Archive for July, 2013

If you need reminding then…
The law is a reminder to mankind that they are incapable of naturally relating to God in unity. This is why in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Moses commands Israel to remind itself of the requirements of the law constantly.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
(Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

The fact that the reminder must be so constant merely highlights how foreign unity (in God) is to fallen mankind. However God does not compromise himself by depending on Israel to uphold his unity. God is still able to demonstrate his unity with his law by upholding and enforcing it. The fact that Israel can’t keep it is Israel’s failing. However this ultimately appears to be a lesson in cruelty by God, commanding unity that would be impossible for Israel to acheive. The law does nothing to fulfil his promise to Abraham of renewed unity, through his offspring.

Prophets, the most faithful
Thankfully the law is not God’s final word or judgement. God used the prophets of the Old Testament to be his mouthpiece in Israel and the nations (mostly Israel). He used them to be examples of faithfulness (the most faithful in God’s household), exmaples that the vast majority of Israel could not or would not be. Their very existence is a loving call to repentance in light of God’s judgement, always promising hope for forgiveness and renewed unity for those who did. An example of this is seen in Ezekiel 36 where God demonstrates his unity with his law by judging Israel, while at the same time promising renewed unity between God and man (hope).

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.
(Ezekiel 36:16-38)

The law was never capable of affecting true unity because it was unable to address the underlying break in unity caused by Adam. Instead it highlights the disunity in creation even more, highlighting the need for a solution appart from itself. Disunity has always been an issue of access to God, more specifically access to the nature of God (love) in relationship. This is why God clearly states that the solution to the disunity of humanity is a new heart. Where he proposes to remove the old contrary nature of Adam (not love, dead/stone heart) and transplant a new (loving) nature consistent with his law (living, heart of flesh).

The purpose of this post is to use the ten commandments to show how the behaviour the law demands is consistent with being union with God, while addressing actual behaviours inherent in fallen humanity (inherent in disunity). Therefore the Ten Commandments dictate the terms of God’s relationship with Israel.

Firstly, God states who he is and his claim over Israel. He declares “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”(Exodus 20:vs2) God identifies himself to Israel as their God, the one who through many signs and wonders liberated them from Egypt. He is claiming his right to command loyalty and dictate the terms of their relationship (unity). God liberated Israel for a purpose, to be in relationship (union) with him, no one else. Mankind was created to be in a union with God, the terms of which were rightly set out by him as creator. Now God has redeemed Israel for himself, to live in union with him. Therefore God gives them the Ten Commandments as his binding covenant with them.

The first three commandments require Israel to put God first in everything, in recognition of his headship. This is the same requirement that was placed on Adam and Eve, implicitly, in the order of creation. In any union the head is due all honour and respect from all members of that union, in turn it is his role to provide all good things for those who are under his authority.

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

The second commandment is specifically targeted at maintaining the order of creation. The sin of Adam and Eve was that they subjected themselves to a lower creature, holding it in greater esteem than God. To ensure that this “worship” or submission to creation does not continue God explicitly forbids the manufacture and worship of idols resembling anything in creation.

2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The third commandment is like the first two. If God is head of this union then it is under his name that all Israel is to be unified. To take his name in vain is to show contempt for the entire union, expressing disunity.

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

The forth command is a throwback to God’s act of creation, where he rested on the seventh day, making it a pattern in creation. This is a union under the God who created all things and as such he is head of all things. This is not a new command, the fact that it is explicit is. To be in union with God is to live in a way that is consistent with how he originally created all things (in union).

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The remaining 6 commandments are concerned with the union of mankind (human relationships). In light of God’s headship the requirements he places on human relationships are again consistent with the way he originally created man (in union), while also addressing specific behaviours inherent in human disunity.

To obey your parents is a sign of a working family union, which is the basis of human unity.

5. Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Murder is one member of a union destroying another, making it one of the strongest acts of disunity imaginable. The hatred that produces murder is in direct opposition to the love of God in unity. This is why Cain was cast into exile when he murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4). This is also why God demands blood for blood (Genesis 9:6). Murder cannot exist at the same time as love in unity. Cain’s sin represented the first of many abhorrent acts of disunity (Genesis 4:23-24). Similar things can be said for theft, adultery, false witness and covetous desire, they are disunity “made flesh”.

6. You shall not murder.

Adultery is destruction of the marriage union established by God for the good of all mankind. Adultery not only weakens a marriage union but the entire union of mankind (community).

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Theft would not even make sense in a perfect union. In the order of unity all things are given by the head for the good of all so that all things are common, with each person seeking the good of other members and the entire union. Where the concept of personal ownership becomes ridiculous and the idea of amassing personal fortunes, to lord over others, is counterproductive to a healthy community.

8. You shall not steal.

Bearing false witness (lying) against another member of the same union is destructive, where one member seeks to destroy another using the human “justice” system. It may even lead to murder, using others to carry it out.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Covetous desire is very often the evil motivation behind commands 6-9. Much like theft it does not make any sense in unity when all things are given by God for the common good.

10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.”
(Exodus 20:1-21 ESV)

The Ten Commandments reveal that living a righteous life means keeping the minimum requirements of being united in God. While these set out the requirements of living in union with God the story of the Old Testament proves that the law was unable to affect real change in Israel, let alone the world.

The command to unite in the image of God is explicit in the bible, especially in verses such as:

For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
(Leviticus 11:45 ESV)

And also:

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:48)

However it is in Deuteronomy 6 where the link between the oneness (unity) of God and the requirement to unite in him is clearest. Deuteronomy is Moses’ retelling the law of God to Israel before they go to take the Promised Land. Moses begins his recounting of the law by stating that God is one. This is simultaneously a statement of God’s unity and headship (supremacy). Setting out the context and purpose of the law, a command for Israel to unite under his headship (reflect his image in unity). This is why the statement of God’s oneness is accompanied by the command to obey the law in everything they do, including accurately teaching the law to their children. In this way the image of God would be consistently transmitted from person to person through time (in theory).

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

It should be noted that Moses is talking to all of Israel, not just part, making it a command for human unity in God (and Abraham) while acknowledging the place of the individual (e.g. bind them on your hand).

As previously discussed, the basis of human unity is the family. In family each new child (member) is born into relationship as either a son or daughter and possibly brother or sister. However as a family grows the number of relationships multiply. One man could be a father, son, brother, uncle and cousin at the same time, or a woman could be mother, daughter, sister, aunt and cousin (depending on who they are relating to). Therefore the role and responsibility of a person in any given circumstance is determined by who they are relating to. In any union there is a right and wrong way of relating, depending on the distinctive roles fulfilled by each member at any given time. Acting in the wrong way (e.g. disobeying parents) is indicative of no unity at all (disunity).

Every nation on earth has a variety of laws that command and manage a range of relational situations, from murder to being too noisy late at night. Both human laws and the law of God seek to manage relationships and command consistent behaviour for good community. However human laws are incapable of commanding true (God like) unity because they are not based on any absolute standard of relating (God); often seeking to acheive competing goals. Only the law of God perfectly commands unity (good relationship). Therefore the law of God:
• Contains the requirements for the conduct of good relationship (unity) between God and man, within humanity and between humanity and the rest of creation.
• Perfectly reflects the absolute standard of relationship in unity that is God:
o It does not command behaviour that is contradictory and can therefore be thought of as a single unified law.
o Commanding perfect unity in a single head (God), (i.e. in his likeness).

While the requirements of the written law encompass the unwritten standard of unity that existed in the beginning, other requirements exist purely because mankind is not in union with God and need to relate to God in disunity. If unity/good relationships (in God’s image) existed then the written law of God (especially human law) would not be necessary. Instead people would naturally reflect God’s image in relationship (unity) all the time, perfectly relating to one another, God and creation.

Israel and the Law
In the beginning creation reflected the goodness of God, which made knowing him easy. However since the fall creation no longer accurately reflects the goodness of God in unity. This makes knowing him in any specific way, from creation, impossible. Because of this God chose Israel to possess his law, so that by keeping it the world would once again be able to know him in unity.

Exodus 19:3-6 explicitly states that Israel was chosen as God’s treasured possession from all the nations of Earth.

…while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
(Exodus 19:3-6 ESV)

The exclusivity (holiness) of Israel shows that unity with God cannot be an unconditional acceptance of all people from all nations of the earth without discrimination. The unity that God seeks to re-establish with mankind is unity in his own image, the same type of unity that existed before the fall. God chooses Israel because he will not compromise himself to accommodate all nations and their “cultures” for the sake of a different type of unity (which isn’t unity at all). Therefore because God is exclusive (holy) in unity Israel must also be exclusive (holy).

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God.
(Leviticus 19:1-4 ESV)

God is the definition of holiness (i.e. the specific way he is different from the world), to command the same holiness from Israel is to command unity from Israel. To achieve the holiness of God apart from unity with him is to rival God (impossible to actually achieve). Therefore this means that the law is a command to unity in God.

Israel and the Nations
God established Israel as a people for himself, on his own terms (customs, law, location, etc), so that the world might know him in unity. So that through their obedience to the law (God) Israel would show the exclusiveness of God, in relationship (unity), to the world.

God always intended to bless the nations of the earth by exclusively choosing Israel to be his people. In Genesis 22:15-19 God tells Abraham that it is because of his obedience that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through his offspring. This is echoed in Isaiah 49:6, where God explicitly states that he chose Israel to be a light to the nations to declare his holiness to them so that many would be saved.

And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength—
he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

(Isaiah 49:1-7 ESV)

At the revelation of his holiness (exclusiveness in unity), reflected through Israel, the sinfulness of the nations would become evident. Showing the world that he can be known and does not allow all things and all things are not a part of him.

KNOWING GOD IN DISUNITY
The history of sinful mankind up to this point has clearly shown that man has been constant in his rebellion against God. However much like hostilities and tensions between two countries mankind has forgotten how it all started. Even worse humanity forgot who they are fighting against, accepting the current state of the universe as “status quo”/ “situation normal”. However God has not forgotten himself and the unity he created the universe to exist in (in himself). If God is to bring mankind back into relationship (union) with himself through Abraham, he must reacquaint mankind with who he is and what he expects from them (as his creatures).

Knowing God is no longer a simple proposition. In the Beginning creation reflected his goodness perfectly (in unity), however since the fall it is not so easy to know God and what his standard of “goodness” exactly involves. Simple observation in unity would yield greater understanding than the most in-depth research in disunity. This also means that the transmission of God’s “goodness” from human to human would be imperfect (in word and deed). Furthermore mankind is no longer able to know and relate to God as a single cohesive unit. Therefore there can be no continuity and consistency of relationship between God and man because:
1. All humans are subject to death, and
2. Each human does what is right in their own eyes.

So now God is required to reveal himself apart from creation, through the law. The the word (law) of God must be in union with him, for if it were merely a human record it would be incapable of accurately reflecting God’s standard of “goodness”, making knowing God in any specific way impossible.

ISRAEL A LESSION IN HOPELESSNESS
God chose Israel out of all the nations of the earth to possess his laws, customs and prophecies. So that by obeying them Israel would show how fundamentally different God is to the world (in disunity). This was so that all the nations of the earth might know God through Israel, understanding his “goodness” in relationship (unity).

Yet the very existence and need for God’s written law (continual specific revelation) means that it is impossible to keep. The law is a construct designed to command unity where unity does not exist. The fact that the law exists means that disunity exists, and as already discussed perfect transmission of God’s “goodness” in relationship (person to person) is impossible in disunity. Therefore only those who don’t need the law are able to keep it (in union with God).

So the purpose of the written word of God becomes clear:
1. To continuously and consistently reveal the standard of God’s goodness perfectly to all people,
2. To show that this standard could not be kept without first being united to God,
3. To point forward and create the context for (so it could be understood) the real and final solution to the disunity of Adam (between man and God).

So for God’s promise of restored unity through Abraham to be fulfilled a solution to the disunity must exist apart from the law, yet be consistent with it in every way (i.e.in union with it). This is why the person and work of Jesus Christ was and is necessary, being continued by those who are united to him in spirit. Only in Jesus is able to represent a continuous and consistent image of the “goodness” of God and a solution to the disunity and sinfulness of mankind.

As mankind splinters into many nations the bible shows that each nation derives its name from a different forefather. Where the members of each nation share in the flesh of their forefather and unite under his name. For example the Ammonites and Moabites descended from the inbred bastard sons of Lott, nephew of Abraham.

Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.
(Genesis 19:36-38 ESV)

So the the perpetuation of the sin of Adam continues, where the secrets and shame of men become practices of families and ultimately the cultures of nations. The evil of the forefathers became the evil of nations. It is extremely important to understand how the existence of many nations is a constant reminder of the rebellion and disunity of mankind.

Abraham, Father of Many
In a time when each family was its own nation, God promises Abram that he will be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:1-14). This almost sounds like God is telling Abram that he will be the father of many different/competing nations, representing a curse of divisiveness on the household of Abram. However what God is actually saying is that Abraham will have headship over many nations, or many nations will look back to him as their common head/ancestor. This is a unifying of many nations under Abraham’s headship rather than the scattering of one man’s decedents. More than this God is telling Abraham that through him and his offspring he will re-establish unity between God and mankind.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
(Genesis 17:1-2 ESV)

There are several reasons why the covenant God is making with Abraham bears the hallmarks of restored unity between God and mankind:
• This covenant is with Abraham so that he would multiply greatly. Meaning that he, Abraham, will be many. (vs1-2)
• Twice God states that his covenant will be with Abraham (vs2 and 4). Then he states that his covenant will be with Abraham and his offspring (vs7) indicating that not only is there unity between Abraham and God but there is renewed unity between Abraham and his offspring. In unity a covenant with the head is a covenant with all members.
• God re-establishes his order with Abraham and his offspring. God is reclaiming his rightful place, as God. (vs7, 8)
• Just as God exercised his right as creator and named Adam, he renames Abram. This is to show that this renewed human unity is under the name God gave mankind. It is God who is making him the father of many nations no one else.
• As creator God provided a place for Adam to live and work. As part of this new covenant God tells Abraham that he will give them the land of Canaan for the term of this covenant. (vs8)
• This human union is still one of flesh. God requires that every male who is part of the family/household of Abraham must be marked in their flesh to show his membership in the covenant. Those who are not marked can’t be part of this union. (vs10-14)

However this is not a perfect union yet. It bears the stipulation that this covenant must be kept by Abraham and his offspring. In the beginning the requirement to obey was implicit in the order of creation (i.e. there was no need for God to state it). Since the fall, mankind has become so immersed in disunity and rebellion (sin) that it became natural for them, they forgot their proper (original) place under God. So God must make obedience and love a law (relational construct).

As time passes the family of Noah grows in unity, instead of spreading across the face of the earth as God required them to do as part of his covenant with them. Migrating to a plain in the land of Shinar (Mesopotamia, look it up) where they build the first city. As part of this city they plan to build a monument to themselves, a testament to their name. They did this so that all mankind would have a common heritage, being united under the name of the builders forever.

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”(Genesis 11:1-4 ESV)

In the Name of the King
To be unified under a name is to say that the possessor of that name is the head of the union. In creation all things were united in the name and image of God. Subsequently God unified mankind in Adam (man), who received his name from his head (God). When mankind declares that it will be united under their own name (that God didn’t give them) they are declaring their unity to be apart from God.

Since the flood mankind had been united in Noah, however this unity is only a shadow of its original glory. The descendants of Noah realised that their union was weak and could not be maintained if they scattered over the earth. To overcome this they decide to construct a city with a tower that reached to the heavens, so that their name would be great for all generations to come (a common heritage). The city and its monument would bear the name of the founders, which would be the name that mankind would unite under (not God’s name). Once established this common heritage would unite mankind (all humans) no matter how far they spread across the earth. Therefore all people would be able to point to this city and its tower and know that mankind is one. So it becomes clear that the desire to be united is strong even in fallen humanity.

However the founders of the first human city would die and rot. This means that their name and therefore their union would be one of death, whereas unity in God is life. Creation was his city, bearing his likeness and name, a true living unity in his image. To be united under any name other than God’s is not true unity, i.e. it won’t reflect the image of God. Therefore the union of humanity at Babel once again represents a united rebellion against God, just as it did in the fall (Adam and Eve’s united rebellion).

So their name became Babel
God foresees that if mankind were to unite at babel under their own name it would be impossible for them to be saved (nothing will be impossible for them). Mankind has progressed from unity under God to disunity to unity apart from God. It is not fear that motivates God to act against this union; rather God knows that if this union were to grow stronger mankind’s rebellion would be complete. A united rebellion against God, no evil would be impossible for them making God’s rescue plan from mankind impossible (without the formation of the nations).

God was not caught off guard at Babel, for he was the one that set in motion the events that would create it. God caused the great flood that reduced the human race to a single family under a single head once again. It is this family that stands united against him. Also this does not mean that God is at fault, the responsibility still rests with Adam and every member of his race since for their rebellion (for their own actions).

And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
(Genesis 11:5-9 ESV)

As judgement for this abomination God confuses the language of mankind into many languages, so that they could not understand one another, shattering their fledgling union. Instead of making a name for themselves that would unify all mankind forever, God makes their name Babel/confusion so that it would become a testament to their disunity.

The story of Babel proves that returning mankind to unity (good relationship) with God cannot be done by taking the most faithful (Noah) and removing the rest. Nor can it be achieved by merely gathering all people together under a common human name, figurehead, cause, ideal, etc. The sin of Adam has spread to all his children (every member of his race is born into disunity), without exception. The flesh of Adam is so utterly corrupted that there is no future in it.

Therefore any unity that is not based on a restored relationship with God will only serve to perpetuate and enhance the evil of man (Adam).