Confess Religiosity

When the people of Israel eventually came into the land of promise, and once they changed the focus of their religious behavior to that which would conform to their own desires, it was then that they created in their minds gods who would condone their wayward behavior. This is indeed the most frightening aspect of the warning of Deuteronomy 13 against the Israelites. They eventually turned from God and His moral authority to gods they imagined after their own misguided moral desires, just as millions today have done throughout the world.

The sad thing about this present-day apostasy is that religious people around the world who call themselves after Christ have so little knowledge of the Bible that they do not realized where they are. In fact, they vex those who are trying to lead their lives according to the authority of the word of God. If the definition of “evil” in Deuteronomy 13 is taken into the context of Genesis 6:5, then we can assume that the world today is indeed in perilous times. In those days of Noah, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually.” Because of a worldwide lack of knowledge of the moral authority of God, we are in the same predicament as Noah.

We must understand the “evil” of Genesis 6:5 in the context of the time when Noah was preparing the ark for the deliverance of his family from the total destruction of the population of the world at that time. Peter revealed that the condition of the world at that time was “evil.” He revealed that Jesus in the spirit went and preached to those of that generation through Noah, “who once were disobedient when the longsuffering of God waited patiently in the days of Noah” (1 Pt 3:20). God “did not spare the old world, but saved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others” (2 Pt 2:5).

The early Christians were warned by Jesus that the same moral and religious conditions that existed during the days of Noah would prevail when God would again bring judgment into the world, specifically in reference to the destruction of national Israel: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will be the coming of the Son of man” (Mt 24:37). One might concluded that Jesus was here speaking of His final coming, but the “coming” in the context is better understood in the historical context of those of Jesus’ generation who would not pass away until all those things about which He spoke came to pass (Mk 9:1).

When we understand the work of God in judgment of those of this world, the same principle of judgment is true in reference to the “evil” that would prevail at the time when He would come in His final judgment. So Jesus reminded His generation, “For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Mt 24:38). Noah’s generation was carrying on with a normal life, being totally unaware and unbelieving concerning the impending destruction that was coming upon them. “And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. So also will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt 24:39).

According to Genesis 6:5, the generation that suffered the judgment of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was an “evil” generation. Those Jews were fervently religious, but they were evil. They had rejected and crucified the Son of God. It was a religious generation, but it was “religiously evil” So we must not assume that an evil generation is a generation of thieves and reprobates. Normal life is carried on by evil generations. They find comfort in their “evil” religion because their religion conforms to their narcissistic desires.

Noah’s generation was not as that which was portrayed by the movie Noah, staring Russel Crowe. This movie that was released in 1914 portrayed Noah’s generation to be composed of a vile and murderous people. But Jesus’ description of that generation in Matthew 24 does not conform to what was portrayed in the movie. And we will believe Jesus over the producers of the movie.

Those of Noah’s generation were as those of the generation of Israel to whom Deuteronomy 13 was addressed. They were ordinary people who had given up on the God of heaven and created gods that would agree with their own religious and moral behavior. Their faith became subjective to their own desires, and thus, their religion was defined as “evil.” That was an “evil” generation.

In contrast to those of his generation who had no respect for the authority of God’s moral standards of faith and behavior, “Noah, being warned of God of things not yet seen, moved with fear” (Hb 11:7). Noah respected the mandates of the word of God. When people stop fearing the word of God, they are defined in the Bible as “evil.” These are those who will vex (mock) those who are preachers of the word of God (2 Pt 2:7,8). Subjective religionists will always mock those who have an objective faith this is based on the word of God.

[Next in series: August 12]

Difficult Paradigm Shifts

Regardless of all the changes the the newly freed children of Israel had to endure in their lives in order to move into a new paradigm of freedom and independence, there was one change that seemed almost impossible to make. In fact, it was so impossible that God had to take out an entire generation of Israelites in order to bring into the land of promise a new generation. The first generation of Israelites, who had been infected with the virus of Egyptian religiosity, had to be buried in the desert before the new nation of believers could be allowed into the land of promise.

The children of Israel would have to change from a spoken oral tradition of moral authority of many gods to a revealed word-based authority of commandments and statutes from only one God. They would even have to move from the word that came through their fathers and prophets, to the word of God that was revealed and finalized by being written on stone tablets or parchment.

Since the beginning of time, God’s moral standards of belief and behavior had been delivered orally to mankind. “God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hb 1:1). But at the foot of Mount Sinai, the gods of Egypt, as well as the inspired spoken word of the fathers and prophets, would give way to the final authority of the written word of a God who spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. After Sinai, He would later direct Moses under the influence of the Holy Spirit to inscribe the entire Law (Gn, Ex, Lv, Nm, Dt).

While the children of Israel were in Egypt, God had previously and orally spoken through Abraham, and then Isaac, and then Jacob. The people lived by the spoken word of these fathers, who were also prophets. We do not know if there were prophets among them while they were in Egyptian captivity. All their beliefs and behavior throughout their history had come to them orally through the fathers and prophets, but not in the form of written documents. Because of this, the people were prone to create some of their own beliefs and codes of behavior. Most of the civilizations at the time inscribed in stone or on monuments their legal codes of behavior. But not the Israelites. All their instructions came to them orally, as was the giving of all of God’s instructions from the beginning of time. But this was to change in the giving of the written Law that would come through Moses.

Before the Israelites arrived in Egypt, they had already been following some of the behavioral codes of the nations. For example, in the Code of Hammurabi, that dates back to the time of Abraham around 2,000 B.C., this Babylonian stone inscription listed some of the laws that were eventually included in the law that God wrote for the people through Moses. We would assume, therefore, that these social and civil laws originally came from God through the fathers, but we cannot confirm this. The Code of Hammurabi was a secular inscription of civil and moral laws that were inscribed by a Babylonian king.

The Israelites were undoubtedly living by some of the civil laws of the Code of Hammurabi while they were in Egypt. However, this does not assume that their obedience to such laws proves that the civil laws of the Code of Hammurabi were inspired by God. For example, the “eye for an eye” law of Hammurabi later became one of the laws of the Sinai Law (Ex 21:23-25; Dt 19:21). We would not assume, however, that the Code of Hammurabi was inspired by God because some of its laws were incorporated into the Sinai Law. The origin of the “eye for an eye” law may have orally been spoken through the ancient fathers and prophets, and subsequently included in the Code of Hammurabi. But it was definitely considered an inspired written law when it became a part of the Sinai Law.

Abraham had no written codes to hand down to his descendants. However, the Egyptians among whom the Israelites lived had written commandments of belief and conduct. The temples and tombs of Egypt were covered with the Egyptian hieroglyphics of codes and commandments. But the Israelites had no written documents that they used as authority for their beliefs and behavior. For this reason, they were prone to harvest beliefs and moral behavior from the people among whom they dwelt. This was particularly true in reference to their four centuries in Egypt.

But this paradigm would shift. They too would be given written instructions, first on stone, and then as inscribed documents from the hand of Moses. When God shifted from the fathers and prophets among them who had given instructions for millennia, to written commandments, this would mean that the Israelites could no longer adopt beliefs and moral standards from the people among whom they would reside. For example, the very first commandment of the written ten commandments clearly reveals the problem that the Israelites faced while in Egypt. This problem would plague them throughout their stay in the land of promise. This major problem was inferred when God inscribed on stone, “You will have no other gods before Me” (Ex 20:3).

God knew that the Israelites would always want to created in their minds “gods” who would dictate their moral and civil standards. Because they were a stubborn and stiffnecked people, God knew that throughout their history they would want to adopt the religious beliefs and behavior of the people around them, and then create gods who would confirm to their religious desires. The people were prone to creating gods after the culture in which they lived in Egypt. His curse would follow them for the next one thousand years. When they came into Palestine, and disobeyed God by not dispersing from the land all the idolatrous people within the land, they would eventually start believing the Baal prophets of the Canaanites who lived among them. This apostasy would reach its zenith during the great times of King Solomon, who would marry the women of the nations around Israel, which women would lead him and Israel astray after Baal gods.

Because the Israelites were a stubborn and stiffnecked people, they eventually, throughout their history, found it impossible to make the paradigm shift from a faith that was based on moral tradition and the voice of the fathers and prophets, to a written document that would be the only foundation of their faith. Because they had always accepted some of the moral standards of the nations in which they lived, or that surrounded them while they resided in Palestine, their faith would digress into a religiosity that was foreign to the written law of God.

While in Egyptian captivity for four centuries, the authority of their faith was influenced by the gods of the Egyptians. When they came into the land of promise, their faith eventually found its authority again in the gods of the nations around them. The same happens today when people allow the religious beliefs of those among whom they must dwell to influence their faith. We often find it too easy to shift from the written moral beliefs and standards of the word of God to accepting the moral beliefs and standards of the majority among whom we live. We find it difficult to stand alone on the authority of the written word of God, while refusing to conform to the religious authority of the majority.

[Next in series: August 9]

Cultural Paradigm Shift

In order to understand where the recipients of the Deuteronomy 13 directives were socially, culturally and religiously, we must go back in their history almost four centuries. We must go back to a land in which they were “taken care of” by a very polytheistic society that initially invited Jacob and his family into the land of Goshen (Gn 45:10). Until that time in Egypt there had been a succession of pharaohs that extended back several centuries before the arrival of Jacob and his sons. In fact, when Jacob arrived in Egypt, there were monuments throughout Egypt, many of which were at least one thousand years old. There were pyramids and temples that were intimidating to this small clan of shepherds from Palestine. We can only imagine how awesome the structures of Egypt appeared to these shepherds who had come from a land where they experienced no such massive monuments or temples.

Nevertheless, at the time when Jacob’s clan arrived in Egypt, the Nile Delta of Egypt was the ideal environment in which shepherds could graze their sheep and goats in the fertile region of Goshen, a place of rivers and grasslands. What could be more peaceful than to reside in such a social and political environment under the protection of such an awe-inspiring nation. We are convinced that Jacob and his sons were truly grateful for the kind gesture that was shown them by the pharaoh of Egypt.

But from the very beginning of their arrival, there were challenges for these monotheistic shepherds from the pastures of Palestine. As guests in the land of Egypt, the Israelites had to accommodate the polytheistic religiosity of their host. Egypt was a society that believed in many gods whom they assumed had allowed them to become such a great and powerful society at the time. The Egyptians had history, and a culture that dated back centuries.

The Egyptians had invested heavily in their military, having some of the greatest war chariots of the ancient world. Archaeological evidence reveals that they had compound bows that would send arrows further in distance than any contemporary bows of the neighboring nations. The Egyptian military was unmatched by other nations at the time Israel resided in Egypt. It was the perfect environment, therefore, for God to grow a nation in order to preserve the promises that He had made to Abraham (Gn 12:1-3).

But then problems came for the innocent shepherd culture. After being in the Egyptian social and cultural environment for almost four centuries, something began to happen to the foundational beliefs of the people. Not only did the descendants of the shepherds begin to accommodate the polytheism of their host nation, they also started to adopt—at least condone—the polytheism of their host. Israel’s gratitude for their protection led them to be very tolerant of the fact that the Egyptians were atheists in reference to believing in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But since they were economically at the mercy of the economically powerful Egyptians, they thought they had to compromise their faith in reference to their being only one God. They were cautious about speaking against the gods of the Egyptians. So God determined that it was time for them to leave the comforts of their host.

The monotheism of Israel was contrary to Egypt’s polytheism. Nevertheless, Israel remained tolerant, so tolerant that in some ways they learned to bear with all those who believed in other gods. They led themselves to believe that if one were simply a good person, believed in the human rights of the individual, then they as monotheistic believers could cohabit with such good polytheists. But in the eyes of God, His people were starting to conform too much to the religiosity of their host.

Faith, or religion, should never be an obstacle to one’s association with other people, even with those who believed in other gods. Regardless of how many gods in which their host nation believed, and as long as they were tolerant of their beliefs, then the Israelites could reside peacefully in the land. But the Israelites’ toleration went too far. They began to accept some of the Egyptian gods, or at least believe that there were other gods to whom they should reverence out of respect for the Egyptians. This compromise in belief did not reveal itself until they were in a time of desperation at the foot of Mount Sinai. It was then that they cried out to Aaron,Make us gods that will go before us (Ex 32:1). This plea to Aaron after they had been set free from Egypt reveals that at least this generation of freed Israelites had been infected with the virus of Egyptian polytheism.

But then politics also entered into the picture while the people were still in Egypt. Because the Israelites were pacifists, and Egypt protected them with their military strength, they became comfortable in their state of security. They did not need their own military to guard their security. They subsequently began to multiply to the point that their host nation of Egypt became worried that they would eventually outnumber them in the land. Israelite “votes” began to grow to the extent that the host nation believed that the Israelites would take over their land. In fact, the chronicler of the times wrote of the Israelites, “The children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty. And the land was filled with them” (Ex 1:7). In fact, according to archaeological records, the Israelites became so great in numbers that historically they possibly seceded from Egypt as a whole, having gained self-controlled of the northeastern region of Goshen. At least this is what seems to appear in some Egyptian historical records of the time.

Therefore, our biblical account must be understood in view of this mass growth in the population of the Israelites in Egypt. The pharaoh at the time of the massive growth was greatly concerned that the Israelites would eventually take over all Egypt. If this happened, then God’s promise to Abraham, that He would give to his descendants the land of Palestine, would possibly never be fulfilled (Gn 12:7). Therefore, God had to raise up a pharaoh, who through slavery, would to generate a thirst for freedom on the part of the Israelites (See Rm 9:14-18).

Nevertheless, change for the Israelites came when the legacy of Joseph faded in the minds of the Egyptians. So after more than three centuries of the arrival of Jacob’s clan in Egypt, “there rose up a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph” (Ex 1:8). Because the Israelites had increased so extensively in the land, this new pharaoh complained to his fellow Egyptians, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we” (Ex 1:9). Therefore, the southern part of Egypt rose up to retake control of the Goshen region, subjugating the Israelites to slavery. “They set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens” (Ex 1:11).

Once God had toughened His people through slavery, it was time for Him to raise up Moses and send him to Sinai for forty years of training in wilderness living. He then brought Moses back to deliver a people who had been hardened by years of slavery, but influenced by the polytheism of the Egyptians. The influence of four hundreds years of polytheistic religionists had to come to an end. The people were thus made to cry out for freedom in order that they not make Egypt their permanent homeland. A promise had to be fulfilled that was made about five centuries before to Abraham (Gn 12:7).

In their slavery, the Israelites became hardened and stubborn. In order to retain their identity, they were changed into a stubborn people who resisted their taskmasters. In their stubbornness, however, they preserved themselves as a unique people who did not succumb completely to the culture of the Egyptians. They maintained their identity as the children of Israel (Jacob). As slaves, however, the children of Israel learned to be a people who were “taken care of” as slaves, but unique in their identity as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Though they developed a bondage mentality in Egypt, at least they could eat, for their taskmasters gave them the right to grow their own food. During times of drought, they could receive grain from the southern lands of Egypt. Therefore, in reference to their food supply, they had no worries. Though they were in slavery, they had no worry about their next table of food.

But when God sent Moses to fetch His people out of Egyptian captivity, this all changed. It changed so rapidly in their lives that the Israelites went through a shock of acculturation in the wilderness, even though they had been delivered from the bondage of Egypt.

Deliverance entailed a tremendous social paradigm shift. They went from the security of a society wherein all decisions were made for them by their taskmasters whom they could see, to a society where decisions were mandated through written commandments from a God whom they could not see. In the wilderness they had to wake up every morning and make decisions as to what they should do for the day. They went from depending on food from the harvest of their own crops in a secure land, to food (manna) they would receive only when they awoke every morning. They went from the security of what happened every day, to the insecurity of a whole new world in a wilderness about which they knew nothing. They went from grasslands to desert; from rivers to water springs from the ground; from trusting in the power of a host country to being a people who had to depend only on themselves and one God who would protect them. They even went from a military that protected them to building their own military.

It was an almost impossible social paradigm shift that was very difficult for them to bear. In fact, in the months that followed their crossing of the Red Sea they struggled to accept the new wilderness paradigm into which they had been delivered. It was not easy. In fact, their attitudes could be summed up in the following statement that was made on several occasions in the wilderness: “Now when the people complained [or, murmured] …” (Nm 11:1; see Ex 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Nm 14:2; 16:41).

[Next in series: August 6]

Sobering Examples

The Holy Spirit calls on all Christians to study their Old Testaments in order to remember the error of God’s people throughout the history of Israel: “For whatever things were written [in the Old Testament] before were written for our learning, so that we through patience and encouragement of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rm 15:4). “Now these things happened to them [Israel] as an example, and they were written [in the Old Testament] for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Co 10:11).

This brings us to one of the most sobering chapters of the entire Bible. It is sobering because the people of God at a particular time in history fell away to that about which God warned them in Deuteronomy 13. This chapter was a direct mandate from God that was issued before the children of Israel entered into the land of promise. Every time we read this chapter, our hearts are moved just this side of being terrified of what God forewarned His people in reference to their eventual turn away from Him to the charismatic leaders of the Baal prophets. So much of what God said in this chapter applies so well to the religious world today in which we live.

In order to understand the context of what God revealed to the Israelites through Moses in Deuteronomy 13, we must clearly understand that the apostasy about which the people were forewarned was not about them becoming a nonreligious people. On the contrary, the warning referred to an eventual paradigm shift in their religiosity. They would remain religious, but the focus of their religiosity would be shifted from God and His commandments to obedience of the religious rites, rituals and ceremonies they would create for themselves after their own desires.

Because they would eventually forget the word of God (Hs 4:6), they would create their own religiosity. Once they had established their own religious rites, ritual and ceremonies, especially their own immoral behavior in reference to the practice of their religion, they would then “hire” priests and prophets to promote their religion. The priests and prophets of their religiosity would then impose on them their religion in order to maintain their supported positions as priests and prophets.

In all this the people would forsake the word of God. Because the people would eventually become ignorant of what their “Bibles” said, they would shift from the authority of God’s word to their own religious authorities. They would move from God to the gods that they would create after their own imagination.

Moses and Aaron had been warned forty years before Deuteronomy was written of Israel’s lean toward creating idolatrous religiosity. The Israelites were a stubborn and stiffnecked people who wanted to do their own thing (See Ex 32:9; 33:3,5). A few months after being delivered from the polygamist religious culture of their Egyptian captors, and while at the foot of Mount Sinai, the people revealed that they were at that time prone to “evil.”

This “evil” was defined by what Aaron said to Moses after Moses came down from Mount Sinai with two stone tablets of God’s commandments in his arms. Aaron justified himself for building the golden calf by saying that the people demanded of him, “Make us gods that will go before us” (Ex 32:23). In other words, the people wanted gods who would do what they wanted them to do, that is, they wanted to be the authority of their own faith. And so, Aaron made the golden calf that was a symbol of self-imposed religiosity. This was “evil,” and this is a description of most of the religious world today. We seek a faith that is based on the validation of the word of God, therefore, when we struggle with our faith, we study our Bibles. We do not seek a “miracle.” We do not need a faith that must be constantly and empirically validated by touching the nail holes in the hands of Jesus or the wound in His side (See Jn 20:24-29).

“Evil” religion is narcissistic, which explains the religiosity of the people who were at the foot of Mount Sinai. They wanted gods who would be subject to their desires instead of them being subjected to the authority of a God they could not see. In this way, evil religion is always subjective since it is the product of those who seek to be their own authority. Religion is always empirical because the adherents always, if not weekly, validate their faith by some “miracle” or speaking in tongues. Contrary to narcissistic and empirical religion that is subjective, faith in the authority of the word of God is always objective. Objective faith is always expressed in the words that Eli instructed young Samuel, “Speak Lord, Your servant hears” (1 Sm 3:9). The objective believer seeks to hear from the word of God. The subjective religionists seeks to see and experience.

When one seeks to be religious according to his own subjective feelings, or some “miracle” he subjectively perceives, then he is simply following after evil religion. His faith is based on his own humanity. But if one objectively seeks out the word of God and reads, then he or she has a faith that is based on the word of God (Is 34:16). The word of God becomes the objective foundation of his or her faith (Rm 10:17). Subsequently, this person is seeking to worship and serve God according to God’s word. These are the folks for whom God is seeking throughout the world today to worship Him (Jn 4:23).

So in the Sinai Peninsula God asked Moses, “How long will I bear with this evil assembly who murmur against Me?” (Nm 14:27). Those who came out of Egyptian captivity were still infected with the virus of Egyptian religiosity. And for this reason, they had to be quarantined in the wilderness for forty years until they were disinfected. They had to be quarantined in the wilderness until the first freed generation of people, who was idolatry-infested, had died in the wilderness. God did not want the initial idolatry-contaminated generation to enter into the purity of the land of promise. So God said, “In this wilderness they will be consumed and there they will die” (Nm 14:35).

The people did evil by seeking to make idol gods who would go before them. Forty years after the Sinai incident, when they were about to enter into the land of promise as a new generation that had been born in the wilderness, Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy. In the book God forewarned the Israelites that they would likewise be doing evil if they decided in the land to infect themselves again with their own religions they would create after their own desires (Dt 4:25). And thus in the context of Deuteronomy 13, we understand how God used the word “evil.” “Evil” would be turning away from the moral standards of the God who brought them out of Egyptian captivity. “Evil” would be creating a religious faith after their own desires, and gods whom they supposed would go before them.

Since their eventual shift away from the moral authority of the word of God would lead to them establishing their own moral standards, then only evil behavior would result. In other words, if one wants to live in adultery, then he or she must change must either change or discard the dictionary that defines adultery. If one wants to live as a homosexual, then one must discard the dictionary (the Bible) that states what homosexuality is and that homosexuality is evil. The same would also apply to “evils” as thief, murder, drunkenness, fornication and such works of the flesh that the Holy Spirit noted in Galatians 5:19,20. Therefore, any apostasy from the authority of the word of God results in that which the word of God defines as evil.

The apostasy to evil in Israel would be led by those who would no longer be teachers of the authority of the law of God, but teachers of their own religious rites, rituals and ceremonies that would permit evil behavior to exist among the people. It is this “evil” in the context of Deuteronomy 13 that God commanded through Moses, “Put away the evil from you” (Dt 17:12).

This is the same mandate that the Holy Spirit gave to some Corinthians who were making friends with the evil idolatrous religiosity of unbelievers in Corinth, which unbelievers were promoting fornication as worship to their gods: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness. And what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Co 6:14). If this were true with Israel, and with the early Christians in Corinth, then certainly it is true with us today.

Christians must be cautious about fellowshipping the “evil” that is represented by the religions of the world in which we live. Since religion is a denial of the moral authority of the word of God, then the beliefs and behavior of all religion must be questioned and compared with the word God. The Word of God must be our standard of judgment of the faith of all men because many religionists deny, or at least have twisted, that which the word of God defines as evil. This is exactly what happen in the apostasy of Israel. They had morally digressed to the point of reversing evil and good: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). If one does not think this is true today, then think of all those religionists who are members of churches that condone abortion (murder). Think about all those prophets who stand up before the people and are afraid to preach against homosexuality.

And now today, the present pandemic has presented us with the opportunity to put “evil religiosity” away from ourselves and reconnect again with God through His word. It is a time of restoration wherein we can step outside the cathedrals and temples wherein religious rites, rituals, ceremonies and supposed miracles were meritoriously performed that defined our religiosity. This is an opportunity to read again the Holy Spirit-inspired dictionary in the quietness of our own homes in order to check our moral behavior and beliefs.

We have also discovered that our rituals of worship do not define our worship, nor do they make our worship meritoriously acceptable before a God. The people of God now have the opportunity to step inside their closets, and worship in prayer on their knees. This is indeed a time to feel the refreshing winds of a word-based relationship with the Father, which relationship we have often cluttered with the performance of our own religiosity. We are now laid bear before our Creator, being stripped naked of all our presumptuous and meritorious performances that we assumed would sanctify us before God.

[Next in series: August 4]