Tag Archives: idolatry

Clean and Unclean

Leviticus is a tough book that most people would rather just skip over. The focus is the Mosaic/Levitical Law of do’s and don’t. It can be very boring at times reading about the ritualistic requirements of obeying the Law. But the Law was the Law of the Land; no pun intended. The people of Israel, God’s people were to be a select, peculiar people; different from everyone else. As such, God’s requirements for their spiritual and physical lives were under specific Covenant Commands. 1 Peter says the we all are to be a holy people [those that live by faith in Jesus]. We are a chosen people, we cannot live like others live. Our lives need to be visible and noticeable different. Romans 12:1-2; I beech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God; which is your reasonable service; and be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you will know the acceptable will of God. The Old Testament Law has been discounted by many today as being outdated and irrelevant. However when we look closer at the prohibited laws; there is wisdom in them. Remember that there is approximately 1.6 million “camping Israelites”  – any disease or sickness would wipe them out. Most of the prohibited – do’s and don’t have to do with maintaining a healthy people. In our reading this week, the focus was primarily on was is called by the Anchor Dictionary “Permitted Impurity” versus “Prohibited Impurity.”  The Permitted Impurity concerns things that are by NATURE unclean or impure. Things like dead carcasses, sexual [bodily fluids], disease [leprosy] and cultic rituals. There is clear identification of what this “unclean” condition is, and most of the cases was rectified by the “washing of Water” and time. We can also include in the state of “uncleanliness” diet restrictions we read about in chapter 11. These animals were by NATURE unclean. This is addressed in Acts 10- with Peter and his vision of the unclean animals coming down on a sheet. Remember, Jesus’ statement to him, “DO not call unclean, that which I declare Clean.” This had immediate implications for the Gentile people – who were by NATURE considered Unclean by Jewish laws. It is interesting that again, the washing of water made something clean in the Permitted classification. Hum, were we all not “Baptized, and have the Washing of the water of the Word?” We symbolically look at baptism as spiritually being cleansed. SO we are now Holy in God’s eyes as Gentiles. This however, does not deal with the second classification: Prohibited Impurity. In this class, what is being dealt with is the Sin – actions which result in an UNCLEAN state. Sexual sins, idolatry and taking of life – interesting that these prohibitions are all addressed in the Ten Commandments from God. In this situation, these sins are not dealt with by water, but by a Blood sacrifice. While the Gentiles may have been declared Clean in Acts 10 – it took the Blood of Jesus to Cleanse them of their sin. Isaiah 1:18-20; addresses this cleansing action by the Father.

Our minds often just think of something be impure, dirty or unfit. The point of the Levitical Laws are more than just what they touched and ate, but what they did in life. Life is more than food and drink [Matthew 6:25-33]; what really makes one unclean is what comes out of our lives, not what goes in our stomachs. [Matthew 15:15-20]

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Nineveh where hast thou fallen?

Nahum is an oracle of God against Nineveh, the capital of the Northern Kingdom. The Assyrians are in power and God reminds the Northern Kingdom just who is the authority and power  that rules. We all are familiar with the book of Jonah, the wayward backslidden prophet of God who refused to go to Nineveh because he knew that Jehovah was merciful and long-suffering, not willing that any should perish. Jonah’s refusal to go to Nineveh did not prevent God from pouring out a revival/great awakening on the King and the people of Nineveh that lasted for 100 years. Now a 100 years later, the Assyrians are attacking a killing the people of Israel. Of course, this is part of the plan of God. The Northern Kingdom [Israel] has been entrenched in Baal cultic worship. Oh, Ahab and Jezebel have made sure of that!

Nahum opens up with a vengeful passage. The LORD is jealous, avenging, wrathful, anger against adversaries. Trouble is on its way! Samaria, the center of Assyrian empire is going to fall in 722 BC. The Great kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar is on the rise. The Assyrians will fall completely by 612 BC, very close behind will be the deportation of the Jewish exiles in 587-582 BC. I have been amazed at how our God draws all things unto Himself. He speaks and it happens. Yet the thought that the Old Testament God is a mean, anger, evil God is wrong. It may appear to be so, but Yahweh does not flippantly judge people. He is long suffering and compassionate, even to His enemies. Our Father in heaven acts, when He has exhausted all attempts to reconcile with His people. While we know that kingdoms come and kingdoms go; they rise and fall with the strength of the LORD.  When I think of our current situation here in America and the political upheaval abounding, I cannot help but wonder how long before Yahweh says enough is enough? No people can thumb their nose at God and expect to be unaffected by His awesome power. Assyria, Babylon, Persians, Medes, Greeks, Romans and yes the Americans all are subject to the power of the LORD of the universe!

While the LORD used several empires to bring judgment upon HIS people, the problem occurs when the empowered kingdom, no longer adheres to the plan of God and takes allowances that are not permissible in God’s plan. The evil religious practices were rampant in Israel and Assyria. The people of God acted like their foreign neighbors.

Nahum is an oracle of God describing what will happen to the once enlightened and revived Nineveh. A familiar illustration of locust, is found in 3:15-17; this same language is found in Joel 1:14. The prediction of devastation and destruction is sure. Often though when there is a delay, people think that God has forgotten, or worse yet that they got away with something. All the world will submit, and bow down to Jesus – nations, kingdoms, and people. Even though there was a great revival and saving of people in Nineveh for 100 years, they forgot, drifted away and got completely absorbed into cultic worship. This happens today to churches, nations and people.

R.G. Lee preached “payday, someday” sermon. It is a truth we all must believe. God is a loving and compassionate God, but He will not tolerate any worship other than to Him!

There are many that proclaim that our nation “was a blessed nation by God” but can we really say that we are today? Nineveh tasted of the goodness of the LORD, but then left Him. Has America done the same? Have we not been blessed by God, because He chose to do so, and we have disregarded His love for us, thinking that we are the power behind our success? Will the locust be coming soon to America? We do well to heed the past work of God on other nations of disobedience!

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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Reading Jeremiah 8-12; in 2 Chronicles 6 & 7 we find the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the New Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon prays for the dedication of the Temple, that it would be a place where God would be found. However, the problem wasn’t with God but with the people of Israel. Solomon knew how the people would be in the lust for things of this earth. He knew or better yet prophesied that Israel would wander and drift into idolatry and pagan worship. He foresaw that they would become enslaved again in sin, and as a result the blessing of God would turn into a disciplining situation. The drift of God’s people from Him has been an ongoing problem since the time of the first sin and Adam. Instead of listening and loving the LORD God, mankind seeks his own pleasures. Man doesn’t want to be without, or prevented from satisfying his sensual desires. Even today I still hear people complain that God is too strict, and that He [God] doesn’t want people to have any fun. In chapter 7, Look at what they are doing! 17-19. They had been breaking the Covenant with God since coming out of Egypt. Time after time, God wanted to destroy the stiff-necked people, but for intercessory prayer, He relented. Problems: –Won’t Listen, –Won’t obey –Stubbornness/evil heart –Backward not forward! Disobedient Prophets/People. What was God to do? Let it go? People count on grace/mercy of God. God chose Jeremiah, the task preach Jeremiah! But they won’t listen -27. Preach it anyway.

Jeremiah begins to outline all the abominations of Judah. A place called Topheth – Hinnom valley;  is a place of child sacrifices. The Lower South wall, they just threw dead bodies into a refuse pit where the fire and worm did not die. In Chapter 8- Grave robbers.Worse insult to desecrate the graves of the dead. But the condition of Judah has so degraded spiritually, even though such turmoil and anguish, they would rather continue in their sin Rather than repent – they would rather die instead. This has a Revelation connotation during the Bowls. How bad is it? Apostasy of Judah – every depth/level

Verse 14 – what are we waiting for? Rather than repent, they look for a way of escape [humm sounds like wanting the rapture]. IN America, we hope in the return of Jesus to end the troubles of our time. Do we not see that it is the hand of God on His people, trying to bring them to repentance and back to Him? We are Blinded by our own pride and religious regimes! All that Judah had hoped would happen, that God would bail them out didn’t happen. Summer is past and we are not Saved! In the season of hope, or so they thought, that God would deliver – no time for salvation was gone, time for turning to God over – Do Not Pray for these people for I will not listen! The presumption that God would do something to deliver them from Babylon, yet they missed that it was God behind the scenes working

Jeremiah is called the “Weeping Prophet” – he Lamented – weeping or crying over the people.

Condition of the people:

  • Adulterers
  • -Liars
  • -Treacherous dealings
  • –Do not know God
  • –Evil to Evil
  • –Life in utter chaos
  • –Watch Out for everyone – trust no one!

The LORD

–Exercises Justice

–Exercises Loving kindness

–Holy and righteous judgments

-“Psalm 51” – broken and contrite heart God will not despise! No fleshly animal sacrifices. But a heart humbled.–Uncircumcised, circumcised – not the foreskin, but of the heart. Pharisees boasted of being Abraham’s children and circumcised – outward looks don’t count

Jeremiah 10; Judgment is coming; the True God is going to act on Judah and the nations.Shepherds have become Stupid – 3X used times. I often have heard that a preacher is not to use the word “stupid” – but here we have it used over and over. A quick definition – doing something when the person knows better, ignoring all caution and warning.

Desolation of Judah – Lion King after the Hyenas destroyed it. Judah will be Corrected with Justice God, not with wrath. We must always remember that Israel is God’s own people. He will not tolerate sin in His children. He will Discipline us, but not destroy them for they have led us astray.It will be a thorough cleansing of Judah, they will be refined by fire, and they will not forget it! Judgment coming on gentile and Judah. Jeremiah 12:10 – bad shepherds; Ezk. 32:1-10. Desolation 3X = barren, isolated, empty. All The efforts of the wicked will result in emptiness.Unproductive crops and lives. Uprooted– the damage of pulling something up by its roots. Remove the plant from its protective and sustaining source

BUT – Merciful God – “But” verse 15, I will have compassion on them, bring them back into the land.“If” – they must listen! They must learn My ways 2 Chronicles 7:14, MY People, My Ways; if they don’t I will uproot them permanently

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Hey Judah Guess What is Coming?

Jeremiah 1 –The Northern Kingdom has fallen, 722 BC. The Lost 10 Tribes are gone because of the apostasy of idolatry with Baal. In Judah King Hezekiah is gone; He lived 15 yrs. too long. In that time both Manasseh and Amon are born. They are two of the most despicable king’s history. Born out of Amon in this horrific situation is a boy King called Josiah. His reforms have been going on for a # of years. These are Good Times, Good Things are happening – Enter the Call of Jeremiah to preach. Who is He?  A 21 years Old, Son of a High Priest. Jeremiah Ministers/preaches for 40 years he serves under 5 Judah Kings; beginning with Josiah; Jehoiakim … Josiah … Zedekiah—Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin are omitted for they reigned only three months each. King Josiah was 22/Jeremiah was 21 when the two began to reign and preach. There was a great Time of reform and revival under Josiah. Jeremiah will serve until fifth month of Exile [2 Kgs. 25:4-10]. He is used as God’s Prophetic voice of Judgment against Judah by Babylon. Jeremiah is Called and Commissioned to preach God’s judgment Message to Judah [last remaining of tribes]. He is called while still in mother’s womb. His message is a message of Captivity. Now Remember that Josiah had brought many reforms and Times were relatively good – or were they? Jeremiah is told “Preach My Message; oh and they will fight you.”  The years he preaches are Appx. 630 BC to 582 BC. The name Jeremiah = May Jehovah exalt; Exalted of the Lord. His Lips anointed like Isaiah in Chapter 6.

The Message of Judgment and captivity is because Judah has burned incense to idols, worshipped the images of their own making; instead of God – man was the solution [he could fix himself] – we call this humanism today.

An illustration of The Almond Tree; The first tree to bloom in Spring; The “Watcher” to see the  return of the sun and warm weather, a message of Hope for a Fresh word of God, “I am watching over My Word to perform it”.  The Boiling Pot, Facing North- Enemy [Arm of God] coming from the North. God still uses Gentile Kings to discipline His people. Smoke, Steam, coming up blowing south. There is A Confederation of Nations to destroy Jerusalem. Judgment was coming; God would use the Gentile powers to bring His judgment on the last remaining remnant of His called people God is long-suffering and merciful; but there comes a time when “enough is enough”

In Chapter 2 – Apostasy of Judah, God brings His case/indictments against Judah. Like a trial lawyer God brings evidence for the judgment that is coming. God remembers the history of His redemptive acts towards Israel from deliverance from Egypt to them. It is ironic that God delivered Judah from Egypt [sin] and they are returning to Egypt 2:18/36 – It is like God was saying – “so you want to be imprisoned by sin? I’ll send you back to bondage.” God’s love is spurned like Hosea’s for Gomer; she played the harlot; Israel and Judah also Harlotry. Israel had Strange lovers [sexual], they had become Prostitute [for money/goods]; intentionally trying To seek out and court for personal advantages. Indictment starts with the “Fathers” who had Walked away from God. They Lost their way – but did not call on the LORD; they Forgot the benefits/security and provisions. They had been Given a fruitful land, took from Gentiles. But they defiled the land [connotation is polluted by means of immorality]. Next the “Priests” – servants of God for the people. Instead of proclaiming God’s message, the prophesied Baal. At the end of Joshua we find that people are still faithful to God, but a “generation that knew not God, or the works of God rose up.” Reiteration of how long does it take for a family, community or country to fall? But God isn’t willing to just let them go He will “contend” for them. [oppose them, compete for them] Two errors They have forsaken Me, the Living Waters. They have dug cisterns that hold no water; Cistern water is stagnant sitting water, foul-tasting. How can someone desire cistern water over living Spring water that is purified through moving through rock etc.

The Leaders were at fault; Prophets, priest, rulers and teachers. People are not innocent – they chose to follow. Just like the times of the Judges there is Sin in rebellion; followed by Discipline of God, the Cry out for deliverance through repentance, then a Judge or deliverer sent to restore the people and then Blessing returned. Cycle continued over and over. Historically, God shows how that Israel [Northern Kingdom] fell and Judah [Southern Kingdom] will likewise fall. While there may have been periods of fidelity – infidelity was always in the DNA. Early on in a marriage things are bliss, but after time “wandering” often occurs, this isn’t the best I can do – Israel always looking for a “Better god”

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I’m Okay, You’re Not!

Our reading this week is Amos 2-6, but I will talk about chapter one as well. Amos is a wonderful book. All total Amos probably only preached his sermons over a four to five-hour length. There is a significant impact that God used Amos, someone who was not a prophet in the religious sense, but a common man. He also was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Now most people do not tolerate people of their own kind telling them what is wrong and exposing their sins. But to have an outsider – a sheep herder and fig handler from the South infuriated the Northern Kingdom. They wanted and tried to send Amos packing back to the South. We are given a hint of when Amos wrote by the phrase “two years before the earthquake.” I couldn’t find much about the event, other than to say it was significant enough that Amos needed to give no other details. I guess we could compare it to say 9/11 or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So with that point, Amos wrote around 706 BC. The King of Judah was Uzziah and Jeroboam [North] so then Amos would be a contemporary of Isaiah. We even get a reference to Mount Carmel drying up – which should make us think of Elijah and the Baal prophets in 1 Kings 18. So there is enough warning from God about the judgment and indictment of Israel’s sin.

I found it very interesting that the vision of Amos starts condemning all the Gentile nations for their sins against the people/tribes of Israel. I can almost hear the applause from both Judah and Israel over the pronounced wrath of God on their enemies. The statement “for three sins and for four I will not revoke my punishment – this indicates there are limits to the long-suffering and mercy of God. There comes a time when God will act so as not to bring down His name and character. It is one thing for believers especially today to hear how God is going to judge the sins of society and the lost. It is quite another to be included in the conversation. This is exactly what God did; after pronouncing judgment on the Gentile nations, he began speaking to the off-spring of Jacob. God closes the vision to Amos by bringing indictment against Judah and Israel. This should have been a wake up call. Amos indicted everyone with 3-4 verses, however Israel is given 10 verses which outlined their sin and judgment. There is a New Testament parallel passage found in Romans 1 and 2. Here the Apostle Paul does the same thing; he brings the sins of the Gentiles to light; and the Jewish readers I am sure were rooting Paul on as he condemned their behavior and idolatry. But just as Amos switched to Israel, Paul switches to the Jews. The bottom line – God is against ALL sin, not just SOME sin. It is normal for mankind [even believers] to enjoy the finger-pointing of someone else’ sins; for it keeps the light off our own.  Paul outlines the Romans Road from his exposition; a road to return to God for ALL. Amos also does this in chapters 3-4. Israel could return, but were too proud and stubborn.

No less than 5 times the LORD brings cause against Israel – “Yet you have not returned to Me.” Even though God has tried to chastise them into coming back, the hardness of their hearts prevented them. If I am Israel and I read chapter 5 – I say “Woe is Me!” I hear many today that are praying for the Lord to Come Back. Be careful what you ask for – verse 18-20 surely speaks that it will be judgment for ALL.  Israel has never fully loved God – even in the Wilderness they carried their idols they made. [5:26-27] Here is the irony – Israel did not stop doing the LAW – they continued in the sacrifices and the festivals, yet they were not worshiping God, but their own works, while playing idolatry with the pagans gods. What a sad message Amos brings, no wonder they tried to kill him. Yet even sadder is the 20/20 hindsight that Israel [Northern Kingdom] would be obliterated from the earth. Israel becomes the “Lost Tribes” for they would not heed the message of repentance.  Woe unto us that look for God to judge the unrighteousness of our generation and think He will look past our [believers] sins.

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Ephraim Oh Ephraim!

Our reading this week in Hosea 6-10 highlights Ephraim, most of us remember that Ephraim is one of two sons of Joseph. Instead of getting an inheritance himself, Josepha’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh each got a portion of the Promised Land.  Joshua, the leader of the nation Israel into the Promised Land was from the tribe of Ephraim, as was Jeroboam. Ephraim, endorsed David as King of the unified nations of Judah and Israel. Within the territory of Ephraim are Shechem and Shiloh, two very important worship centers before Solomon’s Temple was built.  It would seem that having such a proud legacy, that Ephraim would be a pillar for the people about true worship of Yahweh. However, in our reading Ephraim is another name for Israel; the Northern 10 tribes that broke away from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The history of the Northern Kingdom, which Hosea is prophesying against is a sorrowful story.

Jeroboam knew that if he didn’t build a place of worship like the Temple in Jerusalem, that the people would return; so he build Mt. Gerezim.  It is interesting that in the Northern and Southern kingdom the number 19 plays a big part. The Northern Kingdom had 19 dynasties [19 different kings]; whereas Judah had 19 kings but one dynasty. The Davidic line of kingship was reserved as God had promised David. Hosea is about Israel or Ephraim, which ever you want to use; and their idolatry and rejection of God. The time frame is prior to 722 BC, and the Fall under the Assyrian rulers. God has rejected Israel, He has decided to punish the nation for their rebellion and apostasy. Yet we find in chapter 6, that they say “let’s return to the Lord” and they just got told God was not going to hear them when they call. The presumption that God had to answer and heal them, when God is sovereign, He determines what He will and will not do.

In the Northern Kingdom the tribes inter-mingled with the pagan people, the exact opposite of what they were warned not to do.  Chapter 7:8 says the Ephraim is a flat cake not turned. This means that it is hard-cooked [burnt] on one side and raw on the other. The cake is useless, Ephraim had become useless. Instead of being the glory of God to the nations, Ephraim/Israel had departed from God and had become polluted by the ways and culture of the “enemies’ of God. In 8:4, the oven of Lust was so hot, the baker only stoked the fires once, and was not only able to rise the dough, but without stirring the coals, also able to cook the bread fully. In their attempt to become like the nations, Israel embraced both Egypt and Assyria. Egypt was where they came from [sin] and where they would return. Assyria, was the very power which would eventually conquer Israel in 722 BC. God’s indictment of Israel – “They have strayed; they have turned from Me.” When we think of Ahab and Jezebel and the Baal prophets, it is easy to see how the religious practices of Israel had become a violent stench in the nostrils of God.  We also find that Samaria has the “golden calf” this is a reflection back to the initial rebellion of Israel in Exodus 32-34.  Israel had trusted in the foreign kings to deliver them, but they failed to understand that God was behind the judgment of Israel, and that He was the one giving power to Assyria to conquer Israel. In the end, the judgment of God produced the “Lost 10 Tribes of Israel.” Only Judah remained; albeit they were just as guilty as Ephraim was in their idolatry and harlotry.

Such corruption in the people of the Northern Kingdom, they become carried away unto the four winds of the earth. After reading these chapters, I could not but identify with what is going on today in the Church. Have we become too friendly with culture? Have we compromised the Gospel for a crowd? Do the prophets speak of their own words instead of God’s? Is there severe judgment coming for us? Israel/Ephraim/Samaria all fell; Judah witnessed their fall. Yet Judah did not heed the warnings of God? Are we going the same path as they? “When I come who will I find faithful?”

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You Meant it for Evil, But God meant it for good

The title is a bit misleading, for it is a quote from Joseph to his brothers who had sold him into slavery. [Genesis 50:20] The brothers were afraid that after their identity had been revealed to Joseph that he would pay them back for all the evil they had done to him. But they forgot the God Joseph served. Even though Joseph was thrown into prisons and falsely accused of things, he rose above the trials and tribulation. God was at work in Joseph’s life – he recognized the handiwork of Jehovah. Now by this point you are trying to figure out what does all of this have to do with the book of Isaiah and our chapters 16-20 for this week? Well, here is the point, Jehovah again was going to bring/allow what we consider evil to happen to Judah. While the devastation and destruction were well overdue and well deserving, God would not allow the pagan rulers and armies to wipe out Judah – there would be a remnant. Our reading for this week highlights the “oracles of God” against – Philista, Moab, Damascus, Egypt, Assyria, and Ethiopia. An oracle is defined as a “burden” or judgment against. God would use each of the aforementioned nations to punish and discipline Judah [already happened to Israel] in an attempt to bring Judah back to a right relationship with Him. While Israel [northern kingdom] had played the harlot and chased after Baal and the other pagan gods; they also received their due discipline. In fact the Assyrians were allowed to “carry off” the 10 tribes and scatter them to the  four winds of the earth. Only Judah remains; but Judah did not pay attention to the wrath of God on their northern brothers and fell subject to the punishment of God some 150 years later.  The pride of the conquering nations, which had been empowered by God for judgment cause their downfall. A great lesson here, while it may appear that we win over our enemies; caution must be exercised so we will not think that it was done in our human power. A lesson each of the conquering kingdoms had to learn the hard way. While God allowed the armies to inflict great turmoil and punishment, He would restrain them from “going too far.”

I am not going to try to recapture the information or judgment of God on each of the nations previously listed, for they by and large are very similar. The oracle is two-fold for each – Isaiah recounts what success each will have on Judah, but then brings the prophetic downfall of each.  The whole point that God is attempting is using enough trials/tribulations and bondage to foreigners to cause Judah to return. It is interesting that Judah like Israel, brought into the whole Baal worship thing in order to have bountiful crops, herds and families. From an agrarian perspective one can see what all this was so important at the time. But their failure [short memory] to remember how God had cared for them as a people during the wilderness wanderings and invasion/conquest of Canaan led to their idolatry. It seems too often when mankind ventures into a “comfortable state” that we become rebellious and agnostic towards God.

It is very difficult for a believer much less an unbeliever to see that the “tough love” of God was just that, out of love for Judah. Even as the Loving Father had to let the Prodigal son leave and go on his own, so he could come to his senses during the fall from the lofty perch of dad’s money, so God will often let us rebel, and fall into grave trouble to the point of destruction in-order for us to wake up to reality of really who is in control. Sometimes I think Christians are like Israel/Judah, we know God will take care of us – experientially, yet we seem bored with Him and search out more “sensual pleasing gods. While no trial seems enjoyable or even beneficial, we must say as Joseph said, the problems, trials and crisis seem to be for evil, but God means it for our own good. Oh that we would be responsive to the gentle chiding of God, rather than endure the painful punishment of “tough love!”

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