Marked Men

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Friday, March 4, 2011
(Jeremiah 41:5) That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD. This event occurred during the days of trouble in Judah when Nebuchadnezzar's forces had razed Jerusalem and its temple. These eighty men which came with offerings and incense to the house of the LORD (i.e., what was left of it; see 2KI 25:8-17) apparently had an unhealthy mixture of piety, good will, and heathenism. Mind that this event is recorded by the same prophet who straitly commanded by the LORD, “...Learn not the way of the heathen...” (JER 10:2), a principle which to this day forbids the admixture of the elements of other religions with that of the true God (MAT 6:7; 2CO 6:14-18; 1CO 10:20-22). These men were evidently coming to pay mournful respect unto the house of God which now lay in ruins. The cities of Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria were part of the northern kingdom of Israel which had long before officially adopted idolatry under King Jeroboam (1KI 12:25-33), a policy of national spiritual adultery which eventually caused God to put Israel away by divorce (ISA 50:1; JER 3:8). But there was a remnant from within those ten tribes that yet honored the LORD and His house which was situated in Jerusalem in the southern kingdom, even contributing to its repair during King Josiah's reign (2CH 34:9). The Psalmist once said of Zion, “For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof” (PSA 102:14). Though the building was gone, yet these men honored its place, though it be a place of nothing more than tumbled stones and dust. Perhaps there is a message in this for New Testament saints: that when the church's lively stones (1PE 2:5) are cast down (2CO 4:9) or made a spectacle unto the world (1CO 4:9), the faithful will not despise nor forsake them but rally to their support, as Onesiphorus did for Paul (2TI 1:16-18). God comforts those that are cast down by the coming of faithful servants (2CO 7:6). These men from Israel had come with their clothes rent, an accepted expression of distress and grief (2SAM 13:31; EZR 9:3-5). But their other adjuncts of mourning demonstrated their polluted heritage. The king of Assyria had many years earlier imported heathen into the cities of Samaria (2KI 17:24) as part of his cultural melting-pot program of removing the bounds of the people and robbing their treasures (ISA 10:13). A rancid amalgam of religion resulted: “They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence” (2KI 17:33). Moses' Law forbade shaving the corners of their beards (LEV 19:27; LEV 21:5), which calls into question the action of these seemingly pious men. Moses' Law also forbade ritual self-mutilation (LEV 21:5), specifically, cutting one's flesh for the dead (DEU 14:1; LEV 19:28), as if that somehow was appropriate to mourning for the dead or somehow was benefitting the dead. As an aside, neither were they to be guilty of having “...given ought thereof for the dead” (DEU 26:14), a money-making policy for false religion which is even today somehow done in the name of Christ by millions. The foolish Baalites, in an attempt to stir up their idol god's interest, cut themselves furiously to no avail (1KI 18:28-29). The Gadarene lunatic mutilated himself by cutting (MAR 5:5). Christians who think lightly of the current trend of the Body Modification Cult should think again: the willful grotesque mutilation of the body is more akin to devil-worship (since heathen worship is devil-worship, 1CO 10:20) and insanity than anything else (the Spirit of God, by contrast, produces a sound mind, 2TI 1:7). LEV 19:28 also commanded, “...nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” The structure of that phrase implies that God forbids men doing unto Him what is foolishly done by others: the superstitious marking of one's body to identify with a deity. Christians, therefore, should be very wary of tattoos and especially should think twice about getting “Christian” tattoos. In some Christian circles, it has become fashionable to tattoo religious symbols on the body, sometimes in obvious view or sometimes in not-so-readily-viewable locations. If one really wants to let the world know that he identifies with Jesus Christ through the cross, instead of getting an image indelibly printed in his flesh, he should have the gospel indelibly imprinted in his heart so that the proof of his calling will be a reformed mind, not a deformed behind. God gave Israel of old a specific cutting/mark in their flesh that showed their identity with Jehovah: circumcision. This, though, was never meant to be some form of sympathetic magic in which men mutilated flesh in order to appease or sway the LORD (as the Baalites did for Baal). Rather, it was the mark of His covenant with the seed of Abraham (GEN 17:10-11). Over time, though, the Jews did make this mark in the flesh into a sort of a spiritual talisman which somehow made them righteous before God to the exclusion of other men. For the most part they did not perceive that ritual circumcision of the outer flesh was subordinate to (and worthless without) the inward spiritual circumcision of the heart (ROM 2:25-29) and they overlooked the case of Abraham who had a far superior mark or token of righteousness which preceded circumcision: faith (ROM 4:1-11). Neither did they perceive that the circumcision of the flesh was typical of the cutting off of Christ for sin (ISA 53:8; DAN 9:26-27). Whether it be religious cuttings/tattoos or circumcision, neither are necessary identifying marks for a Christian. They are not even appropriate identifying marks for a Christian, the former being contrary to the order of LEV 19:28 in conjunction with the prohibitions against adopting heathen customs or making images unto the Lord (EXO 20:4; DEU 4:15-19; DEU 12:3-4; DEU 12:30-32); the latter being condemned if it is viewed as necessary unto justification and righteousness (GAL 5:1-5). The only body marks which are religiously acceptable in identity with God are ones such as Paul wore as a result of suffering for Christ: “...in stripes above measure...” (2CO 11:23-25). Against circumcising Judaizers who desired “...to make a fair shew in the flesh...” (GAL 6:12), Paul could say in retort that he had a far superior mark in his flesh: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ” (GAL 6:17).

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