The Law as a Gift of God

Israel at SinaiThe Hebrew people were brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand in the Book of Exodus. God was calling them to himself; they would be his people and he would be their God. It was a covenant relationship not offered to any other people on the face of the earth. He made a dwelling place for himself among them and gave them his law. As people of faith living in the age of grace, we may think of the Law as a burden that is too great to bear. At the time it was gift, given only to God’s chosen people.

In the New Testament Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets – he did not do away with them. We are partakers of grace, but Paul teaches us to think of the Law as a tutor or like a school master. The Law teaches what God requires. Consider the way of the righteous in Psalm 1: his delight is in the lawof the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night. Then in Psalm 19 David says:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
-Psalm 19:7-10

The Law of the LORD is perfect. In this context, perfect means complete. What David calls “the law of the LORD” we might think of more like the Word of the LORD (God). He is not just talking about a list of rules, i.e. the Ten Commandments, but rather every single word that came out of God’s mouth. James 1 says that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” Jesus taught that just as we give our children good gifts, God knows even better how to bestow good gifts on his children. The Law does not and cannot make us righteous; we need an all sufficient savior for that. Man’s failure to keep the Law was part of the learning process that God had in mind.

The very best gift he had to offer was his own Son. Yet the Law was in fact a gift of God. And it has not nor will it be done away with.

The Difference Between Saul and David

David has a bad day at work.

David has a bad day at work.

Saul was personally chosen by God himself to rule as king over Israel. He later rejected Saul and chose David. But we all know the story of David and Bathsheba; though once described as a man after God’s own heart, David committed adultery, engaged in a government orchestrated cover-up, and eventually resorted to murder. So why was Saul rejected but David restored? I suggest it all has to do with repentance.

You really need to read 1 Samuel chapters 13-15 to fully comprehend the complex relationship between God, Samuel the prophet, and Saul, King of Israel. Saul’s downfall was the result of a series of wilfully disobedient acts, not a single event. His heart was in the wrong place. I have written before about attitude making the difference between pleasing God and sinning against God, even when actions seem to look the same from the outside. God, after all, has searched and tried our hearts and knows us better than we know ourselves. Saul’s first act of disobedience occurs in 1 Samuel 13. He was told by Samuel that after seven days he would come and make a sacrifice. At the end of seven days Samuel was late in coming and Saul thought he was going to lose the crowd. He made the sacrifice himself when he saw Samuel had not shown up. When Samuel did arrive he was angry and asked Saul what he had done. Saul says he “forced himself” to make the sacrifice, indicating that he really didn’t want to but felt it was absolutely necessary. He was making excuses he hoped Samuel would find acceptable but notice two things: he did not admit any wrong-doing nor does he repent of his actions. That’s strike one.

In 1 Samuel 14 he makes a vow that no man of Israel will eat until the armies of the Philistines are defeated. His son Jonathan does eat, with no knowledge whatsoever of the vow Saul had made. Saul’s prayers go unanswered and when the matter is finally revealed to him he takes back his vow. He announces that not so much as a hair will fall from Jonathan’s head. Strike 2.

In chapter 15 Samuel, delivering to King Saul the words of the LORD, sends him and his army to Amelek to destroy all that is there. He is specifically told to spare nothing. But, in his third act of defiance, Agag the king is saved alive and the best of the sheep are taken for the men of Israel’s army. Saul furthermore meets Samuel and declares “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” Saul repeatedly disobeyed the commands of the LORD even while publicly proclaiming that he has kept them; he is delighted to tell Samuel what a good job he has done even though Samuel has been told by God, more than once, that he regrets making Saul king. Saul did wrong, again and again, and thought he was doing right. Compare that to David.

2 Samuel 11 shares the story of David and Bathsheba, and the subsequent murder of Uriah the Hittite. Nathan the Prophet confronts David in chapter 12, and in verse 13 “David said to Nathan ‘I have sinned against the LORD.'” After being told the son conceived in sin would die, David wallowed in sackcloth and ashes. Saul disobeyed continually, had an unrepentant heart, and he was rejected by God. David’s sins were great, but when confronted by the prophet of God he repented. David writes in the Psalms that no matter who is offended or harmed it is God that he has sinned against. David was a man after God’s own heart, and after David repented (and the child died as God had promised) he was restored into a right relationship with God. David and Bathsheba’s second son together, Solomon, would be chosen by God to be the next king of Israel.

We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Paul considered himself chief among sinners. As long as we have breath it is not too late to repent. When you fall off the horse, don’t lay there on the ground – get back up! Having a contrite heart and repenting of past sins was the difference between being a man after God’s own heart (and defeating all the enemies of Israel, leading to a time of peace and prosperity) and being rejected by God.

More Alike Than Different

apostles_creedIf your neighborhood is anything like mine, there is a church on every corner. The population of the county I live in is a little less than 56,000 and I would not be surprised if there were 150 churches. Without getting into church splits and all the baggage that entails, let’s ask this question instead: Are there really that many theological and doctrinal issues that divide us? While there are some real distinctives, such as between Protestants and Catholics, the truth is most Christians are more alike than we are different. To define the differences between Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians we really have to get kind of nit-picky. The basic tenants of the Christian faith – in other words the things that really matter – are shared by all Christians everywhere.

Please read this post from the original Internet Monk. The discussions and debates can be a distraction to those of us inside the church and a stumbling block to those on the outside, but at the end of the day we are more alike than we are different.

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13

Not Exactly Right

bear

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” That’s actually a quote of Friedrich Nietzsche. I guess the bear thing is funny, but… the statement is unnecessary. The original quote creates two categories, things that kill you and things that don’t. Since bears will kill you there is no exception. There are plenty of things that will kill you but the encouragement for survivors is what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Continue reading

Broken and Poured Out

anointed And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and wheneveryou want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9

So to summarize: A costly vessel was broken, a precious substance poured out, something valuable was given away but not wasted.  Continue reading