Practical and Relevant
Is the Bible practical and relevant?
Let’s start with the meaning of the words, practical means:
1. Of or from practice or action (practical knowledge)
2. Usable, functional, useful and sensible (practical proposals) designed for use, utilitarian
3. Concerned with application to useful ends rather than theory, speculation etc.
4. Given to actual practice (a practical farmer)
5. Of concerned with or realistic and sensible about everyday activities, work etc.
The word relevant means: bearing upon or relating to the matter in hand; pertinent; to the point. If the Bible is not practical and relevant for me and you today; what good is it?
2 Kings 5:1-19
The story of Naaman and his practical problem, where God showed himself to be relevant in dealing with practical matters.
Naaman was not a Jew. He was a great commander of the army of the King of Aram. He had leprosy, a feared and disgraceful disease. Through his wife’s young Jewish house maid, he heard there was a man of God in Israel who can cure leprosy, so his king sent money to the King of Israel and asked that he might be cured.
2 Kings 5:7 As soon as the King of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” But Elisha said to the King of Israel, “Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” When Naaman arrived at the house of Elisha he was expecting that Elisha ‘would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.’ But Elisha did not go and see him at all, but rather sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
Elisha knew by sending out his servant, Naaman would be angry and quite likely miss acting on these practical instructions, and if it had not been for clear thinking of Naaman’s servants, his pride would have robbed him. Practicality cannot be shown any simpler or clearer than this, all he had to do was believe, which was to act on the instructions given by a servant from the man of God. Did Naaman have doubts all the way to the Jordan River? Sure he did, but he persevered and followed through. God not only has shown himself to be pragmatic by giving Naaman practical directions that he could follow, but by the very fact that these directions cured his practical problem makes God’s directives extremely relevant.
If this account of this story was ended right here, it would be more than enough to prove the point that the God of the Bible is completely pragmatic and relevant in all his communications. But, if there is any doubt, this next statement in our story is going to completely annihilate it.
Naaman obeyed and was cleansed of his disease and in his gratitude he traveled back to Elisha’s house to offer him his gifts that the king had sent. But Elisha refused to accept anything in return for what God had done for Naaman. “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.
This seemed like a strange request by Naaman. Here we have Naaman wanting to give a million dollar gift to Elisha, but upon his refusal, Naaman asks if he could have something else. When two dignitaries come together and one will not accept the others gift after he had given one, is to ask the other to show humility. Naaman showed he was humbled not only by keeping his gift, but by asking for something else. Elisha informed Naaman on how the Lord’s law governing diseases were just practical and relevant. Naamans’ request for earth is evidence that demonstrate that he understood the direct correlation between the earth and disease. Naaman could see the practical steps to take which were completely relevant to overcome his disease problem, so why can’t we?
This story also gives us great insight into the King of Israel and the church at large. If the Church would have understood that sickness and disease was a problem of disobedience, you can be sure the king would have also known. But the evidence by the writings are clear. He tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life?” He thought that one would need to be God to do what was being asked of him. Today, like back then, the church and men of God act like this Holy Word of God has no relevance to our practical needs.
Testing of Unfaithfulness
Here we have a practical test for a possible unfaithful wife by a jealous husband.
Numbers 5:11 ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), - or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure.’
This seems to be one of those situations that cannot be resolved, only lived with. But God knows how destructive feelings of jealous can be in one’s life, so the need there is great to disperse these feelings and allow this relationship to continue in truth. As we look at God’s solution, we see it as something other than being practical, because we do not understand the engineering of science in the body; we are ignorant.
Numbers 5:17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water.
Numbers 5:24 He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering.
Numbers 5:19 … “If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you.”
If, in fact we knew she had committed this offence, our question to her would be, “Why did you do such a thing and spoil your marriage?” It is this “why” that God reveals to us and it cannot be hidden from those who will accept God’s mechanics that illuminate the profound but simple workings of the human body.
As we examine the text closely, we now see that there are two areas of potential problems the priest is addressing. These two areas of going astray both are actions and both are related. The action of sleeping with another man, other than your husband, cannot be determined, and there is no way to reveal it. But the actions of becoming impure that the Bible speaks of here are physical, and therefore, God instructs the priest to use a simple physical test in determining guilt. This test must ring true, for this conviction means her death.
The two areas being addressed here are really one, and this possible adultery would just be one of many manifestations that could come from impurity. God does not become side tracked on the symptoms, nor will he test for them, for all evil comes from evil stored up inside. The Christian believers are going and have gone astray by taking into their bodies’ physical impurities. This is why Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 7:1, and we need to comprehend the destructive magnitude of watering down the actions in his directive.
2 Cor 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
It is only in the actions of cleansing ourselves that we show and prove that we fear God.
Romans 12:1-2 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
God knows that if the cause is not addressed, it is just a matter of time, and opportunity before all the symptoms show themselves. You can be as faithful and true in keeping yourself from actions that would display your symptoms, and yet this test would still condemn you to death, if you were impure. No, it was her actions of becoming impure, which had taken place in her body long before she went astray, that enslaved her. It is the cause of ‘why’ she went astray, and it started long before it manifested itself through this action of adultery or adultery in her heart.
Mark 16:17 And these signs will accompany those who believe... and they will drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all.
If this woman is a true believer, she will have positioned herself by following God’s directives, which would have made her pure and would have kept her pure. A body, pure or otherwise, will always manifest itself in truth, thereby openly revealing the state of your existence. All those who are born again are operating in, and are governed by, the higher law of love, which redefines their reality to state where all things are pure.
2 Samuel 22:27 ...to the pure he shows himself pure but to the crooked he shows himself shrewd.
Numbers 5:28 If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.
If you want to be born again, that means you must have the ability to have a new child and being free from impurity is a prerequisite.
It is keeping one self free from impurities that renders the body unviolated and brings great blessing from the Lord.
God is showing us the practical and demonstrating the relevant to his people, Israel, during their desert journey. But you say, “I have not just come out of Egypt and I see no practical application or relevance to me in the twenty-first century.” For God’s Word to be meaningful it must be relevant and practical to me today, tomorrow, and forever, and I don’t see where this has any relevance.
Without this ‘renewing of our minds’, this metamorphic change in our brain, we read the word of God and either miss it all together, or we have no idea what to do with it. We know that the Old Testament was written for our instruction and is a foreshadow of something to come, that is, it is going to address a relevant problem in a practical manor that we are facing today.
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and encouragement of the Scripture we might have hope.
Rev 19:7 ... For the wedding of the Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready.
This Lamb of God is Jesus and he is getting married to his bride, which are his Saints. These Saints are the wife of Jesus, and if we have asked Jesus to come into our heart we have entered into a marriage covenant with him. But now what does this new marriage covenant look like?
In Matthew, Chapter 5, Jesus teaches us exactly what his covenant requires, but for this particular question of adultery, we will focus on:
Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her is his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
Jesus is telling us it would be better to remove that part of our flesh that is causing us to commit adultery, than to have him throw our whole body into hell. We need to cut away the part of the flesh that is causing the eye to sin. Well, at least with the old covenant I could judge myself, but this new covenant is talking about a fine line in my mind.
And is this just some trivial matter that has no real bearing on anything? But you say, “I am married to Christ and he hates divorce, and therefore, my relationship is safe.” Jesus makes it very clear in Matt 5:31 when he says: “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorce his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery” that this is a matter of grave importance.
This word of God is telling me that if I look on a woman because she is beautifully formed, and then my mind crosses over the line into lusting, that Jesus can divorce me. In the Old Testament we see God divorcing Israel and Judah.
Jer 3:8 “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord.
Human nature will not change, which is why the bible illustrations are correct over 6,000 years and are relevant today. We are Judah, we have no fear or guilt because we do not see that we are defiling the land and committing adultery. We have returned to the Lord by way of deception, to make-believe and pretend it is with all of our hearts.
Heb 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Unless I have a test, how will I know if my mind went there, and even if I have a test that reveals my adultery, how will I stop my mind, in this day and age, from sinning against the Lord? And it’s not like I have a husband that could care less.
Deu 4:24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
We now know that we are married to a jealous husband. Jesus, our jealous husband is perpetually giving us this test because he sees:
Eze 16:30 “How weak-willed you are, declares the Sovereign Lord, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! When you built your mounds at the head of every street and made your lofty shrines in every public square, you were unlike a prostitute, because you scorned payment. You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!”
We are acting like brazen prostitutes who enjoy the sensation to the point where we even despise compensation. We build places to gratify our flesh on every street corner and in every public square. We are surrounded with restaurant, fast food outlets, donut shops and every conceivable dainty food / drink, but remember what God calls them, ‘lofty shrines’.
So we stand there and hope that some how this bitter water will not affect us.
Numbers 5:27 If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and bring bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people.
We are these weak-willed women, and Christ, our jealous husband is continually bringing us to be tested. We have drunk the bitter water that brings the curse, and this infallible test is revealing our unfaithfulness.
That is to say, if a believer in Christ is making decisions that allows his temple to become sick, diseased, or is out of shape and over weight, then this water has brought you the curse. If you are mentally or physically depressed, distress and worry, then the curse has gone to work on you.
Our small every day choices have impregnated us with evil, which brings on the curse. This curse is enveloping us, causing our bowels to enlarge and we conceive trouble in our minds, trouble that’s not there, and it finally gives birth to disillusionment, rendering us bitter, which quenches the Spirit.
We can no longer have the new child or the ability to reproduce the true disciple that would have come from purebred stock. That is, this transformation in our bodies to bring forth this new child of God, which is the goal of our relationship, never materializes. We are convinced by our leaders that transformation has, or is occurring.
Psalm 106:39 ... by their deeds they prostituted themselves.
And what does God say this evil will do to our relationship?
Eze 16:38 I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring upon you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger.
It is understandable and appropriate for all to receive the punishment from the sentence of adultery and blood shed, and no one will disagree. The evidence will conclude our standing of whether we are prostituting ourselves, and will not come from what we think or understand, but from what we are receiving in our bodies. That is why God’s Word tells us what form this blood vengeance and jealous anger will take in our bodies in:
2 Chr 21:12 Then a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet saying, “Thus says the Lord God of your fathers David, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and the ways of Asa King of Judah, but have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot, and you have killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you, behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives, and all your possessions with great calamity; and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’ ”
Psalm 101:3-4 I will set before my eyes no vile things. The deeds of the faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil.
We are condemned by these actions of adultery that originate in our mind, even though up until now, it has been hidden from your spouse. But Christ, our eternal spouse, sees our heart and knows our mind.
1 Thes 4:3 ... that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.
Jesus our holy and jealous Husband demands from his bride that we (2 Cor 7:1) “… purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Is this not why Paul said in 1Cor 9:27 … “but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
If this was straight head knowledge of spiritual truths there would be no need to involve the body much less to struggle against it. Paul kept his body in shock because that is what he was preaching to others. He was concerned because he knew that it was possible to preach the truth of repentance and also allow complacency in this area to disqualify you. If your definition of holiness is wrapped up in your knowledge of spiritual truths and excludes your buffeting of your body, then you are living the definition of the word that Jesus used to describe the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Scribes; hypocrites.
Pro 14:18 The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
God is telling us that the uneducated or ignorant people will naturally perform actions that do not come from a thought process centered in reasoning. But the discerning will exercise sound judgment in practical matters, especially as it concerns one’s own interest, and thus receive honor through demonstrating knowledge, as they go on in victory. It would be presumptuous of God to speak of a person that could be crowned with knowledge because he exercised sound judgment in practical matters from his Word, if his Word was communicating in matters that were not practical.
(NASB) Pro 1:23 “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”
(NASB) Romans 15:4 For whatever has been written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
Be careful, by way of years of neglect, not to subtly adopt, by default, "the mind" set that the Old Testament illustrations are not powerful, relevant, real life situations which clarify and give us a context in which to view our personal lives.
John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.”
All things mean all things practical and otherwise that are relevant to us in our world now, for there is no practical reason to give us information that is not relevant. For God knows we will be doing well if we can grasp and deploy just the things that are relevant.
All knowledge, if followed long enough will prove practical and relevant.
God’s Word is 100% practical and relevant; it is only our lack of knowledge that would make it seem otherwise.