Monday, September 12, 2011

Biblical Discrimination

Think not that there was not discrimination during the time that Jesus walked the earth, because I tell you, there was.  Those whom the Jews discriminated against, those whom they would not have any dealings with, these people did Jesus lift up on a number of occasions in His speech, and even in a visitation with them.  These people were...the Samaritans!  Let's see how the bible brings them through history into an era of discrimination, and how Jesus used them as a tool in His ministry to fight discrimination of them.

The first use of the word Samaria comes in 1 Kings 13:32; "For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass."  This entire area that would later become the capital of the 10 northern tribes is the same place where an old prophet tricked a man of God by a lie into disobeying God, for which he was slain by a lion.  This is also the place bought by Omri who reigned in Israel, the most wicked king of his time, and the place became the center of idol worship in that day.  "And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria.  But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him." (1 Kings 16:24 - 25)  Already one can see why Samaria was a bad place to be from; it was of such bad reputation for idolatry!  This place that Omri built, he was also buried there.

Now you think Omri was a wicked king doing his idolatry thing to provoke the Lord to anger; huh!  He was a piker next to Ahab!  "And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.  And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.  And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.  And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.  And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him." (1 Kings 16:29 - 33)  We're really getting a good picture of why Samaritans were considered the scum of the earth, here; they apparently enjoyed invoking the wrath of God whoring after false gods!  This was also, by the way, the land where Jezebel lived, renowned as a prophet-killer, she was!  "For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)" (1 Kings 18:4)

The third king in lineage, Ahaziah was another no good king of Israel. "Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel.  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done." (1 Kings 22:51 - 53)  So this place is getting quite a name for evil kings and the home of false god worship!

This is becoming a long line of evil kings; the fourth generation now reigns, and still nothing good is able to be spoken of Samaria, except that Elisha had been there.  "Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.  And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made.  Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom." (2 Kings 3:1 - 3)

Now here is one small trivial point in Samaria's history where something good happened, but not for anyone from Samaria, but rather to the captain of the Syrian host, Naaman; he bathed in the Jordan there seven times, and was cured of his leprosy!  "So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.  And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, 'Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.'" (2 Kings 5:9 - 10)

This is the place where a second great famine had taken hold of the people, so bad, that an unclean animal, an ass's head, sold for 80 pieces of silver!  "And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria.  And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver." (2 Kings 6:24 - 25)  In this famine, even the women ate their children!  "And the king said unto her, 'What aileth thee?'  And she answered, 'This woman said unto me, "Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow."  So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, "Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son."" (2 Kings 6:28 - 29)  So this Samaria has become a place of great evil and horrible happenstances...and shall we find more?

Samaria is the place wherein the people slew all 70 of king Ahab's sons (2 Kings 10) at the bidding of Jehu, who afterward slew everyone else who belonged to Ahab.  It is the place where Jehoahaz also caused Israel to sin the sins of Jeroboam, that the Lord delivered them into the hands of the king of Syria (2 Kings 13).  And Jehoash did the same after Jehoahaz his father, as did also Jeroboam (2 Kings 14), As did Zachariah, the last of Jehu's descendants (2 Kings 15); and Shallum killed him, and reigned, and Menahem killed him, and reigned, and even he followed the sins of Jeroboam!  Pekahiah followed him after Jeroboam's sins, and Pekah slew him, but did the same sins; Hoshea reigned after him (2 Kings 17), and also sinned the sins of Jeroboam, and the king of Assyria beseiged and took them away, and allowed Israel to be a melting pot of religions.  So I think this is sufficient to lend great credibility at this point that so much of Samaria's history reeked of wickedness, that to be from there and admit it immediately gave you a bad reputation, and thus people discriminated against anyone from Samaria, or that claimed to be Samaritan.

It was common to discriminate or say prejudicial things of towns and cities with bad reputations.  Take Jesus, for instance.  When Nathanael first heard of where Jesus was from when he heard of Jesus from Philip for the first time, he said this; "Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, 'We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'  And Nathanael said unto him, 'Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?'  Philip saith unto him, 'Come and see.'" (John 1:45 - 46)  So you see how Nathanael spoke negative of Jesus, since where He came from had a negative reputation?  From a worldly aspect, it is considered that leopards cannot change their spots, and so nothing good can come out of an ill-reputed city or country.  But from Philip's speaking, we understand that he already believed on Jesus, but Nathanael needed to learn of Jesus' Messiahship first hand, unbelieving, at first.

Jesus used people's prejudice and discrimination to teach them a couple times within His ministry using Samaria.  "But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, 'And who is my neighbour?'  And Jesus answering said, 'A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, 'Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.'  Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?'  And he said, 'He that shewed mercy on him.'  Then said Jesus unto him, 'Go, and do thou likewise.'" (Luke 10:29 - 37)

Let us examine the Scripture above, here.  Jesus uses two examples of what are supposed to be respectable Jews and shows them to be uncommpassionate toward a man who desparately needs compassion.  These do not treat that certain man as would be expected, being a priest, one, and a Levite, the other.  But then comes a Samaritan, one who is despised by reputation of where he is from, and it is HE who does the right thing and is compassionate toward that certain man who was robbed and nearly killed.  And see how the lawyer referred to the Samaritan in the end?  Even after Jesus exalted the man in the parable from that despised place, Samaria, the lawyer couldn't bring himself to say, "the Samaritan", he forced himself to say, rather, "He that shewed mercy upon him.".

This is not the only instance of the Gospels where Jesus finds the Samaritans more worthy than the rest of the Jews.  Consider the story of the 10 lepers; "And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.'  And when He saw them, He said unto them, 'Go shew yourselves unto the priests.'  And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.  And Jesus answering said, 'Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.'  And He said unto him, 'Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.'" (Luke 17:11 - 19)  Here was not a parable, but a real life story proving that just because someone comes from a place of ill repute, doesn't make everyone from there of ill repute, as well.

The Pharisees accused Jesus of being a Samaritan, even though He never said He was from there, and on top of that, they accused Him of having a devil, and this was an unforgivable sin!  "Then answered the Jews, and said unto Him, 'Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?'" (John 8:48)  They wanted to paint Him a great heretic, and what better place to accuse Him of being from, than from a city long reknowned for heresy and false religions of all sorts.

There is one more prejudice/discrimination to address in the bible; personal discrimination.  The worldly view, as I used once previously here, is that leopards cannot change their spots; but this is not true with Jesus.  Consider Saul, later Paul. "And Saul was consenting unto his death.  And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.  As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.  Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." (Acts 8:1 - 4)  Here was a guy who was a Christian terrorist!  This Pharisee made sure no Christian breathed easy in his presence!  Yet, this leopard, as we know, DID change his spots!  "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?'  And he said, 'Who art thou, Lord?'  And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.'  And he trembling and astonished said, 'Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?'  And the Lord said unto him, 'Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.'  And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.  And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus." (Acts 9:3 - 8)  So here is Saul, who is converted by Christ Himself, and he has to go through a process of becoming unblinded, and thereafter, he himself is preaching the very things that he exerted much venom against!  As we know from the New Testament, Paul was initially feared by Peter and Jesus' other disciples, but was accepted once they learned of his conversion.  "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.  And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.  And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.  Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." (Acts 9:26 - 30)  Now this is understandably a hard discrimination to overcome; if someone is known for wanting to kill you, you don't make friends with them just on their say so that they have changed; that could be fatal!  Yet, here again is another example how God can cause a leopard to indeed change his spots!  With God, all is possible.

So what does Scripture have for us to learn from all this?  "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:16 - 17)  Is instruction in righteousness to be found in this?  Jesus seemed to be teaching that good people can come out of places of ill repute, and, according to Nathanael's reference to Nazareth, Jesus Himself came out of a place with a bad reputation.  And how unique was Saul, later Paul, that for the Christians of his day, he should come out of his own fearful reputation to become one of the most Scripture-writing apostles for the reading pleasure of Christians everywhere today.  Would it seem that Christ was trying to give us that we should not judge anyone because they came from "the wrong side of the tracks", a place of bad repute?  And here He was, a Nazarene, yet Nathanael discovered that his Messiah came from that place where he once held that nothing good could come from.  And Paul; is he not an example for us that even the most wicked of people can be changed by God into a bondservant of Christ?  It seems we can learn from this not to judge someone for where they came from, or who they once were, but rather observe the content of their character, and know them by who they are NOW.  If they be evil for a season, pray for them, and observe if they "change their spots"!

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