Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
© Focus On Purpose July 2017

A Cursing, Angry

God? Part 2

“Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in

me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might

demonstrate His perfect patience as an

example for those who would believe in

Him for eternal life.”

1 Tim 1:16

Is God ready to swat us at every turn?

Is God like the pagan gods, who are temperamental and angry, and always ready to curse and / or punish? Yes, through Jesus we have grace, but is Jesus a buffer between sinful us and His Father who demands nothing less than one hundred percent perfection? Is Jesus a buffer between us and God the Father who is angling to swat us at His first opportunity? I believe I would be quite accurate in saying that the majority of born again Christians live with this underlying, yet controlling belief - in the deep recesses of their mind. The Barrier of Translation A common reason for many misunderstandings, is that the hearer has a completely different understanding of a word than the speaker had in mind at the time of choosing that word. A very common modern day example of this is reading a book that was written in 1955, and in which a person is described as being "gay". In 2017 we understand "gay" as someone with a particular sexual preference, while at the time of writing, the author would have been describing someone as having a happy, bright, and positive disposition. The many changes in the English language become a barrier to the clear understanding of God's word. This is why it is so important to go back to the original languages to determine what the Author is really saying. It is not only the changes in the English language, but also the fact that Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are far richer languages than English, and the words are multi-dimensional and technicolour, much of which is lost in translation to English. So, before can answer the question of whether God curses, and if He does, if Adam and Eve were cursed, we need to understand what a curse is, according to the Bible. What is a curse? When you think of a curse, what comes to mind? Jesus’ curse on the fig tree, causing it to shrivel up and die? The curses of witchdoctors, causing someone to become unexplainably sick and die? A witch pointing a finger at you and you breaking out in warts? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a curse as: “Magical words that are said to cause trouble or bad luck for someone or the condition that results when such words are said; a cause of trouble or bad luck” Oxford Dictionary defines a curse as ”A solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something; a cause of harm or misery." I think it safe to say that these definitions describe our general understanding of curses - a supernatural power causing harm or misery. Does God cause harm and misery? There are various Hebrew words in the Bible that are translated as 'curse', but for now we are only going to explore the word that is used in Genesis 3. We will look at the others as we encounter them. When doing a word study, there is an important principle of " first mention"; the first time a word is mentioned in Scripture, the context in which it is used, sets a frame for what the Bible means when it uses that word. Genesis 3 is the first time we encounter this concept of God cursing, as He curses the serpent. Another important thing to remember when interpreting Scripture, is that the interpretation must be in line with the teaching of the rest of the Scriptures, and it must be in line with the revealed nature of God. So, as we begin the journey of understanding what God means when He curses something or someone according to the Hebrew word in Genesis 3, let's first set the frame of what God says about Himself - and to do this, my "go to" passage is usually the summary God gives as He reveals Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. What does God say about Himself? “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on children and on grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Ex 34:6-7 Have you also read that to say "punishing the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation”? What does the Hebrew word translated as 'visit' mean? Yes, it is sometimes translated as punish, but in other places in the Bible it is also translated as : to pay attention to, observe; to attend to; to seek, look about for; to seek in vain, need, miss, lack; to visit; to visit upon, punish; to pass in review, muster, number; to appoint, assign, lay upon as a charge, deposit. This Hebrew word is an active participle, which means, “an action or condition in its unbroken continuity.” (Blue Letter Bible) If we look at “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on children and grandchildren... “ in the light of God being “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps Iovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin, may there perhaps be another way of translating the word "visit" in this context? Does it not also seem contradictory to you, that God says He is a God who is slow to anger and a forgiving God, but He continually punishes the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren for the sins of the father? (Remember, the word "visit" is a participle speaking of an action or condition in unbroken continuity). Perhaps God is not punishing the descendants for what the father did, but for that which they themselves continue to do, as the father did? God knows that parents influence their children for both good and bad. At the time of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, there was a distortion or corruption of the image of God in us, which was passed on to the rest of humanity. As a result, we receive distortion from our parents and pass ours (including that which came from our parents) on to our children. By way of example, it is well documented that children from alcoholic parents may themselves, become slaves to alcohol; abused children often become abusive to their own children. God knew this. He knew that the iniquity of the fathers would be passed on; science didn't surprise God. So, in the light of this, is it consistent with a compassionate, gracious, forgiving God, who is slow to anger and full of lovingkindness, to be watching and waiting for that iniquity to appear in the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, so that He can punish them as they begin to display signs of that iniquity in their own lives - or even more extreme, to punish them for something in which they themselves are not engaging, but just because of their father or forefather’s actions? Another frame? Could it not be more consistent to say that He pays attention to, observes, seeks, and attends to, the iniquity of the father as it begins to manifest in the descendant's life; carefully watching the choices of that descendant, so that He may take necessary steps to alert them to that iniquity and draw them back to Him through repentance? Is it not more consistent with the nature of God to be watching over the descendants, alerting them to the bias handed down to them, which will cause them to veer off-course like a bowling ball? Am I saying God does not punish? No. What Ex 34:7 is literally saying here is : "... He will not unpunish the unpunished ... " In other words, He will not just clear the sins of those whose sin has not been dealt with. God is not a push-over; He does not just say, "Oh never mind, let's just pretend like nothing happened... Those who have been harmed must just 'suck it up’ and die to self... " No, sin has to be dealt with, but God has taken care of this in Jesus; Jesus has paid the price for EVERY sin. Does that mean we are free to live as we please, with no responsibility for our actions? No. Jesus enables us to have our slate cleared so that we may have a new start; a start to a new journey, a journey of transformation into what we were created to be : representatives of His character. What I am saying is that God longs after and searches for, repentant hearts. He desires repentance more than punishment. If there is no heart repentance, then there will be punishment, but the punishment will be for the guilt of the person and not the guilt of the father. During the visitations down to the third and fourth generation, God would be instructing the descendants, warning them, calling them back; and yes, that may include adverse life experiences resulting from their sin and rebellion, because unfortunately, it is often only in times of weakness and affliction that we turn to God. If descendants continually disregard God’s word and His warnings, then yes, eventually they will face the consequences of their choices, but it is a consequence of their own choices, not that of their fathers. I once heard a preacher say : "If you arrive in hell one day, do not blame God; remember that you had to work really hard to get there."   If we look at the history of Israel, we see a cycle in which a line of kings would rise up, who walked in the 'sins of their fathers'; one king after another. Then one day, one of their progeny rise to power, repent of the sins of their fathers, destroy the idols in Israel, and draw the people back to worship God, and God responds immediately in grace. The verse that will come to many people’s minds as they think of Ex 34:7 is Jeremiah 31:28-30: “In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge." Do you also feel that this appears to be saying that God is changing His mind about what He said to Moses? But is He? Or have the people distorted God's initial words to Moses? A very interesting thing I learnt about Hebrew, is that Hebrew is not a time- bound language. It does not have past, present, and future tenses. Hebrew only focuses on the process of a verb; an action is either complete, which is perfect tense (you ate the fruit), or incomplete, which is imperfect tense (eating the fruit). When translating into English tenses, complete action usually fits comfortably into past tense, while present and future tense is determined by the context. However, sometimes the understanding of the context may depend upon the frame of the translators, and this passage from Jeremiah may be a case in point. Is the New Coveneant a Change of God’s Character? Let's look at the Hebrew verb tenses in the two verses from Jeremiah: “'The fathers have eaten (perfect tense or completed action) sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge (imperfect tense or incomplete process).' But everyone will die (imperfect tense or incomplete process) for his own iniquity; each man who eats (active participle meaning, an action or condition in its unbroken continuity) the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge (imperfect tense or incomplete process)." Jer 31:28-30 . Now look at how your frame of understanding changes when the verbs in imperfect tense in verse 30, are changed from English future tense to present tense, as they are in verse 29. In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone dies for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth are set on edge." Do you see how the frame now changes from God's changing the way He is doing things, to His correcting the teaching of the people? "You say... But that is not true. This is what actually happens..." How does this fit the broader context?  The broader context of these verses is that God is making a new covenant in which the people will know Him; in knowing Him, they will better understand His word to them, for ' knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.' Prov 9:10 God is not a vindictive, harsh, punishing God like the pagan gods the Israelites had chosen to serve. God is a gracious God, Whose grace is far greater than His desire to punish. Am I introducing false teaching by suggesting a different translation of Jeremiah 31:28-30? Have a look at how the Jewish Rabbis translate these verses: “When Jeremiah says that the people no longer say, Parents have eaten sour grapes and children's teeth are blunted, he does not deny the concept of the collective historical responsibility of the fathers. He accepts it as real when activated by the contribution of the children. ... Ezekiel ... rejects the saying because it is, in his view, totally wrong and has never had any validity. He believes in strict individual responsibility." ('Parents had eaten sour grapes' by Nahum M Waldman. Published by World Jewish Bible Center. - Emphasis mine) The reference to Ezekiel in the above  quote, is Ezekiel 18; it will be good to read the whole chapter, but verse 1 clearly shows God questioning the thinking of the people : “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘What do you mean when you use this proverb concering the land of Israel, saying: “The fathers have eaten the sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?’” As you read through this chapter, remember that Hebrew does not have past, present, and future tenses. Change the future tenses to present tense as we have done in the passage from Jeremiah above, and note the change of nuance. God is not a God Who is quick to punish, but but One Who desires and seeks after repentent hearts. The New Covenant is not a change in God’s character or modus operadi, but rather the opening of the way to know Him more intimately. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they might know Thee…” John 17:3 This is enough to ponder for this week. How do these thoughts change your view of God? I would love you to share your thoughts with me. We will continue next week.
As you touch or hover over each picture in the four small squares above, they will be magnified in the main square. This demonstrates what happens in our minds; what we focus on becomes enlarged in our minds, to the exclusion of other things. When we get to see a larger frame, and see how the smaller parts fit together, our understanding often shifts.
Prev Next
Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
© Focus On Purpose July 2017

A Cursing, Angry

God? Part 2

“Yet for this reason I found mercy,

so that in me as the foremost, Jesus

Christ might demonstrate His

perfect patience as an example for

those who would believe in Him

for eternal life.”

1 Tim 1:16

Is God ready to swat us at every turn?

Is God like the pagan gods, who are temperamental and angry, and always ready to curse and / or punish? Yes, through Jesus we have grace, but is Jesus a buffer between sinful us and His Father who demands nothing less than one hundred percent perfection? Is Jesus a buffer between us and God the Father who is angling to swat us at His first opportunity? I believe I would be quite accurate in saying that the majority of born again Christians live with this underlying, yet controlling belief - in the deep recesses of their mind. The Barrier of Translation A common reason for many misunderstandings, is that the hearer has a completely different understanding of a word than the speaker had in mind at the time of choosing that word. A very common modern day example of this is reading a book that was written in 1955, and in which a person is described as being "gay". In 2017 we understand "gay" as someone with a particular sexual preference, while at the time of writing, the author would have been describing someone as having a happy, bright, and positive disposition. The many changes in the English language become a barrier to the clear understanding of God's word. This is why it is so important to go back to the original languages to determine what the Author is really saying. It is not only the changes in the English language, but also the fact that Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are far richer languages than English, and the words are multi-dimensional and technicolour, much of which is lost in translation to English. So, before can answer the question of whether God curses, and if He does, if Adam and Eve were cursed, we need to understand what a curse is, according to the Bible. What is a curse? When you think of a curse, what comes to mind? Jesus’ curse on the fig tree, causing it to shrivel up and die? The curses of witchdoctors, causing someone to become unexplainably sick and die? A witch pointing a finger at you and you breaking out in warts? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a curse as: “Magical words that are said to cause trouble or bad luck for someone or the condition that results when such words are said; a cause of trouble or bad luck” Oxford Dictionary defines a curse as ”A solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something; a cause of harm or misery." I think it safe to say that these definitions describe our general understanding of curses - a supernatural power causing harm or misery. Does God cause harm and misery? There are various Hebrew words in the Bible that are translated as 'curse', but for now we are only going to explore the word that is used in Genesis 3. We will look at the others as we encounter them. When doing a word study, there is an important principle of " first mention"; the first time a word is mentioned in Scripture, the context in which it is used, sets a frame for what the Bible means when it uses that word. Genesis 3 is the first time we encounter this concept of God cursing, as He curses the serpent. Another important thing to remember when interpreting Scripture, is that the interpretation must be in line with the teaching of the rest of the Scriptures, and it must be in line with the revealed nature of God. So, as we begin the journey of understanding what God means when He curses something or someone according to the Hebrew word in Genesis 3, let's first set the frame of what God says about Himself - and to do this, my "go to" passage is usually the summary God gives as He reveals Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. What does God say about Himself? “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on children and on grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Ex 34:6-7 Have you also read that to say "punishing the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation”? What does the Hebrew word translated as 'visit' mean? Yes, it is sometimes translated as punish, but in other places in the Bible it is also translated as : to pay attention to, observe; to attend to; to seek, look about for; to seek in vain, need, miss, lack; to visit; to visit upon, punish; to pass in review, muster, number; to appoint, assign, lay upon as a charge, deposit. This Hebrew word is an active participle, which means, “an action or condition in its unbroken continuity.” (Blue Letter Bible) If we look at “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on children and grandchildren... “ in the light of God being “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps Iovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin,” may there perhaps be another way of translating the word "visit" in this context? Does it not also seem contradictory to you, that God says He is a God who is slow to anger and a forgiving God, but He continually punishes the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren for the sins of the father? (Remember, the word "visit" is a participle speaking of an action or condition in unbroken continuity). Perhaps God is not punishing the descendants for what the father did, but for that which they themselves continue to do, as the father did? God knows that parents influence their children for both good and bad. At the time of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, there was a distortion or corruption of the image of God in us, which was passed on to the rest of humanity. As a result, we receive distortion from our parents and pass ours (including that which came from our parents) on to our children. By way of example, it is well documented that children from alcoholic parents may themselves, become slaves to alcohol; abused children often become abusive to their own children. God knew this. He knew that the iniquity of the fathers would be passed on; science didn't surprise God. So, in the light of this, is it consistent with a compassionate, gracious, forgiving God, who is slow to anger and full of lovingkindness, to be watching and waiting for that iniquity to appear in the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, so that He can punish them as they begin to display signs of that iniquity in their own lives - or even more extreme, to punish them for something in which they themselves are not engaging, but just because of their father or forefather’s actions? Another frame? Could it not be more consistent to say that He pays attention to, observes, seeks, and attends to, the iniquity of the father as it begins to manifest in the descendant's life; carefully watching the choices of that descendant, so that He may take necessary steps to alert them to that iniquity and draw them back to Him through repentance? Is it not more consistent with the nature of God to be watching over the descendants, alerting them to the bias handed down to them, which will cause them to veer off-course like a bowling ball? Am I saying God does not punish? No. What Ex 34:7 is literally saying here is : "... He will not unpunish the unpunished ... " In other words, He will not just clear the sins of those whose sin has not been dealt with. God is not a push-over; He does not just say, "Oh never mind, let's just pretend like nothing happened... Those who have been harmed must just 'suck it up’ and die to self... " No, sin has to be dealt with, but God has taken care of this in Jesus; Jesus has paid the price for EVERY sin. Does that mean we are free to live as we please, with no responsibility for our actions? No. Jesus enables us to have our slate cleared so that we may have a new start; a start to a new journey, a journey of transformation into what we were created to be : representatives of His character. What I am saying is that God longs after and searches for, repentant hearts. He desires repentance more than punishment. If there is no heart repentance, then there will be punishment, but the punishment will be for the guilt of the person and not the guilt of the father. During the visitations down to the third and fourth generation, God would be instructing the descendants, warning them, calling them back; and yes, that may include adverse life experiences resulting from their sin and rebellion, because unfortunately, it is often only in times of weakness and affliction that we turn to God. If descendants continually disregard God’s word and His warnings, then yes, eventually they will face the consequences of their choices, but it is a consequence of their own choices, not that of their fathers. I once heard a preacher say : "If you arrive in hell one day, do not blame God; remember that you had to work really hard to get there."   If we look at the history of Israel, we see a cycle in which a line of kings would rise up, who walked in the 'sins of their fathers'; one king after another. Then one day, one of their progeny rise to power, repent of the sins of their fathers, destroy the idols in Israel, and draw the people back to worship God, and God responds immediately in grace. The verse that will come to many people’s minds as they think of Ex 34:7 is Jeremiah 31:28-30: “In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge." Do you also feel that this appears to be saying that God is changing His mind about what He said to Moses? But is He? Or have the people distorted God's initial words to Moses? A very interesting thing I learnt about Hebrew, is that Hebrew is not a time-bound language. It does not have past, present, and future tenses. Hebrew only focuses on the process of a verb; an action is either complete, which is perfect tense (you ate the fruit), or incomplete, which is imperfect tense (eating the fruit). When translating into English tenses, complete action usually fits comfortably into past tense, while present and future tense is determined by the context. However, sometimes the understanding of the context may depend upon the frame of the translators, and this passage from Jeremiah may be a case in point. Is the New Coveneant a Change of God’s Character? Let's look at the Hebrew verb tenses in the two verses from Jeremiah: “'The fathers have eaten (perfect tense or completed action) sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge (imperfect tense or incomplete process).' But everyone will die (imperfect tense or incomplete process) for his own iniquity; each man who eats (active participle meaning, an action or condition in its unbroken continuity) the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge (imperfect tense or incomplete process)." Jer 31:28-30 . Now look at how your frame of understanding changes when the verbs in imperfect tense in verse 30, are changed from English future tense to present tense, as they are in verse 29. In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone dies for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth are set on edge." Do you see how the frame now changes from God's changing the way He is doing things, to His correcting the teaching of the people? "You say... But that is not true. This is what actually happens..." How does this fit the broader context?  The broader context of these verses is that God is making a new covenant in which the people will know Him; in knowing Him, they will better understand His word to them, for ' knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.' Prov 9:10 God is not a vindictive, harsh, punishing God like the pagan gods the Israelites had chosen to serve. God is a gracious God, Whose grace is far greater than His desire to punish. Am I introducing false teaching by suggesting a different translation of Jeremiah 31:28-30? Have a look at how the Jewish Rabbis translate these verses: “When Jeremiah says that the people no longer say, Parents have eaten sour grapes and children's teeth are blunted, he does not deny the concept of the collective historical responsibility of the fathers. He accepts it as real when activated by the contribution of the children. ... Ezekiel ... rejects the saying because it is, in his view, totally wrong and has never had any validity. He believes in strict individual responsibility." ('Parents had eaten sour grapes' by Nahum M Waldman. Published by World Jewish Bible Center. - Emphasis mine) The reference to Ezekiel in the above  quote, is Ezekiel 18; it will be good to read the whole chapter, but verse 1 clearly shows God questioning the thinking of the people : “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘What do you mean when you use this proverb concering the land of Israel, saying: “The fathers have eaten the sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?’” As you read through this chapter, remember that Hebrew does not have past, present, and future tenses. Change the future tenses to present tense as we have done in the passage from Jeremiah above, and note the change of nuance. God is not a God Who is quick to punish, but but One Who desires and seeks after repentent hearts. The New Covenant is not a change in God’s character or modus operadi, but rather the opening of the way to know Him more intimately. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they might know Thee…” John 17:3 This is enough to ponder for this week. How do these thoughts change your view of God? I would love you to share your thoughts with me. We will continue next week.
As you touch or hover over each picture in the four small squares above, they will be magnified in the main square. This demonstrates what happens in our minds; what we focus on becomes enlarged in our minds, to the exclusion of other things. When we get to see a larger frame, and see how the smaller parts fit together, our understanding often shifts.
Prev Next