My Thoughts. . .

Monday, September 16, 2019

During Stephen’s trial the following charges were made against him, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.  For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” Acts 6:12-14.   Later, the Hebrew writer stated, “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.”  Hebrews 7:12. Then that writer states, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete, and aging will soon disappear.”  Hebrews 8:13.

The Old Testament is the foundation upon which the New one is built.  With the introduction of the new covenant, some changes would be implemented and some would seem radical.  Jesus told the Samaritan woman “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” John 4:21. Jesus prophesied about the Romans destroying the city and Temple.  This happened forty years later (Matthew 24).  As a results, this left Judaism without a priesthood, Temple, and scriptural sacrifices.  Also, the church itself went from Jewish domination to a Gentile one.  No longer would anyone continue to follow the example given in Acts 21:20-26.  Yet, some Old Testament practices continued for several hundred years after the Temple’s destruction.

When Rebekah arrived at Abraham’s camp and she and Isaac met one another, “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.”  Genesis 24:67.

She was the daughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor.  Isaac had never seen her before.  She was chosen for him by the slave Abraham sent to find a wife for him.  Cousins marrying was not against the law.  There was no “dating,” nor “falling in love” before marriage.  That was not a requirement nor expected.  She left all that was familiar to her and went with this stranger to another country to be married to someone she had never met, did not know, and yet knew they were related.  They did not know whether their personalities were compatible.  She went willingly.  No marriage ceremony is mentioned other than going into Isaac’s mother’s tent with him.  Since she covered her face when they met, Isaac did not know what she looked like.  Today, people will base their entire marriage on how handsome or beautiful the other is.  They are looking for a “trophy” mate!

Isaac loved Rebekah after they went into the tent.  He never took another wife nor slave women as an additional bed partner.  A unique individual in his time.  On the other hand, Jacob had two wives, Leah and Rachel, but he also bedded their servant slave girls, Bilhah and Zilpah.  These four women gave him his twelve sons.  Laban switched out Rachel for Leah, but Jacob did not know this until he woke up the next morning (Genesis 21-25).  Jacob worked for seven years and went to bed with a woman he did not love.  Another seven for the second wife.  No dating.  No ceremony other than taking the woman to bed with him.  Both wives offered him their slave girls.  Love is not mentioned in his relationship with either Bilhah or Zilpah.  They had no choice in their being given to Jacob to produce children.  In spite of that missing ingredient, he dutifully impregnated both giving him two sons each.

In Jesus’ day, daughters were pledged as a wife to a male in another family.  When that contract was made, she was no longer available to any other man.  When she reached a proper age, usually teens, she was given to that man to take as a wife.  A dowry was paid by the man’s family to the girl’s folks.  After marriage, if the man died before children were born, she was given to the next oldest brother to perform that necessity (Matthew 22:24-28).  Such “giving” was expected of the female in that culture.  God’s covenant recognized such as “marriage” and the first son as the child of the departed husband.

In our society, the couple usually date one another.  They decide if they want to marry.  No chaperons are required in our culture.  No dowry is expected by the girl’s parents, but the groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal meal.  The bride’s family is responsible for the expenses of the wedding and reception “feast.”  Once the ceremony is over, the honeymoon follows.  The groom is expected to shoulder those expenses.  A marriage license must be obtained prior to the wedding, usually from the county where the ceremony will take place.  The one who is citing the marriage ceremony is required by law to sign the license and return it to the county office in the time prescribed.  What is said in that ceremony is often left to the preacher, judge, or county official but may include dialogue from the couple.  The process employed is left up to how much the bride’s family wishes to spend on the entrance and exit of the bridal party.  In the marriage, each is expected to be faithful to the other.  The man is not allowed to sleep with anyone other than his wife.  Two wives or two husbands by law is illegal and labeled bigamous.

Since it was sanctioned in the Old Testament and continued into the New, could a man do the following?  May he take a woman to his mother’s house, that he had never met before, and be married by that process without obtaining a marriage license or standing before an official recognized by the State?  If not, when did our modern scenario begin and when was it recognized as lawful after that introduction?  Did everyone vote to change it without anyone abstaining?  Why was Isaac’s way of getting married made unlawful?  When a society’s culture changes and that change becomes law, does that make the old way sinful to practice?  It would make it unlawful, wouldn’t it?  Today, is one society’s culture accepted by other cultures that do not practice the same method of getting married?  In other words, is a Jewish marriage accepted by Christians, or a pagan one accepted by Jews and Christians?

Cultural changes have always been a sore spot with Bible students.  These problems have resulted in divisions where fellowship disappears.  Few churches have escaped this nagging scenario.  When a tradition is accepted as scripture and it is violated, the offender is seen as a destroyer of God’s word.  The first century Jewish church had problems accepting uncircumcised Gentiles as Christians (Acts 15:1, 5).  All those Gentiles had to do was undergo that surgery and peace could continue.  No, Paul had to add to the problem by refusing to take the Jewish side in the controversy!  Although the apostles and elders met in Jerusalem and James gave a solution, some continued to live in the past.  James was respected, but some continued to abide by first covenant law and customs rather than accept the new one.  The Isaac kind of marriage was accepted then, but not today.  Culture changed and God’s word encourages us to keep the law we are under (Romans 13:1-2).  Basically, Paul seems to state a modern type axiom, in each situation, “When in Rome, be a Roman” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 compare with TLB)?  Of course, his authority was the law of God in those cultures.  Due to Paul’s statement, a truer one would be, “When in Rome, be a Christian.”