Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5574 Apr 20, 2013
Some nations will be destroyed, but will turn back to God in the future. Isaiah warned of the destruction of Cush (Is 18:6), which is now Ethiopia. He also promised that in the future, the people will come to faith in God (Is 18:1).
Some prophecies of destruction have not yet been fulfilled. Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Damascus but this city still exists, so the prophecy is waiting to be fulfilled (Is 17:1). If this happens at the end of the Times of the Gentiles, it may not be a total destruction. Any nations that get through this season can be transformed by the Holy Spirit, so it would not need to be destroyed.
Sometimes several prophets must be read to get a full picture. One prophet will warn of destruction, but a different prophet gives a promise that the nation will be restored. They are not in conflict. It is just that some prophets did not get the full picture. The following are examples.
Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Egypt (Jer 49:15,16), but Isaiah reveals that Egypt would eventually come to faith in God (Is 19:25).
Ezekiel warned that Ammon would be destroyed (Ez 25:7), but Jeremiah promises that it will be restored in a later time (Jer 49:6).
Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Moab (Is 15:1; 16:13; Jer 48:42), but Jeremiah promised that Moab will be restored in the future
Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
in days to come, declares the LORD.
Here ends the judgment on Moab (Jer 48:47).
Jeremiah seems to be saying this is the final word on Moab.
Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Philistine, but Ezekiel promises that they will eventually know the Lord (Ez 25:17).
Total destruction seems to be prophesied for only two nations.
Most of the Old Testament prophets warned of destruction of Babylon (Is 13:19, Jer 50:39). Jeremiah suggests that it had gone too far to be saved.
We would have healed Babylon,
but she cannot be healed;
let us leave her and each go to our own land,
for her judgment reaches to the skies,
it rises as high as the heavens (Jer 51:9).
Even this destruction was partial. The city of Babylon was totally destroyed, but life has gone in the surrounding area (Iraq).
Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Edom (Jer 49:15,18; Ez 25:13). Edom and Moab were the descendants of Lot and are often linked together in prophesies. I am not certain why Jeremiah prophesied the restoration of Moab (Jer 48:47) but not Edom. Jeremiah suggests that justice required the total destruction of Edom (Jer 49:12).
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5575 Apr 20, 2013
The Gospel Changes Everything
Jesus ministry changed the way that judgment works. Since the cross, God has far more effective tools for dealing with recalcitrant nations. In the age of the gospel, judgments to destroy evil nations will be very rare, as God prefers to work with the gospel and the Spirit.
The Roman Empire is an example of Gods new way of working. The empire was eventually destroyed by invading nations, but only after a long history. Rome was almost transformed from within by the Holy Spirit and the gospel. Had the church avoided a few mistakes, the transformation would have been a success and the fall of Rome would have been unnecessary.
In the gospel age, there will be times when the Holy Spirit is unable to work in a nation, possibly because Christians refuse to out to preach the gospel. They Holy Spirit can only go where his people carry him. If he is unable to work, a nation may get out of hand and become so evil that God has to take action to bring it down. If the church is on its game, this should be rare.
An exception is where the Book of Revelation prophesies the destruction of a powerful nation called Babylon the Great
Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit (Rev 18:2).
This nation will not be destroyed just because it is evil, that it must be. It will be destroyed because it has gained a huge influence over the nations of the world.
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her (Rev 18:3)
This evil nation has gained such strong influence that it is leading the entire world into evil. It must be removed from the pages of history to prevent the corruption from spreading. This level of evil will be rare in the age of the Holy Spirit.
The gospel has changed the role of prophecy. The situations where prophets are called to announce the destruction of evil nations will be quite rare. In most cases the gospel and the Spirit will deal with the evil nation more effectively. Christian prophets should be quite cautious about announcing the destruction of evil nations.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5576 Apr 20, 2013
Confusion about Judgment
Christians get confused about these four different types of judgment event.
Prophetic people often declare that Warning Events and Evil Events are caused by God. However, when a society that once had a strong Christian influence gets close to the tipping point, God has only limited authority to act on earth. Because most authority on earth has been handed over to the principalities and powers, the best he can do is restrain the worst of the evil. He is still more powerful, but because he is honest and just, he abides by decisions that he made about authority on earth, even when things go haywire.
Believing that God has caused events that are the work of the devil is seriously distorted thinking, that causes terrible confusion among Christians. If we do not know what God is doing, it will be hard to hear what he is saying. Christians who think that rampant evil and destruction are Gods perfect will find it hard to obey him, as it is hard to love and serve someone who dishes out wanton violence.
God gets a bad name that he does not deserve. The world blames him for warning signs and evil events that are the work of the forces of evil. They prefer to think that he is in control, even though refuse to acknowledge his authority, because this makes them feel better. The truth is that humans have authority on earth. They have allowed the authority to shift, so most evil events on earth are the result of that authority being handed to the forces of evil. Humans are responsible, not God.
God always works to bring good out of evil. We must not be confused by this. The fact that God continues working in the midst of evil does not hat mean that he has caused it.
When evil is rampant, God may not have sufficient authority to prevent evil events, but he is still omniscient and knows what the devil is about to do. He usually warns Christians in advance, so they can prepare. Some get confused in this situation and believe that God is sending the evil. They say will say,God is going to do such and such. This makes God seem a quite nasty, when he is actually trying to be helpful. In these situations, Christians should say,God has shown me that the forces of evil are going to do such and such. Use the time to get ready.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5577 Apr 20, 2013
People who believe that God is always in control will be totally disorientated during seasons when he is not. It is hard to confront evil, if you believe that God has allowed it.
Many Christians ignore these distinctions and assume that every traumatic event is a sign of the so-called end times. They like things to get worse and worse, because it means that escape is getting closer. Many assume that nothing can be done, so they sit on their bums and enjoy the playing out of pain. These Christian do not like Judgment Events and Warning Events, because these might shake people back to God, which would hold back the tide of disaster, which would delay their rescue. This distorted thinking makes them powerless.
When David disobeyed God by taking a census of his fighting men, God gave him three choices (2 Sam 24:13-14). David chose to fall into the hands of God rather than the hands of men, and the forces of evil.
Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; bud do not let me fall into the hands of men (1 Chron 20:13)
This suggests that Israel was somewhere between the opening of the door to evil and the tipping point where evil gets greater control, so God was able to give David a choice between a Judgment Event and a Warning Event. David understood Gods mercy, so he chose a judgment from God over a strike from the enemy.
Abraham declared that God would treat the nations of the world with justice.
Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right (Gen 18:25)?
His faith in Gods justice led him to expect that God would be generous. Many Christians assume that a just God will be destructive. This difference is revealing. Maybe Abraham understood Gods grace and justice better than modern people.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5578 Apr 20, 2013
Whacking Society is a Suboptimal Method
The cross changed everything. In the Old Testament age, judgment was often a necessary last resort. In the New Testament age, shaking judgment is a sub-optimal method for changing people and society.
Judgment events are mostly indiscriminate. Just as radiation therapy kills the good cells and the cancer cells, the good, the bad and the ugly are harmed equally.
Judgment was mostly ineffective in bringing change. Judges, 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles record the history of Israel and Judah. These nations were judged again and again, but they deliberately continued down their path to oblivion without hesitating. Judgement did not turn them around. God had not poured yet out the Holy Spirit, so this was inevitable.
Shakings restrained the worst evil. Evil kings and leaders were removed before they could do too much harm. This was the best that Judgment Events can do. The Holy Spirit can do far better.
The outpouring of Holy Spirit and the gospel of Jesus provide God with a far better ways for transforming peoples and nations. This reduces the need for judgment and shaking. They are less frequent in the New Testament age.
Gospel and Spirit
Some Christians still believe that God changes the world by whacking it with judgments. They delight in disasters, because they believe he will use them to turn society around. These people do not understand how God works. They have more faith in earthquakes, hurricanes, and economic collapse than they have in the Holy Spirit. This is sad, because God cannot transform society by whacking it with a big stick, because that mostly turns people sour.
Since Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit and the gospel are Gods preferred vehicles for transforming society. Repentance comes from hearing the gospel of grace. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit drawing a person to the Father.
God needs people to share the gospel and carry the Holy Spirit into the world. He can only get to the hearts of unbelievers, if we are carrying him into their midst. God can only transform society through a living body that carries the Holy Spirit where he wants to work. Until he gets a body that is up to the task, God will not waste his effort shaking society.
God must transform his church before he can transform society. Then if he shakes a nation, his revitalised church can be salt and light to shape it in a new direction. If the church is not carrying the Holy Spirit into the world, shaking achieves nothing. Society will just carry on down the gurgler, because it knows nothing better.
God prefers to work through the Holy Spirit and the gospel. Prophetic warning of judgment should be rare. Exhortation to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Spirit and should receive far more airtime, because they reflect the Fathers heart.
The principles in this article are applied in detail to a real life situation in Causes of the Christchurch Earthquakes.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5579 Apr 20, 2013
God must transform his church before he can transform
society. Then if he shakes a nation, his revitalised
church can be salt and light to shape it in a new
direction. If the church is not carrying the Holy Spirit
into the world, shaking achieves nothing. Society will
just carry on down the gurgler, because it knows nothing
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5580 Apr 20, 2013
Jesus announced a new jubilee that would transform economic life in the villages of Galilee and Judea, as people began applying the instructions for economic life. The most dramatic change would come when wealthy people gave away their unrighteous wealth. The poor would be lifted up, as Mary had prophesied before Jesus was born.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm .
He has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:51-53).
This was a promise that God would lift up the humble and fill the hungry people with good things through the ministry of Jesus. This would happen when people began to act on the instructions for economic life and give away their unrighteous wealth to put right the damage done by ignoring them in the past. Zacchaeus showed how this could happen. The New Testament does not the record what happened in Galilee and Judea as a result of the teachings of Jesus and his disciples, because it focused on events around Jesus. Given that the people wanted to make him king, it can be assumed that the impact was dramatic, as Mary had prophesied. Some rich people would have discovered that all their wealth was unrighteous. If they chose to follow Jesus teaching, they would find themselves empty as the prophecy had warned, but they would have a new group of neighbours and one anothers.
The early church carried on the practicing the instructions for economic life after Jesus had ascended. People like Barnabas sold their unrighteous wealth and gave it to those in need.
They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2:43).
The church provided food and care for widows, orphans and others who were poor.
Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.(Acts 6:1).
Paul built on this with teaching about caring for widows (1 Tim 5:3-15).
The early church provided clothing for those who were in need.
In Joppa, there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made (Acts 9:36-39).
A great miracle occurred when Dorcas was raised from the dead. The incident is also recorded, because it reminds us that the Christians continued to provide for people in need, as the instructions for economic life required. The motivation was love, but the instructions put shape around the practice of love.
The modern world has accumulated a huge amount of unrighteous wealth, and Christians are not immune. If Gods people took the instructions for economic life serious, and dealt with unrighteous wealth by giving it away, a dramatic jubilee would occur. Wealth would flow from the rich to the poor. Some rich Christians would find themselves empty, and many poor would be raised up. Communities would be greatly strengthened.
Paul confirmed this in his letter to Timothy.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation (1 Tim 6:17-19).
If Christians applied the Jubilee that Jesus commanded and Paul confirmed, an amazing economic transformation would occur.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5581 Apr 20, 2013
Discerning Unrighteous Wealth
Unrighteous wealth is not an objective standard so it cannot be decided by a judge. Nor can it be decided by other Christian or elders. Only the person who holds the wealth knows how it was obtained, so they must decide whether it was unrighteous wealth or not. An elder can explain to new Christian what it means, but they must assess their own wealth an decide its status. Only the property owner can decide how much of their wealth is unrighteous. This is a personal issue. Zacchaeus decided that half of his wealth was unrighteous wealth and gave it away. Likewise, the property owner must decide themselves what they will do with their unrighteous wealth. They can ask Christian elders for advice. They can ask deacons for assistance, but their response must be a personal choice, not compulsion.
Most unrighteous wealth will be obvious. If it is not obvious, we can leave it to the Holy Spirit. He will convict the new Christian, if his wealth is unrighteous and needs to be got shot of. We can trust the Spirit to do this task. Christian elders must not get into the business of forcing new Christians to give away their wealth, whether it unrighteous or not.(The Ananias and Saphira incident probably occurred because people were coming under inappropriate pressure to give wealth away (Acts 5:1-10) This teaching is not the basis for compulsory income redistribution either by the church or by political power.
Unrighteous wealth can usually be discerned by examining the way it was acquired. It will have been obtained through deception, theft, manipulation or dishonesty. In Jesus time, it was often acquired through collusion with the political and religious powers. That problem has not changed, but the form will be different.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5582 Apr 20, 2013
Jesus challenged the people to a new jubilee. This would involve cancellation of debt and restoration of land. Jesus preached a stark message on wealth and poverty:
Blessed are the poor.
Woe to the rich
Blessed are you who hunger now.
Woe to you who are well fed now (Luke 4:20-25).
These are strong words. He was promising that the poor would be blessed and the rich would experience woes. This is the reverse of the way things happen in the world, so what did Jesus mean? He was not referring to judgment. Judgement would destroy the rich, but it would also hurt the poor, so Jesus must have been talking about something different. He was prophesying a huge flow of of wealth/capital from the rich to the poor. Jesus was describing a different type of jubilee.
The exile to Babylon made it impossible to apply the Jubilee laws. The Jews returned from exile when the Persian Empire conquered Babylon, but it is not clear how many families were able to reclaim the land that their families had held before the exile. Jeremiah had redeemed a field at Anathoth, as a sign of eventual restoration (Jer 32), so someone from his family was probably able to claim it. However, I presume that most families were not able to reclaim their land when the returned from exile. Implementing a land-restoration Jubilee would not have been practical.
By Jesus time, most Jewish family had no land. Even if a family re-gained their land after the exile, it would have been lost to the powerful families who collaborated with the Romans. Josephs family should have owned land near Bethlehem, because he had to go there for the census, but he had no land there, and did not even seem to have family members there that he could stay with. Being a carpenter or stonemason, he had probably moved to Nazareth to get work on one of Herods city building projects. Many families would be in a similar situation. Without access to land, they were dependent on casual work. Those with skills or a craft like Joseph would be in a slightly less precarious situation.
The ordinary people of Galilee and Judea were desperate for relief from their oppression, so when Jesus announced a new Jubilee, he would have created immense expectation.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lords favour (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus promised that this Jubilee would be good news for the poor. It would provide a new freedom for people who were oppressed by the trials of life.
We tend to spiritualise this promise, but Jesus words must have meant something more real for his listeners. He was not promising to overthrow the Romans and take Davids throne in Jerusalem. This would not be practical. He was not even advocating a forced re-distribution of land back to the boundaries laid out by Joshua. That was not practical, because the Romans had used land to reward those who collaborated with them. The people who controlled the land in Israel were protected by Roman privilege.
Jesus was proclaiming a completely different type of jubilee. It would come about through ordinary people, applying the instructions for economic life laid out in the Torah. The land laws may not have been practical, but all the other instructions were still relevant. They did not need government intervention or consent. They could be applied by the ordinary people, despite the Roman control. Their application would bring a huge transformation to their society, as the practical sharing and caring was restored.
Returning to an equal distribution of land was not practical, because the Romans would not allow it, but that was less important, because for most people other forms of capital had become more essential. Jesus jubilee introduced a change that would create a more equal distribution of wealth/capital.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5583 Apr 20, 2013
The Torah provided a way for a community of people together in peace. It included:
A system of law dealing with crime and punishment
A system of justice and judges
A system of defence
An economic system
It did not need a king or political power, which meant:
Jesus came to bring about the restoration of Israel. The renewal of the Israel would be achieved through the renewal of life in villages and communities.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5584 Apr 20, 2013
Care for Nature
Gods people are required to take care of the natural world.
If you come across a birds nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life (Deut 22:6-7).
It is permissible to take a young bird or eggs for food, but the mother must be protected. This ensures that breeding and hatching will continue.
This principle can be generalised. God gave humans dominion over the earth. That does not mean that we are able to exploit it as we choose. We can use the product of the earth, including birds, animals and fruit. But we must ensure that enough breeding stock remains to preserve each specifies for future generations.
This passage is future looking. When consume the product of the earth we must think about the future. We tend to think only about our current generation. For example, if oil is discovered, we assume that it can all be used by our generation. That is not the way that God wants us to think. He wants us to think about those who will follow us.
My father fulfilled his dream of being a farmer when he bought a farm that had been cropped so excessively that the soil was depleted. He taught us that a farmer should aim to leave the land better than it was when he found it. That is good practice.
There are no direct penalties for failing to obey this command. However, there is a warning that if it is ignored, life on the land will not go well.
Conservation of nature is not a new idea. God put it the Torah when he gave it to Moses.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5585 Apr 20, 2013
Humans are allowed to use animals to assist with their work.
Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain (Deut 25:4).
In Moses time, oxen were an important part of the harvest. When the wheat what cut it was laid on an area of hard ground called the threshing floor. Oxen would be made to walk in a circle on the threshing floor, and the pressure of the hooves would break the grain off the stalks to which it was attached. The next step took place on a windy day. The farm would toss the trampled wheat into the air with a winnowing fork. The wind would blow the chaff away while the grain would fall to the ground.
The message of Deuteronomy is that it is legitimate to use animals to provide mechanical power. However, the owner has a duty to care for the working animal really well. For example, a team of horses pulling a plough needed to be fed three times a day.
People employed to do work are to be treated well.
Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin (Deut 24:14-15).
A person who needs to work for wages must be treated well. This applies to people living in the neighbourhood and foreigners who are there temporarily. When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, he was illustrating this principle. Neighbours are not just those who live around you. The foreigner that is encountered is also a neighbour.
A critical part of being a good neighbour is to pay generous wages. Gods people should not be satisfied with paying the minimum wage. God expects more than that. They should pay the person enough for them to live on.
The employer should not just think about their convenience. They must do what is best for the employee. If the person were really poor, they would not be able to wait until the end of the week for their money, because they would be without food. Even though it is inconvenient for the employer, the poor person should be paid each day. They have done the work, so they are entitled to the pay. In the modern world, weekly or fortnightly pay has become the standard, but that makes life really hard for some people.
Do not defraud or rob your neighbour. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight (Lev 19:13).
Gods guidance for economic life says that holding back the wages of a hired worker overnight is the same as defrauding them.
The requirement of this command is more general, as it is an aspect of loving neighbours. An employer must treat their employees in the same way as they would treat someone they love. They cannot just pay the minimum they can get away with and leave their employees to fend for themselves. They must treat their employees the same way as they would treat their family members. Employees should be paid promptly and generously.
Employees are not disconnected people. They are neighbours that employers must love and care for
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5586 Apr 20, 2013
All buying and selling must be done honestly.
Do not have two differing weights in your bagone heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your houseone large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly (Deut 25:13-16).
This command was given in a context where coins were not available for trade. Payments for purchases and sales were made by weighing out gold or silver. A clever way to defraud people was to use scales that weighed light when making payments and a different set of scales that weighed heavy when getting paid.
The command applies to everyone who is selling goods or services. They must represent the stuff that they are selling. Selling flawed goods as if they are good quality is wrong, because God detests anyone who deals dishonestly. There should be no rip-offs among Gods people. They should be known as honest traders.
We are not entitled to take whatever price we can get, even if it is greater than we think that the goods are worth. Nor are we entitled to pay the lowest price possible, if less than we thing the good is worth. We cannot buy goods from China and just ignore the fact that the people who made them were paid a pittance.
Two comments are common in business:
Let the buyer beware.
What the market will bear.
They have no place amongst Gods people.
This command has a broader application. It means that bank policies that inflate the currency are immoral. In biblical times, kings devalued their coins by mixing silver into gold coins and other cheaper metals into silver coins. The coin appears to have the same value, so people still use it, but the king has stolen some of their gold or silver. This is immoral. In modern times, currencies are deflated by central bank policy, but the consequence4s are the same. People holding the currency are robbed of some of their wealth. Inflation is always immoral, regardless of means used.
The person with the scales has the power. Most people dealing with them would have to trust their honesty, because they would not be able to afford their own scales. God gets really upset when people with power use it dishonestly.
Kings and central banks have power. God detests counterfeiting coins and he detests central bank money creation because they are the same economic transaction in different form.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5587 Apr 20, 2013
For a community to be strong, people must satisfied with what they have got, even if others have more.
You shall not covet your neighbours house. You shall not covet your neighbours wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour (Ex 20:17).
You shall not covet your neighbours wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbours house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour (Deut 5:21).
This command has no penalties, because coveting is something that takes place in a persons heart, so there are no witnesses who can testify against it. However, it is a really important command, because coveting can tear a community apart. We must not look at any of the things that a person in our neighbourhood owns, and wish that it were ours. Adultery is often rooted in coveting other mens wives.
Modern television advertising is based on persuading people to covet the things that the person in the advert who looks like their neighbour is flaunting.
Widows and Orphans
Some people get into bad situations through no fault of their own.
Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless (Ex 22:22-24)
Woman whose husbands die young while their children are dependent are left in a vulnerable situation. They will have to earn enough to support their family, while not neglecting their children. Children who lose their parents while they are young are left in a helpless position. God expects the people in a neighbourhood to voluntarily care for the widows and orphans living among them.
God is very serious about this obligation. He warned that a community that does not care for their orphans and widows bring judgment on themselves. This judgment will come in attacks of with violent weapons.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5588 Apr 20, 2013
Duty to the Poor
In every community, some people do well and others do badly. Gods instructions for economic life provide safeguards for the poor.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God (Lev 19:9-10).
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow (Deut 24:19-21).
The people in a neighbourhood are to leave some of their crops for the poor to harvest. This is not a hand out, because the poor have to work to get the produce.
This assistance is not just for immediate neighbours. It must be offered to foreigners who have chosen to live in the neighbourhood. Ruth was a Moabite (Moab was an enemy of Israel) yet Boaz allowed her to glean on his fields.
Gleaning only works in agricultural societies, but the principle applies everywhere. God expects his people to find ways to give some of what they have produced to the poor. Giving to relief organisations is not enough. God prefers that we find ways to emulate gleaning by blessing the poor living in our neighbourhoods. Likewise, people in business have an obligation to assist the people in their neighbourhood. Much is expected from those who have been given more. This is what loving our neighbour means.
The command about gleaning does not mean that everyone has a free hand to reap other peoples crops. A duty of care remains.
If you enter your neighbours vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. If you enter your neighbours grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing grain (Deut 23:24-25).
A hungry person walking past a vineyard can take a few grapes, but they are not to use a container. A person walking through a wheat field can take a few grains in their hands to calm their hunger, but they must not use a sickle to cut the grain. Jesus and his disciples were acting this command when they were challenged by the Pharisees for working on the sabbath.
He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him,Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath(Mark 2:23-24)?
The Pharisees were wrong, because the disciples were not harvesting. The command that permitted them to eat grains, explicitly forbade the use of sickles, so it was not harvesting.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5589 Apr 20, 2013
Loans to the Poor
The level of help given to the poor depends on the seriousness of the situation. If the situation of the poor person is not too serious, then someone in their neighbour hood should lend them money to enable them to get back on their feet again. Loans to the poor have to critical conditions.
A poor person must not be charged interest.
If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest (Ex 22:25).
Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the LORD your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess ( Deut 23:19-20).
Interest is a killer for people, because if they fail pay to pay it, the interest is added to the principle with penalties. A small loan can turn into a huge debt in no time. Interest changes a loan from a blessing to a curse.
An interest free loan may be enough to get some poor people going again. It gives them a strong incentive to work, so they can repay the loan. The ban on interest prevents their debt from growing unnecessarily, if life continues to be tough.
Any loan to poor person that has not been repaid must be cancelled after seven years.
At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD's time for cancelling debts has been proclaimed (Deut 15:1-2).
The aim of the loan is to help a poor person get back on their feet. If they fail to repay the loan, it must be wiped out after seven years. This means that the loan does not increase the burden being carried by the poor person, if they are unable to get on top of their problems.
The reason for the seven-year limit is that we do not know the future. We should make commitments that we cannot meet. Any commitment beyond seven years is too risky, because we cannot know what our situation will be.
These loans are really a gift that must be repaid, if the persons situation recovers. This is why Jesus told his followers to make loans without expecting to be repaid.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you (Matt 5:42).
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5590 Apr 20, 2013
yes get it right please
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5591 Apr 20, 2013
Jesus principle of generosity was a restatement of a command in Deuteronomy.
If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your poor brother. Rather be open-handed and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbour this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land (Deut 15:7-11).
If someone gets into financial difficulty, another person in their neighbourhood who is better off should give them a loan to help them through a difficult time. No particular person was responsible for making the loan, but those who were closest to the person in trouble would be expected to come forward. Given that the loan might not be repaid, it would not be surprising if people were reluctant to make a loan to a person in trouble, but this is not acceptable to God. He expects people to be generous. He says that generosity to neighbours is a condition for receiving Gods economic blessing. This makes sense. A community in which everybody is contributing will be stronger than one in which many of the people are struggling with poverty. Making a loan to someone who is poor, knowing that it might not be repaid back is an example of loving our neighbours.
Lenders have power over borrowers. This power can be used to intimidate the weaker person, but it divides the community undermining its strength. The Torah requires a lender to treat a vulnerable person with respect.
When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbour, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge. Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you (Deut 24:10-13).
The person with power must not enter the poor persons house to create fear among his family or looking for valuables that could be claimed.
Efforts to help poor people must no harm them This is why the loans was interest free and cancelled at the end of seven years , if the person was still poor. This is the opposite of the worlds way. Poor people have no security they have to go to loan sharks, who charge very high interest rates, often up to fifty person. The poor person usually fails to pay the interest, so it is added to the loan. In a very short time, the loan gets huge. The lender seizes all of the property of the poor person to cover the debt and they are left destitute. Gods way is different. Poor people must not be forced deeper into debt. If they cannot repay the loan, they are left no worse off than before they received it.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5592 Apr 20, 2013
Security for Debt
Some people might need a loan to get a business started or to expand an existing business. This should be rare, because debt is dangerous. Business should operate on equity. However, if a loan is necessary, interest is permissible, but the term should be limited to seven years. The lender was entitled to take some security for their loan, but they must not take anything that is needed for the borrowers livelihood or safety.
Do not take a pair of millstonesnot even the upper oneas security for a debt, because that would be taking a man's livelihood as security (Deut 24:6).
Business equipment must not be taken as security, because it would prevent the person from operating their business.
If you take your neighbours cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate (Ex 22:26-27).
If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God (Deut 24:12-13).
If personal effects are taken, they must be returned at the time they are needed.
Land and Capital
Christians who dislike Leviticus miss out on one of the most important economic principles in the scriptures.
The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.
If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves, they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property . Houses in villages without walls around them are to be considered as belonging to the open country. They can be redeemed, and they are to be returned in the Jubilee (Lev 25:23-28,31).
When Israel entered the Promised Land, land was the main form of capital. The land was divided up evenly between tribes and family groupings, so that every family had a piece of land. God organised the situation so that capital was evenly distributed. This is an important principle. God wants to see capital evenly distributed. In the Micahs vision of the kingdom, every man has his own vine and his own fig tree (Mic 4:4). This is the same principle.
In an agricultural society, land was the main form of capital. Distributing the land evenly ensure that every family had access to capital. It was distributed evenly, so that every family had an equal opportunity.
In reality, some people use their capital productively and do well. Others misuse their capital and get into financial difficulty. If a family gets into serious financial trouble, they might not need to sell their land to settle their debts. However the land could not be sold in perpetuity, because it belongs to God. All that could be sold was the crops that would be produced between the present day and the next jubilee. The jubilee occurred every fifty years.
Pasir Gudang, Malaysia
#5593 Apr 20, 2013
If an debtor family has sold their land to a creditor to settle their debts, three things could happen.
A relative or neighbour to come to the aid of the debtor family and buy back the land from the creditor to whom it had been sold. The redeemer will pay the full price that paid by the purchase. This was a sacrifice as the relative or neighbour would receive very little. They might get some crops while they were getting the debtor family prepared to look after it again, but they will never own the land they have bought. This was essentially a gift from one person to another. It is generous giving at its best. The only benefit he gets is the benefit of living in a strong community.
The Good Samaritan helped a man who was in a hole, perhaps due to his stupidity, by going places he should not have gone alone. The parable extended the scope of who is our neighbour to everyone that we encounter. It does not limit the scope of assistance to caring for sick people. The Torah teaches that being a Good Samaritan means recovering the property of a neighbour who has been forced into selling it to pay debt.
If no one redeems the land sold by a person in debt and he returns to prosperity again, he can buy his family property back at any time. The price will be set at the value of the crops that will be received between the sale day and the jubilee. He does not have to repay the full amount, because the buyer has received crops from the land.
If there is no redeemer and the person in trouble never recovers sufficiently to buy it back, the buyer can hold the land until the jubilee. This will affect the price paid for the land. The buyer is not really buying the land. He cannot because it belongs to God. He is actually buying the harvests that will occur between the purchase date and the jubilee. If he pays more than that is worth, he might be reluctant to return the land when the Jubilee comes. The benefit the buyer gets is the confidence that comes from being part of a strong community.
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