Joseph Herrin (12-15-2014)
After posting the recent blog on the subject of the idolatrous origins of the Christmas holiday, I have had a number of responses. I thought it would be profitable to write something to post publicly to answer some of the common questions that arise whenever the subject of Christ’s disciples separating themselves from idolatrous practices is mentioned.
One of the issues that arises when I write on this subject relates to how a wife should act when her husband desires to observe Christmas and she is convicted that it is Yahweh’s will for her to no longer participate in the Christmas holiday. An associated issue, is whether a wife should insist that her children not participate in Christmas observances when her husband desires for them to do so.
This is a particularly troubling issue for women, as the Bible teaches that it is the will of Yahweh for women to obey and honor their husbands. Maintaining reverence for the headship of the husband is to be observed even when the man is walking in disobedience to the will of God. The apostle Peter addressed this subject in his first epistle to the churches.
I Peter 3:1-6
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. And let not your adornment be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
There are additional passages of Scripture that reveal it to be the will of Yahweh for women to submit to their husbands, and to refrain from any act of usurpation of man’s God ordained authority.
I Timothy 2:11-15
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Knowing it to be the will of God for wives to submit, and show reverence, to their husbands, many women become conflicted as they seek to balance honor for their husbands with a commitment to walk in truth and obedience before Yahshua. Should a woman place obedience to Christ and conformity to truth above obedience to her husband? Should she obey her husband, and consider herself absolved of responsibility for participating in idolatrous observances when her husband requests her to do so? These are issues many women wrestle with.
In the book Sarah’s Children, I pointed out that the woman is not absolved of responsibility and guilt when she willingly accedes to her husband’s requests to join with him in some immoral or unrighteous behavior. This truth is revealed in the book of Acts when we read the account of Ananias and Sapphira. Because this is a critical matter, I believe it is worthwhile to review this passage of Scripture in its entirety.
For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need. And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came upon all who heard of it. And the young men arose and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they shall carry you out as well.” And she fell immediately at his feet, and breathed her last; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.
Sapphira Judged by God
We are told in this passage that Sapphira “agreed together” with her husband to join with him in an act of deception. If Yahweh absolves a woman of responsibility for acting in an immoral and unrighteous manner when her husband requests her to do so, then Sapphira would have been excused for her behavior. However, we find that God did not excuse her. The woman was declared guilty for joining with her husband in an unrighteous act. She suffered the same judgment that he did.
It is possible for a wife to maintain honor and reverence for her husband while refusing to join with him in actions her conscience convicts her to be wrong. There is a man I have known for many years who has an online website who teaches some very aberrant ideas on this subject. He has taken the position that a wife must always obey her husband, no matter what he asks her to do. He argues that God will hold the man guilty for the sin of his wife, and the wife will be declared innocent because she was under the authority of her husband.
In an effort to help this man perceive his error, I posed a couple of questions to him. These questions were not hypothetical. I have actually known of marriages where husbands asked their wives to do the things suggested. I wrote to this man and asked him whether he believed a woman should engage in group sex, or wife swapping, if her husband asked her to do so? I also asked him if a woman should have an abortion if her husband said he did not want anymore children and counseled her to have the child in her womb put to death. This man who presents himself as a teacher to the body of Christ shockingly told me that a wife must do WHATEVER her husband asks her to do, and God will not fault her for it since her husband commanded it.
Brothers and sisters, this is a gross distortion of the will of God. It is never Yahweh’s will for His sons or daughters to violate their conscience and willingly engage in unrighteous behavior when a person in a position of authority asks them to do so. We see this principle revealed in another passage as the disciples of Christ were commanded by the Jewish rulers to no longer preach in the name of Yahshua.
And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Yahshua. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.”
It was actually quite common for Christ’s disciples to be brought to tests of whether they would obey man or God. In the next chapter of Acts we read the following.
But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men.”
In each instance, the disciples of Christ ended up suffering for their decision to honor God. It is to be noted that in none of these instances did Yahshua’s apostles resort to reviling, or threats against those who were commanding them to act in an unfaithful and disobedient manner before God. They maintained honor for those in authority, and meekly submitted to the consequences of their obedience.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
There will be occasions when a wife will be subjected to suffering when she chooses obedience to Yahweh over her husband’s command to violate her conscience. In such an instance, the wife should respond as Peter instructed her in the 3rd chapter of his first epistle. She should remain chaste and respectful, looking to God to correct her husband and to give her grace in the midst of suffering. Christ is set before the woman as the perfect example of one whose actions are pleasing to Yahweh. Peter’s instructions to wives follow immediately after the following words:
I Peter 2:18-3:1
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously… In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands…
Is not the example of Christ set forth as the pattern for wives as they relate to the authority of their husbands? They must choose obedience even as the Son of God always lived to do the will of His Father. With the meekness of a lamb they must accept the suffering that comes to them when their honor for Yahweh brings them into conflict with the authority of man.
I have had women write to me stating that they were entering into arguments with their husbands, and they were making demands of them. Some women have expressed that they told their husbands they did not want their children to participate in any of the Christmas activities, for they were persuaded that to do so was an act of idolatry. To my sisters in Christ, I say to you, such behavior is an act of usurpation. It neither shows honor for the authority of the husband, nor does it represent the quiet and gentle spirit that Peter stated finds favor in the eyes of Yahweh.
With much regret, I have to say to many of my sisters in Christ that they brought this conflict on themselves, for by their own testimony many women were Christians when they married a man who was not a disciple of Christ, or whom they knew was not deeply committed to honoring God with their life. The disobedience of these women is bearing consequences, not only in their life, but in the lives of their children. They must own up to their responsibility in this matter, confessing and repenting of their disobedience, while entreating the Father to show them and their children mercy. There is hope that Yahweh will do so, for a broken and contrite heart are pleasing in His sight. Nevertheless, the woman who has willfully disobeyed, following the course of her own soul in marrying a man who was not a deeply committed disciple of Christ, must not demand of Yahweh that He intervene. Yahweh gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud.
There are many sisters in the Lord, however, who came to faith in Christ after they were married. These ones have been awakened to the reality of the kingdom of God, and fervently desire to walk in a manner worthy of their Creator. These ones have a real struggle when their husbands do not share their new found faith. All such ones should seek to maintain reverence for the authority of their husbands, while entreating Yahweh to demonstrate mercy by revealing Himself to the husband and children. Oftentimes, it is the very obvious transformation of the wife from a self-willed woman who lives for her own interests and pleasures, to a godly woman of gentleness, humility, restraint, and honor, that convicts the husband of the reality and power of God to transform lives. When a woman becomes contentious, loud, argumentative, and demands her own way, she falls short of revealing to her husband that Christ is real and present in her life.
To state the matter practically, a wife can share her convictions with her husband, confessing that her conscience will not permit her to continue to participate in idolatrous practices, while communicating in a manner that reveals honor and respect for her husband. The woman should do what she is convinced is honoring to God, for whatever is not of faith is sin. At the same time, the wife should avoid words or actions which would exhibit an attitude of rebellion and an absence of honor toward her husband. It is in experiences such as this that the character of Christ is formed within the hearts of His people, and the cross and sufferings of Yahshua perform their work of transformation in the individual’s life.
Another subject I have had a number of people write to me about is whether Christians who are convicted that it is wrong to observe Christmas should also abstain from celebrating birthdays.
Beginning with Genesis chapter 5, we observe that both men and God were marking the age of individuals. The only way to keep up with a person’s age is to know the day of their birth, and to mark its occurrence each year. In the genealogies of Seth’s line, we find that the ages of the men when they first had sons, and their age when they died, are recorded in the Scriptures. The inclusion of this information reveals that noting a person’s age in years was not considered an evil practice in the eyes of God.
When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.
It was the Holy Spirit that inspired Moses to record the ages of the patriarchs, and there is no indication that observing one’s age was an evil thing to do. Quite the opposite. Yahweh does all things by great design. He has set forth patterns through significant numbers, and many of these are related to a person’s age when something important occurred in their life. Consider the following three examples.
Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
II Samuel 5:4
David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.
And when He began His ministry, Yahshua Himself was about thirty years of age…
There is clearly divine significance to the fact that each of these men entered into the ministry appointed to them at the age of 30. A great many examples of Yahweh’s divine design being present in the years of men could be cited. I will mention just a couple more.
And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
Enoch walked this earth one year for every day of the year, then Yahweh took him.
So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.
Methuselah lived longer than any man. He died in the year that the flood came upon the earth. The number 969 signifies (Judgment – Flesh – Judgment).
What we can observe in these things is that Yahweh keeps track of the years of a man’s life, and the patriarchs, beginning with Adam, marked their years as well.
We must ask, however, whether there is any evidence that godly men observed the date of their birth in a special commemorative way, and whether Yahweh approved of these commemorative events.
There is some evidence that certain years of an individual’s life were marked with celebrations. Consider the following. Speaking of Isaac, the Holy Spirit informs us of the following.
And the child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
Some Bible scholars teach that it was common for a child to be weaned anywhere between the ages of 2 – 5 years of age. Although I can only speculate that children were weaned on their birthdays when they reached a particular age, a good argument can be made for the practice. Yet, even if the child were weaned on a date that did not correspond with their day of birth, it must be acknowledged that this was a form of a “coming of age” celebration. It is therefore to be noted that on the day of Isaac’s weaning that Abraham made a great feast to celebrate the attainment of this landmark in the life of his son. There is no indication in the Scriptures that Yahweh disapproved of such celebrations.
Another celebration among ancient oriental people was observed when a son reached the age of adoption. The Jews have adoption celebrations to this date (they adopt their own children, rather than someone else’s). This coming of age observance is referred to as the Bar Mitzvah. It is typically observed when a young man reaches the age of 13. This was considered the time at which a male passed from his minority to his majority, from childhood to sonship. At this age the male heir would be examined to see whether he was considered mature and conformed to the image of his father so that he could be entrusted with responsibility and authority in the family business and the stewardship of the home. This event was marked with a celebration, as it is to this day.
From this evidence, I believe it is correct to say that Yahweh has no prohibition against marking rites of passage in a person’s life. He certainly keeps up with the years of His people, and it does not seem an evil thing if they do so as well. I see no prohibition in the Scriptures against observing the date of one’s birth with some form of commemorative event. Knowing how significant numbers are to Yahweh, I find myself unable to set forth any good argument against marking the passage of years in a person’s life.
As we move forward to the New Testament we see further examples of men and women keeping track of one another’s ages, even to using age as a criteria of qualification for certain privileges. Following is one example.
I Timothy 5:9
Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old…
How is anyone to know what the age of a widow is if they have not been marking the passage of years?
The issue of observing Christmas with all of its attendant pagan symbols, rites, and customs is a very different matter than individuals observing the day of their birth. On the one hand, the Bible never declares what day Yahshua was born on. Very good arguments have been made suggesting He was born on one of the Feast days established by Yahweh, either Tabernacles or Passover. Neither of these Feasts fall anywhere close to the date of the Winter Solstice when Christmas is observed.
A disciple of Christ would do well to give consideration to the manner in which they observe their birthday. If we adopt the traditions of society, we are quite likely to unwittingly embrace practices of pagan origin. I think we should be thoughtful as we examine all that we do. We might ask, “Why are candles a feature at most birthday celebrations? What is the origin of making a wish, and blowing out the candles?” There are sources that link these traditions to pagan practices of long standing. Some websites suggest that this tradition is traceable back to a time when an augur, or soothsayer, was invited to attend birthday celebrations. This pagan prophet would look at the pattern left by the smoke ascending from the candles and would prophesy regarding what would befall the individual in the coming year.
At the same time, we should not condemn all ancient traditions as evil. Undoubtedly, those people who did not honor the God who Created all things were in the habit of holding feasts on special days even as Abraham held a feast when Isaac was weaned. It has been a tradition in my family for the person observing their birthday to choose a restaurant of their choice, and for our entire family to treat them to a special dinner there.
A related tradition is to give gifts on a birthday. As a father, I desire to give good gifts to my children. This desire has come from Yahweh, for I was created in His image. We are told that Yahweh takes pleasure in giving good gifts to His children.
Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…
Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”
I have often prayed as my daughter’s birthday has approached, expressing to Yahweh a desire to give my daughter a good gift for her birthday. Since I have not been employed in the world, but have been dependent upon Yahweh for all provision for many years, I have found it needful to entreat Him to supply the means by which I might give a good gift to my daughter on her birthday. I have reminded Him how He takes delight in giving good gifts to us, and how He has declared it to be more blessed to give than to receive. With this as my basis for petition, I have asked Yahweh to supply me with the resources to give my daughter a good gift on her birthday.
Kristin with Guitar
(In this picture she is holding her first guitar which is a Yamaha)
I have seen the Father answer this prayer in extraordinary ways. My daughter Kristin participates in worship at her church, being one of the chief musicians. She plays the guitar, and also uses this talent to minister in prisons, at rescue missions, and battered women’s shelters. When she was about 14 years old I helped her purchase a decent Yamaha guitar that cost a little more than $300. Kristin has been faithful to continue her playing, and to use this guitar in ministry for the Lord. I knew that she was wanting a better guitar, one that had a built in sound pick-up in it since she was playing before large groups and needing to plug in to sound systems. She had especially commented on how she liked the Taylor brand of guitars (no relationship to Taylor Swift). They are a higher quality guitar, and significantly more expensive than the Yamaha guitar she acquired a decade earlier.
Two years ago on her 25th birthday (she will be 27 this upcoming December 29th, 2014), I asked the Father if He might allow me to purchase for my daughter a nice quality instrument that would satisfy Kristin’s needs and meet the desire of her heart. It is unusual for me to have significant financial resources on hand as I tend to sow whatever money Yahweh gives me into ministry rather than holding it in a bank account. A decent Taylor guitar would cost more than $1,000, but I knew this was not a difficult amount for Yahweh to provide.
I made my petition known to the Father and soon afterwards I received significant financial resources through individual donations. With this money I was able to purchase a very nice Taylor guitar made of beautiful Hawaiian Koa wood. Just before my daughter’s birthday a young man in Macon, which is relatively near at hand, advertised this guitar on Craigslist. He was asking $1400 for it, including a very nice hard case that retails for $300. The retail value of this instrument was in excess of $2,000. The young man had even done some upgrades to it such as adding gold tuning pegs to match the gold trim on the guitar. It is truly a beautiful instrument.
A couple days before my daughter’s birthday I took her to meet the young man, view the guitar, and try it out. Kristin loved it. An extra blessing occurred when we found out the young man was a music minister at his church, and the guitar had been used for worship of Yahweh. He was also willing to come down $200 on his asking price. I have rarely seen my daughter so excited about a gift before. She loves this guitar, and takes great delight in it. As a father it gave me great delight to give to her such a nice gift, one which she has continued to use in ministry in prisons, nursing homes, rescue missions, and various gatherings of God’s people.
As a son of God, I seek to be sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit of Christ. As I have walked with Him I seek to examine all of my ways, and to know what He approves, and what He disapproves. I have found that He is very willing to guide us when we come to Him with a sincere heart, wanting to know His mind and thoughts that we might honor Him. I hope these words have been helpful to those who read them.