Posted in boundary, discernment, doctrine, hosea

Moving the boundary, and God’s reaction to it

I love boundaries. I love edges of things, particularly in geography. I’ve visited the halfway mark to the north pole, located in Perry Maine. I’ve stood on the Equator line at Quito Ecuador. I’ve seen the southernmost US point at Key West FL. There are places where the Rio Grande is a trickle and you can at once be in both the US and Mexico. The border of Maine and Canada in the Bay of Fundy is marked on the ocean by a buoy. At Lubec, Maine, it is marked by a narrow channel, with a lighthouse on one side.

Perry, Maine EPrata photo

It’s always been of interest to me and an indescribable delight to be able to put one foot on one side of something and the other foot on the other side. Man needs to carve up the world so we can be organized, co-exist, know where we are at all times. This is logical. Even God made boundaries, as He declared in Genesis 1:9,

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.

And again in Jeremiah 5:22

I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;

Rio Grande, border of TX-Mexico, Big Bend. EPrata photo

Man has used boundaries since the beginning of time. In Wikipedia’s article Boundaries in landscape history, it is explained,

Boundaries- a real or imagined line that marks the limit of something. Many field boundaries in the central region of England originated with the enclosure of the previous open fields in the 18th or 19th centuries. In a few instances, current field boundaries (particularly in the west country) have been shown to have originated in the Bronze Age or Iron Age. In Scotland a march dyke is the boundary between farms or previously baronies.

Quito, Ecuador, Equator Museum. EPrata photo

In Hosea 5:10 we read,

“The princes of Judah have become like those who move a boundary; On them I will pour out My wrath like water.”

Moving a boundary stone was a serious, serious offense. It is mentioned several times in Deuteronomy and also on Proverbs,

Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.” (Deuteronomy 19:14)

Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deuteronomy 27:17)

Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” (Proverbs 22:28)

Pulpit Commentary says of the prohibition against moving boundaries,

In a country where property was defined by landmarks – stones or some such objects – nothing was easier than to remove these altogether, or to alter their position. That this was a common form of fraud and oppression we gather from the stringency of the enactments against the offence (see Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17; and comp. Job 24:2; Proverbs 22:28). In the Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions which have been preserved, there are many invoking curses, curious and multifarious, against the disturbers of boundaries. Such marks were considered sacred and inviolable by the Greeks and Romans (see Plato, ‘De Leg.,’ 8:842, 843; Ovid, ‘Fast.,’ 2:639, etc.).”

I was a reporter for about 6 years, covering local governing bodies such as town councils and Selectmen. The second most important issue to people, where they would rise up and come to meetings to speak, write letters to the newspaper, and discuss at water coolers and diner counters…was taxes. Money. People care a great deal that their tax money is being judiciously handled. But there was one issue that roused the people to anger and frustration even more than money, if you can believe it. Land.

Any time there was a proposed change in land use, the people came out. Any time a prohibition was put into place that restricted their land use, they got angry. Town Zoning and land use ordinances were top concerns for people, and rightly so. Worse was any proposal that would directly involve a change or restriction to personal property. People work hard to buy property and once it is personally owned, they protect it with zeal. It is their life, their livelihood, their own.

Boundary disputes among nations cause wars. Boundary disputes among individuals cause neighborhood wars.

It was no different 3000 years ago, because people are no different. The Lord considers moving a person’s boundaries a cursed activity. Worse, the greedy defrauders moving stones used to do it surreptitiously. Jamieson Fausset Brown Commentary says of Deuteronomy 19:14,

The Landmark Is Not to Be Removed. Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which they of old have set in thine inheritance—The state of Palestine in regard to enclosures is very much the same now as it has always been. Though gardens and vineyards are surrounded by dry-stone walls or hedges of prickly pear, the boundaries of arable fields are marked by nothing but by a little trench, a small cairn, or a single erect stone, placed at certain intervals. It is manifest that a dishonest person could easily fill the gutter with earth, or remove these stones a few feet without much risk of detection and so enlarge his own field by a stealthy encroachment on his neighbor’s. This law, then, was made to prevent such trespasses.”

Boundaries are there for a reason, and usually there is no need to move them or change them. They alert people as to where to go, and not go. They divide one thing from another thing. Notice the excoriation for those who cunningly and secretly move boundaries. People who do that are the worst of the worst, because you are literally messing with their livelihood.

Back to Hosea 5:10, “The princes of Judah have become like those who move a boundary; On them I will pour out My wrath like water.”

The boundaries God is talking about are not only the physical boundaries. Note the language, the princes “have become like,” not that the princes are actually moving boundaries. “Israel’s leaders were moving spiritual lines established by God” as Dr MacArthur says in his commentary. People who move the doctrinal lines are the worst of the worst. Note that 2 Peter 2:21 says there are some who secretly bring in destructive heresies. False prophets and false teachers are like those leaders Hosea is speaking of who secretly move the doctrinal boundary stones!

The context of Hosea 5 is “Punishment Coming for Israel and Judah.” God will punish those who do this to the sheep. He will punish those sheep who accept their leaders’ erasing of the boundary lines of His word and His doctrines. When I was traveling, the boundary told me the answer to the question: Am I in Maine or Canada? The United States or Mexico? The Northern Hemisphere or the Southern?” Boundaries tell us where we are. It is the same with God’s boundaries. Am I on the right side of God or the wrong side? Am I within His bounds or outside the sheepfold?

When Adam transgressed, God asked, “Adam, where are you?” Of course God knew Adam was in the Garden of Eden. He know what Adam had done. He was rhetorically asking where are you? (Genesis 3:9). Outside of my outermost marker? Outside of the limits I set for you? Satan is the original boundary changer.

Adam, where are you? Israelites, where are you? “Those who by sin go astray from God, should seriously consider where they are; they are afar off from all good, in the midst of their enemies, in bondage to Satan, and in the high road to utter ruin” (Matthew Henry)

If we get so mad if someone moves a boundary marker on our land, how does God feel when we alter His spiritual lines of demarcation? Doctrinal boundaries matter. They certainly matter to God.

Set your mind on the things above, and ask the Spirit to give you wisdom to detect when satan is secretly moving the doctrinal lines in your heart or your church. Ask the Spirit to give you strength to stay within the boundaries. Ask Him to give you courage to protect them. Ask Him to show you if you are the one moving the boundary lines in your heart or your church. Are you pleading for a woman to teach or preach? Are you affirming of active homosexuals in positions or eldership? Are you accepting of visions and tongues? You are moving God’s boundary lines. This is serious, because of the next part of the Hosea verse:

The rest of the boundary moving verse in Hosea 5:10 says of those who do it, “upon them I will pour out my wrath like water.” The word pour out is Hebrew meaning overflow, like a dam bursting in fury. (Also Revelation 2:20-23)

God said to Job of His sovereignty in creation regarding the sea-sand boundary: “‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38:11)

Star Trek’s Captian Picard famously made a speech about drawing the line and going no farther. When he says “they assimilate entire worlds” substitute ‘they assimilate entire churches’ in your mind.

The doctrinal lines must be drawn and we must go NO FARTHER! Let no one move your boundary!

Boundary line between Butterworth and Crompton,
in Greater Manchester England.
By Michael Ely, Wikimedia Commons

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Further reading

What are boundaries and are they biblical?

Why should churches draw doctrinal boundaries?

How do we discern when new doctrinal boundaries are needed?
False teaching changes, so old doctrinal boundaries do not always protect against new problems. But how can we know when we need new boundaries? We can discern when we need to erect new doctrinal boundaries when:

Five wrong questions to ask when drawing doctrinal boundaries