Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Seeing that the Law of God is Good

At the consecration of the newly built temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon pled to God for His people, Israel, that they would live according to Yahweh's commands. Then Solomon thought of foreign visitors, who evidently must have been many to merit mentioning in his prayer:
As for the foreigner who does not belong to Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of You, so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear you, as do Your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears Your Name. 2 Chronicles 6: 32-33

 Historically, Jews have not evangelized. Israel's neighbors and those who heard of them from distant lands, were not impressed with Israel's charities, or community outreach outside of their own people. The foreigner didn't think, "Wow! Those Israelites are nice, warm, friendly people." 

In fact, it was quite the opposite. I am not saying they were mean-spirited, not at all. Few foreigners could get to know an Israelite in an intimate way because God's laws restricted interaction with non-Hebrew people. Israel could not live among the gentiles, for they would become unclean and unable to perform God's ritual laws. So they stayed separate, even when living in a diaspora city. 

The Talmud records how the Jews would measure off their section of town so they would be a certain distance from Gentile homes, and orient their windows, preventing interaction with non-Jews on Sabbaths and holy days.

In a general sense, if the non-Israelite was kept from being friends with the Israelite, how could they hear the people of God's heart-felt testimonies? Why would foreigners come from a long distance to worship Yahweh at His temple? 

Because in the Old Testament, God set up Israel's system of laws to announce the coming gospel. And rather than saying, "Look at the nice, friendly people of Israel!" the foreigner thought, "Look at the good laws of Israel!" 

The Torah itself spoke of the goodness of God. God was seen as a light unto the world through His commandments. The Old Covenant system itself proclaimed the character of God. Israel was a living example of the fruits of God's laws. In a sense they were performing, as if on a world stage, the Torah. 

The commandments cried out the glory of God as the humble people of Israel acted faithfully.  

The New Covenant 

Before Christ ascended into heaven, He gave the New Covenant and told His disciples to go out into the world and announce the good news. This was radically different than the way the gospel was proclaimed by Israel before Christ. Now, the followers of God were expected to go out and live among the gentiles and verbally tell the story of Christ while continuing to magnify the laws of God through acting with righteousness.

If you look at the modern evangelical strategies, you would think that the Great Commission was merely the spoken word. Our bishops, priests, Protestant pastors and laymen express faith as only what one says rather than what one does. The idea has disappeared that Christian obedience to God's New Covenant laws proclaim His glory equally with that of what we say. They go hand in hand. 

I fear it is because so many of our bishops and priests are embarrassed by the law of God. Rather than loudly live the glory of God through His just and merciful commandments, Christians uncomfortably demur and apologize that God has set such a high standard. We have hobbled our witness because we have defaulted into only telling the story of Christ. 
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi

Are we truly, deep down, convicted that God's call to holy living and sanctification is too difficult? Too harsh? Unreachable? Or even that His laws are mean-spirited? Is God judgmental and intolerant?

Is it possible that we are not convinced that God's commands to us are loving? 

What a tragedy! 
Christ's commandments are life! They are the way and the truth. Our living them is just as glorious a witness of the gospel. Christian morals and standards are the very foundation upon which our gospel stands. If we take the commandments out of the picture because we are embarrassed by them, we give the listener an experience whereby they may joyfully understand God's love for them and then rob them of the very netting that will catch them when they fall back into sin. 

His ways, His New Testament laws are good, very good. And as we live them, the foreigner will be drawn to the glory of God even if we kept silence! Because God made man to love His law. His laws will bring us the joy and peace we so long for. We do the unbeliever a great disservice when we recoil from presenting the joy of the obedience of faith. 

God commanded that we go and tell of Him. And that is wonderful. But let us never withhold the fullness of the Gospel. Let us never shirk to proclaim the goodness of God's morals both through our voices and through our lives. 

And we can only do that if we find His laws good and joyful! 

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