Jump Start #3294
Jump Start # 3294
Deuteronomy 22:17 “and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, ‘I did not find your daughter a virgin.’ But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.”
Recently, one of our Jump Start readers asked me to explain this passage. I did the best I could but really believe I didn’t do a very good job. The story here is about a man who believed he had married a virgin. He claims that she wasn’t a virgin. He’s bringing charges against her. If true, the girl was to be put to death. If the man was wrong, he must pay her father lots of money for trashing her name and he is never allowed to divorce her.
A lot was riding on the right answer. The elders of the city would have to make this call. The girl’s parents, as our verse states, would bring evidence that would be analyzed. Either she was or she wasn’t. There were going to be consequences either way. What does the garment have to do with this, I’m not sure?
First, there are many things about ancient Jewish life that is hard for us to understand. Different time, different culture and many things we read about leave us scratching our heads. One can dig through old books to try to find the answers, but many times we are left with more questions than answers.
Our passage would have been understood by ancient Israel. The Bible isn’t intended for us to grasp and understand Jewish life. The Bible is to get us to know our God. What’s life like with leprosy? What would it have been like to be a tax collector? Do I fully understand the cultural consequences of the prodigal feeding pigs? Do I understand how parents would prove their daughter’s virginity? Paul had Timothy circumcised because of the Jews, Acts 16 tells us. How would the Jews know? I’m left often saying, “I don’t know.” But, those things do not keep me from knowing my God. I can see His compassion, fairness and love.
Second, there are some delicate things in the Bible and one must be mindful of when preaching and teaching. Crude street language is often offensive and doesn’t belong in the teaching of God’s word. Trying to fit in with teens by talking the language they talk fails most times. Teens, as well as the rest of us, need examples of righteousness, even in our speech. The message can be lost because some were insulted or offended by the poor choice of words that a speaker uses. A long time ago, I received a church bulletin from a predominately black congregation. The title on the front page said that “Jesus was a ______”. And, in that blank was an extremely offensive, prejudicial term. It was used for shock factor. It certainly shocked me when I saw that. I was embarrassed. Worse, I wonder what the mail carrier thought if he saw it? Those cute psychological tricks are not what disciples ought to be doing. Name calling. Word games that trick. Forms of deception. Those all eventually backfire and make the person doing those things look bad. Just preach the word.
Third, it is better to be upfront and honest by telling someone “I just don’t know,” rather than guessing. Peter tells us that some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand. There are things that Peter said that are also hard to understand. There are things that the prophets wrote that are hard to understand. We often try to see the Bible through American eyes and that can lead to wrong meanings. Remembering the original audience will help us to get the proper meaning. This is very helpful for studies in the prophets and Revelation. What would those first listeners to that message thought?
Fourth, we can’t leave our verse today without a very practical bridge to us. If the claim was made that we are not a Christian, could we produce evidence showing otherwise? The evidence would not be a certificate of baptism, but a lifestyle of discipleship and righteousness. Would those you work with, or your neighbors, be surprised to hear that you are a Christian? Or, would they obviously know that because of the way you have conducted yourself?
Bring evidence…that’s a powerful thought when we consider our walk with the Lord.