"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Friday, May 31, 2013

I Did It My Way

Honesty compels us to admit that at times, it is difficult to construct genuine enthusiasm over reading through the Law.  Sometimes, there comes a still, small voice from inside (decidedly not the voice of God, especially since the canon is closed) which whispers with wistful apathy that the stickier regions of the Pentateuch do not apply to the Christian soldier, fighting on this side of Calvary. 

Of course, this is far from true, and so we tell ourselves, but that voice responds with cloying plaintiveness that perhaps we would care to name a reason these books are so useful.  Rest assured, I am not about to enumerate all of the reasons - the limitations of both my understanding and my blog space preclude this.  However, I would like to make mention of one.

The Law shows us that we must do things God's way, if He has established one.

Consider this for a moment.  On one hand, there is much hue and cry regarding how works can by no means save us.  This is indisputable; however, it has given some people undue cause to move toward the opposite pole and suggest that obedience is a matter solely of the heart.  In other words, what we do is not important; only the spirit in which we do it matters.  So we speak of someone's "heart being in the right place," or we suggest that they have a "good heart," even if they are flagrantly disregarding some clear principle laid down in 1 Corinthians or Philippians or Matthew. 

What we see in the Law is a picture of our unchanging God, who delivered a very specific and lengthy prescription for all manner of ceremonial happenings and national government.  These commands were issued by God with the full desire that His people be obedient in those specific ways, or else He would not have troubled to give them.  This is how you must worship Me.  This is how My people are to be ruled.  This is how you are to conduct yourself toward foreigners.  And yes, this is how many, exactly how many, loops you are to sew into each curtain of My tabernacle. 

Nobody would have dared to say, "I believe the tabernacle curtains would be better with 40 loops instead of 50.  It is more inviting somehow."  And even if someone had, his or her friends would not have answered, "We believe your heart is in the right place, and that you are seeking to honor God, so let us do as you say with the tabernacle loops."  They would have said, "This is in such obvious contradiction to God's delivered command that we beg you would not speak of this thing again."  The heart, you see, has no bearing in it at all.

However, have we not done this very thing in the church age?  "I could not bear to hurt him when he asked me that question, so I hid the truth from him."  "Amen; you have a true heart of compassion."  Or, "I know I was using profanity, but with some unbelievers, this is the only way to really connect with them."  "You have such a heart for the lost."  Indeed.

The sort of God who would share this optimistic indifference to His own commands is nowhere found in the Old Testament.  The biblical God is insistent that His law be kept; He is neither pleased nor amused by alterations of any sort.  The Israelites understood this (Ex. 24:7), and God was careful to command this (Deut. 4:2). 

The Old Testament God is not a whit different than the New Testament God.  His expectations have not diminished; His morality has not altered.  Though we do not, as the church, live under the ceremonial or national laws laid down in the Pentateuch, yet we understand from these books that God was, and therefore is, specific in His commands and desires, and we must fall in line with Him.  Here are a couple principles:

1.  Worship and seek God as He desires to be worshipped and sought.  We do not have sacrifices or priestly garments or a tent of meeting, but we see from the Law that God is very concerned with how His people gather and approach Him.  We therefore dare not forsake the construct which He has established for believers in light of the completed gospel:  the church.  We are designed, and indeed commanded (cf. Heb. 10:25), to fit within a body of believers, to worship Him and to serve Him as an active part of His bride.  This does not negate the personal disciplines that must incubate in our souls, or the need for godliness throughout our week, but we understand that the church is a gift from the Father to Christ His Son.  We cannot seek our Lord on different terms and expect blessing or recognition for it, just as the Jews could not scorn the tabernacle and the sacrifices.

2.  Find contentment where you have been placed.  God desires quality.  He commands skillful work repeatedly as He relates the details of the tabernacle and the garments in Exodus, and later Moses carefully recounts that skillful work.  It is axiomatic that God desires and deserves quality in all areas of devotion, so we must function within His church in those areas in which we can contribute quality.  The temptation here, of course, is to conclude that we could be of greater service if only we were allowed to work in a different ministry, or to head up the ministry in which we currently work, but we must question our own hearts.  Are we simply looking to avoid the work that we feel is trivial?  Are we looking for recognition?  What is our actual (not perceived) skill set?  Someone says, "God qualifies the called, and not vice versa."  This is true, but we must be careful how we mean by "called" in this case.  A burning desire to do a certain ministry does not necessarily mean one is called to it.  Take care with your ministerial discontentment, and do not trust your own heart alone in these matters.

In a nutshell, do it God's way, whenever applicable.  He has never been silent on the matters that are dear to Him.


Anonymous said...

You make several excellent points make them skillfully. As you put it very summarily: "Though we do not, as the church, live under the ceremonial or national laws laid down in the Pentateuch, yet we understand from these books that God was, and therefore is, specific in His commands and desires, and we must fall in line with Him." Thank you for this helpful, truthful post! ~Laurie

Josh said...

I'm glad if you profited from it, Laurie! It's sobering to think that the God who laid down the Pentateuch is the selfsame God who is now Lord of the bride. Praise Him for His immutability!

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