Monday, March 7, 2016

Convict Correspondence and Counsel

I anticipate sharing some correspondence with men in prison this week since getting caught up on my mail is a priority at this time. I continue to receive some remarkable letters. Some are very well articulated and are written by men who are expressing some very thoughtful questions. It is a privilege to be able to continue to share counsel with them. Following is a recent correspondence with a man named Gabriel. This is the second time I have heard from him.

Dear Mr. Herrin,

Hello again Mr. Herrin. How are you lately? I myself never fail to be blessed of our wonderful God, YHWH. Therefore I remain grateful. Lately I’ve read much more of your different material on various subjects. A few guys here receive your mail here now. It never ceases to be very enlightening and beneficial. So, I must thank God for you and your obedience to Him. I have come to recognize that not only are you very learned, but also spiritually developed (mature & sound). With that said, I have a few questions that I hope are not at all bothersome.

But first, allow me to say that the Spirit definitely works in and through you because I’ve had to delay writing this and re-write it due to you answering many of my questions in the newsletters you have recently been sending to me. God is so good for that, among many other things.

I really do appreciate the high level of accountability that I’m sure you must have to hold yourself to in order for God to work through you as effectively as He does. Be very encouraged to continue on the right path. You are an encouragement to me. Now for my questions.

1. II Samuel 24:1 and I Chronicles 21:1?

2. If angels aren’t free willed as we are, how then did Satan choose to rebel along with a third of the angelic host of heaven? And also, if he chose to forego God’s ordinance by rebelling, then why afterwards, with Job for example, does he seek God’s approval?

3. What is your take on individual sovereignty (in America) claiming their sovereignty? I am full aware and in agreement with giving to Caesar what is legitimately his. If however, an individual separates themself from the worldly establishment of their geographic location, then what of theirs is due to Caesar? And is this not in essence/principle “coming out of the world”?

4. Do you have anything on the City of Detroit?

5. Do you have anything on, or have just any understanding on, “black” people’s plight/compromised condition around the world (or even just the USA)?

P.S. On all of these I ask for your unadulterated honesty as an elder in Christ. Thank you once again for your time and efforts. May you be blessed and endowed with correct understanding from God.

Hello Gabriel,

I apologize for being so slow to respond to your excellent letter. It has been several weeks since you wrote, and that is far too long for me to have waited to send you a reply. I have been very busy working on a new book which I have been posting chapter by chapter to my blog site. As I was getting closer to the end I felt the need to focus on getting the book completed and to not drag it out. The book required considerable research as I was writing it. I finally completed it 2 days ago and have been working to get caught up on e-mail since. Now I am turning my attention to a stack of more than 30 letters from men in prison. Yours is among the first ones I am answering, for I have held onto it the longest.

You wrote a very good letter and asked some excellent questions. I am happy to share a reply with you. You began by asking me to comment on the following two verses.

II Samuel 24:1
Again the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

I Chronicles 21:1
Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.

I am going to group this with your next question, for it is related. For your second question you wrote:

If angels aren’t free willed as we are, how then did Satan choose to rebel along with a third of the angelic host of heaven? And also, if he chose to forego God’s ordinance by rebelling, then why afterwards, with Job for example, does he seek God’s approval?

These are excellent questions, demonstrating that you are reading, and seeking to understand, what is expressed in the Bible. I know you have been reading the book Foundations which discusses the role of Satan and the fallen angels and their rule over the Earth. Satan remains an “angelic majesty” (II Peter 2:10, Jude 8) and, similar to King Saul after his rebellion and disobedience, he continues to be an anointed servant of Yahweh. Many Christians do not understand that the gifts and callings of God do not end with the creature’s rebellion. In the New Testament we read of Satan being both in a state of rebellion as an adversary of God and His people, as well as him being used to carry forth the will of God in bringing discipline to the disobedient and afflicting Paul in order to serve as a counterbalance to the great revelations he had received. It appears strange to read of Paul turning men over to Satan for chastisement in order to teach them to repent and turn away from sin, but Satan does function in this role.

I Corinthians 5:1-5
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Yahshua, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Yahshua, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yahshua.

I Timothy 1:20
Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

The outcome of Satan’s activity in the lives of these men is beneficent, though we need not think that he has any desire to be of benefit to God or mankind. To address your question, the angels do have free will. I know of no passage of Scripture that suggests they don’t. Perhaps what is confusing to you is that we read of Satan being both restrained by God (as in the case of Job), and commanded by God as in the example of Yahweh using Satan to induce David to take a census of the people, or Paul using Satan to teach certain believers not to blaspheme. Free will does not negate the fact that both men and angels can be coerced into specific actions, and restrained from others, by God.

Neither does the existence of free will infer that a man or angel is absolutely free to make any decision. There are always outside forces which influence the decisions of men and angels. Men and angels do have free will, but this free will does not exist in a vacuum. The creation is subject to many environmental factors and influences. The greatest of them is the power and presence of Yahweh.

II Thessalonians 2:7
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

It is important to consider how our will is constrained by other factors. Take the subject of salvation, for example. Many men would like to have the benefits of salvation. They would like to avoid punishment for their sins, and they would like to have a promise of an inheritance in the age to come, but sinful man does not want to submit to the rule of another. Many people profess that Christ is their Savior and Lord, but in truth, they cling to the Savior part while rejecting the lordship of Christ. They remain firmly in control of their own lives and decisions. They do not willingly take up their cross and embrace the sufferings of Christ. They choose instead to confess faith in Christ while seeking a life of ease and comfort, devoid of suffering, and reproaches, and having to face many fears.

As long as men believe they can avoid suffering, and that they can pursue their soul’s desires in this life, whether that be material comfort, sensual pleasures, or endless entertainment, and still avoid hell and be ushered into heaven when they die with a “Well done good and faithful servant,” they will choose the broad path in this life. They will reject the disciple’s cross. Yet, if God reveals to a man that those who hold such a view are deceived, and having chosen a course of self-will and selfish pursuit in this world, they will be cast into the lake of fire at the judgment, they will be provided with motivation to choose to accept Christ’s invitation to “take up your cross and follow Me.”

To demonstrate the dynamics involved in the example above in a simpler form, consider the case of a man who is walking across country to arrive at another town. There is a large hedge of thorns and thistles on his right side and the city is just beyond the hedge. The man could cut miles off of his journey by walking through the hedge, but if he chooses the short cut his clothes would be ripped and his flesh would also be cut and bleeding. Consequently, the man takes the longer route where he does not have to experience the suffering of the hedge. Suppose, however that the man spies a lion blocking the trail he is walking on. He knows that if he continues on the path he must encounter the lion, and the lion will kill him. Now the man becomes willing to turn and make his way through the thorny hedge. It is better to be scratched up by thorns than to be killed and eaten by a lion.

In what I have illustrated, there is an interplay of the man’s free will and his desires. The man would quite naturally choose the shortest path to his destination, but because a thorny hedge blocks his way, he chooses to take a longer path. Now, as the man was walking the long path, he spies a lion ahead and he therefore chooses of his free will to experience the suffering of the thorny hedge. You see, we can be manifesting free will, yet due to outside influences we can be coerced to make a different decision than we would have if there were no outside influence upon us.

To use another illustration that has been frequently cited by those who are explaining free will, consider a man walking down a city street when a mugger jumps out with a large knife in his hand and demands that the man hand over his wallet. The man gives the criminal his wallet. Did he do so of his free will? Absolutely. He chose to give the man his wallet because he preferred his life over his money. Would the man have given his wallet to a much smaller and unarmed person who stopped him on the street and asked for his wallet? Not likely. There would not be the same coercive force to motivate him to surrender his wallet. We have free will to choose, but we will always choose what appears to be the more attractive option to us. Thus we might say that our free will is constrained by our desires. If you love your money more than your life, you might refuse to hand over your wallet and take your chances with the man with the knife.

What we need to know is that although both men and angels have free will, we are never free of Yahweh’s coercive force. Yahweh has all power and all knowledge and wisdom. He can exert whatever force is necessary to cause us to alter our course. The apostle Paul, before he was a disciple of Christ, was a violent persecutor of the saints. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and to cast them in jail, or induce them to renounce Christ, or to kill them, or to steal their homes and possessions. On his way to Damascus, Paul had an encounter with Christ. A brilliant light shone from heaven, and Paul heard the voice of Christ speaking to him. Yahshua asked Paul why he was persecuting Him. Paul was struck blind, and had to be led by his hand into Damascus. He was left in mortal terror for he had an encounter with the Son of God. This was not the meek Lamb of God whom Paul met on the road, but the glorious and powerful Son of God who sits on the throne in heaven.

Paul fasted for three days. After this time God sent a man named Cornelius to lay hands on Paul and to pray for him. Paul regained his sight. He repented of his evil and became a renowned witness of the living Christ. What was the difference? Paul had free will both before and after his incident on the road to Damascus. The difference was the revelation of Christ in his life. If the Son of God were to reveal Himself to all mankind in His heavenly glory and power, all people would fall at His feet and confess Yahshua to be both Lord and Christ. God, however, chooses to not reveal Himself through His Son in this manner at this time. Eventually all will see Christ in His glory and power and will bow before Him. They will choose to do so, for they will understand that it is the right thing to do, and it would be calamitous to do anything else.

Returning to Satan and his angels, they have free will, but God has set limits to what they are permitted to do without incurring His immediate wrath. For example, we are told in the Old Testament that some of the fallen angels saw that the daughters of man were beautiful and they had sexual relations with them. Yahweh judged these angels, casting them into bonds to await the day of judgment.

Jude 6
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.

The angels have free will, and no doubt many of the fallen angels would like to do the very thing today that these other angels did by cohabiting with women. They are restrained, nonetheless, by the  knowledge that Yahweh would immediately judge them and they would be placed in chains and cast into darkness until the day of judgment. In the book of Job, we read of Satan testifying that Yahweh had placed a protective hedge around Job so that Satan could not touch him. Similarly, we read that Satan had to ask Christ for permission to sift Peter (Luke 22:31). Satan knows when God has set some action or person off limits. He dares not violate those limits, for he too would experience the wrath of God.

The converse of this principle is true as well. Both men and angels respond to positive influences in their lives. If they know they will experience some reward by obeying God or some other entity which holds influence in their life, this too will weigh upon their decision. Many are willing to experience temporal suffering now as they take up the disciple’s cross in order that they might experience far greater things in the age to come. We see this same principle at work in the business world. An employee may be promised a bonus, or a paid week’s vacation, if they meet some production goal. They are therefore motivated to make decisions and take actions they would not have if there were no promise of reward. So we see that men and angels have free will, but this will can be steered.

Let me move on to your next question. You wrote:

What is your take on individual sovereignty (in America) claiming their sovereignty? I am full aware and in agreement with giving to Caesar what is legitimately his. If however, an individual separates themself from the worldly establishment of their geographic location, then what of theirs is due to Caesar? And is this not in essence/principle “coming out of the world”?

This is another excellent question. It is a subject I have communicated with others on before, for I have had people write to me who held to the “sovereign citizen” mindset. I have corresponded with a number of individuals who have for years refused to file income tax statements, or pay income tax to the government. I was speaking to a brother in Christ who lives in Idaho just a few weeks ago who was telling me of a man who refuses to purchase license plates for his car. This man has been in court over this many times, and has won his case every time. This man’s insistence of his freedom and liberty has not resulted in freedom and liberty, however, for his struggle has at times resulted in his arrest and beating, and has required that he spend thousands of hours to educate himself in constitutional law in order to fight repeated court cases. This sovereign citizen would have had far more liberty if he had simply purchased the car tags.

It is not possible to participate in society and live as a sovereign citizen without experiencing a great amount of conflict with the governing powers of the society. If you use the roads, drive a car, purchase property, acquire employment with a business that is operating according to accepted legal requirements, seek to engage in commerce with the public, etc., you will experience conflict with the ruling authorities at some point, and may do so frequently. I am reminded of an experience that is recorded in the gospels which involved Christ and His disciples.

Matthew 17:24-27
And when they had come to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter, and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Yahshua spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” And upon his saying, “From strangers,” Yahshua said to him, “Consequently the sons are exempt. But, lest we give them offense, go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

Here is an occasion when Christ reveals that a tax is being unjustly levied. The tax is improperly applied to Christ and His disciples. Nevertheless, Christ tells Peter to pay the tax. He does so because it was wiser to avoid offending the authorities than to quibble over rights. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ said,

Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

Does it matter whether it is an individual or a government who demands the shirt off your back? Are we to give only to individuals who ask of us, or governments as well? I think that we need to be led of the Spirit of Christ in all such encounters. If we are led of the Spirit we will likely find God at times directing us to not resist the local, state, or federal authorities in the matter of taxation or in a number of civil requirements such as purchasing car tags, etc.. It just simply is not worth the entanglement and commitment necessary to fight these issues. Our money and material possessions should occupy very little of our heart’s desires in this age anyway. Another passage which comes to mind is the following.

Hebrews 10:32-34
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.

I believe that adopting the militant position of those who describe themselves as “sovereign citizens” is not the will of God. To do so is to embrace a battle that Yahweh has not called us to.

Next you asked if I have anything on the City of Detroit. You did not mention what your particular interest is in Detroit. I have mentioned the city in past writings, including two which are titled A Season of Repair and Tipping Point. I will print them out and include them with this letter. Next, you wrote:

Do you have anything on, or have just any understanding on “black” people’s plight/compromised condition around the world (or even just the USA)?

I posted a writing some years back titled Why the Bible Does Not Condemn Slavery? which may address some of your interest in this subject. I will print it out and mail it to you as well. I imagine, however, that you have additional questions which this article does not specifically address, such as “Why do black people appear to be singled out as an oppressed people in this world?” Perhaps you are wanting to know if there is something revealed in the Bible which would explain why black people have historically been oppressed and taken advantage of by other ethnic groups.

You seem fairly conversant with the Bible, and I would imagine you have likely heard some of the common explanations related to this line of inquiry. There are many who point back to the curse spoken on Noah’s son Ham. By identifying Ham, and his son Canaan’s descendants, with the black ethnic group, many identify this as the root of why the black man has been oppressed by other groups of men.

Genesis 9:20-27
Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.”

Generally speaking, the prevailing tradition of history is that the descendants of Shem became the Shemitic, or Semitic peoples of the Earth. This includes the Jews, the Arabs, and many of the Asian people groups. The descendants of Japheth are identified as the European ethnic groups and nations. One book that makes this argument is After the Flood, written by an Englishman named Bill Cooper. He takes the table of nations found in Genesis chapter 10 and traces these families down to modern times. The descendants of Ham have been identified with the African nations and the ethnic groups associated with that continent from antiquity. For example, Egypt is called in the Bible “The land of Ham,” and its inhabitants were called “Hamites.” One of Ham’s descendants was named Cush, and the land of Cush is identified as Ethiopia, where the darkest skinned people have come from, a fact to which even the Bible makes reference.

Jeremiah 13:23
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”

The Hebrew word translated as “Ethiopian” is “Kuwshiy” which means “a Cushite,” or “a descendant of Cush.” It is understandable that this explanation of the spiritual root of the oppression of the black man is offensive to many. That people groups experience spiritual curses due to the actions of their ancestors is a thoroughly Biblical concept, however. Every one of us suffers a profound array of maladies brought on by the curse which was precipitated by our ancestor Adam. Consequently, ancestral curses are not limited to just one son of Noah and his descendants. We all suffer from ancestral curses. These curses even manifest on a smaller scale within families.

Numbers 14:18
Yahweh is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and disobedience; but will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, unto the third and the fourth generation.

In discussing the issue of race (which is more accurately called ethnicity, for mankind is only one race), many stop short, focusing only on natural lineage. This is a great mistake, for once a person has become a Christian, having experienced spiritual birth, they become a “new creation in Christ.” Their identity is no longer terrestrial. They become citizens of a heavenly kingdom. No matter what their ethnicity was before Christ, they are now a new creature and they dwell as aliens and strangers on this Earth. Every curse is broken in Christ. Though our flesh still manifests the effects of Adam’s transgression and the curse which ensued, along with many other transgressions and curses, our identity is no longer this outer tent in which we dwell. In truth, it never was.

II Corinthians 5:16-17
Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

I have elaborated further on this subject of our identity in Christ and how it supersedes and supplants our former fleshly identity, in the writing titled Interracial Relationships - Right or Wrong? I will print that out for you and mail it as well.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days,

Joseph Herrin

Heart4God Website:    

Parables Blog:    

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

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