Marring the Temple of God

Have you ever wondered why so many people are infatuated with tattoos and body piercing? I have seen a marked increase in this activity over the last ten years or so. Some people will run and get another tattoo or piercing as soon as they get paid. This is true even of the church at large. I see pastors and evangelists now sporting new body art and celebrating the new look and I wonder why anyone would want to defile the body God gave them?

Have you ever considered why this has become so prevalent? I have. I asked the Lord the other day what was the draw? Or, maybe more to the point, what was the lure of all this for people? He immediately answered me and said “Because you were made in my image.” The light went on in my mind as illumination flowed into my mind. This is another tactic of the enemy against God’s chosen people.

Since we are made in the image of God, and the enemy hates God and hates us so viciously, he has devised a plan to make us not look like our Father in heaven anymore. God is very specific about body art and body alterations:

Leviticus 19:27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. 28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

Now, please notice the verse says do not print any marks on you without regard to whether this is for the dead or not. The admonition in this verse to not make any cuttings in the flesh was for the dead. But, elsewhere God said do not make any cuttings on your flesh for any reason:

Leviticus 21:5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

This is because that is exactly what the heathen and pagan peoples did and God’s people were to be set apart – different – Holy unto the Lord. Further, this has nothing to do with trimming the beard or getting a haircut which many want to use as justification for piercing or tattoos too. This was prohibited as it was a form of pagan worship and honored the hosts of heaven.

I have had many people tell me they get tattoos to honor God. Disobedience does not honor God. Our God is a God of love and mercy. He doesn’t want us to cut, pierce and mark ourselves in order to please Him. I know this is not something many people want to hear, but the truth is still the truth. Having already done these things will not separate us from God’s love. Yet, we could have avoided the pain and potential for serious infection, as well as the cost of these alterations by listening and obeying God’s Word.

But, some say, what about Isaiah 44:5 and Ezekiel 9:4? I’ve seen several references by Christian tattoo artists who claim Isaiah 44 and Ezekiel 9 are examples of God-ordained tattoos in the Bible. The following excellent explanation of Isaiah 44:5 and Ezekiel 9:4 came from a Jewish web site:

1) In Leviticus 19:28 the term used is “k’thoveth qa’aqa.” “K’thoveth” means “writing or inscription.” “Qa’aqa” comes from a root whose meaning is “to insert or to stick in.” Together, “writing that is stuck in”. Jewish oral tradition explains that the verse is talking about what we refer to today as tattoos, i.e. scratching or piercing the skin and filling it in with pigment.

2) Isaiah 44:5 uses the word “yichtov” which means “will write” without the word “qa’a’qa” “to insert or to stick in.” Isaiah is not talking about tattoos. What he is saying is “…and he will write with his hand to the L-rd…” like someone who signs a contract to express his utmost commitment and obligation.

3) Ezekiel 9:4 uses the word “tav” which means “a mark or a sign.” The man clothed with linen is going to mark the foreheads of the righteous with ink, not tattoo them!

Here is one final thought about tattoos. The Bible from cover to cover condemns rebellion. The Lord considers rebellion so serious that He compares rebellion to witchcraft. And witchcraft was punishable by death!

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

 Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

If there’s one message the tattoo cries out loud and clear – it is rebellion. Throughout history, tattoos have symbolized rebellion. There’s nothing normal about a tattoo. A tattoo screams of unabashed rebellion and deviancy. Every tattoo book, and every article, I researched, both old and new, openly affirmed the deliberate rebellion symbolized by the tattoo. Book after book, article after article, sang the same song – tattoos are open rebellion. It is worth noting.

 Steve Gilbert, in the very popular, pro-tattoo book, Tattoo History: A Source Book, documents that even the word tattoo means “a mark of disgrace or reproach.”

The Latin word for ‘tattoo’ was stigma and the original meaning is reflected in modern dictionaries. Among the definitions of ‘stigma’ listed by Webster are a prick with a pointed instrument, a distinguishing mark cut into the flesh of a slave or a criminal, and a mark of disgrace or reproach.1

In fact, for most of its history the tattoo was used to mark the criminal, adulterers, traitors, deserters, the deviant and outcast. The tattoo was a dreaded mark of reproach and disgrace.

Adultery was punished in this way too by tattooing in some parts of Britain, and ‘bad characters’ were marked BC. In 1717, branding was abolished in the Army and replaced with tattooing, with the letter ‘D’ for deserter.2

So, tattoos are known as symbols of rebellion and being one’s own person without regard for what others think. It marked those who used it and they stood out from those who do not partake of tattoos. Yet, today, it seems the real mark of distinction is reserved for those who abstain from tattoos and piercing.

Disfigurement, defiling and marring the temple of God which is our body is surely of the enemy and suits him well. It causes great pain, brings shame and regret and costs people a lot of their well earned income. That’s both to have it done, and then to have it reversed if we were to change our minds.

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