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Wordwise Insight, Issue #006 -- the curse on creation, what about video games, and more
June 14, 2005
Greetings

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Message outlines you are welcome to use: God our Rock--lessons from a rock

READER Q & A. What does the Bible mean when it says God cursed creation? What about Christians playing video war games?

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. Thoughts on the bread used for the Lord's Supper

NEWS & REVIEWS. Two fine books to add to your library


BIBLE INSIGHTS

GOD OUR ROCK
It is imagery frequently found in the Psalms. "The Lord is my rock" (Ps. 18:2; see also vs. 31; 42:9; 78:35; 94:22). And the use of the symbol began earlier than that. Moses rejoices in the Lord, saying, "He is the Rock" (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18). Later, Hannah, in her inspired prayer of praise, after she has offered her son Samuel to the Lord, declares, "Nor is there any rock like our God" (I Sam. 2:2).

So what is it that is pictured? In what way may the Lord be portrayed as a Rock to His people. A number of possibilities may be listed.

1) A Source of Redemption. From the smitten rock God provided life-sustaining water for Israel (Exod. 17:1-6). It is a picture of the water of salvation flowing from Christ, smitten on the cross for us (cf. I Cor. 10:1-4).

2) A Subject of Awe and Admiration. A great rock rising above the floor of the wilderness is an imposing sight. Herders, and travelers are dwarfed beneath its towering heights. In that it represents the greatness of God, and how seeing Him with the eyes of faith inspires worship.

3) A Sure Foundation. The imagery is used of both obedience to the Word of God, and of Christ Himself. Each is described as a foundation upon which (or whom) we can build with confidence (Matt. 7:24-25; I Cor. 3:11).

4) A Welcome Shelter. Those required to travel through a hot, barren waste, or through pelting storms, were cheered by the possibility of resting in the shelter of a great rock. And Isaiah prophesies of the coming Messiah that he will be "as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land" (Isa. 32:2).

5) A Heavenly Vantage Point. By scaling the heights, it is possible to get a clearer picture of what lies ahead, and have a better sense of direction. Similarly, as we draw near to God, and understand His purposes better, we have a sound vantage point from which to assess the future.

6) A Needed Protection. In military action, an important advantage could be gained over the enemy by attacking from a height. Appropriately, the comparison of God to a rock is combined with other military imagery. "The Lord is my rock," says David, "and my fortress and my deliverer...my stronghold" (Ps. 18:2).

7) A Quiet Resting Place. This is a related aspect to #3 above. It is drawn from the solid, stable nature of rock, as a picture of that which is enduring and dependable. Since the Lord provides a firm spiritual foundation, He is also one in whom we can trust, and find rest.


READER Q & A...

Question: Glenn asks, "Referring to Genesis 3:14-19, did God curse Adam, and therefore mankind? If not, what judgment did God place upon Adam? (In Genesis 1:28, it says God blessed them.) What does the word ‘curse' mean in Genesis 3?"

Answer: Human beings can utter curses, but these are powerless apart from the permissive will of a sovereign God. Even the mercenary prophet Balaam realized that. When called upon by Balak to curse Israel, he refused, saying, "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom God has not denounced?" (Num. 23:8). But, leaving aside curses uttered by men and women, let's consider what it means for God to curse someone or something.

The root of the Hebrew word seems to mean to bind. Thus, when God utters a curse He sets certain barriers, limitations, and restrictions, establishing these as a punishment or a discipline (like a parent that "grounds" a rebellious teen, or removes certain privileges). In addition to the curse in question, the Word of God gives us other examples. For instance, God cursed Cain for murdering his brother (Gen. 4:11), and disobedience to the Law of Moses brought a curse upon the Israelites (Deut. 11:28; 27:14-26). In Deuteronomy 28, the details of what that curse would mean are spelled out, including enemy invasion, and a scattering of the people among the nations.

Back in Genesis 3:14, it is the serpent that is cursed. Earlier, the devil (normally an invisible spirit) had used it to communicate with Adam and Eve, in Eden. We have no way of knowing the appearance of this animal in the beginning, but it must have been beautiful. What it became was a definite come down. Many now view this slithering reptile with dread and loathing. Though the snake was not directly responsible, it thus became a perpetual reminder of the fall, and of the judgment yet to come upon Satan (vs. 15).

The serpent was not the only creature to be cursed. All of the physical creation suffered because of that first sin. As Paul puts it in Romans, "the creation was subjected to futility" (Rom. 8:20). In this way, it has become a giant object lesson of the destructiveness of sin. Human beings were to have dominion over creation, managing it on behalf of God, and subject to His sovereign will (Gen. 1:26-28). But by rejecting God's rule (in the test He set up) and accepting Satan's word (Gen. 2:17; 3:6), Adam and Eve were saying, in effect, they knew better than God how to manage things. The frustration we have all experienced since the fall shows how terribly wrong they were.

The curse is creation-wide. But the serpent is mentioned specifically for the reason noted above. We are also given a few specifics of how the curse would affect human beings. Women, with the prime responsibility of having and raising children, now have more pain and difficulty in childbirth than God designed originally (vs. 16). And men's frustration relates particularly to their daily work (vs. 17-19). Every weed we pull from the garden should be a reminder to us of what sin has done!

The prophesied productivity of the Millennial Kingdom, and the lack of danger from wild animals, suggest that the curse will be removed from the present creation, during the thousand year earthly reign of Christ (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; 35:9; 65:25). After this, in the new heavens and new earth God will provide one day (II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), there will be "no more curse" (Rev. 22:3). All the things associated with a natural world out of kilter (such as aging, sickness, pain and death--not to mention weather patterns gone amok!) will be forever gone (Rev. 21:4-5).

But this does not imply that nature under the curse is totally out of control. You note that God "blessed" our first parents (Gen. 1:28). And He blesses us still, in grace. "He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). Go back to the definition given earlier. God sets definite boundaries for His chastenings. He does not abdicate His lordship. It can still be said of creation, "In Him [Christ] all things consist [are held in place]" (Col. 1:17). He "upholds all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3). But in the future we will learn just how much more beautiful and satisfying nature can be when the curse is removed.

Question: Matt asks, "I wish to buy a computer game called [game name]. It is a castle simulation. I have the original version and wish to get the second. There are war parts, and I know God does not like that part. What do you think about me buying it?"

Answer: It's not exactly a Bible question--which is what I usually deal with. But, of course, everything we do in life involves biblical principles. I'll try to give some suggestions from that perspective. Realize I am not familiar with the specific computer game you mention. So my answer must relate to basic principles, leaving you to make the appropriate application. In any event, what I think about your actions is not as important as what God thinks.

It seems the fact "there are war parts" to the game already concerns you. That it deals with war does not, in itself, rule the game out. There also needs to be some consideration of how graphic it is. Chess is a war game too, with castles and knights, and so on. However it is light years away from the full colour blood and violence of some simulations today. The more graphic the game is--and it is the goal of programmers to make it so--the more caution we should use.

It is good you are being careful. I'll tell you why. War is real, and it is terrible. It brings painful injury and death to many, as well as causing the destruction of valuable property. Loved ones grieve, and homes are devastated by the loss of family members.

Having said that, there are circumstances when war is just and necessary. In the Bible, God sometimes commanded war to punish wickedness and rebellion against Himself--especially when an opportunity had been given for repentance and there was none (cf. Deut. 25:17-19; I Sam. 15:18). In modern times, the Second World War became necessary because of Adolf Hitler's determination to dominate more and more nations, and exterminate the Jews in the process. He had to be stopped. But even a just war must not be entered into carelessly.

The problem with a video or computer war game is that it can depict some aspects of such conflict, but we are always at arm's length. We can sit comfortably in our chairs and watch people being dismembered and killed. But we feel none of the excruciating pain. There is none of the horror and stench of death. When we turn off the program, we can walk away unharmed. This has the potential for hardening us against the terrible cost of conflict. We can become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of those involved. But according to God's Word, we are to "[have] compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted" (I Pet. 3:8). This comes about as we are involved, not sitting on the sidelines as spectators (II Cor. 1:3-4; Heb. 10:32-34).

There is another potential danger as well, and it concerns the seductive nature of fantasy. It's fun to pretend. But it can get out of hand. Joni Eareckson Tada tells, in one of her books, how she used to fantasize about being able to walk. It was exciting to imagine herself doing all kinds of wonderful things. But when the fantasy ended, there she was, still in her wheelchair. She says she finally had to discipline herself not to go on these daydream trips, because in the end they made her unhappy with the life God had given her. They changed nothing, in reality, and simply left her discontented.

Sometimes, there are painful and difficult things about our lives that we can change. Or things God will change, if we ask Him. But other times He has allowed these challenging aspects to remain, to help us not to be too proud, and to learn to depend on Him (cf. II Cor. 12:7-10). Instead of trying to escape the burdens of life, the Apostle Paul tells us, "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content" (Phil. 4:11). In times of distress, he found the Lord had the resources he needed to carry on and do His will (vs. 13, 19).

In extreme cases, there can be a psychological addiction to gaming. That is, some have become addicted to these simulation games because they do not like themselves, or the life they have. Instead of looking to God for help, they try to escape into a fantasy world. Recently, while I was in a computer repair shop, a young man came in to ask if his computer was ready to take home. He was desperate to get back to playing a game he admitted sometimes playing for eight hours a day. That is a form of bondage.

The Bible says, "God...gives us richly all things to enjoy" I Tim. 6:17). In the context, it is talking about earthly riches. There are many fun things in life that are not wrong in themselves. And God wants us to enjoy them, within proper limits. One of those limits is that it not be something to which we become enslaved. Scripture puts it this way: "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (I Cor. 6:12). One test of this might be the amount of time spent doing the activity. Does it seem to be taking more and more time? And is it beginning to rob me of time needed for more worthwhile things?

Even if we are certain an activity does us no harm personally, our responsibility does not end there. What if we invite some friends over to play the game with us? Are we opening them up to a temptation they are not able to handle? God's Word says, "Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak" (Rom. 15:1-2; I Cor. 8:9). Long ago, Cain asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9). And the answer is yes!

The Bible gives us general guidance in all areas of life, even when the specific thing (such as a computer game) was unknown in ancient times. On other occasions, the Lord uses parents, friends, or maybe a pastor, to give us direction. They are able to make a practical application of God's Word to us today. One of the best things a young person living at home can do is consult with his or her parents. Your parents are the world's greatest experts on you. They are in a position to know well both your strong points and your weak points. Their advice and suggestions are extremely valuable.

If you are uncertain about this particular game, maybe that in itself suggests the need for caution. Are there other alternatives? Games that are constructive and without questionable elements? Most games involve a competition against someone else (or of one team against another). But winning may not include killing them--or killing the fantasy characters on their side! There may be games that combine fun with a positive benefit. For example, word games that increase our vocabulary, or "trivial pursuit" type games that give us a wider knowledge of our world, or Bible games that build a knowledge of God's Word.

Sometimes it is helpful to ask ourselves a few questions when we are considering whether or not to do something about which the Bible is not specific. Here are a few possibilities.

1) Based on what Scripture does reveal, can this be done with the Lord's approval? Can I have peace with the thought that He is watching me do it?

2) Will those God has put in authority over me approve of my actions?

3) Have I taken into account the matter of God's timing? (That it may be God's will for me some time in the future, but not now.)

4) Will my participation be a help or hindrance to others?

5) Could this bring me into closer association with the wrong kind of companions?

6) Does it appeal to the flesh (my sin nature) at the expense of the spirit? Will it strengthen me spiritually? Or weaken me?

7) Is it habit forming? And will it rob me of important resources (time, talents, and treasures) God wants me to use some other way?

8) Since we reap what we sow, am I prepared to reap the consequences of my actions?

There are lots of tricky decisions to be made in modern life for which there are no specifics in the Bible. We have to apply the life principles found there. Sadly, some start out from the premise that they will try to get as close to the fire (a dangerous or doubtful thing) as they can, without getting burned. But if there is real danger, God wants us to stay as far away as possible, not play with fire. And when we commit ourselves to a higher standard, He has a special blessing for our lives that we could gain no other way.

I hope these few thoughts will provide some help. Not knowing the particular game, it is difficult to be more specific. (And even if I were familiar with it, what is okay for one person is sometimes too much of a temptation to another.) So, realize I am not saying "No, don't get the game." Think it through. Your concern is commendable. The Bible says, "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind....Each of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:5, 12).

Next Month: Did Jephthah, one of Israel's judges, actually offer his own daughter as a burnt sacrifice to God, in fulfilment of a vow (Jud. 11:29-40)? And Carol asks, "What do you think of using drums in a worship service?


IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH

1) Bread for Communion
From church to church, the bread used for the Lord's Supper varies considerably. Some use regular bread, perhaps cut in small cubes. Others use pieces of soda crackers, etc. But the bread commanded for the Jewish Passover (at which the Lord's Supper was instituted) was unleavened bread--bread made without yeast (Exod. 12:8; cf. Mk. 14:12, 22).

In the Bible, leaven is universally a symbol of sin and corruption. Because, in the fermenting process, it permeates and puffs up the dough, it provides a picture of how sin affects us. In the Gospels (Matt. 6:6, 12; Mk. 8:15; Lk. 12:1; cf. I Cor. 5:1-6), Jesus speaks of the leaven of the Pharisees (hypocrisy and legalism), the leaven of the Sadducees (secularism and unbelief), and the leaven of Herod (sensuality and immorality). And since the bread is to represent the broken body of the sinless Son of God, leaven is inappropriate (cf. I Cor. 5:7-8; I Pet. 2:22).

Though the Lord surely understands when it is impossible to obtain the real thing, it is worth trying. In most larger cities in Canada and the United States, wafers of Jewish unleavened bread (matzos) are available in some grocery stores. If none can be purchased where you live, perhaps a friend or family member could send you a package. The bread keeps well, and using it provides another opportunity for teaching about the destructive danger of sin, and the unique sinlessness of our Saviour.

2) On the Website!--Interim Pastoral Ministry
Has the pastor of your church recently resigned? As well as beginning the search for a new undershepherd, have you considered the possibility of calling an interim man to minister for a shorter period of time? On the Wordwise website is an article called Interim Pastorates. Check out this practical material.

3) Also see, on the website, an article called 12 Keys to Good Music, giving you 12 biblical principles to evaluate the music in your life.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


VIEWS & REVIEWS

IF...
If you do not have Amy Carmichael's devotional book simply titled If , it is still in print, and worth going after. Amy Carmichael (1867-1905) was a missionary to India. This inexpensive little book presents, in one simple paragraph after another, the essence of Christian love (what she describes as "Calvary love"). This is a work to be digested in small doses. And expect to be convicted by these razor sharp points! A couple of samples: "If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love." And, "If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers
Patrick Kavanaugh's book, Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers provides a fascinating look at men such as Bach, Mozart, Schubert and others. While the author does not claim each of them was a born again Christian, he shows how their lives and work were significantly impacted by a belief in God, the Bible, and spiritual values. The personal letters and journals quoted reveal the hearts of these gifted individuals. Sometimes, a simplistic popular depiction (such as of Mozart's vulgarity) has given a distorted, and even inaccurate picture of what they were like. Kavanaugh has done some careful research, and helps to set the record straight.


If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.

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