We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham regarding the covenant, to understand that his promise for a husband or wife belongs to the husband-wife union. His promise of a great offspring expansion for Abraham and an identical promise for Sarah convey a promise for Abraham-Sarah union, to be fulfilled for them as one. The interaction conveys a message that God’s promise for a husband or wife regarding wisdom or knowledge, material possession, child bearing, or other areas of human need; is a promise for the husband-wife union and will be fulfilled for them as one. Therefore, a husband and wife need to interact with God as a union, even if physically separate, in order to receive fulfillment of his promise.
This study continues a series to understand the individual responsibility regarding family leadership. Our previous studies in the series led to understanding the husband as the overall leader of the household and the wife as the spiritual gateway of the family and occasional leader in specific matters. Both husband and wife are individually responsible to honor and support family leadership. The family will benefit greatly if they do. The series is based on bible examples of husband-wife interactions and relationships.
An understanding of God’s covenant with Solomon implies the performance of political leadership could determine the fate of a nation in more ways than the direct effects of a successful or failed regime. The government of a people could receive a covenant (conditional promise) from God on behalf of the nation; with the king, president, prime minister, or other head of government as custodian of the covenant. The nation benefits or suffers, depending on the custodian fulfilling or failing to fulfill the conditions of the covenant. An example from Solomon as king of Israel illustrates the relationship. God promised great benefits to Israel if Solomon lived in obedience to him and followed his decrees, laws, and commands. However, he will punish the nation severely if Solomon broke the covenant. That is, God made a covenant with king Solomon on behalf of the nation of Israel.
We discuss God’s covenant with Solomon as king of Israel to understand that a nation’s relationship with God can be affected by its political leadership. As we discuss in a previous study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King, God delegates political leadership responsibilities to government, such as represented by the king during the time of Solomon as king of Israel. He expects the government to provide positive leadership (also referred to as effective leadership in A Ruler’s Motivation); whereby the king, president, prime minister, or other head of government walks in obedience to God and leads the nation to do the same as he/she focusses on addressing the nation’s needs. In contrast, negative leadership does not walk in obedience to God or care about the needs of the nation.
God rewards positive leadership and punishes negative. He directs rewards or punishment to the leader and to the nation. His covenant with King Solomon on behalf of Israel provides an example to illustrate the relationship.
Through his covenant with Abraham and elaboration of the covenant in the gospel according to John, God establishes a uniform criterion for the status of every person before him, irrespective of race. He explained the criterion further in interactions between Peter and Cornelius, where he poured out the Holy Spirit without regard to racial, national, cultural, or other differences among the people. He mandates every person to accept and interact with others the same way he would: without regard to race, nationality, geographical extraction, physical features, gender, or any other categorization. Therefore, racism or racial discrimination is a human failure and has no place among people that believe in God.
We digress somewhat from our scheduled study in order to participate in the on-going discussion of race relations occasioned by events in the United States of America. We focus our contribution on understanding God’s purpose for multiracial interactions and relationships based on accounts in the bible. God creates people into categories based on race, nationality, geographical location, physical features, gender, and others. However, none of these categorizations has any effect on a person’s status before God. Instead, his covenant with Abraham and explanation of the covenant in the gospel according to John establish the equality of all people under God, irrespective of race or any other categorization.
Furthermore, interactions between Peter and Cornelius clearly explain God’s purpose for race relations. During Peter-Cornelius meeting in Caesarea, God poured out the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his relations and friends the same way that he did on Jewish followers of Jesus at Pentecost. Racial, national, cultural, or other differences between Jews and Gentiles did not matter to God and should not matter among his people.
Also, as we discuss in Following God Schedule by Living in His Image, God creates every person to represent him in interactions among people: to convey his presence and impact as if he was there physically in human form. Therefore, he mandates every person to accept and interact with others the same way he would, without regard to race, nationality, geographical extraction, physical features, gender, or any other categorization. Racism or racial discrimination is a human failure before God. Any person that rejects, demeans, or in any way discriminates against another person on the basis of race has failed in God’s purpose of Let Us make man in Our image… [Genesis 1:26].
God terminated Saul as king of Israel because he departed from God’s command in executing judgment against Amalek. Instead of destroying all as he was commanded, he spared “everything that was good” for special treatment while selecting the “despised and worthless” for total destruction. Based on the swift termination of Saul’s kingship following the incident, we learn that God will not condone discriminatory application of the law. The principle of equality under the law is part of God’s mandate and means the law of a people must apply equally to all, irrespective of race, status in the society, or any other categorization.
First, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham and elaboration of the covenant in the gospel according to John to understand the status of a person before God is determined based on a uniform criterion and choice available to every person. Second, we discuss Peter-Cornelius interactions to understand God accepts every person that believes in him and wants us to do the same without regard to race or any other categorization. Third, we discuss the termination of Saul as king of Israel following his interaction with Amalekites to understand equality under the law as God’s mandate.
Samuel Addresses Israel at Inauguration of King Saul
Prophet Samuel explained the principle of separation of state and worship in his formal address at the inauguration of Saul as first king of Israel. He explained God delegated state functions and authority to government but expects every individual to relate to him directly based on the covenant. He will be God to every person that lives up to the covenant but will turn his back against those that don’t. Government is not an intermediary and does not have authority to regulate worship.
Samuel spoke to Israel at the inauguration of King Saul to explain their relationship with God in the new era that includes “a king as your leader” [1 Samuel 12:1]. He explained that hitherto God had been both God and king to them but from now on has delegated to the king the state functions and authority to perform the functions (see previous bible study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King). However, he remains their God and holds everyone by covenant to worship and serve him. He will be God to those that “fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart” [1 Samuel 12:24] but will turn his back to those that “persist in doing evil.” Every person including the king is individually responsible to live up to the covenant. Thus, every person has opportunity to relate to God directly. The government (king, in this case) is responsible for state functions but is not an intermediary and does not have authority in the people’s relationship with God.
Thus, Samuel defined the principle of separation of state and worship. The government has responsibility for state functions and authority to perform the functions but does not have authority to regulate worship. Instead, every person is individually responsible and free to choose a relationship with God based on his covenant (conditional promise) to be God to those that worship and serve him. Also, Samuel used the occasion to illustrate accountability of state leadership to the people by inviting public examination of his record of service before God, the new king, and all people [1 Samuel 12:3]: “Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”
We discuss Samuel’s formal handover of state functions to Saul and declaration of the principle of separation of state and worship. He performed both functions as part of his formal address during the inauguration of Saul as first king of Israel.
God’s promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife and will be fulfilled to them as a unit. Because the husband and wife are one, a promise to one is a promise to the two-in-one and will be fulfilled to them together. God interacts with husband and wife as one and illustrates the relationship through his covenant with Abraham-Sarah: a conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.
We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham regarding his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. The promise was for Abraham-Sarah as a union, their descendants, and all humanity. However, God revealed the promise to Abraham as an individual. The context of the interaction enables an understanding of aspects directed at Abraham or Sarah individually and aspects directed at Abraham-Sarah as a union. God provides a message through the interaction: that his promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife but will be fulfilled for them together as a unit.
Abraham understood the message but doubted the promise could be fulfilled for him and Sarah considering their age. He appealed for Ishmael in an apparent attempt to “help” God find a path to fulfillment of the promise [Genesis 17:17–18]: “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ … ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’” Then God clarified the promise: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” [Genesis 17:19]. Thus, God explained to Abraham that the promise is for Abraham-Sarah and will be fulfilled to their descendants through a son of their flesh. He spoke to Abraham to convey a conditional promise for Abraham-Sarah.
It is perhaps easy to understand that the promise of a child to a husband or wife is a promise to the husband-wife union. However, we may need greater consciousness of the message to appreciate its other implications. Whether in regard to wisdom or knowledge, physical possession, child bearing, or any other areas of human need, God’s promise to a husband or wife belongs to the husband-wife union and will be fulfilled to them as an indivisible unit. They need to be functionally together and interact with God as one in order to receive fulfillment of the promise. They could lose the promise if one person should become greedy and seek to claim individual ownership of any part.
We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham as described in Genesis 17 to understand the message of the covenant as it relates to husband-wife interactions and relationships.
Samson-Delilah interactions provide important principles for a man or woman seeking marital love and wondering whether to press on or withdraw from a proposed relationship. Samson was determined to win Delilah’s love despite confronting strong negative indications against a marital relationship with her. All she wanted was to spy on him for enemies that sought to neutralize his leadership of Israel. He ignored the danger signs against seeking her love, because he thought he could win her over by giving in without compromising his core belief. He eventually succumbed, broke his covenant with God, but did not win Delilah’s love.
Samson was born in covenant that endowed him with special capabilities and specific mission to begin delivery of Israel from Philistines. He was dedicated to God and to the mission from conception. As a symbol of his commitment, his hair would not be shaved or cut [Judges 13:5]: “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” He grew up with extraordinary strength that struck fear on the Philistines. He could stand up to them, was always successful against them, and was promising as leader to free Israel from Philistine rule. The Philistine rulers had no answer to him.
Then they saw an opportunity. Samson loved a Philistine woman named Delilah that did not love him. The Philistine rulers persuaded Delilah to pretend to be interested in him so she could gain access to spy on him. They would pay her handsomely for information that enabled them subdue Samson and end his leadership of Israel [Judges 16:5]: “The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, ‘See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.’”
Although Samson had sufficient information to understand the woman was spying on him, he continued to seek her love, trying to deceive her by giving in somewhat without revealing the secret that she wanted. However, she eventually wore him down: “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it” [Judges 16:16]. He succumbed and revealed the secret of his extraordinary strength. Delilah took advantage as soon as she could [Judges 16:19]: “After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Defy Nebuchadnezzar
Interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrate two forms of motivation for worship. One is coercion; characterized by the use of force, intimidation, or any kind of threat of punishment to compel worship; and typified by King Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of an image of gold he set up. The other is choice, a personal decision to worship God based on understanding our relationship with him and illustrated by the action of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in defying Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.
We discuss interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; regarding the image of gold that the king set up as god over Babylon. The interactions illustrate the contrast between two forms of motivation to worship. One is coercion, which is typified by Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of his image of gold. The other is choice based on understanding our relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied Nebuchadnezzar’s threat based on their choice to worship God.
Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. Abraham received the covenant from God on behalf of himself, his descendants, and all that receive Christ as the Messiah. God promised the Messiah for all people when he called Abraham to a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah: “… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:3]. Thus, his covenant with Abraham confers on every person the right to choose to worship him based on understanding that he will be God to all that will worship and serve him.
We discuss Nebuchadnezzar’s example to illustrate worship by coercion. Thereafter, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham as the Christian basis for worship by choice, using information from the gospel according to John to understand the promise of the Messiah extends God’s covenant to all people. Then, we discuss meanings of “worship and serve God” based on information from previous bible studies.
David’s father sent him on an errand to check on his senior brothers at the battlefield and report their conditions back to him. While on the errand, David encountered the challenge of Goliath and transitioned into a mission to kill Goliath, lead Israel to victory over Philistines, and establish himself as future leader of Israel. God called David to the mission by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Through the mission, David teaches all people: if you pledge to worship and serve God and live according to the pledge, then God will be your God and will lead you to victory over every enemy or weapon set against you.
We examine the events leading to David’s confrontation with Goliath and draw an example to illustrate that God may send messages to a child through normal parent-child interactions. The study continues our series on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. We have identified three categories of such messaging based on previous sessions. In the first category, typified by the Call of Samuel, the message is clear to the parent and consists of information that the child should implement himself/herself with parental guidance. For example, Eli understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. The second category consists of a clear instruction to a parent to implement for his/her child. For example, in Instruction to Parent for Child, we discuss God’s revelation to Rebekah regarding relationships between Jacob and Esau. The third category consists of messages delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child recognizing at the time that the information is a message from God. For example, in Joseph Called to Mission, we discuss Jacob sending his son on what he believed was an ordinary errand that we now understand as God calling Joseph to a special mission to Egypt.
The current study discusses another example in the third messaging category. The example is based on events leading to David’s confrontation with Goliath. We discuss an understanding that the events illustrate God prompting a parent to pass information to a child that becomes a pivotal input to the child’s development. David’s father, Jesse, sent him on an errand to check on his brothers in the battlefield and bring back information about their condition. The errand took David to his encounter with and triumph over Goliath, leading Israel to victory when they feared defeat, and establishing himself as a future leader of Israel.
We see remarkable similarities between the call of Joseph to the Egypt mission (Joseph Called to Mission) and the call of David to battle Goliath. In each case, a father sends a child on an errand to check on senior brothers and report back to the father, the child runs into an obstacle on the way but presses on toward completing the errand, and the child confronts a situation that transforms the errand into a long-term mission of much greater significance. The events appear designed to provide opportunities for us to learn about clarity of parental communication and the importance of a child listening to the parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information.
Also, based on David’s encounter with Goliath, we learn about applying human effort with faith of God intervening in his own way and time through what we do at the human level. David triumphed over Goliath using weapon that would have been inadequate by any human standard. We examine his actions to identify what he did that could have contributed to his effectiveness against a formidable enemy.
We discuss three biblical examples to illustrate that God may send message to a child as a clear instruction to the parent on behalf of the child. One example is drawn from God’s instruction to Abraham regarding circumcision of male offspring, the second from his instruction to Rebekah regarding Jacob-Esau relationship, and the third from his instruction to Joseph (earthly father of Jesus) regarding the flight to Egypt and back to Israel to protect baby Jesus from King Herod’s massacre of male children.
We continue our bible study series on parent-child relationships, focusing initially on the understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. The study purpose is to increase awareness of the potential significance of parent-child interactions as among the mechanisms through which a parent passes critical guidance to a child. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Call of Samuel Example, God’s message to a child through the parent could be in the form of a clear instruction to the parent or a hidden instruction. In the case of a hidden instruction, God prompts a parent with information the parent passes to the child with neither parent nor child knowing at the time that the information is indeed a message from God. The current study focuses on messages delivered as clear instruction to a parent.
The example regarding Call of Samuel appears to be a mixture of the two forms. We will discuss hidden-instruction examples in subsequent bible studies.
In the current study, we discuss three examples of God’s message to a child delivered as a clear instruction to the parent. A characteristic of such message is the parent has responsibility to implement the instruction either directly for the child or by guiding the child through the implementation. The first example is drawn from God’s instruction to Abraham regarding circumcision of male offspring, the second from his instruction to Rebekah regarding Jacob-Esau relationship, and the third from God’s instruction to Joseph (earthly father of Jesus) regarding the flight to Egypt and back to Israel. Each of the examples discusses a clear instruction to a parent on behalf of a child.
The responsibilities of a head of household include spiritual commitment and prayer on behalf of the household. We can understand this based on interactions among Paul, Silas, the city jailer, and a lady Lydia; in Philippi during the Second Missionary Journey. Paul and Silas found themselves in jail, where an act of compassion by Paul touched the jailer spiritually and prepared him to receive the gospel. When he asked what he needed to do to be saved, Paul and Silas advised him to make a spiritual commitment to the Lord Jesus on behalf of himself and his household.
The concept of household spiritual commitment by the head goes back to God’s covenant with Abraham, reiterated to Jacob at Bethel, and renewed at Shechem by Joshua and representatives of all Israel. Furthermore, we learn about prayer by head of household, ministering by compassion, and other principles applicable to present-day human interactions and relationships.