, socialist, someone who loves us and our faults. He’s everything but a Saviour; everything but the Son of God; everything but the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

Going back to our definition: A rebel is someone who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler. We can state with confidence, Jesus did not rise in opposition or armed resistance to anyone. The world has rebelled against Him.

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Note: This has been cross-posted from Medium where it was originally published 25 Nov 2018.

Image credit: Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Prof. Horner’s Bible-Reading System Checklists

A couple of years ago, I came across Professor Grant Horner’s Bible-Reading System. It seemed like a really good system for getting through the whole Bible in a systematic way, but those flimsy paper bookmarks really drove me nuts.

The first time I head of Professor Grant Horner’s Bible-Reading System was through Tim Challies blog post Ten Chapters Per Day. His description, coupled with the explanation from Professor Horner were enough to convince me to give it a try. I had been accustomed to either reading straight through or haphazardly, so it sounded like a nice change of pace.

It turns out that I really enjoy it. I like the way the topics from one section of the Bible blend with that of another. It’s interesting when you read an Old Testament reference in the New Testament and think, “Hey, I just read that last week!” as opposed to six months ago when reading from front to back. I also appreciate the variety. Let’s be honest. Would you rather read tens chapters from Leviticus per day, or one?

In case you haven’t heard of it, you can get the original instructions and bookmarks here, but a real basic overview is that the Bible is broken down into ten sections of different lengths. Professor Horner explains:

Since the lists vary in length, the readings begin interweaving in constantly changing ways. You will NEVER read the same set of ten chapters together again! Every year you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the OT wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the OT History and Prophetic books about 1-1/2 times. Since the interweaving is constantly changing, you will experience the Bible commenting _on itself_ in constantly changing ways — the Reformer’s principle of ‘scriptura interpretans scripturam’ — ‘scripture interpreting scripture’ IN ACTION!

Despite really liking the plan, there was one thing I didn’t like: the bookmarks. While they were certainly functional, there were things I found annoying about them:

  1. They’re paper. I figured at some point they’re going to rip. Sure they’re easy to reprint, but I was always worried they would rip any way. The bookmark would be pushed back towards the spine as far as it would go, and when I tried to open the page, they just felt flimsy. It always felt like I was going to rip it trying to open to the page.
  2. They’re ugly. Not the bookmark itself, because they have a nice design, but the ten bookmarks sticking out the top of the Bible.
  3. They’re crowded. The bookmarks were so crowded together that they were a pain to figure out which was which. The lists don’t move from the front of the Bible to the back, they bounce around. List 1 starts in the Gospels, List 2 in the Pentateuch, List 3 and 4 are New Testament, List 5 is Old Testament… You get the picture.
  4. They weren’t a good bookmark. Sometimes, I would come back the next day and think, okay, what chapter did I read yesterday? This was especially common in the Psalms when I would look at a two-page spread and see chapters 92-97. Now, did I read 93 or 94 yesterday?

Okay, so they’re all little things, but sometimes the little things can be annoying. I’m sure we all have little things that people would look at us and go, really? So, I started looking into different ways that people kept track.

I found a few different ways on the Internet, but none of them were really what I was looking for. It wasn’t until I came across a couple of checklists that I started thinking, “Hey, they’re on to something!” While the ones I came across weren’t quite what I was looking for, they gave me the inspiration to design my own.

The basic design is that each list takes up half of a full-page of letter-size paper. You can simply cut it in half, or do like I did: cut it in half and take about a half-inch off the margin on each side. They fit perfectly inside the back cover of my Bible without sticking out.

When I sit down to read, I pull the stack out of the back of the Bible and start with whatever list is on top. As I finish each chapter, I start a new pile turning the top page over, until I reach the end of the stack. On days that I work, I seldom get through all ten chapters, but I know that when I come back the next day, the next reading will be sitting there on top. When I’m finished reading for the day, I cross each chapter off list with a pen, put those finished pages in the back of the stack, and put the stack back in my Bible.

One of the unintended benefits was not having a bookmark. It forces you to look up each chapter, and very quickly, you get a feel for the location of each one in the Bible. I’ve gotten much quicker at finding verses in the Bible without a table of contents, and it’s becoming something that’s very natural.

Finally, some of the lists are short. List 10, for example, is simply made up of Acts. I was able to put Acts on the checklist eight times, which means you won’t need to print a new checklist for eight months, saving you a little paper. List 2, containing the Pentateuch has 187 chapters. That would only fit once, but again, you won’t have to reprint the checklist for about six months. The checklists aren’t fancy, but they’re neat, orderly, and functional.

I hope you enjoy them.