Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Two Sad Stories with One Lesson

I read two sad stories within a couple of hours.  One was posted on Fox News just today.  The other was found during my daily Bible reading.  It was recorded in the book of 2 Samuel about three thousand years ago.  I see a connection between these stories.

Yet Another Story about Bishops Covering Up Pedophile Priests

A story on Fox News begins with this gut wrenching paragraph:

Two Roman Catholic bishops who led a central Pennsylvania diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by over 50 priests or religious leaders over a 40-year period, according to a grand jury report issued Tuesday.

This is the latest in a long string of similar stories from all across the US and all around the world which have erupted beginning in Boston in 2002.

What can we learn from a story which is so terribly dark and heartbreaking?  Probably there are hundreds of lessons to be learned, but in this blogpost I want to draw out just one.  To do this, let’s consider another sad story which took place about three thousand years ago.

Uzzah is Struck Dead for Touching the Ark

After David became King of all Israel and after he conquered the city of Jerusalem, he wanted to move the ark of God.  David’s initial attempt to move the ark ended in tragedy:

2 Samuel: 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart
 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.
 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
 6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.
 7 The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

Why did God kill Uzzah for just touching the ark?  It turns out that David and all involved in moving the ark had ignored God’s law about how to move it.  The ark was supposed to be wrapped up and then carried on poles on the shoulders of people specially chosen for that job (see Numbers 4:4 and Numbers 7:9).  God expects us to take His Word and His laws seriously.  There are serious, tragic consequences when we don’t.

A Rule about Marriage is Ignored

The Bible warns that forbidding people to marry is a doctrine that comes from deceiving spirits (1 Timothy 4:1-3).  The Apostle Paul was not married, but the other apostles, including Peter, were married (1 Corinthians 9:5, Matthew 8:14).  When the Bible gives instructions for choosing leaders in the church, it is clear that it was expected that most church leaders would be married (1 Timothy 3:4, Titus 1:6).

The Roman Catholic Church has ignored this teaching in God’s word and has made its own rules.  They forbid their priests from marrying.  And just as David ignoring God’s instructions about how to carry His ark had tragic consequences, so has the Roman Catholic Church ignoring God’s Word when it comes to allowing church leaders to marry.

Disclaimer:  I’m not claiming that not allowing priests to marry is the only cause of the worldwide sexual abuse scandal, but it would be naïve to believe that it is not a major contributing factor.

Self Examination

It’s easy to see the errors of others, whether of Bible characters three thousand years ago or of church leaders caught in sin splashed on Fox News’ website this afternoon.

But what about me?  What about you?  Are there parts of God’s Word that you are ignoring?

God has good reasons for the instructions He gives us.  Some of His reasons are obvious to us and some are not.  But our job is not to decide which laws to obey and which not to.  Knowing that there are serious consequences for not obeying God is a big part of what the Bible means when it says:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).

The wrong way to fear the Lord is to avoid God. (Which we can’t actually do.)

The right way to fear the Lord is to avoid sin.

I’ll close with another passage of scripture:

Psalm 19:
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.
 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
 12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
 14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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