Recently members of the group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) aka. ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) have been uploading YouTube videos of the beheading of Westerners. The have attacked, ransacked, and killed Ancient Christians living in Mosul, also destroying their churches. They do these things in order to obey their God.
Does not Deuteronomy 28 speak of such actions as part of the judgment of God?
“Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it; your donkey shall be violently taken away from before you, and shall not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you shall have no one to rescue them. Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long; and there shall be no strength in your hand. A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually” (Deut 28:31-33).
However, is man ever justified in taking the place of God and in executing His curses and judgments on other people?
When handwriting Deuteronomy 28:31-33, I was reminded of the ill-treatment endured by the Cathar Christians in Southern France in the 12th and 13th Centuries, by the Hussites in Bohemia in the 15th Century, by the Anabaptists in Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands, as well as the Huguenots in France in the 16th and 17th Centuries. How can it be that God would allow His people, the Bride of Christ, to be so treated?
How can it be that God would allow His people, the Bride of Christ, to be so treated?
Perhaps the question should be rephrased: how can it be that any man considers himself so highly that he usurps God’s judgment of sin, and takes it upon himself to judge men’s consciences?
Interestingly, Jesus predicted this type of occurrence almost 2000 years ago:
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16:1-3).
Man’s ill treatment of the church does not come without apt warning from Jesus. In Matthew 10, when Jesus first sent out His twelve disciples to evangelize, He told them to expect persecution. So it should be no surprise to any Christian when persecuted for the gospel.
More difficult to take, perhaps, is that in bearing that prophesied persecution, the Christian is also bearing some of the curses of Deuteronomy 28. Could it have been this realization that led the Apostle Paul to pen the following words?
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God” (Col 1:24-25).
For, just as Christ was made a curse for us, so Paul also endured reproach for the gospel. For example, notice the following trio of curses due to a lack of thanksgiving in Deuteronomy 28:
“Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you (Deut 28:47-48).
Paul listed this same trio of sufferings in the same order, as applying to him!
“To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless” (1 Cor 4:11).
“In weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness (2 Cor 11:27).
Was it because Paul was not thankful or was it because Paul was propagating the gospel of Jesus that he faced these sufferings? It was the latter, not the former!
Paul wrote of the ultimate blessings that come from suffering for the gospel:
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:3-5).
So, when man usurps the judgment of God, and punishes the Christian for worshiping according to his conscience, what should be his response?
- When politically possible, Christians should allow all men to worship God according to their own conscience, as is found in the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments of the United States Constitution;
- When not politically possible, or if we are the ones facing persecution for the gospel, we should accept it as a blessing from God, as an opportunity for the love of God to be poured out into our hearts.
When all is said and done, we humbly bow the knee to Christ, accepting God’s sovereign will in all things, good and bad!