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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

30 October 2008

Simpson, Sabbath, Sabaoth, and Splitting Up

From the Archives

O J Simpson Murder TrialWelcome back! Before your questions, may I ask one? What do you think of the Simpson verdict?

This isn’t only a social and a political question, it has much to do with religion. What we think (or feel) about the jury’s decision needs to be considered in light of how we live with others who are also created by God. Do our emotions and thoughts about it tell us anything about how we get along with others?

We can compare the trial itself with of God’s Word. He demanded evidence. Among the Israelites, no one person’s word could bring a guilty verdict. Two or more witnesses were required. Only then could evidence be weighed and a verdict rendered. This prohibition even threatened the prosecution of Jesus. First, a number of men came forward offering lies that didn’t agree with each other. “At last two came forward and said, ‘This man said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.”’ (Matthew 26:60-61)” However, even though they spoke the literal truth, they misunderstood the meaning of Jesus’ words (John 2:19, 21).

DNAAlthough it appears that the only eye-witnesses to the Simpson-Goldman murders were the victims and the killer(s), others were witnesses to events before and after the fact. Their testimony is not denied by Scripture. Nor does the Bible rule out “expert testimony.” Experts testified to the meaning of much of the physical evidence. And though scientific testing is beyond anything an ancient Israelite could comprehend, there’s really no difference between a shepherd of Joshua’s time saying, “That’s Aaron’s robe, I’d know it anywhere,” and a modern scientist saying, “That’s Aaron’s DNA pattern in this blood sample, I’d know it anywhere.”

The Bible clearly states that testimony is to be evaluated at face value. Even if an entire village hated one person, the law of witnesses prevented them from convicting him apart from the facts. Similarly, it didn’t matter whether a witness was loved or hated; it was the testimony that was important. The Lord wants truth and justice in every case. The facts matter, not feelings. Witnesses are believed unless proven to be liars. Nowhere does God say that denying justice in one case makes up for injustice elsewhere. Only by practicing justice in each instance is a just society truly established and maintained.

Now, on to your questions.

Q: The word Sabbath is in the Bible. In church, we sing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.” Are Sabbath and Sabaoth different pronunciations of the same word or does each mean something different?

A: Sabbath is the Hebrew word for “rest.” It’s what God did on the seventh day of Creation and what He commanded for Israel each seventh day of the week. Jesus frees us from obligation to Sabbath laws, but not from the responsibility to hear and follow God’s Word. And whenever we choose to do so, it is God-pleasing to take our own “sabbath time” each week. It’s a sign of trust in Him to stop our work to enjoy and give thanks for all He’s already given us.

SeraphSabaoth is another Hebrew word. Found over two hundred times in the Old Testament, it means “hosts (armies) of heaven.” God calls Himself Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts, as a sign of His might.

Most familiar to us is Isaiah 6:3, where each of the seraphim “called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” This passage entered the Church’s Communion liturgy as the Sanctus (Latin for Holy).

The phrase “Lord of hosts” also appears in the New Testament in Romans 9:29 and James 5:4.

Q: What does the Bible say about divorce and remarriage?

Broken HeartA: This is the topic of many books and scholarly papers. You can summarize the Scriptures thusly: “‘For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘covers his garment with violence,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.’ (Malachi 2:16).”

In Jesus’ time, as in ours, some were not content to work on their marriages. They wanted the “easy” way out that divorce offers. Christ reaffirmed that God wants marriages to last, telling His hearers that Moses allowed divorce in Israel “because of the hardness of your heart (Matthew 19:8).” The Lord of Reconciliation wants the same of His people.

Yet Jesus also said that infidelity on the part of one spouse could be legitimate grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:32). The innocent partner is free to remarry. Even here, divorce is not commanded, only allowed. The partner is also free to reconcile.

The unrepentant person leaving one marriage for another compounds the initial sin with adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; et al.). There is forgiveness for both sins, but it’s wrong to assume that God automatically excuses or ignores these deeds. On a personal level, each instance much be considered individually before a remarriage is either condemned or condoned.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Newspaper column #2 — edited


Anonymous More Christ Like said...

Les McFall has an interested way to deal with the exception clause in Matthew 19:9. He has written a 43 page paper that reviews the changes in the Greek made by Erasmus that effect the way Matthew 19:9 has been translated. I reviewed McFall's paper at Except For Fornication Clause of Matthew 19:9. I would love to hear some feedback on this position.

21 November, 2008 13:22  

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