When a new vaccine which will protect our children against the dreadful Polio germ is discovered and made available, we rush our children off to the doctor to give them the benefit of this preventative measure.
But many of us persist in leaving a snare for our children.
When firemen, auxiliary policemen or even trustworthy senior students are placed on street corners to insure the safe passage of our children from one side of the busy thoroughfare to the other, we hail it as a wonderful safety measure.
Yet, we often place a snare for our children.
We provide the best and most nourishing foods for them. We buy the warmest clothing we can afford. We make sure that their shoes fit properly so as not to injure their feet. We see to it that their teeth are promptly filled when cavities appear. We see that their eyes receive the best of care at the hands of those who have been trained in the best of schools.
However, we sometimes fight to keep a snare that others have placed before our children.
Every physical danger to our children frightens us. We strive to do our utmost to see to it that their earthly life is not injured or abruptly ended. Every trap, every snare—whether it be an abandoned refrigerator door or uncovered cistern—every threat to their physical wellbeing—whether it be an exposed electrical wire with its fatal “shock” or an unshielded electric fan with it maiming power—we recognize as a threat to their physical life and wellbeing.
But spiritual snares we tolerate, even help to build and often fight to retain.
There is nothing new about this.
The Church—that is, that which was called the Church—in the Old Testament dispensation manifested such behavior long before the New Testament Church appeared upon the pages of holy writ. Our theme is actually borrowed from the Word of God which in several passages speaks of a snare unto Israel. And the whole book of Judges is written and included in the canon of the Word of God because Israel allowed, kept and defended a snare for the children of the church of that day.
Deuteronomy 7 speaks repeatedly of that snare. Israel is told that when the promised land is reached Israel must kill all the heathen that dwell there and break down all their idols. Israel must “utterly destroy them” and “shall burn with fire” their idols. Thus in verse 16 you read these unequivocal words of God: “And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.”
Somewhat later in verse 25 we read: “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination unto the Lord thy God.”
Turning to the book of Judges we see the truth of these words and Israel ensnared in the idolatry of the heathen whom they left in the land. We read in Judges 2:1-3: “And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.”
And these things were written, not to fill the pages of holy writ, but for the warning and instruction of the New Testament church; for you and for me and for our children.
Very correctly we sine in ours Psalter versification ofPsalm 78:
“My people, give ear, attend to my word,
In parables new deep truths shall be heard;
The wonderful story our fathers made known
To children succeeding by us must be shown.
Instructing our sons we gladly record
The praises, the works, the might of the Lord,
For He hath commanded that what He hath done
Be passed in tradition from father to son.
Let children thus learn from history’s light
To hope in our God and walk in His sight,
The God of their fathers to fear and obey,
And ne’er like their fathers to turn from His way.
The story be told, to warn and restrain,
Of hearts that were hard, rebellious and vain,
Of soldiers who faltered when battle was near,
Who kept not God’s covenant nor walked in His fear.”
That truth the New Testament church also can and ought to sing today. The New Testament church too must beware of leaving or placing snares for her children and ought the rather to teach her children the lessons that are taught in the history of the Old Testament church.
Things have changed. We do not live in the land of Canaan. Our land is not and was never meant by God to be a type of the heavenly Canaan that comes in the day of Christ at the end of time. We have, therefore, no calling to consume and destroy all the unbelievers out of the land. We are not called to wage physical warfare with all who serve another god besides Jehovah. The citizens of the kingdom of heaven inherit the earth as the meek, as the pure in heart, as the poor in spirit, as the peacemakers. And the same Israel after the Babylonian Captivity, when Israel entered a period that illustrated a new phase of the truth, had not the calling to destroy and consume the oppressors but instead to wait patiently for the Messiah. It is her calling to come out from among the heathen and be a separate people, II Cor. 6:17.
The calling of Israel did remain and still remains for the New Testament church to remove out of its own midst the idols of the heathen. She has the calling, therefore, to discipline her own members whose walk is not in His fear. For all sin is idolatry in that it is rooted in unbelief rather than in faith in God and is serving that which is not God.
The Church today that fails to discipline always leaves a snare for her children. It does this as surely as it was a snare for Israel to leave the idols in the land for their children to see and to worship. For, leaving the idols in Canaan and leaving sinful practices today is to put the stamp of approval upon them. It encourages sin. It leaves it to tempt our children. It provides the opportunity for their flesh to copy it and enjoy it. And these churches find in generations (and more rapidly with each generation) that their children do not learn from history’s light (the history of their congregation’s and denomination’s light) to trust in our God and walk in His sight, but rather to turn from Him and to walk so that they are indistinguishable from the world.
Denominations and congregations must be careful not to place snares in front of their children and not to defend these snares when their members have introduced them. Their calling before God is always—even as with Israel—to destroy out of mind in their own circle the idols that from time to time are raised up.
The Church that sets its stamp of approval upon divorce, membership in secret societies and in worldly unions is reaching out into the heathen world to bring into its own circle the idols that appeal to its flesh. And in this way they deliberately set a snare for their children. Those who sit down and draw up carefully worked out documents to introduce or defend these things that have already crept in manifest in that deed no love to God. O, it may be love to brother or sister so-and-so who has succumbed to these evils. It may be the result of a tender spot in the heart for these, perhaps because of former friendships, perhaps because of blood ties, perhaps because he was formerly your pastor; but it is not love to God. It is a carnal, sinful, fleshly love which may be found also in idolaters. But the word of God still stands! In this respect Dem. 7:16 is still true: “Thine eye shall have no pity upon them.” To be sure, we must deal with such in love; but it must be in the love of God. And the love of God will never allow us to defend their sin. When it becomes a matter of choosing between defending them in their “idolatry” and obeying the living God who forbids having other gods besides Himself, then in that respect our eye may not have pity upon them so that we let the snare remain for future generations because brother so-so practices this or that sin.
That is also why the Church that walks in His fear still demands public confession of public sins. Also in this respect a snare for future generations may not be placed by the Church. Only by demanding confession and by public announcement that confession has been made of those sins which by their public practice or by their very nature become known to the congregation does the Church continue to break down before the eyes of its youth this form of idolatry, these heathenish practices in our land. And, we may say in parenthesis, we have great difficulty in understanding the inconsistency of making public the confession of those who have sinned against the seventh commandment and then do not even demand a confession of those who break the third commandment. Lest we be misunderstood, in the lines above we exactly maintain that there shall be public announcement of the confession of those whose sin against the seventh commandment becomes public because of the very nature and outcome of the sin. But why are those who curse and swear and are caught lying publicly or even are found guilty by the courts of having disobeyed the authorities in one way or another measured with another rod? Are we not laying a snare for our children also in that respect? Are we may be busy breaking down the one idol every time it appears once again in our midst and then busy laughing at other idols of a different sort and shape but which deny Jehovah the Living God as well as the idol we set out to crush in pieces?
It might be well for us to look around a little bit and see if we can recognize the idols that we cherish and even defend. There are some that we will even fight to preserve.
Is it that we are so steeped in idolatry ourselves that we do not recognize them as idols? Does it have to be as big as the image of Nebuchadnezzar in the plain of Dura before we will see it? Do we think that an idol that stands only two inches high—purposely to deceive—is less of a snare to us and to our children than Baal and Ashteroth?
The Lord willing we hope to continue our discussion of this matter next time.