Archive for the tag “Islam”

ISIS and Potiphar’s Wife: The Foundational Reason for Christian Persecution

banner-949945_1920The best of stories contain bigger stories within them. The characters are more than heroes, villains, or victims stuck in an isolated narrative; they embody the ugly and the beautiful in life. The bigger story in Charlotte’s Web is how love and sacrifice and friendship enrich our own lives. The larger story in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, and The Grapes of Wrath is the American story—a national narrative that’s a mixture of hope and horror. These best of stories are double-narratives, you might say, for they are tales of single individuals who are simultaneously iconic of whole populations.

The ancient rabbis read the stories of the Old Testament, especially those in Genesis, in a similar way, but with a prophetic nuance as well. They would say, “What happened to the fathers, happened on account of the sons.” What they meant was that you could divine Israel’s future in her past. What happened to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph foretold what would happen to Israel. The lives of the patriarchs were prophetic; these individual lives foreshadowed the future life of the nation. That’s why, for instance, Abraham journeys into Egypt because of a famine, gets into trouble with Pharaoh while there, God smites Egypt with plagues, and Abraham and his family finally leave Egypt laden with wealth from the country (Genesis 12). All of this happened as a mini-exodus. In the story of father Abraham you read the bigger story of the exile, captivity, suffering, and eventual redemption of Israel in Exodus.

On an even grander scale, the same is true of Joseph, whose life in multitude of ways points to the story of Christ and the lives of Christians around the world, especially those who are bearing the cross of persecution. To illustrate this, let’s take one story from Joseph’s life and read within it a much more expansive narrative.

The Seductress Turned Persecutor

Though sold as a slave in Egypt, Joseph performed so faithfully as a servant in Potiphar’s house that his master put him in charge of everything. All was going well until Potiphar’s wife, eyeing Joseph as “handsome in form and appearance” (Genesis 39:6), decided she wanted him as a lover. “Have sex with me,” she urged him, to which Joseph gave this famous refusal: “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in his house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is no greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (39:8-9). Undeterred by his rebuff, the seductress continued, day after day, to woo him to her bed, but Joseph would have nothing to do with her. One day, when Joseph literally ran away from her lustful advances, she grabbed his outer garment as he fled outside. That was the last straw. As if to prove that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, she accused Joseph of attempted rape, proffered his garment as evidence, and Joseph wound up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

What is most instructive about this episode is what Potiphar’s wife did to Joseph and why. She might have simply had a good cry over her unsuccessful liaison. She might have made his service there a living hell. But, no, that wasn’t enough. This Hebrew servant rejected her will, refused to submit to the evil she desired, for the express reason that he “could not do this great wickedness and sin against God.” There you have it. Ultimately, it was not Joseph who was keeping Joseph from her; God was the barrier. His holy will thwarted her will. His commandment kept Joseph out of her bed.

Whether she realized it or not, this Egyptian woman was at war with the Lord of Israel. Her will was pitted against His will. Her desires were battling God’s desires. Joseph was caught in the crossfire. Or, rather, Joseph embodied the divine enemy. He was the image of God who represented to her the foe who opposed her. Therefore, when she decided to persecute Joseph for not submitting to her wishes, she was in reality persecuting God. For when a person, out of fidelity to the Lord and His word, refuses to submit to evil, the one who is refused lashes out at the faithful child of God because, in truth, the persecutor is at war with heaven itself.

Potiphar’s Wife as the Matriarch of ISIS and Boko Haram

If the best of stories contain bigger stories within them, what is the bigger story in this narrative of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife? How did what happened to this “father” foretell what would happen to the “sons”? In Joseph we see the bigger story of Christ and His followers, who suffer persecution from a world at war not so much with the church as with God Himself.

We have mourned with our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq who have been systematically and brutally murdered, tortured, and driven from their homes by ISIS. We have witnessed many of the same atrocities committed against Christians by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The reason for this persecution goes beyond the political aspirations of these terrorist organizations. It is deeper than any cultural or sociological divide between Christians and their Muslim persecutors. The reason is even more profound than their radical Islamic views, based upon their interpretation of Quranic passages about the killing of infidels [read: Christians]. The foundational reason that Muslims are persecuting Christians is that faithful Christians refuse to submit to the evil these Islamists desire; they cannot do this great wickedness and sin against God; they steadfastly reject spiritual adultery with those who worship a lie. Though they would never admit it, ISIS and Boko Haram see in the Christians whom they persecute the image of the true God whom they reject, whom they hate, with whom they are at war.

To Persecute Christians is to Persecute Christ

Long ago, when a persecutor of Christians named Saul was on his way to terrorize more of the faithful, the Lord Jesus appeared to him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). When Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” He responded, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” (9:5). Saul’s persecution of the church was his persecution of the God of the church, Jesus Christ. The Lord had promised as much when He warned His disciples that “you will be hated by everyone because of me,” (Matthew 10:22). Peel back the layers of prejudice, jealousy, fear, religious ideology and whatever other motivations there might be for the actions of Potiphar’s wife, ISIS, Boka Haram, and other persecutors of the faithful, and you will find the core reason is that the persecutor is at war with God Himself.

As we stand with our fellow Christians who bear the brunt of this violent hatred, let us remember that, more importantly, the resurrected Lord stands with them. This Jesus, whom ISIS persecutes, is the Jesus who was martyred by crucifixion, but who rose from the grave and joins His followers to that saving death and resurrection in the waters of Baptism. And let us pray for the Islamists. The Lord has a proven track record of turning persecutors into prophets, apostates into apostles. Who knows but that one day a former member of ISIS may preach the same Gospel he once despised. And finally let us, with our fellow believers, be faithful even unto death, that we too may receive the crown of life from Him who is our life, the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves even those who hate Him and His church.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Most Religions Do Lead to the Same God

allreligionsThe end of the semester was finally in sight. During the last few months, about twenty students and I had journeyed with Mohammed though the Arabian desert, sat in silence with the meditating Buddha, swam in the polytheistic sea of Hinduism, and swept even the smallest of living creatures aside as the Jains walked along. We had seen it all. And all of it was rather fascinating. To think that on this single planet there are so many religions, so many deities, so many ways of connecting with a higher power. One of the students, partly out of curiosity, partly out of sheer frustration with the volume of the subject matter, raised his hand and asked the question that many in the class had probably been asking themselves, “When it comes right down it, Professor, don’t most of these religions lead to the same God?”

Those who would answer “yes” to that question do so for different reasons. There are some who affirm that most (or even all) religions lead to the same God from sheer intellectual laziness. Rather than study various faiths, rather than read their scriptures, the lazy mind simply shrugs and says, “Oh, it doesn’t matter; they all basically believe the same thing and worship the same God.”

Others give an affirmative answer from a theological perspective. These are the folks who believe there’s only one God, but think that this one God manifests himself in a vast number of ways to different nations, cultures, and religions. He is the divine equivalent of the person in a one-actor play; he’s always running behind the curtain to change outfits, apply makeup, and reappear looking like a totally different deity on the world’s religious stage. To some he is Allah, to others Shiva, to others he is simply the Great Spirit or a higher power. But, according to this perspective, the same God is simply wearing a multitude of divine masks.

So what do you think? When it comes right down to it, don’t most of these religions lead to the same God? My answer—and I believe the answer of the Christian scriptures—is an emphatic YES. Most faiths in the world do worship the same deity; their religious paths lead to the same destination. Only it’s not the deity you might think, or the destination they have planned.

The Greatest Proponent of Religion

The deity behind most religions is, in fact, not a deity at all. He is indeed a great and mighty spirit, but he is not divine. Paul calls him “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14) and the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4). Jesus calls him “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He is the created spirit who rebelled against heaven long ago, and was cast out (Rev 12:7-9). And ever since, this archenemy of the true God, who hates humanity with a passion, has made it his mission to get back at God by duping as many people as possible into lies that lead away from heaven.

He is cunning and calculating, this deceiver, so he puts his best foot forward. He realizes that the most effective way to achieve his goal is not through violence and abject evil, but through that which seems positive and pious. Better to coat poison with sugar. Moreover, he is well aware that people are by nature religious, so striving to make atheists of everyone would be a foolish battle plan. Therefore, instead of suppressing man’s religious nature, he heightens it, then redirects it toward the deity of his own devising.

The deceiver is the greatest proponent of religion that the world has ever seen. He is a god-maker, a religion-manufacturer, a faith-founder. Some of these religions are closer to the truth than others, but each one is designed to deceive. And although the deceptions are numerous, they are all aimed at one main goal: to keep the worshiper from belief in and confession of Jesus Christ as the Savior whom the Father has sent. In short, in all religions founded by the deceiver the Gospel is not found. And as long as that Gospel is not there, there is only death, only lies, only a divine mask behind which Satan hisses out his hatred of humanity.

What is Sacrificed to Idols is Actually Offered to Demons

The biblical writers acknowledged that the many gods and lords of the world were nothing but disguises for the deceiver. Paul writes to the church at Corinth, “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God,” (1 Cor 10:19-20). Note the italicized phrases; the false gods to whom the unbelievers sacrifice are not gods at all, but demons masquerading as divinities. In an OT hymn as well, the poet says of the earlier Israelites, “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,” (Ps 106:37). The Canaanite idols to whom they thought they were giving up their children were nothing more than bloodthirsty demons. And earlier, Moses affirmed this same truth, “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread,” (Deut 32:17). The biblical witness is clear: all the so-called gods and lords and idols who are the object of people’s devotion, to whom they offer their sacrifices, to whom they pray, whom they call God and Lord, are sadly nothing but a front for the father of lies. The deceiver of the whole world has, indeed, deceived much of the world by the establishment of religions, all of which, except one, lead to eternal ruin.

The Single Way that Leads to the One, True, Saving God of Love

Most religions do lead to the same god, the god of this world, but there is one that leads to the true God. That true God, Jesus Christ, is the God who has come down from heaven to defeat the work of the deceiver by bringing humanity into a saving communion with Himself. He is the way for all who have gone astray, He is the truth for all who have swallowed the lies of the evil one, He is the life for all who are caught in the grave of sin and death. He has not come to condemn the world, but to save the world—to save you.

That saving work of Jesus brings souls caught in the darkness of other religions into the light of divine truth. For instance, recently four former Muslims in Germany were baptized into the God of truth. During the baptism, they publicly rejected their former faith, saying, “I renounce Islam and confess that neither is the Koran God’s revelation nor is Mohammed God’s prophet.” In that baptism they became one with Jesus Christ, heirs of heaven’s kingdom, and found peace that only comes from the one who has destroyed the work of the devil.

In Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, the Father has manifested His heart to humanity. In that divine heart beats a love for you that knows no bounds. It is a love that is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, a love that is as big as God Himself, for He is love. And that love is all for you. It is a love that saves you from the lies of this world by uniting you to Jesus Christ—the friend of sinners, the Savior of the lost, the God of truth.

ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this reflection, please take a moment to check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

Post Navigation