Do we serve government – or does government serve us? 

The pandemic revealed some rather scary things about government, like its “draconian measures,” but only in response to people who were scared out of their wits and depended on their politicians to keep them safe and alive. 

And isn’t that what government is for? It exists to serve the public need. And credit to those governments that did their very best to do that. But we’ve also learnt that handing over one’s life decisions to government officials can be risky, because government then feels justified in “taking control” and forcing its measures on people, and heavily penalizing those who don’t comply. 

What we experienced during the pandemic, therefore, was a switch from government serving us to us serving government. And for some in government that was a huge rush. They discovered they had power. They could close down entire cities, invoke mandates and even emergency measures that gave them the power of a police state. And they could send in the goons to force compliance too. Scary stuff. Fear of the virus was rapidly being replaced by fear of government “overreach.”   

Things got worse too, as anyone who questioned the government narrative was censored, ostracized, and even hated by family members and whole communities. But worse still, was the discovery that many of our noble leaders weren’t themselves obeying the rules and mandates they were forcing on us. But even when caught out, there was no apology or remorse, just blatant hypocrisy, arrogance, and no change in behaviour.

Which is tragic, because God gave us human government, and when it’s done well it has a huge positive effect on a nation’s stability, peace, prosperity, justice, and joy. “When the rulers are good, the people are happy,” Proverbs 29:2. And in verse 4, “A nation will be strong when it has a fair and just king.” That’s what God designed government for, as a wonderful servant of, and service to, the people – “For he is God’s servant to do you good,” Romans 13:4

And one day God’s going to institute such a government, where the increase of peace will never end, and those in charge “rule with fairness and justice,” Isaiah 9:7. So that no longer will there be a question of who serves who – whether it’s government serving us, or us serving government – because both will be a joy. 

“Love for neighbour” and medically assisted death

Loving one’s neighbour is a great idea, because if we all treated each other with love and respect, we wouldn’t have wars, or power addicted psychopaths, or trolls on social media. 

But that leaves evil in a tricky spot, because if it can’t create anything better than love for neighbour, how does it compete and make itself attractive instead? It can’t mock the idea of loving one’s neighbour either, because too many people have experienced its benefits. But what if it could take loving one’s neighbour and use it for its own ends, and do it so well that people don’t notice, and even fully support it?

Take medical assistance in dying, for instance. Laws in several countries now give people the right to end their lives if they choose to do so when their physical and/or mental suffering from a serious illness, disease or disability in an advanced state of decline is unbearable, incurable, irreversible, and cannot be relieved by any other acceptable means.  

And why would such a law be made? Well, out of love for neighbour, right? It’s to enable an end to a loved one’s suffering, along the same lines as ending a much loved pet’s life for its sake. The person who’s suffering can choose a medically assisted death out of love for neighbour too, to avoid a messy suicide, end the heavy burden on family and other carers, and put a stop to the mounting costs too. 

But evil is subtle. It is the master of the slippery slope. If medical assistance in dying can be justified by love for neighbour, could that be exploited for killing more people, then? Well, yes, as we see in several countries now, where enabling death for problems other than a grievous and irremediable medical condition – like depression, poverty, anxiety, desperation, PTSD, hardship, and even homelessness – are being considered, and with several medical professionals already pushing assisted suicide as the solution. Why? Well, “out of love,” right? “Got a problem you can’t cope with? We can end it for you, and no more pain, my friend.” And for many fragile, disconnected young people, that could sound highly appealing too.   

So love for neighbour is already being used to widen the killing zone, to include treatable illnesses and vulnerable youngsters. Well-meaning this may be in the minds of many, but what comes next – assisted death for babies with disabilities, death for the mentally ill, or deciding death for those incapable of giving their consent?  

Hopefully, it isn’t going that way, but if it is maybe it’s a necessary eye-opener to how evil can take something good and twist it to kill. But also an eye-opener to the mercy of God, who isn’t going to allow evil to kill us off, because he wants us in his family for eternity. 

“It’s not just disgusting, it’s demonic”   

I notice words like evil, demonic, satanic, vile, sinister, dark, diabolical and depraved, along with phrases like ‘hell is empty because all the devils are here,’ are being openly mentioned of late. But what other words and phrases could better describe the pressure nowadays to normalize pedophilia, or better define the perverted purveyors of child porn, child trafficking, child exploitation, child suicide, child abuse, and sexualizing children as early as kindergarten?  

Compare that to a Nelson Mandela quote, that “Our children are our greatest treasure. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation” (22 November 1997). He also said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” (at the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund on May 8, 1995). And of course, Jesus’ statement about children in Matthew 19:14, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 

Originally I had the title above as: “Is demon possession back in vogue?” – because people are doing really weird and awful things involving children without an ounce of conscious concern about how weird and awful they are being. It’s as if they’re no longer in control of their brains. Which is frighteningly similar to those with evil spirits in Jesus’ day, like the man “possessed by an evil spirit” in Mark 1:23, who started screaming in verse 24, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” 

“Us” shows the man had no control over what the evil spirits were saying through him. So I have to wonder when a famous high end clothing company produces an ad with an obvious sexual exploitation of children to sell its goods, but when slammed for it claims it had no idea it was happening, then maybe it’s true, they didn’t know what was being done through them either. Maybe the person who described their action as “not just disgusting, it’s demonic” in the title above was spot on.  

And what does one say about another well known clothing retailer’s commercial that featured a woman’s thoughts before her medically assisted death? Who on earth came up with that idea? Did they even know what they were doing? And did they knowingly or unknowingly include a floating blue whale in the commercial, that’s also attached to suicide, the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ being an online game that can actually get young people to kill themselves? Was it deliberate, or did they have no clue what they were doing? Either way, it seems they had no conscious governor on their actions, as if they too had no control over their brains either.    

What a promise it is in such a world, then, that ”those who are born of God he keeps safe, so the evil one does not touch them,” 1 John 5:18.  

Adam’s reaction to Eve – the key to creation flourishing

Before Eve came on the scene, Adam only had the company of animals, which was nice, but at his first sight of Eve in Genesis 2:23, he yells out, “Finally, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” (The Message). The animals were cute and all that, but this was more like it, someone just like him. 

But she wasn’t quite like him, was she? She obviously had different body bits to him, but Adam, interestingly, doesn’t comment on that at all. Nor do we see him scratching his head as if he’s thinking, “Wow, she’s a bit on the spongy side; hope she has muscle enough to skin a beaver.” Quite the opposite; all he can think of is, he’s met his match, not only his match as a perfect companion, but also his match as an equal, and he is thrilled with both. 

And we see that again in his jubilant response in verse 23, when he yells out “she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man.” And we see what he meant by that in the words for ‘man’ and ‘woman’. For ‘man’ it was ish and for ‘woman’ ishah, the same three letters ish in both, to make it clear that he understood – and revelled in – that she was just like him, his equal, his other half, made of the same stuff he was. But he did add an ah on the end of ish in recognition that, yes, there were a few bits different on her, but his focus was on the ish they shared, that despite the little differences in appearance they were equals in every way otherwise. 

And the reason for that is made clear in verse 24: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united with his wife.” Which seems like an odd statement, because there aren’t any “fathers and mothers” yet, and Adam’s father was God (Luke 3:38). But this would obviously be the pattern for the future, that man and wife would stride out into life together, fully equipped to fulfill the purpose God had made them equals for.  

Which, as God had made clear in the previous chapter, was for the two of them to be co-administrators of his creation to make it flourish. And his reason for their physical differences was to enable them to “be fruitful and increase in number,” Genesis 1:28.

So now we have this picture of man and woman as equals, because it’s in them being equals that they would successfully govern together, and in their differences produce their own little humans, who in turn would leave the nest and make many more patches of the planet flourish too. 

But it was Adam’s reaction to Eve that gives us the key to how this creation would flourish under human rule. He loved her, not only the sight of her or that she was his perfect match in every way, but also that God had given her skills and qualities that perfectly complimented his, so that together they would make a formidable team.     

Why are husband and wife like Christ and the church?

Genesis drops an interesting hint, that it’s in the husband recognizing and valuing his wife as his ezer kenegdo (see previous blog) that he will find the ever-present, powerful and perfectly equipped help he needs in a world that often threatens to overwhelm him. 

That’s because God chose the man as the one to bring order to the world and keep the opposition at bay – a huge responsibility – but right beside him he would have his ezer kenegdo “help meet” to keep him valiantly hacking away at the dragons, and picking him up when he’s down. Because it’s in this kind of relationship together that husbands and wives are living the secret to successful human rulership of this planet. 

And Paul saw that too, because he compares this relationship of husband and wife to the relationship of Christ and the church. Which fits, because it’s in the relationship of Christ and the church that the successful rulership of this planet is being established right now too. And it’s in Genesis we see how it works.

In Genesis, the man had the job of looking after the garden in Eden, an amazing job because this was where God dwelt. But God made sure the man couldn’t do the job on his own. He could only do it with the help of his wife. It was only by combining what God had equipped each of them with that the job could be done.

To Paul it was the perfect picture of Christ and the church, because it was to Christ that the Father had given the responsibility of setting up his kingdom on Earth, the same job he’d given to Adam. But Adam had let evil take over instead.  

Jesus then corrected that by defeating evil. But that was just the first step. Jesus would then lead the charge to free the whole planet from evil forever. How? Through his church. So Jesus is not doing this alone either, any more than God left Adam to do the job alone. The Father has supplied Jesus with his very own perfectly equipped ezer kenegdo church too – which, just like Eve was to Adam, is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh – and she’s right here in the trenches giving her all in service to him. 

And what a formidable team, Jesus and his Spirit-filled church bringing in the kingdom of God so that one day the Earth will be a pure place for the Father to dwell in and all opposition will have been defeated. 

And it was all there in Genesis as to how it would be done – through a God-equipped team, pictured first of all by the God-equipped team of husband and wife, and now by the formidable God-equipped team of Christ and his church. 

The powerhouse that is woman

I wonder how many girls have grown up in Christian homes and Christian churches who’ve never quite known what being a “help meet” means. 

I say that, because when I found out what it meant it gave me quite a shock, having grown up with the traditional, rather soppy Christian view of “help meet” in Genesis 2:20. In Hebrew, however, the words for “help meet” are ezer kenegdo, that make it very clear why a wife’s role is so crucial to God. Because ezer means a wife is a lifesaver to her husband, and kenegdo means she is totally his equal. 

The example in scripture that jumped out at me of such an ezer kenegdo wife was Zipporah (Zee-porah), the Midianite wife of Moses. And if anyone should have been the typical meek, submissive “little wifey back home” of Christian tradition, it was Zipporah. She was the wife of a mighty Egyptian prince, a man brought up in the high society of Pharaoh’s palace and now the top man in Israel, the one nation on the planet that God had personally chosen to work his plan through. And Zipporah wasn’t even an Israelite either, so she could be excused for staying in the shadows and not saying a peep.

But when God threatened to take her husband’s life, out came the ezer in Zipporah. Here was God himself in the room with them, but when she saw her husband in conversation with God, and she knew her man was in deep trouble, she came out flying to save him. 

She knew Moses deserved a jolly good slap, because he’d been shirking his duties toward their son, by putting off having him circumcised, a total no-no for the leader of Israel when the sign of God’s personal dealings with Israel was circumcision. But no cowering in the corner and whimpering from her. Right there and then she grabbed their son and sliced off his foreskin and deposited it at Moses’ feet. “You’re a husband of blood to me,” she cried, referring to the circumcision (Exodus 4:24-26). But in standing up to him she also saved his life (ezer means saviour, rescuer, protector). But what a shocker that must be to Christian tradition that God didn’t correct her or “put her in her place.” Instead, he, the mighty God himself, let go of Moses and did not go through with killing him. 

Why? Because Zipporah was being the powerhouse ezer kenegdo God had created wives to be. She stepped in when her husband was totally out of line, she did what he was supposed to have done, and while Moses stood there like a wet mop, she saved his life. And I wonder how many other husbands would readily and thankfully admit that’s what their wives have done for them too. Just as God meant it to be.   

Is that all Eve was, just a rib?

Christian tradition still likes the idea (a lot) that the first woman was made from the first man’s rib. Unfortunately, that tradition is much closer to an ancient Sumerian myth than it is to the correct Hebrew meaning of ‘rib’ in Genesis 2:21.

In the Sumerian myth the goddess Ninhursag creates a beautiful garden paradise and charges her half brother, the god Enki, to tend the garden and control the wild animals. When Enki then eats several forbidden plants in the garden, Ninhursag blows a gasket and curses eight of Enki’s body parts, including a rib. 

Enki is now near to death, so a strong appeal is made to Ninhursag to spare his life. In response, she creates several new gods and goddesses, one of whom is Ninti who heals Enki’s rib. The name Ninti is a clever Sumerian pun, meaning both “Lady of the rib” and “Lady who makes live,” since in healing Enki’s rib she also helped save his life.

There are several parallels between this story and present Christian tradition, because in Christian tradition Eve takes on both Ninti’s titles. In Genesis 3:20, for instance, Eve is called the “Mother of all living,” and in Christian tradition she’s also become the “Lady of the rib,” based on the English translation of the Hebrew word tsela (say-la)in Genesis 2:21 as “rib.” Which is unfortunate, because tsela is not translated as a human rib anywhere else in the Old Testament.

In Genesis and Exodus tsela always refers to a “side,” not a rib, suggesting that God divided the man into two equal sides (the splitting of the Adam!) – with one side being crafted into a woman, and in the space she left behind God then filled with new flesh to make the man whole again. It certainly gets the concept across a whole lot better that woman is man’s equal from top to toe, rather than just a rib.

And Philo Judeaus, the great Jewish philosopher alive at the time of Jesus, would agree with that, because in his description of Genesis 2:21 he wrote: “The letter of this statement is plain enough; for it is expressed according to the symbol of the part, a half of the whole, each party, the man and the woman, being as sections of nature co-equal for the production of that genus which is called man.”

Whether God literally anesthetized the man and surgically sliced him in two to create a woman, or it was simply a vivid vision Adam had – either way the point is made clear in Adam’s joyous cry in Genesis 2:23, “she’s bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” that, anatomically and structurally, she was the same as him. 

She was his co-equal, in other words, NOT just a rib.

Does God decide the day we die?

Some Christians believe that God decides how long we live, and we can’t change it. “Our lives belong to God,” they say, so we are totally subject to his will. If he wills the day we die, then so be it, our days are numbered according to however many days God wills for us.

To other Christians, however, the idea that God decides the day we die creates all kinds of problems and neuroses. It’s scary, for a start, knowing we could drop dead at any second for no other reason than “God decided it.” 

It could make us careless too, because what’s the point of looking after ourselves and making right choices if our actions and choices don’t have any effect on how and when we die? If tomorrow we die because God decided it, and not because of anything we do, then we might as well eat, drink and be merry. We can do whatever we like because there aren’t any consequences, and that surely can’t be right.

So, what really decides the day we die? Is it God or us? Does God simply allot a fixed number of days for us to live, or does he adjust the time of our death according to our choices and actions? If a Christian decides to fight in a war, for instance, and he’s killed, is that because God willed it to happen, or because he allows us the freedom to choose? Does God base our death on the consequences of our actions, or on some predetermined plan of his?

Well, in Scripture, the day we die is a total non-issue, because we’re already dead. “For you died,” Paul writes in Colossians 3:3. And when did that happen? We “died with Christ,” Romans 6:8. “Don’t you know,” verse 3, “that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” When Christ died, we died. But God then “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 2:6, so not only are we already dead, we’ve also been raised from the dead too, and right now our lives are “hidden with Christ in God,” Colossians 3:3.

When it dawned on Paul that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,” Galatians 2:20, it got his mind off death entirely. And when he realized that Christ was now living HIS life in him, then death really did become a non-issue because Christ never dies. 

Instead of worrying about how and when he was going to die, then, Paul could concentrate on this new life he’d been given – that would last and grow forever.

Why does God let good people die so young?

We could also ask the question: “Why does God let bad people die so old?” It doesn’t seem fair, for instance, that a man still alive at 113 years old attributes his longevity to ‘Cigarettes, whisky, and wild, wild women,’ while Job, who was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8) was reduced to a pitiful wreck of a man, having lost all his children and his livelihood to a deal Satan made with God. Or that Jesus, who obeyed and trusted God perfectly, was sent to an early death by conniving, power-hungry, religious hypocrites.

Surely good people deserve to live to a ripe old age as proof that God rewards people for living good lives. It’s hardly good advertising on God’s part, then, to let good people suffer from persecution, accidents, all the usual diseases everyone else gets, and premature death, because why would anyone be attracted to Christianity when it clearly doesn’t guarantee immunity from all the things that take humans to an early grave?

So if God isn’t interested in guaranteeing a long life, what is he interested in instead? 

One answer Jesus gave in John 3:21 was this: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” So that’s what life is for. No matter how short or how long a person’s life is, the purpose of it is to make it plain to anyone watching what a human life is like when God is the one shaping and moulding it. 

And what makes that so noticeable is the contrast to those in verse 20 who “will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” Some people spend their entire lives hiding from God, and don’t want him involved in their lives at all. But others, like David, willingly opened their lives to God: “Investigate my life, O God,” he wrote in Psalm 139:23-24 (The Message), “find out everything about me. Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; see for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong – then guide me on the road to eternal life.”

David knew there was more going on in his life than trying to extend it for as long as possible. His focus, instead, was on what God could create in him while he was alive, to prepare him expertly for the life David would be living after he died. 

And who knows at what age that preparation is complete? Obviously God does, so if he lets a good person die young…

Is life just an endless worry until we die?

Wouldn’t it be great having nothing to worry about? – your health’s good, no family issues, stacks of money, lots of friends, great neighbourhood, safe city and secure job. 

But where on this planet is life actually like that? There’s always something gumming up the works wherever you go. If you build your house on a hill, for instance, it’s exposed to hurricanes. Build it on lowland instead, and it’s vulnerable to floods. Throw in earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, ice storms and forest fires, plus accidents, pandemics and terrorism, and truth is: life’s an eggshell. It’s fragile.

It’s not an easy truth to accept. Adam and Eve didn’t accept it either, which made it very easy for the serpent to lie to them. “You won’t die,” he said, “you’ll be fine.” A worry-free life was an easy sell. It is today, too. We shell out huge amounts of cash on insurance, warranties, home security, investments, pills and religion to worry-free ourselves. Safety and security are big business. Does any of it actually work, though? Well, no, because in the end we do actually die. Everything isn’t fine. The serpent was lying.

So how on earth could Paul say in Philippians 4:6, “There’s no need to worry about anything,” when there are tons of things to worry about? Because, he replies, we can take all our troubles to God and in return God gives us peace, verse 7

But how does that work in real life, pray tell? What about a father who’s lost his entire business in an earthquake, or a mother who’s given birth to a deeply handicapped baby? How can they not be worried about the future? Let’s be practical.

But God’s no stranger to our world and the awful things that happen, because he lived this life himself. He saturated himself in our suffering and death, vividly felt its pain, and he too cried buckets of tears at the hopelessness of it all. But Jesus did one thing differently: he never viewed God negatively when bad things happened. He didn’t blame God for being distant, uninvolved and uncaring. He didn’t ditch God for help from other sources, like Adam and Eve did.

And why didn’t he? Because one day, as the ever-present Jesus, he’d be able to live his attitude to God in us, so we could trust God like he did. Result? We’d discover the same secret Paul discovered: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” verses 12-13. Including not worry? Seems so. But Paul did admit it took a while to learn it.