My daily travels through the Torah was interrupted last week when Michael Rood’s Chronological Gospels, event 100, correlated with September 14, 2014. As has become my practice, I temporarily stopped my Torah studies to examine this passage which is found in Matt. 14:3-12 and Mk. 6:17-29. The title of this passage reads: “Yochanan’s execution is detailed-Yochanan’s disciples apprise Yeshua of his death.” The story of John the Immerser’s/Yochanan’s execution is pretty straightforward. But what I gained from the background story contained in these two passages seemed pretty pertinent to what I’ve learned is happening in the Christian Faith of late. It’s high time we discuss a crucial issue that has the potential to affect most if not all of us in one way or another.
Most of us know the story. John the Immerser/Yochanan was arrested by Herod Antipas–King of Judah. Actually, the Herodians were not Jews at all. They were of Idumaean, Greco-Arab lineage. Antipas’ grandfather, Antipater, came on the scene in 63 BC by abetting Roman General Pompey in his siege of Jerusalem/Yerusalayim. For his loyalty, Rome appointed Antipater as the first Roman procurator in Palestine and the ultimate arbiter of political events in the region (Eisenman-James the Brother of Jesus). Roman general Mark Anthony abetted Antipater’s son, Herod the Great as he has become known by us Bible students, in obtaining the Jewish Crown. In order to maintain absolute power over Judea, Herod the Great dissolved the Maccabean family through genocide/ethnic cleansing. Those Maccabeans he didn’t murder, he married. However, he ultimately murdered the wives as well, including Mariamme, who was the last remaining Maccabean princess, according to Eisenman, in 29 BCE. Apart from obtaining the Jewish Crown, Herod also controlled the High Priesthood, including their garments and the men who would serve in that capacity. Eisenman places Yochanan’s death at the direction of Antipas in 35-36 CE, choosing to accept Josephus’ rendering than that of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Mark. Based upon Rood’s Chronological Gospels estimations, John’s/Yochanan’s execution occurred sometime around September 18, 27 CE.
The Gospel writers Matthew and Mark record that John/Yochanan was arrested by Antipas because he, Yochanan, proclaimed that Antipas was in violation of Torah, in that Antipas had hooked up with one of his brother’s wives, Herodias. John/Yochanan stayed locked away in prison for several weeks until Herodias’ daughter, named as Salome by Josephus, entertained Antipas at Antipas’ birthday celebration. Obviously Antipas was taken by Salome’s likely provocative performance. So taken was Antipas that he offered Salome half the worth of his kingdom. Salome consulted her mother Herodias. Herodias was no doubt a scorned woman, having been chided by John/Yochanan over the improper affair she was having with Antipas. Such scorn led Herodias to suggest Salome demand the head of John/Yochanan on a platter. The Gospel record suggests that this demand on the part of Salome was not well received by Antipas who knew John/Yochanan to be a holy man and Antipas also feared John’s/Yochanan’s rather large following would revolt against Antipas’ throne. But Antipas elected to throw caution to the wind–certainly lust played a huge role in his decision to go with Salome’s demand–and he ordered John/Yochanan beheaded and his head delivered to Herodias and Salome on a platter.
Sexual misconduct, as in the days of Jesus/Yeshua and the Apostles, remains a serious problem in not only our society, but also within many of our assemblies and congregations. Sadly, most self-professing believers know that fornication/adultery violate Torah or in the very least it is spoken against by Jesus/Yeshua and His Apostles; yet sexual misconduct remains a mainstay in many congregations and assemblies throughout our nation. For whatever reason, even believers are hard pressed to resist the call of the flesh and reject Torah or at very least, their Bibles’ teachings on this issue. Why? Certainly, the issue is out there and it is not a secret. Yet most Pastors and Teachers of the Word of God are reluctant, and in many cases, outright scared to speak out against sexual immorality. I recall being part of a handful of Christian congregations throughout my youth and into my young adult and middle adult years, and hearing and knowing about questionable relationships that were transpiring between certain men and women in the congregation. Not only did I know about it, it was known by others in the congregation. I’m talking about homosexuality, premarital sex, adultery. If not overt indiscretions, there were divorces and remarriages transpiring on a routine basis it would seem and not a word–to my knowledge–was ever spoken out by the church leadership against such activity. Why? I guess it goes without saying that when church leaders step on the toes of their members–especially when addressing sensitive subjects such as adultery and fornication–they stand the chance of running those members away and with those departing members goes their offerings and tithes and whatever else they brought to the church table.
But do we who know better, especially those of us who have been placed in positions of authority, have the right to turn a blind eye to something so problematic and appalling to God/Yehovah as adultery and fornication, and allow that behavior to continue in the midst of the assembly? If left unattended, these things have the tendency of blowing up and creating greater problems for the overall assembly at some point down the spiritual road so to speak. Furthermore, the Bible’s stance on the issue of adultery and fornication can not be ignored and one must ask the question: what responsibility do we who know better and who have been placed in leadership positions in the body have when such activity rears its ugly head? We can not NOT say something. We must do our part to dissuade such behavior and offer the proper solution which is repentance, seeking forgiveness from Father, and living Torah obediently. Certainly, there may be situations where the leadership must take a stand and insist that the offending parties depart from the assembly. Regardless, we can not stand innocently by the wayside and not sound that moral alarm (as was done by John/Yochanan), that left unchecked, such behavior will lead to certain destruction–of those involved and potentially the assembly as a whole.
God/Yehovah has established certain rules that we are to live by. Regardless where you stand on the issue of obeying Torah, no one should ever have any uncertainty within themselves over the issue of fornication and adultery. Adultery and fornication and any other sexual misconduct is absolutely not permissible outside of traditional marriage. And if you are an orthodox Christian, I must confess, that I am a Torah observing believer in Messiah. I believe those of us who claim Jesus/Yeshua as Messiah and Lord, are compelled to obey His commandments–love God and love neighbor–and Jesus’/Yeshua’s commandments are contained in Torah–that is, Torah details how we are to love God and love neighbor. Without a clear understanding of what it means to love God and neighbor, we will have 30,000 different ways to accomplish these two central commandments. Love of God and of neighbor is clearly evident in God’s/Yehovah’s laws regarding proper/improper sexual behavior–love of God because sexual misconduct is abhorrent to God/Yehovah, while sexual misconduct violates the integrity of those involved in the act and the families affected by the indiscretion.
Let’s examine what Torah has to say about this issue; and then what the Gospels and the Epistles have to say.
- Lev. 18:6-18–Yehovah provides a comprehensive ruling on proper and improper sexual behavior in these passages.
- Yehovah’s view of family-centered sexual misconduct was such that He assigned the death penalty to any who would violate these specific commandments
- Lev. 20:11-17
- Naturally speaking, most civilized nations (or what we in the west would consider civilized) have a very negative view of inter-family sexual misconduct, even though they may not be versed in Torah. Therefore, it would seem over zealous to state the obvious, but Yehovah knew that mankind is desperately wicked in all his ways and it was necessary to spell things out.
- vs. 6–no one is to engage in a sexual relationship with a close relative
- vs. 7–no parent is to engage in a sexual relationship with their child or children (cf. Lev. 20:11)
- vs. 8–no child is to have a sexual relationship with his step-mother–(cf. Dt. 23:1; 27:20; Lev. 20:11–again, the offenders are to be put to death; 1 Cor. 5:1–Paul scolds the Corinthian assembly for allowing such an offense to continue in their midst–a man was known to have been having a sexual relationship with his father’s stepmother)
- vs. 9–incest is strictly forbidden among the siblings (cf. Dt. 27:22; Ezek. 22:11; Lev 20:17–incest is deemed a shameful act, the penalty being cut-off from the nation publicly–the male will bear the consequences of this act)
- vs. 10–no man is to engage in a sexual relationship with their grandchildren–indeed, the man will face full responsibility for this act
- vs. 11–no one is to engage in a sexual relationship with their step-siblings because they are considered one’s sibling and the same rule applies as in vs. 9
- vs. 12-14–no one is to engage in a sexual relationship with their aunt or uncle
- vs. 15–no man is to engage in a sexual relationship with their daughter-in-law (cf. Exo. 22:11-Yehovah considers it to be a lewd act)
- vs. 16–no man is to engage in a sexual relationship with their sister-in-law (cf. Matt. 14:4–this is the crux of our story resulting in the death of Yochanan at the direction of Herod Antipas in 28 CE)
- vs. 17-no man is to engage in a sexual relationship with the children of the woman you are having the affair with
- vs. 18–no man is to engage in a sexual relationship with a woman for purposes of establishing a rivalry between the woman he takes and her sister
- 20:10-“‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, that is, with the wife of a fellow countryman, both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (Lev 20:10 CJB) Deu 22:22 “If a man is found sleeping with a woman who has a husband, both of them must die the man who went to bed with the woman and the woman too. In this way you will expel such wickedness from Isra’el.
- Obviously, such terrible sexual misconduct is generally seen as abominable within the Christian community. However, sexual misconduct overall remains a big problem in the Christian faith. The divorce rate among self-professing Christians holds steady at about 50%. Wait a minute, is not the divorce rate in America about 50%? What does that say then about Christians? Don’t Christians realize that God/Yehovah hates divorce: ADONAI is witness between you and the wife of your youth that you have broken faith with her, though she is your companion, your wife by covenant. And hasn’t he made [them] one [flesh] in order to have spiritual blood-relatives? For what the one [flesh] seeks is a seed from God. Therefore, take heed to your spirit, and don’t break faith with the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce,” says ADONAI the God of Isra’el, “and him who covers his clothing with violence,” says ADONAI-Tzva’ot. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and don’t break faith. (Mal 2:14-16 CJB) Certainly, sexual improprieties such as the ones listed above in Leviticus 18 and 20 lend greatly to the divorce epidemic in our society and likely within the Christian Faith. Certainly, God/Yehovah views sexual activity outside of marriage seriously enough to warrant the death of the involved parties. In lesser degrees, it becomes the only acceptable offense to justify divorce: But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery. (Mat 5:32 CJB) Now what I say to you is that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery!” (Mat 19:9 CJB)
- Recent research reveals that Christians are having premarital sex as much or even more than non-Christians. This study showed that 76% of evangelicals believe that sex outside of marriage goes against the teachings of their Bible. Yet, 80% of these same evangelicals say they have or had sex outside of marriage.. Furthermore, 80% of self-professing Christians in the age range of 18-29 say they have or had sex before marriage; 64% had or are having it within the last year (i.e., 2011), and 42% are in a current sexual relationship outside of marriage. Only 20% say they have never had sex outside of marriage. Still more: non-evangelicals such as the Baptists show that 53% of them in the age range of 18-29 indicated in this study that they were currently in a sexual relationship outside of marriage with only 12% claiming they had never had sex outside of marriage. I don’t know about you, but these statistics are alarming and is indicative of a bigger problem within traditional and orthodox churchianity. Clearly the Church triumphant is not doing a good job in keeping her members on the straight and narrow, nor does it appear that the members’ relationship with the Almighty is as solid and true as most of these transgressing individuals would think it to be. I’m not casting judgment here. I’m simply saying that sex outside of marriage is sinful and is not tolerated by the Father. Any and all Christians should know this and by professing Jesus/Yeshua as their Lord and Savior, their loyalty should be to Messiah and not the flesh.
- The Jerusalem Council knew the importance of sexual purity among its growing assemblies and instructed that: Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood. (Act 15:20 CJB)
- We should bear in mind that healthy families are central to the true Faith. When adultery and fornication creep in to the mix, the fabric of our faith–which to a goodly part is the family unit–unravels and the assembly becomes disarrayed.
- Sexual immorality is a huge problem and it is quite prevalent in both society and as we’ve just seen, within the Christian Faith. Indeed, sexual attraction, unless controlled and spiritually dealt with, can lead to improper sexual activity, impurity and indecency (Gal.5:19). Many of us are not equipped to deal with such temptations and situations and it doesn’t take much for that line to be crossed over into the actual act. As believers in Messiah, we are called to an even higher standard than simply avoiding the act: “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that a man who even looks at a woman with the purpose of lusting after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mat 5:27-28 CJB) As a male believer, I’ve come to terms with myself as it relates to this whole issue of sexual misconduct. I realize that there is always a war going on in my mind and with my eyes, ears, and emotions. I know myself. I’ve come to a point in my walk with Messiah that I am honest and upfront with myself in relation to my weaknesses and shortcomings. I know where I’m weak and I know where I’m strong. I don’t have problems with sexual misconduct, but I realize that I can’t allow myself to be in a position where such a thing could possibly happen. When I’m at work (my staff is roughly 65% women), I make sure that my contact with them is professional and transparent and I limit my direct contact with them to only necessary work-related issues. Every member of my staff knows how important my Faith is to me and I believe they respect that. In fact, I openly and clearly wear my tzit-tzits each day as not only a reminder to me of my relationship with Torah and my Creator, but also as a sign to the world that I am tied to my Faith and not to the world. Additionally, it is clear that I am happily married, I wear my wedding band without fail, and I constantly stay in contact with Hilary throughout the day-via phone calls or text messages. Thus I make it extremely difficult for me to end up in an adultery/fornication situation. Furthermore, the whole concept of living Torah and being true to the commandments of Messiah who elevated Torah to a heart and spirit level, I make sure that my mind, eyes and ears are filled only with proper things. I limit what goes into my mind, eyes and ears as best I can. If I am watching a show where questionable content is viewable or even suggested, I make sure I shut that stuff down immediately. I avoid going to movies where there is filth being portrayed on the screen. I listen to clean music–mostly classical. I read only books of substance and decent content. I’m not a paragon of purity by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just cognizant of what it takes for me to live Torah each and every day and stay on the straight and narrow with the help of the Holy Spirit/Ruach Kodesh and the example of Jesus Christ/Yeshua HaMaschiach.
- As sold-out, true Believers in Messiah, we must take a stand as did John the Immerser/Yochanan, and not engage in activity and behavior that could lead to violations of Torah, but maintain proper righteous-Godly behavior. Many of us know of situations going on around us that are contrary to what our Bibles teach about proper sexual relationships. Yet many of us go so far as to support such improprieties–shacking up; 2nd, 3rd, 4th marriages, promiscuity, lewd social activities, and the like. We must stand firm in our convictions and not in any way support such anti-Biblical/Torah behavior. It’s not to say that we must “out” people in our lives who are engaging in improper sexual relationships–that would only serve to bring attention to ourselves that would not glorify our Father which is in heaven. Instead, we must live perfect lives. We must always show forth Messiah in our walk and talk and behave in such a way that is worthy of our calling to be future priests and kings. I recall a situation at work a few years ago where one of my employees (2-times divorced) entered in to a fertility program with a fellow she’d met some months earlier. She ultimately became pregnant with twins. My boss threw a baby shower for her and I attended that shower. Now I knew that my employee was living wrong and that her attempts at getting pregnant by a man that was not her husband was a tremendous moral violation. By my attending that shower, I knew that I was showing the world that I supported my employee’s behavior and chosen way of life. That was for me a learning experience that I promised myself and the Lord that I would not repeat.
- We must always be on guard–not only for ourselves in avoiding sexual misconduct/improprieties, but also on guard as it relates to how we respond to the world’s sexual misconduct. We have unique opportunities to teach the world how the Father requires us to live. My call to action for you today is that you go back over the scriptural passages that I’ve provided in this episode (found in the show notes for your reference). Gain an clear understanding of what God’s/Yehovah’s expectations are of us as it relates to sex, and obey/comply with those expectations. Furthermore, I would ask you to make a firm commitment to live a holy life and that means taking a complete assessment of your life and throwing out those things that are stumbling blocks to your proper walk with Messiah. If you’re in an improper sexual relationship–cut it off immediately. Seek the Father’s forgiveness and repent and turn to Torah that you may live according to the way that He has required us to live. If you are unable to correct your situation on your own, seek a greater unction of His Holy Spirit/Ruach Kodesh in order to give you the power and authority to overcome the evil one. Engage in daily study of the Torah/God’s Word. Eliminate those things in your life that distract you from your calling–questionable television shows and movies, racy music, negative and lewd friends and associates and the like. Make up in your mind whom you will serve–your flesh or the Almighty.