Romans 15:4 – Written For Our Instruction

God gives us His Word – the entire Word – for a reason.  There may be parts of Scripture where we wonder what it’s doing in there or how it applies to us, but for someone, somehow, it does pertain, so it’s all useful.  Paul’s letter to the Romans variously addressed both the Jewish believers and Gentile faithful.  Some passages were meant for both.  In Romans 15:4 Paul tells us:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Paul quoted Scripture for both audiences.  Among other things, this told the Gentiles that God’s Word was as much for them as it was for their Jewish brethren.  It’s also useful to us today, especially such a verse as this.  We’re to learn from those writings in the Old Testament, just as we are to gain instruction from that written in the New Testament.  Both help us to persevere and to solidify the hope of Christ within us.  In this age of apostasy, there are foolish pastors who have declared that the OT isn’t relevant to our faith.  One pastor a couple years ago actually said that we should unhitch ourselves from the OT.  This kind of attitude usually comes about from teachings and instruction from liberal institutions and thinking.  These places and people question the Bible from every angle: Was the Exodus a real event?  Did Jesus actually walk this earth?  Were the sayings of Jesus really His, or come from later disciples?  To this I say: You need the true salvation and relationship of Jesus Christ – not only an intellectual knowing.

We learn a number of things that happened to the Israelites in their Exodus from Egypt that instruct us today.  Consider Psalm 106:30-31:

Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,

    and the plague was stayed.

And that was counted to him as righteousness

    from generation to generation forever.

We see this account of Phinehas in Numbers 25:1-13.  The Israelites disobeyed God by having sexual relations with the pagan Moabite women.  One of the men actually brought a woman into his tent in plain sight of everyone, effectively showing his disdain for Yahweh and total disregard for the impact this might have on others.  God immediately punished Israel with a horrendous plague.  Phinehas took a spear and killed both the man and woman.  By his actions the plague was stopped and that deed was credited to him as righteousness through all generations.

It makes me think about what James wrote regarding faith and deeds.  What Phinehas did was a concrete example of James 2:24:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Phinehas exemplified that.

As we continue reading in Psalm 106, one of the striking lessons we come away with is how God deals with the shedding of innocent blood.  Through continued disobedience, the Israelites worshiped other gods such as Molech.  The requirement this god had for his followers was the sacrifice of children.  They were  to be placed in the arms of his representative idol and burned in the fire.  Psalm 106:37-38 states:

They sacrificed their sons

    and their daughters to the demons;

they poured out innocent blood,

    the blood of their sons and daughters,

whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,

    and the land was polluted with blood.

These demons are represented by the Hebrew word shedim.  They were the rebellious sons of God (bene Elohim) who ruled over the nations in a geographical context; they were the mighty princes, e.g. the Prince of Persia (Daniel 10), whose rule corrupted the minds and hearts of humanity against Yahweh.

Look at what happened through this illegitimate sacrifice.  Innocent blood polluted the land.  Those abhorrent actions incensed God to righteous anger, and He punished the Israelites, as we see in Psalm 106:40-42:

Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,

    and he abhorred his heritage;

he gave them into the hand of the nations,

    so that those who hated them ruled over them.

Their enemies oppressed them,

    and they were brought into subjection under their power.

God’s wrath caused Him to strip the land from His people, and He allowed others to have dominion over them.

Has America paid the price for the killing of the unborn?  There have been over 60 million babies ripped out of their mother’s wombs and sacrificed on the altar of self.  This innocent blood has polluted the land, and our nation is finally beginning to pay the price.

Have the unbelievers repented and halted this travesty?  No, in fact, those with governmental authority are increasing the means by which children can be unjustly killed.  Has the church, God’s people in these NT times, stood against this tide of death?  No, the pulpits have generally been silent; some churches have even justified this travesty by calling it a blessing.

What have we learned from the OT?  Obviously nothing.  Scripture was given to us so that we would gain knowledge and wisdom.  Very few in this nation have received those gifts of God.

Is it any wonder that God’s hand has been lifted from us as a people?  Could it be any more clear that the time of judgment is upon us?  God is allowing darkness, chaos, and violence to consume us.  It will get worse.

Thankfully, we who are true believers in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross will endure only a fraction of the horrors of judgment yet to come.  Let’s remember the lessons of the past, the instruction God has given us through His Word.  Perhaps our actions in response to that will rescue some from the fires.

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