Monday, May 3, 2010

The Curse of Moving Boundaries

In the corners of our land, concrete markers sink deep into the earth, marking where our grass ends and the neighbor's begins. Over time, though, the markers can disappear at the hands of mischievous children or simply the destructive nature of time, blurring the lines between ours and theirs.

With the advent of public records, this destruction of a physical boundary marker isn't too serious. A visit to our local office and payment to a surveyor would quickly restore tangible proof of ownership. Yet, in Bible times, that wasn't the case.

Then, boundary markers were the way to determine who owned what piece of Canaan. If you wanted to steal your neighbor's land? Just sneak out in the middle of the night and move that big rock.

Because of the ease of this theft, Scripture abounds with curses levied against anyone daring to move boundaries. One verse exclaims, "You shall not move your neighbor's boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess" (Deut. 19:14). Another says, "Cursed is he who moves his neighbor's boundary mark.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'"(Deut 27:17).

Later, when God is warning Israel of its pending destruction, He criticizes His people once again for moving boundaries again: "The princes of Judah have become like those who move a boundary; On them I will pour out My wrath like water" (Hos. 5:10).

This time, though, God isn't just speaking of moving physical boundaries. As John MacArthur states, "Worse, Judah's leaders were moving spiritual lines established by God" (The MacArthur Bible Commentary 976).

In Hosea's time, the people were guilty of violating all ten of the commandments and many of Moses' laws, which were put in place to protect the people. For example, Israel wasn't to intermarry with the surrounding pagan cultures, but they did anyway. The result? False idols were brought into the land, causing the people's hearts to stray from God. Before long, Israel had ducked under most of God's boundaries and was swimming in the dangerous deep end, far away from God's protective hands.

This one hits close to home--how many times a day do I try to move a spiritual boundary with God? I may not give a great big shove, but sometimes, I put my back against that marker, trying to make it budge just a little.

We become like the Pharisees referred to in the Sermon on the Mount--moving God's boundaries around to suit our keep from having to repent of our sin.

Jesus calls anger "murder," but we try to push back that boundary, saying to ourselves that at least we didn't act on our anger (Matt 5:22). Jesus says we should love my neighbors and pray for our enemy...and again, we push back that boundary with the logic that this man is neither a neighbor nor an enemy.

Father, forgive us for not appreciating the spiritual boundaries you have set before us to live by are for our protection and good as you seek to make us holy. Through your Spirit, convict us that this is sin so we can be in a right relationship with you.


  1. For some reason when I read this I thought of a quote I saw today, "If we continue to teach about tolerance and intolerance instead of good and evil, we will end up with tolerance of evil." ~ Dennis Prager ~ Maybe it is the moving spiritual boundaries part. In our generation we have wandered so far outside of the boundaries we no longer call things for what they are - sin. Good post.

  2. Oh I love the Prager quote. How true.

  3. Oh, how true. How incredibly necessary. Yes Lord.