Sunday, March 15, 2009
For the past six weeks this regular 'Sunday Sermon' series has covered Proverbs 6:16-19 in which the Bible speaks of "6 Things the Lord Hates (7 an Abomination)", and today we wrap the discussion with that 7th and final item. This item speaks particularly to families, and serves as both a calling and a warning not only to brothers and sisters, but to anyone who would sow discord within a family situation. In past weeks we have spoken of people with 'Haughty Eyes', basically those who think they are better than others. We have spoken of 'A Lying Tongue', but the seventh item addresses not only liars but also those who use truthful situations to sow discord. We have spoken of 'Hands That Shed Innocent Blood', but the seventh need not lead necessarily to physical bloodshed in accomplishing what is still its own brand of violence. In 'A Heart That Plots Wicked Schemes' we spoke very much of the person in this seventh item and the intentional nature of their actions. In 'Feet That Run Swiftly to Evil' we spoke of how some just can't wait to pounce on an other's misfortune and also who seem almost joyful when approaching evil. Last week we spoke of 'The False Witness', the gossiper among man and he who not only will lie among friends, but who also is willing to take his lie all the way into an official proceeding or on to an official document. It is all of these six things which the Bible says that the Lord hates which together lead to perhaps the worst of them all, the seventh which is an abomination in his eyes. In the earliest book of the Bible, 'Genesis', God teaches us that the family is of utmost importance, and warns against turning against your family. He begins to teach the lesson in the story of the very first brothers, Cain and Abel. When Cain becomes jealous of Abel, God says to Cain "If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door; his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master." When God becomes aggrieved and tired of early man's wickedness He decides to wipe man from the earth in a great flood. He finds one man and his family worthy of saving, worthy of starting mankind anew. Not a group of friends. Not a town of neighbors. Not some tribal leaders and elders. One family is chosen, the family of a man named Noah to whom God said "With you I will establish my covenant; you and your sons, your wife and your sons' wives..." Later when the flood was over and the land had dried, and Noah and his family exited the ark, God blessed them and said to them "Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth." But he also admonished them saying "..from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life." God shows here that he not only wants the family of man to exist, but he demands from us that we care for one another. The further Genesis story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is all about family and its import. God sets this family as his chosen people, those whom he will particularly bless, as well as all those who align themselves with this family. Jacob has his name changed to 'Israel' and produces twelves sons, the 'Twelve Tribes of Israel', down through time the Jewish people. The story of the beginnings of God's chosen people in its very first family, particularly in the story of the relationship between Joseph and his eleven brothers, talks about how we should and should not treat our own families. It shows the dangers in that very act of sowing discord among brothers, as well as provides the redemptive faculties that come with love and forgiveness. Throughout the Bible we hear of the importance of family. In Proverbs 12:4 we learn that "A worthy wife is the crown of her husband." In Deuteronomy 12:12 we learn that we shall "make merry before the Lord, your God, with your sons and daughters." In the fourth of the Ten Commandments the Lord orders us to "Honor your father and mother." God through Shemaiah in the Bible's 2nd book of Chronicles 11:4 says "You must not march out to fight against your brothers" and in Nehemiah 4:8 commands "Fight for your brethren, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes." In Psalm 127:3 we are told that "Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward." In Proverbs 17:6 that "Grandchildren are the crown of old men." In Sirach 3:3 we are taught that "He who honors his father atones for sins" and in 3:9 that "A father's blessing gives a family firm roots." The Book of Sirach is particularly helpful in its warnings as well, telling us in 16:3 "Rather die childless than have Godless children" as well as in 25:15 that "With a dragon or a lion I would rather dwell than live with an evil woman." There is the lesson of Mary herself, the humble mother of Jesus, the earthly mother of God Himself who gave birth to, raised, taught, suffered with, and has been exalted with the Lord. And then there is the lesson of her husband, Joseph, the stepfather to Jesus Christ who stood by Mary and who helped raise the Son of God. During our lives God gives all of us two families; the one into which we are born, and the one which we create ourselves. The first points to our ancestry and our family roots; our fathers and mothers, our grandparents and older forefathers, and our brothers and sisters. The second is formed with our husbands and wives, leading to our children and grandchildren and our descendants. God gives this first group to us as gifts to cherish, but this gift is of human beings. They, like you, will have faults and sins and will be imperfect. They may not have the faculty to comprehend the loving nature that they have been called to in the family, or may have been so damaged by the traumas of their lives that they have lost this capacity. It is up to you the learned, you who understand what it is that God wants from your familial relationships, to be the glue that keeps your family together as best you can. It is also directly on you to see to it that your own descendants learn directly from you this importance of family that God himself has established. Do not give in to the gossip and the discord, to things as vile as abuse and hatred, that you may find lurking within your family. You can only control where your family goes from here, not where it has been in the past. Do not become one who sows discord among brothers and sisters, parents and children, one whom the Lord actually hates. Instead draw closer to God, and in doing so become the rock upon which a foundation of love and support can allow your family to flourish. NOTE: This is the continuation of the regular 'Sunday Sermon' series, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking that below label.