Our True Identity

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Deut. 6-7

Ethnocentrism | When Moses – an Israelite – married a woman from Cush (a region located south of Ethiopia and known for its dark-skinned inhabitants [1]), the Lord approved of it – even though his brother and sister did not: “Miriam and Aaron began to talk about Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite” [2]. And, as a result, although God did not utter a single word of criticism to Moses, God struck Miriam with white leprosy for criticizing her brother for marrying a Cushite: “Miriam’s skin was leprous – it became as white as snow” [3].

Hypocrisy? | Yet, when God was preparing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, He prohibited them from marrying into nations that already inhabited the land: “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you” [4]. What was going on? Does this text suggest that interracial marriages are unbiblical, as some have argued in the past? Yet, how could God now prohibit such marriages when He had so strongly chastised Miriam for criticizing Moses? Was God being hypocritical?

True Identity | In prohibiting marriage between the Israelites and the other nations, the Lord was not interested in protecting ethnic or racial purity, but religious purity. He wanted to make sure that there would be a single faithfulness to Him, not divided affections for the other nations’ false gods. Thus, He was not prohibiting interethnic or interracial marriages, but rather marriages between those who belonged to Him and those who did not. Today, there is only one Biblical restriction on marriage – namely, that spouses must be “in the Lord” [5]. Thus, ethnic differences are not grounds to prohibit marriage because our identity is founded our being made in the image of God and being reborn in the Spirit.

Prayer | Lord, Thank You for giving us insight into the history of the Old Testament by causing us to reconcile two seemingly inconsistent accounts. Forgive us for failing to see others as You do, for You do not consider the outward appearance, but rather the heart. Work within us toward greater racial reconciliation in our churches, as we increasingly find our identities rooted in Your image and Your Son. Amen.

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[1] Later, the prophet Jeremiah rhetorically asked, “Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots?” (Jer. 13:23 NIV), where the word “Ethiopian” here is the same Hebrew word translated in Numbers as “Cushite.”  |  [2] Num. 12:1 NIV  |  [3] Num. 12:10 NIV  |  [4] Deut. 7:3-4 NIV  |  [5] See 1 Cor. 7:39 NIV (“A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”). See also 2 Cor. 6:14-15 NIV (“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”)

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