King or Tyrant (Jeremiah 22:10–23:8)

“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing
and does not give him his wages,
who says, ‘I will build myself a great house
with spacious upper rooms,’
who cuts out windows for it,
paneling it with cedar
and painting it with vermilion.

Do you think you are a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
declares the Lord.

But you have eyes and heart
only for your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.” —Jeremiah 22:13–17

chess-2727443_1280.jpgIt has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others. The real genius of our democratic republic is more negative than positive in nature. The brilliance isn’t foremost in contriving a constitutional government that is so good, but recognizing that the constitution of man is bad. The system of checks and balances, the limitation of terms, the division of power, the constitutional rights—all of these limit how much bad, bad men can do. 

Given this, isn’t it peculiar, that even in our republic, even we are enchanted by kings. You could chalk this up to fairy tales, Arthurian legend, historical intrigue, and royal pomp, but I believe there is something far deeper. The historical story of kings is filled with injustice and unrighteous, and even so, there is a longing for the royal, the regal, the kingly, the majestic. Our republic betrays this when she says “In God we trust.”

From Jeremiah 21:1–22:30 we have a string of wicked kings, and the answer of chapter 23:1–8 to this, the hope held out, isn’t the abolition of the Davidic Dynasty, but the fulfillment of it. It is not less monarchy, but monarchy in the fullest that is the hope of man. Spreading the power of government out to more fallen men doesn’t bring enduring peace and justice. The answer is an absolute sovereign who is absolutely good. Mysteriously, He is also man. He is certainly more than a mere man, but He must be a man. He shows us man as man ought to have been. Kingly, imaging forth his Sovereign in the domain given to him, acting as a steward-king.

What is it that makes a king a king? Cedar does not a king make. Rightfully residing in a royal palace doesn’t make one royalty. Jehoiakim was indeed king, but he was not kingly. What is it that makes a king a king?

This is similar to the question “what makes a man a man?” There are men, who though they are men, they are not manly. They remain boyish. It is just this type who so often strives for manliness, but always in a way that makes it more boyish. Such men try to compensate by artificial markers of manliness, a self-defeating act manifesting just how boyish they are. Such violent strength and ill gained wealth are empty of all that is truly regal and royal. As Jehoiakim builds up, he tears down. As he tries to climb, he digs.

In Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, the earthy (not earthly mind you) King Lune of Archenland was kingly, whereas the outrageously opulent Tisroc was trying to compensate. What makes the difference? The Tisroc’s glory is one built by taking, whereas King Lune’s is built by giving. King Lune’s glory is one of magnanimous joy; the Tisroc’s, of demanding servitude of others. King Lune explains to his son, “…this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

The truly majestic is not a glory that grabs, but that gives. This is the difference between a tyrant and a king. The King of kings bled to make His bride beautiful. The kingly is that which flows with sacrifice knowing it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Bleed Her Beautiful, Love Her Lovely (Colossians 3:19)

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” —Colossians 3:18–19 (ESV)

Wives are to submit. Husbands are to… love. Is that what you expected to be paired with submission?

This isn’t to deny, but define authority and headship. Men, the authority you have isn’t your own, it is a steward authority given to you by Christ. The only authority you have a right to exercise is the kind modeled by Jesus (Ephesians 5:24). Does your authority bleed for those under it?

A man’s marriage is his garden. He sweats. He bleeds. Blisters abound. Weeds, thistles, and pests are fought. Bones ache. His life is spent, but the garden thrives, and the garden is his glory. He does all this with a smile. At day’s end, stretching his cramping muscles and straightening his sore back, a man should look back on his well-tended garden with pride and joy, as a soldier having taken a hill to drive the enemy back, believing the sacrifice worth it all.

Husbands, bleed your wives beautiful and love them lovely (Ephesians 5:25–27). When we lead, may our wives gladly follow knowing we are leading them into their own splendor.

Think of your wife as talent (cf. Matthew 25:14–30) entrusted to you by the Lord. You’ve been given no greater treasure save the Triune God himself in Christ. Invest in her, and return her having increased many fold. No investment can make so great a return as this. She is your crown (Proverbs 12:4). She is your glory (1 Corinthians 11:7). Investing in her is polishing and embellishing your crown. The radiance and glory of your wife speaks to your authority. What kind of king are you? What kind of gardener are you? The quality of the gardener is generally testified to by the quality of garden.

Husbands, our authority should be so exercised, that to be treated as an equal would be a step down for our wives. May she mock the world saying, “Why would I desire to be treated as a knight, when I am loved as his queen? Why would I want to fight by His side as a comrade, when I can rest atop his head as his crown?”

Patriarchy means Protection and Provision (Exodus 22:16–23:9)

When it comes to laws concerning widows and orphans (Exodus 22:22-24), God breaks protocol. The ten words from the fire came directly from God to the people and were written by Him in stone (Deuteronomy 10:12–13). The Book of the Covenant runs from 20:22–23:33 and came to the people through the mediation of Moses and were written by him on parchment (Exodus 24:4, 7). This means most of the Book of the Covenant is in the second person, but when it comes the fatherless and husbandless, the first person is resumed.

“If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless (Exodus 22:23–24).”

The cry of the oppressed orphans and widows would rise to God the same way Israel’s cries came to God under their Egyptian oppressors. God is telling them there could be an Israel within Israel and they might find themselves to be Egyptians. In the prophets a frequent reason given for the exile is their treatment of orphans and widows.

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever (Jeremiah 7:5–7).”

When father’s are absent, God is a father to the fatherless in a special sense. This is patriarchy, which is to say this is fatherhood. We style ourselves complementarian contra egalitarians, and that’s all well and good, but there is an older term, a more descriptive term, though a more offensive one: patriarchalism. Patriarchalism doesn’t men that women are used and abused but protected and provided for. It means that there are fathers.

The reason why widows and orphans were so vulnerable is because they were fatherless (also meaning hudsband-less).Why do so many women and children tremble behind locked doors? Because there are too few men inside as protectors and too many men outside as predators. The problem isn’t patriarchy. The problem isn’t fatherhood. That’s the solution. The problem is the absence of patriarchy. A father-ful society is the best one for widows and orphans. Father famine abounds, but to the hungry we say there is a Father feast above. The only hope of impacting father famine on the ground is for men to be transformed by the Father in the Son through the Spirit so that they show forth His image in the world.

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this (Deuteronomy 24:19-22).”

Fertile Femininity and the Impotent Feminist (1 Timothy 2:9–15)

Femininity is under attack and there is too little masculinity to protect it. Feminists are the ones who are actually anti-women, desiring to erase that which is particularly and gloriously feminine in women by trying to make them men. Part of the genius of their ploy is neutering men so as to eliminate any resistance. “Make the men women and we can make the women men.” It is serpentine—both crafty and destructive. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman… .”

Gender, sexuality, manhood, and womanhood are where the battle lines are drawn for our times. Bruce Ware captures this well,

Today… the primary areas in which Christianity is pressured to conform are on issues of gender and sexuality. Postmoderns and ethical relativists care little about doctrinal truth claims; these seem to them innocuous, archaic, and irrelevant to life. What they do care about, and care with a vengeance, is whether their feminist agenda and sexual perversions are tolerated, endorsed and expanded in an increasingly neo-pagan landscape. Because this is what they care most about, it is precisely here that Christianity is most vulnerable. To lose the battle here is to subject the Church to increasing layers of departure from biblical faith. And surely, it will not be long until ethical departures (the Church yielding to feminist pressures for women’s ordination, for example) will yield even more central doctrinal departures (questioning whether Scripture’s inherent patriarchy renders it fundamentally untrustworthy, for example). I find it instructive that when Paul warns about departures from the faith in the latter days, he lists ethical compromises and the searing of the conscience as the prelude to a full-scale doctrinal apostasy (1 Tim 4:1-5).

This means that when we come to a text like 1 Timothy 2:9–15 we mustn’t cringe in embarrassment; we must glory and rejoice. We must remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength, and, that a glorying in Biblical manhood and womanhood is a rejoicing in the Lord. This joy isn’t one that we must fain or force. Femininity is a glorious, beautiful, graceful, and strong thing, and when a woman embraces it, she outshines the world’s perversions the way the sun outshines a lightning bug.

Imagine coming up to a group of builders using hammers to drive screws and screwdrivers to drive nails. “No. You’ve got it backwards. That isn’t using them according to design.” The foolish builders say that design, function, purpose, and roles are relative and to be determined by self. Using a hammer for a screwdriver opens the door to using a wrecking ball for a hammer, and then it won’t be long before the house comes crashing down. When men are men, and women are women, it is then that they are most glorious because it is then that they are most godlike, functioning according to design, imaging forth the Designer.

Femininity is a powerful and glorious thing; something in which women are far superior to men. In a unique way that men are not able to, Christian women get to model for all humanity the grace, beauty, and glory of the submissive quietness of Christ’s bride. Submission and obedience don’t kill, they give life. When Adam and Eve rebelled and did what they wanted this house came down, and it came down because Adam didn’t step up and protect Eve’s femininity; he sat in his recliner, did nothing, and ate the food that he let her eat, and that he let her bring to him (Genesis 3:6). Freedom is a fish in water; a man under God. Under authority, man flourishes. When a godly woman is under a godly man under our gracious God, she is a glorious living parable of this truth.

This kind of beauty is attractive and powerful. It makes men want to be men. It will produce men who will bleed for such beauty, and, like our Savior, bleed to beautify it.

Headship Is (1 Timothy 2:8)

When there are problems in the church, start with the men. When there are problems in the church, men are always responsible for them; either because they caused the problem, or failed to address it. If men haven’t caused the problem, they must deal with it. If problems are not dealt with in this way, you intensify your problems. When men have failed in the church and women have stepped in to fill the void, this hasn’t solved any problems, but caused larger ones. When women lead it doesn’t help men be men, and thus, it doesn’t help women either. Women can’t help men to be men when they try to be men.

Men are women’s biggest problem (outside their own sin), but right behind men is feminism. Have feminist and egalitarians championed some righteous causes. Certainly. But this wasn’t because they were feminists. Did Nazi scientists make breakthroughs beneficial for mankind? Certainly. But this wasn’t because they were Nazis. Feminism is problem for women because it amplifies men being a problem for women.

We have so feminized the church that it is as attractive to men as a feather boa. Men failed, women stepped in, and now there aren’t any men, only mothers and boys, mothers who perpetuate the boyhood of boys. The women do while overgrown boys sit on their duff playing video games. Oh, but their video games without x-rated material, supervised by upright mothers! Right.

The reason why a disregard for gender fundamentally fails is because headship is. When Scripture speaks of husbands being heads of their wives, it doesn’t come as a command, but as a statement of fact.

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior (Ephesians 5:23 ESV).”

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).”

Headship is stated as an indicative fact, not an imperative command. Irrevocably, men dominate. That is to say they have a headship that affect all that is under them. Douglas Wilson gets at this well,

“Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. This is how God designed marriage. He has created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord—Dominus—at the cross. If a husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home. If he catches a plane to the other side of the country, and stays there, he will dominate in and by his absence. How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table? If the marriage is one in which the wife ‘wears the pants,’ the wimpiness of the husband is the most obvious thing about the marriage, creating a miserable marriage and home. His abdication dominates.”

In conclusion, let me say a few words to ward off any naysayers and gender benders. First, if you erase male/female distinctions you open the door wide to homosexuality and transgender endorsement. Second, if you have a problem with submission, you have a problem with the godhead as seen in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Third, just as in the godhead, having different roles in which one submits to the other does not mean that men and women are not equal in value, dignity, and worth any more that the Son is less God or less worthy of worship than the Father. Finally, I leave you with Chesterton’s short poem, “Comparisons.”

If I set the sun beside the moon,
And if I set the land beside the sea,
And if I set the town beside the country,
And if I set the man beside the woman,
I suppose some fool would talk about one being better.

Tolle Lege: The Masculine Mandate

Readability:  1

Length:  154 pgs

Author:  Richard Phillips

Don’t think that The Masculine Mandate comes from the desk of some effeminate, overeducated minister trying to make a female dominated religion easier to swallow.  Before surrendering to the ministry Richard Phillips served as a tank officer in the Army and then taught at West Point finally retiring as a major.  At the same time don’t expect more of the same. Don’t expect more Wild at Heart salve for your wounded man-soul.  This is Biblical manhood at its clearest.  Men, buy this book, and then strive to live by the mandate it shows you in Scripture.  What is this mandate?  You’ll find it in Genesis 2:15; men were made to work and keep.

At this point, I have the unpleasant duty of correcting some erroneous teaching that has gained prominence in recent years. Since its publication in 2001, the top Christian book on manhood has been John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. This book has become practically a cottage industry, complete with supporting videos, workbooks, and even a “Field Manual.” In my opinion, Wild at Heart gained traction with Christian men in large part because it calls us to stop being sissies, to cease trying to get in touch with our “feminine side” (mine is named Sharon), and instead to embark on an exciting quest to discover our male identity. I can add my hearty “Amen!” to the idea that Christian men should reject a feminized idea of manhood. The problem is that the basic approach to masculinity presented in Wild at Heart is almost precisely opposite from what is really taught in the Bible. For this reason, this book has, in my opinion, sown much confusion among men seeking a truly biblical sense of masculinity.

We encounter major errors in Wild at Heart right at the beginning, where Eldredge discusses Genesis 2:8: “Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden’s garden. But Adam, if you’ll remember, was created outside the garden, in the wilderness.”  Eldredge reasons here that if God “put the man” into the garden, he must have been made outside the garden. While the Bible does not actually say this, it’s plausible. But even assuming it’s true, what are we to make of it? Eldredge makes an unnecessary and most unhelpful leap of logic, concluding that the “core of a man’s heart is undomesticated,” and because we are “wild at heart,” our souls must belong in the wilderness and not in the cultivated garden. That is, Eldredge assumes and then teaches as a point of doctrine a view of manhood that Scripture simply does not support.

It’s easy to understand how this teaching has appealed to men who labor in office buildings or feel imprisoned by the obligations of marriage, parenthood, and civilized society. But there is one thing Eldredge does not notice.  God put the man in the garden. The point of Wild at Heart is that a man finds his identity outside the garden in wilderness quests. In contrast, the point of Genesis 2:8 is that God has put the man into the garden, into the world of covenantal relationships and duties, in order to gain and act out his God-given identity there. If God intends men to be wild at heart, how strange that he placed man in the garden, where his life would be shaped not by self-centered identity quests but by covenantal bonds and blessings.

To work it and keep it: here is the how of biblical masculinity, the mandate of Scripture for males. It is my mandate in this book, therefore, to seek to specify, clarify, elaborate, and apply these two verbs to the glorious, God-given, lifelong project of masculine living:

Work. To work is to labor to make things grow. In subsequent chapters I will discuss work in terms of nurturing, cultivating, tending, building up, guiding, and ruling.

Keep. To keep is to protect and to sustain progress already achieved.  Later I will speak of it as guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, and maintaining.