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Proverbs 25:21 and 22 reads this way:
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
Paul quotes these verses in Romans 12:20 in his instruction, adding, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
There are some who interpret this a bit cynically. They say that we should do good to an enemy so that if he does not reciprocate, then God will burn them in hell-fire and "heap burning coals on his head." But this is not the real meaning of this.
The word picture being created here comes from a culture where people often allowed the fire to go out in their hearth. Perhaps they had to make a trip, and when they returned, they had no fire left with which to cook the meals. So instead of rubbing sticks together, which was very hard work, the woman would go to a neighbor's house and ask for a few hot coals. The coals would be placed in an earthen jar and brought home, usually by carrying it on her head.
Often neighbors did not get along too well, so hot coals were given grudgingly. But if someone wanted to be a blessing to their "enemy" (neighbor), they would give a heaping helping of live coals, place it in the jar, put it on the neighbor's head, and send them on their way.
This was the equivalent to giving an enemy food if he was hungry, or water if he was thirsty. The idea was to be a blessing to that person, rather than treat him like an enemy.
Also, the Hebrew word asher means "happy, blessed." It is probably the word Jesus used when giving us the "Beatitudes" in Matthew 5 when He said "Blessed is the man who . . ." The root of this word is esh, which means "fire." To this is added the letter resh, which means "head." The Hebrew word picture presented to us by asher, "to bless," is to put fire on the head.
The whole idea is to bless one's enemies by doing good to them and even by going beyond the call of duty. This is taught in both Proverbs 25 and in Romans 12. It is not exclusively a New Testament religious principle. The New Testament merely explains the heart of God expressed in the Old Testament, which had been misunderstood by the religious teachers of the day.
Some years ago, after the Twin Towers demolition, it was obvious that America was being called upon to take revenge in the name of national security. Further, we ended up detaining "enemy combatants" offshore at Guantanamo in order to be free to torture them without the prying eyes of the media. In so doing, we made it virtually impossible to ever release those prisoners, regardless of their guilt or innocence. Once people have been tortured and mistreated, they become filled with the desire for revenge and truly become dangerous to us. This makes it near impossible to release them at any time.
If genuine biblical Christians had been in office, they would not have reacted with the desire for revenge that is usual among carnally-minded men. You may think me crazy, but I would have advocated that every prisoner of war (or "enemy combatant") be treated with dignity and respect without torture of any kind. I would not have used any of them to gitmo (get more) "useful information" against their will.
Of course, such Christian tactics have yet to be implemented in the history of the world. I cannot point to any examples and show the results--except, of course, among individual Christians who have actually taken the Scriptures seriously.
What is strange to me is that the Christians in America were the most avid supporters of the torture policies of the Bush administration. The non-Christians were more righteous than the Christians in this regard. Can anyone seriously believe that Jesus would have advocated the use of waterboarding and "stress positions" and sleep deprivation and blasting loud rock music continually in order to break down their will and drive the prisoners crazy?
This shows us clearly that there is a vast difference between a Christian Nation and the Kingdom of God. I used to advocate for America being a Christian Nation. Then I discovered that a Christian Nation is one that is ruled by "King Saul." Saul persecutes David. I consider myself to be part of David's company. Therefore, if we had a Christian Nation, its government would persecute me.
It is precisely because of this hypocritical religion in ancient Jerusalem that caused God to overturn the government of Judah and to give it into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Was Babylonian government better than that of Judah? Hardly. But Judah was held accountable for their sin, and God hired Babylon to bring judgment upon them.
So it is again with America. Because of our hypocritical religion and lawlessness a century ago, God sold us into the hands of Mystery Babylon via the Federal Reserve System. This was designed to bring judgment upon us. It was for all the same reasons found in Scripture when God sold Israel into the hands of various nations in the book of Judges.
Most Christians today do not understand this. Many have a nostalgia to re-establish the Christian Republic that was given to us at the start. Such government would be far better, I believe, than the Babylonian government we have today. However, after a generation or two, God would again have to judge us for the same Christian lawlessness as before. We would end up in a continual cycle of captivity to release to captivity to release to captivity. It would be no different from the story of the book of Judges.
No, what we need is something better. We need the Kingdom of God. We need to be ruled by the Davidic company of overcomers, not by the house of Saul. This is what God has in mind for us today. We need an entire overhaul of the judicial system, the economic system, the social welfare system, the religious system, and the political system.
We need to replace the prison system with restitution and the death penalty (for crimes where no restitution is possible), and to give equal justice for all. We need to replace the economic system with a banking system that charges no interest (usury) on money. We need to put the social welfare system back into the hands of local churches. The religious system of rituals and lip service needs to be replaced with Truth, Justice, and Mercy. The government needs to be replaced by Jesus Christ and the overcomers that are His Body.
Am I asking for too much? All I want is the Kingdom of God. The only thing standing in the way is human nature.
The Bible gives us the blueprint of history. Daniel reveals the succession of kingdoms for thousands of years after his time. We are nearing the end of that succession of kingdoms, and the stone cut out of the mountain without hands has already begun to strike the image on its feet (Dan. 2:34, 35). This began in 2006-2007. These earthly kingdoms are crumbling into dust.
Most do not know it yet, but we are living in the time of transition into the Kingdom of God. It is therefore imperative that we understand the divine plan as well as the laws of the Kingdom by which we will rule with Christ as overcomers. One of the key heart manifestations of the Kingdom is whether or not we believe and practice Proverbs 25:21 and Romans 12:20, because this reveals the mind of Christ.