Sunday 28 June 2020
Have you ever heard of the concept of the sacred cow or sacred bull? No, that’s not referring to lies being told by a priest. Though I guess you could apply it that way. A sacred cow or golden calf is a subject or thing which should not be touched, or talked about or criticized: because it is considered a sacred object.
Slaying sacred cows has a great and honourable tradition in the Bible and in Christianity. You may even remember the famous example of Moses literally breaking down a literal golden calf in the book of Exodus. “He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it” (Exodus 32:20). He took that sacred calf down, literally turning a valuable gold stature into excrement.
I bring this up this morning, because I want to slay a sacred cow. Not necessarily a Christian one, though many Christians claim it, but a sacred cow that has influenced our modern culture for at least a couple of centuries now, and is feeding into every aspect of our lives: the sacred cow I want to slay this morning is the false god: equality.
Some people might think that is an overstatement to call equality a false god. But what does a deity do? A deity brings everything under its own power and influence. It forces everything to conform to its way of thinking and subsumes everything to its culture. A deity says: thou shalt come under its particular authority. There is only one true God, but there are many imposters and equality is one of those imposters: and though it is a concept, an idea, it acts like a god and has been working and feeding through every part of our society to make everything else bow to it, including God’s word.
Because this god of equality is seeking to overtake our culture, most of us read the Bible through the lens of equality, most of us just assume equality as a baseline truth, and most of us think that life should be about making things as equal as possible. But this way of thinking has gone crazy, and it was always going to, because it was based on a lie. And I want to demonstrate this today. This might be a hard message for some of us to hear, but it is important, because this lie has gone too far, and we need to push back against it, hard, otherwise our culture is in big trouble.
So, this morning we are going to get back in Genesis 49 and expand on where I left off last time.
1. Life Isn’t Fair – A couple of weeks ago I said that equality is a false god. Now I know this is a hard thing for some people to hear, because equality is the most important thing in our modern culture, and I only made it a small part of my sermon last week. So, this week I thought I should go a little bit deeper into the topic. Because 1) It’s an important part of this passage, 2) it’s an important part of our culture.
1.1 Here is my thesis: Equality of any form does not exist amongst people. It’s a myth, it’s a dangerous myth, and it is seeking to overtake our culture in every way and is causing incredible damage.
1.1.1 Equality only exists in the Bible, and in everyday life with regards to measures and weights. Two $5 notes are of exactly equal value. Two 3kg bags of potatoes are of equal weight, but good luck trying to get potatoes of the exact same kind to make those two bags. That’ll take all day. I know I used to work in a produce department.
18.104.22.168 You’ll find this type of equality in the Bible: Exodus 30:34 - “The Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part)…”
1.1.2 But God is too creative to care about equality, none of us are the same. God is not concerned with equality. Genesis 49 highlights this in big neon letters.
1.2 Jacob’s bless his children differently – Genesis 49:28 - “All these are the tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to them.” Notice that Jacob, gives his gifts as he sees fit, and as was suitable to his sons. There is nothing about equality in what he gave:
1.2.1 To Reuben he gave a curse - “3 Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. 4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!”
22.214.171.124 Being labelled as unstable as water by your dad has gotta hurt. Especially if it is true, and it is. Reuben was the only one to defend Joseph, but he also had sex with his dad’s wife.
1.2.2 To Judah he said – “8 Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you…10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him…”
126.96.36.199 Pre-eminence galore Jacob spoke over Judah. He lifted him up, and he was elevated far above his brothers.
1.2.3 As we saw last time, some of the boys get great blessings. Some of them get barely even a mention. As I said a few weeks ago, Jacob set the tone of Israel for all time, when he lifted up Ephraim and Manasseh over Reuben and Simeon: he made the last first and the first last. He lifted up the lesser over the greater.
188.8.131.52 But he also is setting the tone for God’s people: he is showing equality does not exist, and that’s just part of life. If God is interested in equality, why doesn’t he make us all the same?
1.3 As I said last week: “life isn’t fair, didn’t your mumma tell you?”
1.3.1 But it is not really fair to make that case just on an observation from one passage. Is this teaching consistent in the Bible? Today I want to show that it is consistent, and why this is important.
2. What the Bible says about equality – The Bible consistently makes a mockery of the idea of equality all the way through.
2.1 Genesis 2 – Right from the start the Bible is not interested in equality, but hierarchy and structure. This is how the trinity expressed itself, and this is how God’s creation is supposed to express itself – Genesis 2:23 – “Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” In the ancient world, and even today, the fact that Adam had the authority to name is a symbol of authority. It’s why the western tradition has always been that the woman takes the man’s name. Pharaoh Neco renamed one of the kings of Judah, because he had that authority. Alexander the Great names cities after himself because he could.
2.1.1 Also, in the ancient world the one who was first was prominent and had the higher authority. This is still true today, the Prime Minister is the minister with the most authority. Prime means of first importance.
2.1.2 This is not just my interpretation either, Paul says this in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 – “11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Before our culture became obsessed with equality this verse was just accepted. But now that equality is the god of our culture, you will hear all kinds of egalitarian arguments for why we should ignore Paul’s words here.
184.108.40.206 But notice that Adam being formed first is part of Paul’s argument for his greater authority? This is not my words, these are Paul’s words, and they are based on the perfect creation.
2.1.3 God never intended men and women to be the same, if he did he would have made us the same. He intended us to be different from the start, both valuable and necessary, but different.
2.2 What about class equality? Surely the Bible at least teaches that we should try and make everybody equal in this way. But, no it doesn’t – Proverbs 30:21-22 - “21 Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: 22 a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is filled with food; 23 an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress.”
2.2.1 This passage is literally saying, the earth cannot stand equality. The Marxist, the progressive, the revolutionary, would say that we need to replace kings with servants, the Bible says this is evil, and the earth cannot bear it.
2.2.2 Indeed, just look at the French revolutions, the Russian revolution, the Maoist revolution and the violence they all employed. All of these revolutions were driven by the ideology of equality, all of them killed millions of people to achieve it. “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!” was the cry of the French revolution, the same one where they introduced the guillotine to speed up the executions.
2.2.3 Even our culture today is based on such violence. Our “egalitarian” society only comes close to equality because mothers have the power to kill their children in the womb so they can function in society like men. I can guarantee you this; as long as equality remains the god of our society, feminists will fight to the teeth to protect their “right to abortion”. Because they know that without it the myth of equality will vanish like vapour. Equality is the source issue, and this calf must be slain before we will be able to fix symptomatic evils like abortion.
2.2.4 Equality is not just false, it leads to great evils – and it has left a great trail of destruction in history.
2.3 What About Kingdom Equality? Does God gift us all equally? No, we can often see some people who are gifted beyond the norm. This is biblical, for example the parable of the talents – Matthew 25:14-15 – “14 For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”
2.3.1 A talent is a large sum of money. One he gave 5 talents, one 2 and other 1. So, the master, who represents God in this parable did not gift all his servants equally. But why? Because they were not all of equal ability.
2.3.2 Anyone with kids knows your kids are all different with different capacities. This is part of God’s intention for humanity. Why? Well he tells us: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). God wants those who are given much to use their gifts to help those who have been given less. As Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you”, in other words: there will always be those with much and those will less.
2.3.3 I don’t envy big church pastors or famous pastors. Fame is for suckers as far as I am concerned. I have always been moderately gifted and I am ok with that. Because to the one who is given much, much more will be asked.
220.127.116.11 Look at how greatly Paul the Apostle was gifted, he saw visions, did miracles, wrote books of the Bible. Am I jealous of his clearly greater gifting? No, why? Well Jesus said this about Paul, “For I will show him how much he will suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).
2.3.4 God is not concerned with equality amongst his people, in fact his kingdom is based on the principle that it doesn’t exist, and we will all be judged according to the measure he has given us, and the measure with which we use that.
2.4 Does God value everyone equally? Surely all of humanity are God’s children, and God views all people equally? No, this is not the case:
2.4.1 Romans 9:13-15 – “13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” If God views everyone equally explain this verse. Or the next one:
2.4.2 Deuteronomy 7:6 – “6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” God values his people higher than other peoples, this is also true in the New Testament people: 1 Peter 2:9 – “9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
2.4.3 And not everyone are God’s children, only those who believe – John 1:12 - “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” As 1 John 3 tells us, we are either of the devil, or of God. Only those who believe though are children of God – “14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
2.4.4 So, it is just not accurate to say that God views all people equally. The Bible does not teach this, early Christians did not believe this, this is a modern, anti-Christian idea, and it has done much damage to the church in helping it lose its distinctiveness in the culture. But this should not push us to pride, but rather humility.
3. Why this teaching should humble us (Jeremiah 13:8-11) – When we hear that God values his people in a way that he does not value those who are not his, this should humble us, not make us proud. Some would be tempted towards pride, but remember we are children of God through…faith. Anyone can believe and become a child of God.
3.1 It is not something that we have done, but something God has gifted us through faith. It is foolish to boast of an unearned gift. Rejoice, but don’t boast.
3.2 The Jews allowed this teaching to make them proud, and because of this their nation fell into vast sin, and this was the result: Jeremiah 13:8-11 – “Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.”
3.2.1 They got proud and so God judged them. But notice again how this passage shows God does not value everyone the same, because here he points out that Judah “shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.”
3.2.2 If we allow pride to fill our hearts we become the same thing – “good for nothing.” So, what mind should we have on this issue?
4. Reject Equality – Paul tells us directly that we should reject equality. There is very few direct references to equality as we think of it today, between people, in the Bible, and they all speak of it negatively. For example, Philippians 2:3-7 – “3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
4.1 If there was anyone ever who walked this earth who could be focused on equality, it was Jesus, who is equal to God, because he is God the son. But he rejected that equality and took the form of a servant.
4.1.1 Paul is literally telling us to reject focusing on equality, and to rather count others as more significant than ourselves: take this mind of Christ and live it out.
4.1.2 We don’t see Paul focusing on pushing for equality in his writings, except in the distribution of charity. Equality wasn’t a concern for him. Preaching the gospel was his concern. If it was no concern to Jesus, the 11 Apostles or Paul, why is it such an important thing for the church today?
5. The Church Has Bought A Lie – That lie is the equality comes from God’s word, but it doesn’t, it stems from the devil. What was the devil’s downfall? It was this: Isaiah 14:13-14 - “13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” The first being to demand equality was Lucifer, he wanted to be like God. The writer of Isaiah here is using an ancient idea of Satan’s fall, to challenge the king of Babylon. Let me ask you this question: What is the fruit of equality in our world today?
5.1 Much covetousness – Demanding equality is just covetousness. To demand everyone have the same possessions, the same lifestyle, the same education, or even the same opportunity etc, etc, is just covetousness, and we are seeing this breakout in riots in the US right now.
5.1.1 Conservatives go on and on about equality of opportunity, but it too is a myth. It just doesn’t exist. Just think about this, some people have good parents some people have bad parents. The socialist knows this, and this is why it has at times been suggested that kids be taken from their parents and raised in communal homes. Because good parents are a massive advantage.
5.2 Also much Death – Why did the Russian Communists kill so many people? Equality. Why did the French Revolution kill so many nobles? Equality. Why do so many women claim the right to kill a child in the womb? Equality. Why are statues being pulled down, stores being burnt, and why is so much violence happening in the US right now? Equality. Why are white south African farmers being killed so regularly today? Equality.
5.2.1 Equality is so impossible, the only way people can get close is to tear others down, and violently. The only way to make your grass all the same length is to mow it.
5.3 Jesus said, you know someone or something by its fruit. The fruit of equality points right back to its source: the devil, the first being to demand equality. The first being to offer this to humanity in garden: “Ye shall be as gods.” The devil wanted to destroy God’s natural hierarchy, and the offer of equality has been messing with this world ever since.
5.3.1 It is not taught as something to desire in the Bible, and its fruit is wicked. It’s time to slay this sacred cow once and for all.
6. Application – Jacob didn’t do wrong by not giving all his sons the same blessings, because what he did, God also does. God gifts are too diverse. God is too creative to make everything and everyone equal. Being focused on equality just causes us to chase unicorns, makes us jealous of others who we think have more, and causes us to forget, that all that we have is by the gifts and mercy of Jesus.
6.1 Rather than demanding equality with others and obsessing for what they have, let’s be thankful for the measure God has given us, let’s reject pride, because it comes before a fall, let’s count others as more significant than ourselves, and never forget that that one who has much, much more will be asked.
6.2 Equality contradicts the gospel - If God values all people the same, then the gospel is meaningless. Because the gospel says that those who believe shall be considered as sons of God, children of the king, God’s special possession, chosen by God, the apple of his eye, delighted in by God, and especially loved.
6.5.1. It's clear the source of equality is the devil. Every way you slice it, it contradicts God's word, but very cleverly. Because it sounds so good to the natural ear. The devil is good at what he does.
6.5.2. The very idea of equality, like his word to the woman "ye shall be as gods" sounds wonderful, but undermines God's word, his good news, and hence wreaks uncounted damage.
6.5.3. God offers us something better, he offers us to be more than our fallen state. He offers to anyone who believes in him, that he will lift them up, and make them his beloved children. 1 John 3:1 – “See what love the father has lavished on us, that we should be children of God.” That’s a promise only for those who believe, don’t you want to be one of his children?
7. Conclusion - I understand that this message goes against the grain of how we are raised, what we are taught, everything our culture says…but shouldn’t the Bible be just that? A worldly culture smasher? I just ask that you meditate on this and read what the Bible has to say on this topic yourself. Jacob seemed to think this way, and he literally was Israel. If you struggle with anything in this come and talk with me, let’s evaluate it together. But if a false deity is seeking to subdue God’s word to itself, we must challenge that. There is only one God who is worthy of our obedience and trust, that is the God who made us, and who took the form of a servant to save us. Let’s pray.