Say “Nice Doggie” and Pray You Don’t Have To Throw A Rock

Diplomacy is the art of saying, “Nice Doggie!” until you can find a rock.

Will Rogers

Not very long ago I was taking a friendly jog in my neighborhood. As I passed a house about a quarter of a mile from home out jutted two unfriendly pit bulls from the garage.

On a full-bore sprint.

Towards me.

I stopped in my tracks as they neared and watched in dismay as the leading dog went airborne about three yards from me.

I realized her aiming point was my right arm, which I subsequently stuck above my head in the nick of time as she flew by my torso. When she turned to collect her wits I found myself squared off eye to eye(s) with two angry pups. From the garage a woman’s voice rang out. An angel diplomat, and maybe a derelict owner, hollered the names of the dogs and ran to corral them as they stood staring me down.

She apologized and I continued my run (shaken). Sometimes the authority of a mediator can calm an angry beast.

As I ran, I was reminded of a childhood friend who encountered two stray pit bulls in the woods with his playmate. There was no owner to restrain the dogs for him. One of the dogs latched on to his face and commenced to tear it to shreds. Eventually, the friend was able to fend off the animals with a machete. Years and tens of thousands of dollars of facial surgery (and a court settlement) later and deep scars still remain from that attack.

Sometimes the authority of a sword is the only thing that can calm an angry beast.

Let’s hope and pray peaceful diplomacy rules the day for Israel and Palestine. I know it’s unlikely, maybe humanly impossible, for the “City of Peace” to preserve much longer without major battle conflict; but we should at least shun the sure international domino effect a Gaza War would have on invested nations.

How long will America be able to speak soft words to a rabid situation, while merely carrying her big sword and pocketful of rocks? How long until diplomatic solutions necessarily give way to machete solutions?

I don’t know.

This is why I’m glad I’m not the president. And it is one sure reason we should persist to pray for our political leaders making earth-shaking decisions in the crucible of the moment right now. Even the fiercest political opponents of the Obama administration better plead for uncommon wisdom on America’s behalf.

Lord haste the day humanity has exhausted its diplomatic and military resources, and the Prince of Peace takes his rightful place in the New Kingdom. Instability will give way to the unshakable One sooner now than ever, peeps.

Bryan Daniels

PS-If you’re a pitbull advocate, please don’t make the comments about that. Thanks.

Divine Moral Monster: Slavery In The Bible

Some people have little capacity for nuance (historical-contextual-grammatical) when reading Scripture.

This is detrimental especially when studying the hyper-sensitive and complex issue of slavery within the Bible. The word “slavery” in America has strong brutal race specific connotations attached to it. The whole ungodly “industry” of that regrettable time revolved around greed and abuse. If the Bible condones slavery like that, then we have good reason to do a double take with Scripture’s veracity.

But let’s be clear:

The Bible doesn’t condone slavery in that form at all.

Professor Paul Copan (excellent thinker on the subject) says:

We should compare Hebrew debt-servanthood (many translations render this “slavery”) more fairly to apprentice-like positions to pay off debts — much like the indentured servitude during America’s founding when people worked for approximately 7 years to pay off the debt for their passage to the New World. Then they became free.

The forced lifelong subjection of American slavery had little resemblance of Hebrew (OT)  servant hood in the bible. Masters could hire servants “from year to year” and were not to “rule over … [them] ruthlessly” (Leviticus 25:46,53). The Old Testament prohibited unavoidable lifelong servanthood — unless someone loved his master and wanted to attach himself to him (in many cases this happened!)  (Exodus 21:5).

Most servants in the Hebrew biblical context were to be treated as part of the family and were practically live in servants until their debt was paid. Even if they didn’t pay all their debts, Old Testament Law commanded the servants be released after every seventh year with all debts forgiven (Leviticus 25:35-43) This was wholly unlike (and radically progressive) the other Ancient Near Eastern slave laws of the day. J.A. Motyer says:

“Hebrew has no vocabulary of slavery, only of servanthood.”

The Old Testament also instituted anti-kidnapping laws that were absent in other ANE laws. One unique feature of the Mosaic Law is its condemnation of kidnapping a person to sell as a slave — an act which is punishable by death (Exodus 21:16; cp. Deuteronomy 24:7). Kidnapping is how slavery in the old South was nurtured; African kidnappers and traffickers got the ball rolling for the American plantation owners.

Other Old Testament provisions that were an improvement on other Ancient Near Eastern practices was release the of injured servants (Exodus 21:26,27). Also, Israel was to offer safe harbor to foreign runaway slaves (Deuteronomy 23:15,16) — a marked contrast to the Southern states’ Fugitive Slave Law.

Some may claim the Old Testament allows for lifelong servitude of “foreign slaves” in Leviticus 25:42-46. But some things to consider:

God was giving foreign runaway slaves protection within Israel’s borders so they would not have to be returned to their harsh masters. They would be house servants with rights in Israel and not mere property like in other lands (Deuteronomy 23:15,16)

Foreigners had no ability to own land in Israel (for obvious nation-preserving reasons). The safest most logical way for them to survive would be to attach themselves to a family as a household servant. Servants in Israel were considered part of the family.

Verse 47 shows these same foreign servants could purchase their own freedom if they had the means. The point: All servants in Israel, even foreign ones, had the potential to be released freemen.

Slavery in The New Testament

The New Testament era unfolded in a time when 85% of Roman population consisted of slaves in varying positions. The type practiced in Rome was of the more contemporary assumed “property” form of slavery. Roman slaves had decidedly less citizen rights than Hebrew servants (I wonder why that was?)

But the NT still has some important commentary on slavery in Roman context.

In Old South slavery (and in some ways Roman slavery), slaves were deemed less than human. On the other hand, Paul states slaves were morally responsible full fledged persons capable of living to the glory of God. (Colossians 3:22-25)

Slaves also were fellow image bearers of God, and granted equal human/spiritual status with all peoples (Galatians 3:28) Galatians 3:28 may have been the most radical human rights statement to ever fall on ancient Roman ears.

In Old South slavery, slave traders were greedy ruthless traffickers who treated humans as mere cargo. On the other hand, Paul condemns such slave traders and proclaims their practices as a violation of inherent human dignity (1 Tim 1:9,10).

If the slave owners of the South actually practiced the parameters of servanthood expounded in the Old and New Testament, that would have been the practical abolition of slavery as they knew it.

But they didn’t, greed ruled the day for them, and the blood of countless thousands of slaves and soldiers bear witness to this.

Some may lament that the Bible seems to only regulate the scope and type of servanthood allowed, and not overtly condemn it.

Well, God reserved the clearest condemnation of slavery for the lips of His own dear Son.

The Abolitionist Statement of Jesus

When God in the flesh initially came onto scene in His public ministry, He clearly opposed all forms of human oppression in His all-consuming mission statement (which was lifted from the Old Testament!):

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61)

You see

Apart from Christ

We are all slaves to something.

Slaves to sin in need of a Perfect Master to grant us true freedom by His own precious blood.

As newly purchased and redeemed we are slaves to Christ, and much more than that, sons and daughters of the Most High King.

Bryan Daniels

Divine Cage Matches And The Limp Of Love

One of the many benefits of “daddyhood” are the daily ruthless cage matches that turn my living room floor into a carnage filled war of bloody dropkicks and stomach turning armbars.

Ok, not really.

But I can see the mean and hungry gaze of my opponents every evening as I descend down to the living room rug. A little blond three year old jumps off his chair in the kitchen and screeches across the tile like a Scottish warrior. A twelve month old carrot top takes a more subversive attack mode, crawling swiftly across the carpet floor while huffing and puffing in an unintelligibly excited tone.

The three-year old cannonballs onto my stomach, the one year old goes for the face rake, they both giggle hysterically as their big clumsy opponent grunts in fabricated (usually) pain.

This is their favorite time of day.

It’s their father’s too. Amongst the dropkicks and baby armbars he’s usually able to sneak a few hugs and kisses in.

I’m sure in their little imaginative psyche’s they are partaking in a no holds barred rumble of epic proportions. I mean, they are relentless (and could probably go on all night).

I always think about Jacob and the jujitsu smackdown he had with God. Whether it was just an angel, the preincarnate Christ, or some other divine manifestation, Jacob was convinced he had a face to face encounter with The Almighty when it was over (v. 30) The story always had a certain level of humor to me (Genesis 32:24-32).

God humbles Himself in such a way to appear physically before the perplexed man, and not only that, He allows for a wrestling match to ensue for the whole night.

This is the same God who could fling a universe into existence with the flick of a wrist, or drown a massive army with the drops of his bucket. But here we find Him in a grappling stalemate with a sinful man who deeply fears his own human brother, Esau.

Behold the humility of God!

I don’t presume to know God’s emotions, but since He is Father, I wonder if a sheepish grin of delight ever occurred to Him as He wrestled with His child, Jacob.

And just to  remind the kid who was boss, like any good father has to do from time to time, the God-man dislocates Jacob’s hip with the simple brush of the finger. A little tangible battle wound to remind him the cost of wrestling with the Almighty (v. 25).

Despite the pain, Jacob is relentless. Specifically, relentless with his prayer request to God:

“I will NOT let you go until you bless me!” (importunate child!)

God blesses the striving man with a new name and a wiped clean past:” Israel.” For Jacob you have “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (v. 28) Amazingly, God delights in being bugged by His children (Matthew 7:7)! Keep pestering Him beloved, He has commanded we treat this as a joyful full time occupation (Jeremiah 51:12).

I love the heart of a Father who stoops to His children’s level to communicate and bless them.

I love the relentless grip of the child who knows only the gracious hand of the Father is able to supply all his needs.

I love being a dad. I pray my little boys can see through the flawed picture of their own  earthly father’s limited love, and see the perfect picture of their eternal Father’s everlasting love.

Such a love that cost the death of His own begotten, where the Father’s wrath on the Son wasn’t imaginary, but terrifyingly real and utterly complete (Isaiah 53). Thank God that through Christ we may wrestle with the Holy One in prayer and not be destroyed.

Claiming the precious name of Jesus in incessant prayer to God is serious business.

We may walk away from the encounter with a new limp.

We may walk away from it with a new name.

But let’s always walk away from it with a new-found delight in the Father who delights to wrestle with His kids.

Bryan Daniels

The Lego Bible and Divine Wrath

My wife and I are trying to introduce my three-year old son to the daily discipline of Bible reading. We thought it would be cute and relevant to purchase the Lego “Brick Bible” my wife heard about from a friend. We chose the Old Testament edition. After the fact, I’m not sure it was a good idea.* Thankfully, we got it pretty cheap on Amazon.

The images and storylines are a little explicit for a sensitive three-year old mind to process. Maybe it took a visual illustration for me to fully see it, but there is an incredible amount of horrific violence, heart-rending betrayal, and general human messiness in the OT. The Old Covenant is a perpetual Braveheart movie on steroids, the only difference is the actors are real in God’s story.

The Lego Bible (or any Bible for that matter) pulls no punches in displaying Noah’s shortcomings:

Israel’s war-torn history:

Samson’s throw down with a donkey bone:

David’s shocking adulterous sin:

The Bible is an honest account of man’s grappling with his own sinfulness, and God’s holy hatred towards that sin that has plagued us from birth. Scripture is full of real people with real issues who must cast themselves on the mercy of a real God.

We don’t have to make the Bible relevant. Look at our fallen modern world and it is manifestly clear that the Bible is relevant.

The focus of God’s judgment is unbalanced in the Lego Bible. Before every act of divine judgment (flood, fire, war, etc.) in the OT God first sent a messenger to preach righteousness and repentance (2 Peter 2:5, Deut 18:9-10, 1 sam 15:6). Despite God’s patience with them, evil men still hardened their hearts and committed mind numbing atrocities against one another.

No one dies without apt divine warning.

Let’s keep our eyes on the cross of Jesus Christ where judgment and mercy perfectly meet in the broken body of a Lamb. He is our only shield from the wrath to come.

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22)

*After researching it more, let me be clear: I DO NOT recommend the Brick Bible for anyone, especially children.

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