Would Jesus Forsake a Believer Who Worships Other Gods?

Question:  According to Hosea 5:6, 9-11, and 14 God withdraws, removes protection, pours out wrath, tears to pieces because He is ticked off at Israel’s spirit of prostitution.  Is it fair to say, even in light of the cross, that God still does all those things to believers who are operating out of a spirit of prostitution?

Answer:  Hosea is prophesying against idolatrous Israel.  His own marriage becomes a parable of how Israel has been unfaithful to Yahweh, her husband.  He (Yahweh and Hosea) must “wall in” (3:6) his wife (Israel and Gomer) until she can be faithful again.  She is caught up in a spirit of prostitution (4:12; 5:4).

The specific actions described in chapter 5 are consistent with God’s covenant agreement with Israel as found in Leviticus 26, a series of punishments for covenant unfaithfulness ranging from disease, crop failure, wild animal infestations, plague, sieges by other nations and eventually exile from the land.  Hosea’s prophecy reflects this last stage where God is ready to abandon the nation to exile from the land.  This is the final warning, so to speak.

Now we must understand that Israel stands in a covenant relationship with Yahweh and there is both a conditional and unconditional aspect to it.  When God made the covenant with Abraham it was in response to Abraham’s believing God’s promise that He would give Abraham a son and make him a great nation.  Abraham believed God and He credited that to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  Abraham was saved by faith.  Then He instructed Abraham to cut several animals in half and arrange them on the ground so they could be walked between.  This was a common way for two parties to make an agreement, in essence saying, this is what will happen to you if you fail the agreement.  But Yahweh then put Abraham to sleep and in the form of a smoking firepot and flaming torch He alone walked between the pieces.  He alone held Himself responsible for fulfilling the promise of the covenant.

Nevertheless, successive generations must be in compliance with the covenant requirements (the laws God gives them) in order to gain the promises.  In various generations it may be that nearly the whole nation consists of unbelievers.  God always maintains a remnant of believers (Isaiah 1:9, this is part of God’s way of unconditionally maintaining the nation’s existence for Abraham’s sake), but when the majority are unbelievers there is a needed response of judgment.  Yet, one day, God will restore the nation as a whole to faith (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 37; Romans 11:25-32).  He will “circumcise” the hearts of His people to enable them to keep the covenant and thus receive the promise (Deuteronomy 30:6).

Consequently, when we see these judgments against the nation of Israel, we cannot make a one-to-one correlation with them and individual believers today.  No believer can ever be forsaken by the Lord (Hebrews 13:5; John 10:27-30; Romans 8, etc.).  A believer might develop a spirit of prostitution, but God will discipline us (Hebrews 12) to bring us back to a proper relationship with Him.  Believers will persevere in faith.

Randall Johnson

Who Is the Destroying Angel in Numbers 16?

Question:  Who exactly is the “destroyer” referenced in 1 Cor 10:10, when interpreted in light of the wording of Exo 11:4, 12:23, and 12:29 in the NKJV translation?

Answer:  The incident referred to in 1 Corinthians 10:10 actually refers to an event that occurred in Numbers 16 when several Levites were challenging Moses’ authority as leader.  The leaders of the rebellion, Korah, Dathan and Abiram, were standing at their tents and God told Moses He was going to destroy all the assembly who was supporting them.  Moses asked Him to only deal with the leaders.  God opened the earth and swallowed them and their families alive.  Several of their followers who were offering incense on the altar were killed by fire.  When the next day the assembly came again to Moses and accused him of killing these leaders, God began to kill them with a plague.  Moses and Aaron offered a sacrifice on their behalf so that more did not die.

In Exodus 12 Moses told the Israelites that Yahweh would go “through the land to strike down the Egyptians” but that if they applied the blood of the lamb to their doorposts God would “not permit the destroyer to enter” their houses (verse 23).  Though it does not say a “destroying angel” did this in Numbers, Paul is undoubtedly assuming the Jewish tradition that the same angelic activity that occurred in Exodus with the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt (see Psalm 78:49) was repeated in Korah’s rebellion.  Whether the angel from God opened the earth, sent the fire that killed those offering illicit fire on the altar and sent the plague, or whether the angel was commissioned for just some of that action, we do not know.

It is possible that the destroying angel was the angel of Yahweh.  The angel of Yahweh (this means, the messenger of Yahweh) is a separate person from God but at times is identified as Yahweh (compare Genesis 16:7-11 with Exodus 3:1-6).  It seems best to understand this by positing that Jesus, the Son, is the angel of Yahweh.  We can understand this because we know that Jesus, the Son, is both equal with God and yet a separate personality from God the Father.  This helps make sense in this passage of Yahweh taking responsibility for opening the earth, sending the fire and the plague.  Yahweh did, but it was Yahweh the Son, not Yahweh the Father.

We see this stand out in stark relief in Genesis 19:24 when the text says that in judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, “Yahweh rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from Yahweh out of the heavens” (when you see LORD in all caps this is the English representation of the divine name, Yahweh).  The Son was bringing down judgment from the Father in heaven.

Interestingly, in 1 Corinthians 11 we read that some of the Corinthians were sick and some had died because they were violating another sacred symbol of God, the Lord’s supper, by their inappropriate behaviors.  God still does not tolerate wanton abuse of His holy symbols and leaders.  And that is the intent of Paul in this passage, also, to warn the Corinthians against offending God’s holy ordinances.

Randall Johnson

Why Isn’t Polygamy Allowed Today?

Question: Why can’t men have multiple wives today when God seemed to permit it in the days of Abraham and David and Solomon?

Answer: Jesus, in Matthew 19, uses the Genesis 2 account as a template or pattern for marriage. That is, one marriage, no divorce. But there are other patterns evident in the garden, such as, one wife, one husband, and male/female as opposed to same sex.

Whenever we see multiple spouses (wives) depicted in the Scriptures it always is shown in a negative light. Lamech, Genesis 4:19-24, is an arrogant man, Abraham’s situation results in feuding wives and fear and jealousy about the children (Genesis 16, 21), Elkanah (1 Samuel 1) loves one wife, Hannah, but puts up with another, Peninnah, because she can give him children, and on and on it goes. Solomon’s wives led him into idolatry (1 Kings 11).

In the New Testament, though there is no prohibition given against polygamy per se, elders are not allowed to be elders if they have more than one wife (1 Timothy 3:2) and this suggests and models the principle of monogamy for all. Since then, cultures that have been influenced by Christianity have prohibited polygamy. When the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) sought to make Utah a state, there was a refusal if they permitted polygamy, so they also now prohibit it.

When missionaries have gone to other cultures where polygamy is permitted they have struggled with finding leaders who don’t participate in polygamous marriages. They have had to wrestle with the fact that many of their converts might be polygamous. Some have realized that they cannot make the husbands divorce their wives without creating a great deal of suffering, so have opted for an educational process that changes the next generation. As it becomes more accepted in the United States, churches may have to deal with similar questions. Of course, as long as it is on our books as illegal, we will have to counsel polygamist families in ways of becoming conformed to the laws of our land.

Why didn’t God tell David or Solomon or Abraham or others that it was wrong to have multiple wives? Why did He permit them to hold positions of leadership in their communities when they were not observing the ideal He established in the Garden? It seems that this might have been too big a cultural shift for them to make given the acceptance of polygamy in their cultures. Had they asked God whether they should marry more than one wife we may suppose He would have told them, “No.” We may suppose that there are cultural allowances for things in our own nation today that were we to ask God if we should engage in them He might say, “No,” but we don’t ask.

Polygamy is often cited as a deterrent to other less desirable ways men might be tempted to seek multiple partners (affairs, prostitution).  The better answer is to help marriages be successful according to God’s instructions.  But whether a marriage is satisfying or not, we must still obey God’s laws and for current United States couples the state restrictions against polygamy become our obligation as well (Romans 13:1-7).

Randall Johnson