Dogs are often intensely disliked in the Bible because they were prone to wander around wildly, eat anything (including human remains), and cause trouble, including terrifying people by chasing and barking at them. It is not surprising that the Old Testament refers to greedy spiritual leaders as dogs who are always looking for more and never have enough Isaiah 56:10–11(HCSB) Israel’s watchmen are blind, all of them, they know nothing; all of them are mute dogs, they cannot bark; they dream, lie down, and love to sleep.
11 These dogs have fierce appetites; they never have enough. And they are shepherds who have no discernment; all of them turn to their own way, every last one for his own gain.; they encircle God’s leaders to bark at them in intimidation, hoping to devour them Psalm 22:16(HCSB)For dogs have surrounded me;a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;they pierced my hands and my feet.,
Psalm 22: 20(HCSB)Deliver my life from the sword,my only life from the power of these dogs.
In the New Testament, Philippians 3:2(HCSB) says, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers.”
Revelation talks about the dogs outside of heaven’s gates;
Revelation 22:15(HCSB) 15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
Dogs are those people who bark at God’s people in an effort to control them, intimidate them, manipulate them, use them, abuse them, terrify them, harm them, and then devour them. Their barks can be threats, demands, false teaching, relational manipulation, emotional control, pushiness, rudeness, and unfounded criticism.
A good shepherd, a good pastor must consider his responsibility to feed and defend the sheep when considering how to deal with the dogs. When the dogs encircle the flock, it is the shepherd’s duty to take his staff in his hand and beat the dogs with great force until they yelp and flee in defeat. The staff in the shepherd’s hand is often the stinging weapon of strong language, humor, irony, sarcasm, ridicule, and mockery.
Regarding this mighty staff for the beating of the dogs, the renowned Reformed Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “I do not know why ridicule is to be given up to Satan as a weapon to be used against us, and not to be employed by us as a weapon against him (Spurgeon, “The Uses of Anecdotes and Illustrations,” in Lectures to My Students [Zondervan, 1954], 389).
Elsewhere, Spurgeon mentions Martin Luther’s devastating use of humor to beat some dogs in his day. Luther used vulgar, vile and disgusting language to portray how vulgar, vile and disgusting the religious bishops and popes of his day were.
Some of Luther’s sharpest blows were reserved for dogs who refused to argue from Scripture. Luther lost patience with those who could not show him from the Bible that he was wrong. Luther writes: “How often must I cry out to you coarse, stupid papists to quote Scripture sometime? Scripture! Scripture! Scripture! Do you not hear, you deaf goat and coarse ass?”
You think like this, “As I am a crude ass, and do not read the books, so there is no one in the world who reads them; rather, when I let my braying heehaw, heehaw resound, or even let out a donkey’s fart, then everyone will have to consider it pure truth.”From Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil, pg. 300 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 41
Luther argued that his theological opponents avoided the Bible: “I cry: Gospel, Gospel, Gospel! Christ, Christ! Then they reply: The fathers! The fathers! Custom, Custom! Statutes, Statutes! But when I say: The fathers, custom, and the statutes have often been in error; matters of this kind must be settled by a stronger and more reliable authority; but Christ cannot be in error — then they are more speechless than fish” (Ibid., 1059).
The problem with dogs is that their bark is worse than their bite, and if the sheep take them seriously they will suffer. So, the best thing a good shepherd can do is beat the dogs with mockery, revealing them to be merely fangless, clawless liars with nothing more than a bark to fear.
Before examining instances of controversial and comedic biblical beatings, it would be helpful to understand the importance of satire as a literary device in the Bible. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery says,
Satire is the exposure of human vice or folly through rebuke or ridicule. . . . It might consist of an entire book (like Amos), or it can be as small as an individual proverb. One of the conventions of satire is the freedom to exaggerate, overstate or oversimplify to make a satiric point. Overall, satire is a subversive form that questions the status quo, unsettles people’s thinking, assaults the deep structure of conventional thought patterns and aims to make people uncomfortable. . . .
Psalm 1 exhorts us to not sit with those who mock everyone, and to not to scoff God because no one is to mock God. However, God gets to mock a lot of people who take themselves too seriously and him too lightly, thereby needing to be taken down a few pegs for their good and his glory Psalm 2:1-5(HCSB)Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and His Anointed One: 3 “Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints.”4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. 5 Then He speaks to them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath:
Psalm 59:8(HCSB)But You laugh at them, Lord; You ridicule all the nations.
Proverbs 1:24-26(HCSB) Since I called out and you refused, extended my hand and no one paid attention, 25 since you neglected all my counsel and did not accept my correction,26 I, in turn, will laugh at your calamity. I will mock when terror strikes you, Indeed, anyone with even a speck of humor and an eye for the details readily sees some very funny satirical mockery littered throughout the pages of Scripture. 1 Kings 18 records the legendary battle Royale showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. When their god failed to show up, Elijah mocked them
1 Kings 18:27(ESV)27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”.
Commenting on this text, Doug Wilson says, “The passage is plain — Elijah mocked them. And in the original Hebrew he is even more pointed. Perhaps your god is off in the bathroom. His prophets are all gathered in the hallway with an anxious look on their faces. Bang on the door louder. He’s been in there a long time”. Martin Luther actually justified his mocking tone by appealing to the Old Testament prophets: “I trust that I am justified in mocking those who mock my God and His Word and work. Elijah, too, mocked the prophets of Baal
Isaiah 44:15–17(ESV)15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” sounds like late night satirical sketch of a guy who chops down a tree and then
takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
It takes real insight to know which end of a log is for fuel and which is for worship. This kind of thing does not sound like something Jesus would do. Or would he? Would Jesus tell a joke or — even more controversial — mock someone?
Once we realize that Christ was not always engaged in pious talk, we have made an enormous step on the road to understanding” (Elton Trueblood, The Humor of Christ [Harper and Row, 1964], 10). Trueblood goes on to say, “Christ laughed, and . . . He expected others to laugh. . . . A misguided piety has made us fear that acceptance of His obvious wit and humor would somehow be mildly blasphemous or sacrilegious. Religion, we think, is serious business, and serious business is incompatible with banter”.
Jesus was funny. A few funny snippets from God’s Word will suffice to show the humor of Jesus. Matthew 19:24(ESV)24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Rather than seeing the humor, some guys way to smart and well educated with no sense of humor try to explain that there was a small doorway in a wall somewhere called the eye of the needle that camels would have to take off all their baggage and get down on their knees and crawl through. But what Jesus meant was that it’s hard for rich guys to go to heaven, and he said it in a funny way that some Bible commentators don’t understand, which makes it even funnier.
Jesus was funny when he mocked the guy with a huge log sticking out of his eye, rather than removing it, spent his time criticizing people who had a speck of sawdust in their eye Matthew 7:3(HSCB)3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Jesus mocked the superstar extravagant public prayers as if they were the epitome of prayer gurus Matthew 6:5(HCSB)5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! He mocked the fact that some people would make their faces seem so distraught and sad in when they were fasting so people would know how holy they were (Matthew 6:16(HCSB)16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! He also mocked the guys who tithed out of their spice racks but were just absolutely holier than thou jerks.
Matthew 23:23(HCSB)23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
Jesus’ humor helps us understand the words of Matthew 15:12(HCSB)Then the disciples came up and told Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard this statement? Really? The guys to whom Jesus said their mothers slept with the devil were offended? In Matthew 11:6(HCSB) Jesus says, 6 And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.”
The only way to not be offended by Jesus is to realize that we are all sinners who need to repent, laugh at ourselves, and take God seriously but don’t take ourselves to seriously.
A lot of people have an issue with mockery and say that Jesus did mock people but we should not because we are not Jesus and are not perfect like him or perfectly inspired by the Holy Spirit like the Old Testament prophets were.
The problem here is that “the rule” applies equally to everything that Jesus did and all that the apostles and prophets wrote. . . . We will be imperfect as we imitate love, grace, forgiveness, kindness, rebuke, sarcasm, gentleness, and so on. What standard are we using to say we should imitate this part of Christ’s demeanor and refuse to imitate that part of it? What standard do we use to assemble this hierarchy of verbal values? Why do we say, “Imitate Christ in His kindness to the tax gatherers, but never imitate Him in His treatment of the religiously pompous?” Why not the reverse? “Always make fun of religious jerks, but never imitate Christ’s kindness to the downtrodden.” This kind of selectivity is not approaching the Scriptures as the Word of God but rather belongs to the modern day cut and paste pansy, don’t offend anyone, Jesus is a dragqueen sensitive man who never offended anyone and neither should we americanized Christianity.
Perhaps even more controversial than mockery and humor is the biblical usage of strong language. The Bible does, on rare occasions, use very strong language to portray self-righteousness and the religions that promote it in the most disgusting of terms. The Bible does this because religion that promotes self-righteousness by one’s own works is anathema to the gospel(Anathema- someone or something that is very strongly disliked;to be damned or cursed) the only righteousness we have is not merited to us by works but a gift,given to us by grace through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the Bible uses graphic and disturbing imagery to show how vile to God religion and self-righteous works done in a vain effort to make oneself acceptable in the sight of a perfectly holy and righteous God. One example from the Old Testament is Isaiah 64:6(NET)We are all like one who is unclean,
all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.
Our study takes us to the verse in the New Testament that has tons of debate surrounding it. Speaking of his religiously self-righteous way of life before meeting Jesus, Paul says, Philippians 3:8(NET)8 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ,. That little word “Skubala” has been the source of big controversy. Various English translations use words such as “rubbish,” “garbage,” “filth,” “dung,” “refuse,” “worthless trash,” and “dog dung.” Making the entire issue more difficult is that the word is a hapax legomenon, which means it appears only once in the entire New Testament.
Greek scholar and expert Daniel B. Wallace has studied this word in great detail, and he explains: “In Philippians 3:8, the best translation of skuvbala seems clearly to be from the first group of definitions [that is, meaning (human) excrement]. The term conveys both revulsion and worthlessness in this context. In hellenistic Greek it seems to stand somewhere between ‘crap’ and ‘s**t.’”
What Isaiah and Paul are pointedly declaring is that the good works of everyone from devout New age Self Help followers to the Jehovah’s Witness grandmas who knock on doors so that they will be good enough for God to love them — along with the family who thinks they are better than everyone else and able to stand before God on the day of judgment because they avoided alcohol and tobacco — are as cherished a gift to God as a bloody tampon or a pile of crap that a dog leaves in the yard. Why? Because any effort to justify oneself in the sight of God rather than depending solely upon the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross as the Atonement for our sins as the grounds for our righteousness is a bloody mess and a steaming pile of dung.
At this point, we can either argue with the Scriptures or consider their relevance for our own life. My sincere hope is that we all learn to deal with the speck in our eye before we start using our words, including the ones we blog and text-message, to criticize the words of others. For that to happen, we must see that shepherds and sheep alike are prone to moments and seasons of acting like swine, wolves, and dogs. When the Old Testament prophets attack the idolaters, they are speaking about us. When Jesus publicly criticizes the Pharisees, his words are for us. And when Paul sharply antagonizes the Judaizers, he is thinking of us.
We love it when “those guys” get verbally shot. But we hate it when “our guys” get verbally shot. Why? Because we wrongly think that “those guys” are always the bad guys and “our guys” are always the good guys. However, at varying times and in varying ways to varying degrees we are all religious dogs, and the first step toward safeguarding ourselves is to accept this fact humbly and not only repent of our sin but also of our religious righteousness.
**adapted from Mark Driscoll – Beat the Dogs**