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God’s Word for You

Susanna 1:6-8 Lust and other sins

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 1, 2023

6 These men were frequently at Jehoiakim’s house, and all who had a case to be tried came to them there. 7 When the people would go home at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden to walk. 8 The two elders used to watch her every day going in and taking her walk, and they began to lust for her.

Our author looks us in the eye from across many centuries and nods to us: God’s people are sometimes subject to wicked and sinful leaders. From Abimelech in the days of the Judges (Judges 9:1-57) to Caiaphas in the days of Jesus (Matthew 26:57-65), there have been corrupt and sinful men and women who have plagued the church. The fool Pius II tore all authority away from the ancient councils and judgments of the church and even away from the Scriptures themselves and gave all authority to himself and his successors—this was one of the many errors that led to the Lutheran Reformation.

In our pious mystery, two newly appointed elders are said to have often been around the good and righteous Jehoiakim’s nice home and gardens. Noon in Israel (and this story is set in Babylon) is treated in a similar fashion to noon in Spain, Portugal, and other countries. The sun is high and hot, and the people are going to be up late into the evening, so that they transfer an hour of sleep from the short night into hot afternoon: a siesta. Here in our story, the court recessed at noon every day and the people went home.

Susanna, wanting some exercise and solitude in her own beautiful home, would take this opportunity to go out and walk in the garden. The word for garden here is paradeisos (παράδεισος), from which we get our word paradise. The Greek word can mean an orchard (Song of Solomon 4:13; Numbers 24:6), a pleasant “garden of blessing” (Sirach 40:17,27) or be a reference to the Garden of Eden (Joel 2:3).

Does the author of this story, which is a fiction, mean for us to equate the garden where good Susanna walked and two of the elders of the people lurked and sinned, with the Garden of Eden?

We must be careful here and answer, for the most part, no. If the author only means that this is a reminder of the place where sin starts in the heart, it is a misapplication of the blessing of the Garden of Eden, which was a place of pure blessing, but ruined by man’s sins and the devil’s cruel temptations. If the author means for this story to be a kind of allegory of the fall, then he has made Susanna into a person capable of a righteous choice who does not fall; nor does her husband. In fact, only the two wicked judges fall, which rides the fence of making righteousness a choice that we make. If, however, the author wants us to think of our sins every day as a fall, and as a choice, and therefore something that can be avoided by the Christian, then this is a correct application.

The sin of the wicked judges begins with their observation of the lovely Susanna, a married woman. They, who should be examples of godly conduct, compound this sin by making a habit of it without repentance. They embrace their sin and give themselves up to their lust. Luther warns in the Large Catechism: “This commandment (the Sixth) applies to every form of unchastity, however it is called. Not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means. Your heart, your lips, and your whole body are to be chaste and to afford no occasion, aid, or encouragement to unchastity” (LC I:202).

One form of sexual sins flings open the doors to other forms. When one man demands that his shameful vice is not his fault but just his body’s impulse and therefore he is not to be held accountable to God’s will (this is what his actions say, whether he has the wit to form the actual words), then someone else will certainly demand the same thing. For what is the LGBTQ+ movement in our time but the natural spawn of the gay rights movement of twenty years ago? And what was that but the wicked child of the sexual revolution of the 1960s? And what was that but a natural step-sister of women’s liberation beginning in the 19th century? And what was that but an inevitable reaction to the abuses of men who challenged the divine origin of God’s holy word? Gender equality is no longer an issue, for the sinner has denied the existence of gender at all. What will be next? How long before God puts our whole world to the sword, or famine, or plague, or the all-consuming fires of judgment day (2 Peter 3:7)?

No Christian should complain about the sins of the nation and of the world without first complaining to their own flesh about their own sinful wretchedness. The world’s choice to travel by handbasket to hell is nothing but the result of a destroyed conscience. Therefore we must look to ourselves, our own bruised and damaged consciences, and train our children in the way of Christ our Lord (Proverbs 22:6). There is forgiveness in Christ. Apart from him, there is only a mess, a disaster, and a grotesque rainbow-smear of filth outside every door and in every garden. Let us always remember that the Sixth Commandment means that “We should fear and love God that we lead a pure and decent life in words and actions, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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