Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Ten Commandments Series Part 6 Taboo


Today we will be reading a passage from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 7, before going to Exodus 20:12 for our study of the Fifth Commandment. While you turn to Mark allow me to share a brief bit of historical trivia.

During the US war for independence from Great Britain in the late 1700’s, it was imagined that England’s naval forces ruled the waves. However, just prior to the revolution the Prime Minister of the British Empire appointed Lord Sir John Montagu to the all important position of First Lord of the Admiralty to oversee all of England’s naval operations. It is now suggested that Lord Montagu was most inept at his duties and his leadership is credited by some for the loss of many naval advantages ultimately contributing to the loss of the war for Great Britain.

You may not recall the name, Lord Sir John Montagu, but you may recognize him by another title he also held – the 4th Earl of Sandwich. And as you may question … yes, he is the person responsible for the invention, creation or discovery, whichever may be appropriate, of the sandwich. It is reported that he loved to gamble and so he found it most convenient to request meat be placed between two slices of bread so that he could eat his meals without having to cease playing his cards.

Also of note during this time in history is Lord Montagu’s enthusiastic support and government funding of the famous Captain James Cook’s pacific explorations. In 1778, Captain Cook was the first European to come into contact with a chain of Islands which he aptly named “The Sandwich Islands”, after his benefactor the Earl of Sandwich. Today these islands make up the 50th state of the United States of America; of course I refer to the islands of Hawaii.

It was on Captain Cook’s expedition to the pacific that he heard a certain term being applied by the island natives to various animals, pieces of ground, certain foods and even activities. The word – “Taboo” (Tabu) … it seemed that the natives believed that some things were “taboo”.

Upon further investigation into their culture it was discovered that the word “taboo” was associated with the native’s religion. Both Kings and Priests had the power to proclaim something as “taboo”, meaning that it was holy, dedicated, separated and set apart for the gods and thereby claimed for exclusive use only by the priests. The punishment for partaking of or even touching something which had been proclaimed taboo was certain death.

Now I’m not suggesting that dedicating or pledging lands, goods or other assets to God is wrong. However, the practice of declaring something to be holy and set apart for God’s use only as a practice to preserve it for your own enjoyment is above scandalous, it’s downright pagan!

You see, the island priests in Captain Cook’s day were only removing items which they wanted from the unfettered access of those who otherwise could have and should have benefited from their use. More than anything else, those things which were supposedly dedicated to a god of the island were thereby available for use by the priests and/or king. All in all, it was just a scam – a religiously backed way to cheat others out of the things which were legally theirs under normal circumstances.

The practice of making personal gain out of declaring something taboo was not first used in the pacific. By the 1700’s this scam was already at least 1700 years old. In fact we find Jesus speaking to the very same issue during His earthly life and ministry as recorded in:

Mark 7 NKJV

10 "For Moses said, ’Honor your father and your mother’; and, ’He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’

11 "But you say, ’If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban" — ’(that is, a gift to God),

12 "then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother,

13 "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."

In this sense - Corban = Taboo … to pledge something as dedicated to God so that it can become or remain available for personal benefit instead of being accessible to those who would have otherwise had rightful claim.

Jesus called these people “Hypocrites” - Those who divorce themselves from the responsibilities of which their relationships rightly demand.

Whether talking about the native spiritual leader of a primitive pagan tribe in the pacific islands or the son or daughter of a poor man living in Jerusalem, relationships have responsibilities. And, we cannot sidestep those responsibilities, not even in the name of religious worship.

What we owe to God cannot be taken from Him and given or reserved to some other personal effort or benefit, not even in the name of Jesus. As well, what we owe others, including our parents, must not be withheld for any reason.

Let’s open our hearts and minds this morning to discover the New Testament revelation and the grace-filled application of this truth in our lives while we turn to review the first commandment of God to be given with a promise. (This might well be the scripture of the year …Next year we may well be discussing “Hate Crimes” – 20:13???)

Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

Have you noticed that the Ten Commandments seem to deal almost exclusively with relationships? The first three deal with how to treat God; the fourth tells us how to treat ourselves; the 5th is about how to treat parents and the last 4 tell us how to manage relationships with others …

The Ten Commandments are a roadmap to relationships and, relationships are keys to our success.

Relationships carry responsibilities. The Apostle Paul uses this 5th Commandment as a proof text in which to anchor his teachings concerning the responsibilities which are inherent in various types of relationships.

Ephesians 6 NKJV

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise:

3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh …

From husbands and wives in Chapter 5, to slaves and their masters – every relationship has a God expectant responsibility. And, we are to honor each relationship in its proper place – taking no advantage and leaving none in disadvantage.

The position of Father and Mother are no less than God-given positions and as such, God decided they would be His designated positional representative in every child’s life. Therefore God demands us to honor our father and mother and promises it will go well with us if we do.

If we were to read the whole Bible today, from cover to cover, focusing on all God has to say concerning this issue, we would readily understand what God expects. He expects that:

· Young children are to respect and obey their parents just as they are expected to respect and obey God.

· Once grown and gone from the home, a son or daughter should continue to foster relationship, seek counsel and follow the instructions they learned from their parents while growing up.

· To marry is to become one with another and therefore enjoin yourself to love, care and honor the parents of a spouse as you would your own.

· A child must always honor, respect and appreciate their mother and father and never speak ill, evil or disrespectfully to or about them. It’s a matter of the heart.

· If a parent becomes poor, ill of health or in need, a son or daughter owes both concern, care along with a willingness to share whatever they have, for without the parent, there would be no life and no increase at all.

· Honor does not always equal obedience but it always equals respect and responsibility for the relationship.

· We often reap what we sow – every child’s potential is to become the parent – even your children … instruct them well!

So what does the 5th Commandment teach the Believer? – That God-given responsibility comes along with each and every relationship. Worship God and treat your parents with honor.