2007May30, Wednesday

The Beginning of Things to Come

Posted in Uncategorized at 22:00 by Trey Austin

I saw the story about the mother who Tuesday hung her four daughters and herself in a closet in her home. By God’s sheer grace, the youngest and most helpless of the four daughters lived.

In the stories i saw on TV, one could tell that the sherriff was visibly shaken and horrified, as was everyone who learned of what this woman had done. It is absolutely preternatural for a woman to kill the children she has, with so much pain and anguish, brought forth into the world and given life then to kill them so brutally. Yet, this is not the first time that this kind of brutal murder has taken place. In that very town of Hudson Oaks, TX, not five years ago another mother likewise killed three of her children (shooting them in their sleep) before taking her own life. The infamous Andrea Yates killed her five little children by drowning them in the bathtub back in 2003 in Clear Lake, TX. Another woman in Plano, TX, drowned her two daughters in a bathtub, while in East Texas, one woman in 2003 beat her two young sons to death with stones. And the most horrendous of them all (if one can put a superlative on any of these terrible tragedies) is Dena Schlosser, a McKinney, TX, woman, who took a kitchen knife and sliced the arms from her ten-month-old child’s body, and then called 911—with, of all things, a Gospel song playing in the background as she did so.

I find it strangely ironic that all of these incidents have taken place in Texas. Having lived in Texas for three years, i know that it’s not the most exciting place to live; if the circumstances were not so grave, i might actually joke about life in Texas. But thinking on this sad, sad situation, i just can’t do that.

It’s hard to find any kind of meaning in this kind of tragedy. It would be easy for an Atheist to use this as anecdotal evidence of the vapidity of Christianity, not only because the Christian God, who supposedly (from their perspective) controls all things, could let this happen, but also because these women were either professing or nominal Christians.

One thing, though, that i came to embrace in coming to understand the Bible’s Covenant nature is that children are a blessing from Jehovah. However, that very Covenant God who has given his people children, who calls them his own, and who welcomes them into the fellowship of his Church (in all administrations of his Covenant), also warns that they will be part of the curse of the Covenant if his people are not faithful to him in the Covenant he so graciously and lovingly forged with them. Jehovah promises great things: Psalm 103:17-18, “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” It’s not popular today in my ecclesiastical circles to emphasize it, but there is such a thing as Covenant-breaking. There are warnings all over God’s Word (even, as seen here, in the very midst of grand and glorious promises) against those who would fail to love Jehovah wholly and only, and would regard his commandments—for whatever reason—as secondarily important, rather than a way to repent from dead works and show one’s love for the God who brought us out of the miry clay and set our feet upon the solid rock of Christ.

Now, the thing i always hear from those who so disagree with this kind of thinking is a kind of reasoning that takes away the bite of these warnings. The reasoning says, in essence, that the warnings are there, not because God would really damn someone he has saved, but simply to keep them in line, that the warnings are the means by which the elect are kept, and the reprobates are led to (or established in) their damnation. They further explain that no one is really in Covenant with God unless he’s elect, truly regenerate, and trusting in Christ; anyone else who may look like he’s in Covenant simply isn’t and is deceived (and so, apparently, are the rest of us who regarded him as such). But it seems to me that there is nothing of these warnings left when you start applying all these ways to reason out of what God really says.

I am perfectly willing to say that not everyone who is in Covenant with God is a partker of eternal salvation; that much seems clear to me. Yet, the promises are there and they are held forth to those who have been incorporated into God’s Church and Covenant in a way that they are not held forth to those who have not. They are held forth as belonging to them by right and privilegdge of God’s grace, and they are called to respond in faith and love, and as a result, obedience to God’s commandments. Those who fail to do so, from the perspective of the Church and Covenant, are cut off from the life that God had promised them—even if, from God’s perspective, they were reprobates and their apostacy simply revealed what God’s decree was for them. I could go into more of this confusion between the decretal perspective and the preceptive perspective in a bunch of areas of theology, but i’ll leave that for another time. My point is, though, that God is not to be mocked, and his warnings are not to be explained away with any kind of explanations like,”If you’re really elect, this doesn’t apply to you.”

In Deuteronomy, Moses presented a handful of sermons explaining what God expected from the people as his people as they were entering the promised land. In chapter 28, Moses laid out the blessings and curses of the Covenant—blessings if they have faith in Jehovah and repent of their old ways, and curses if they faith to love him and obey him. In light of the story i originally mentioned, i wanted to draw attention to one of the curses that Moses mentions there.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For she intends to eat them secretly during the siege and in the distress that your enemy will inflict on you in your cities (Deut. 28:49-57, NIV).

Now that is a grisly prospect in itself: devouring one’s children without remorse because of the great tragedy that has befallen the nation. My daughter is 19 months old now, and i have one on the way, and i literally shudder to think of such a dastardly thought as eating one’s own children for food.

Granted, the tragedies that we have seen in recent years (especially numerous in Texas for some reason) isn’t exactly like murdering their children for food, but then again, neither is abortion (though, there are reports to the contrary in some quarters, which others claim to be urban legends spread by Christians to engender outrage at abortion—though, without question, there is a market to eat the afterbirth). The point is, though, that Scripture ties together a depraved lack of regard for the most helpless in society and a willingness to engage in such preternatural acts as slaughtering and eating infant children and afterbirth with God’s judgment that falls for a lack of Covenant faithfulness. This is not something we can ignore or dismiss based on decretal ideas about who is elect and who is not. This is happening in a largely Christian nation, especially in a decidedly Christian state like Texas to people who, most likely, are at least nominal Christians.

Now, lest i sound like a pessimistic Christain (i am an Amillennialist, but an optimistic one), let me say that i don’t expect all things to get worse and worse ’til Jesus comes to rescue us from ourselves. I do believe that the Gospel will have an effect on the world in a positive way (and already has by any accounting of the facts). Yet, i also believe that there is such a thing as the falling away at the end, when, after Satan is released from his “thousand-year” prison in the abyss, he will again go around leading the world astray—but especially he will lure away many who claim the name of Christ, even as he did long ago in Israel. Paul confirms this, and even connects this time with unnatural desires and actions, in the final Scriptural letter he wrote before his death, 2 Timothy.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

My fear is that these are only the beginnings of things to come, because i believe that the Church in the West, and even in America, for all their posturing on moral issues, has failed fundamentally to be the Church and obedient to God’s Covenant. It will not do the Church any good to come out and condemn the murder of children—whether born or unborn—because we have surrendered all ground upon which we would have any kind of moral foundation. We must stop blaming the culture around us for all the ills that have befallen our nation and start blaming ourselves for letting the culture around us become so corrupt on our watch. We must repent and seek the Lord’s face, and then, perhaps, he will turn and remove the curse he has sent upon our land.


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