Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 4: Mt. Sinai: The Disruptive Truth of God’s Absolute, Comprehensive Rule of Law
Lesson 52 – Biblical vs. Pagan View: Values, Ethics, and Law; Licentiousness vs. Legalism
27 Feb 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to review the Mt. Sinai event, and as a little memory journal keep in mind that all of these events that we study are pictures of great truths of Scripture, you’ll be ahead of 90% of believers just to know these events, and to be able to think through what God did in each of these events, which is basically what the theology is, what those doctrines are, they’re just great truths that God wants us to know about Himself, His works and His promises. These events are where He showed Himself. The key thing to keep in mind is that this is not private religious opinion, this is public global revelation. Paganism has as its agenda always, everywhere, to suppress this. We’re living in a very dark and bleak world, which has an aim behind it; things aren’t neutral out there. We’re living in enemy territory and we’re naïve and stupid if we don’t become aware of that. We’re in a war, and this stuff is flying all around us, and the center of action is to make these events disappear from human memory, to suppress them, to distort them. There are different techniques that we’ve studied, the creation, the fall and the flood, the covenant; the pagan basis wants to completely block that history out.
The call of Abraham, the Exodus and Mt. Sinai represent another kind of threat to the pagan mind because these events stress God’s interference in history. The fact that God has to interfere means that history is abnormal because it’s fallen, therefore history is not normative and you can’t do statistical studies and Gallop poles, getting a meaning of the distribution of the statistical sample that you’ve done and call that being normal. That mean is nothing but a normal of the abnormal. So we have to think that through, and that has implications, it has all kinds of implications.
We’re going to go through this event again, we looked at pictures, surveyed the terrain, skimmed the text, and on page 63 I showed you the parallels between the Mosaic Law Code is formatted over against the treaties that were made in the Ancient Near East. These treaties were documents that defined a relationship between kings, so the idea was that you had a great king, who had subdued a lesser king or entered into some sort of a relationship with him, and this king defined the relationship and the relationship was in this covenant, or what we call a treaty, a treaty-covenant. The covenant is a yardstick of behavior; it outlines and is a standard of how both parties of that covenant ought to behave. Why do we mention this? Because from this point forward we want to stress that the way the Bible speaks of law is not the way society speaks of law, and the pagan mind and the Christian mind are at odds over what law is all about. We want to think this through because the New Testament is basically rules and regulations also, and society is filled with laws too. So you never get away from law.
We went through each of these six, we showed you there are functions to each one of these six parts, and then we conclude on the top of page 64 that the Sinai legislation in defining this relationship parallels the treaty covenants, because Yahweh, God, has a relationship with the tribes. That’s the analogy. And the point is that there’s a personal relationship that exists here. Therefore, the content of the law has personal address in it. Do this. Most law codes aren’t that at all. If you look at most law codes, in fact, part of the Mosaic Law Code, you see if this-then this, if so and so does this, then this is what happens, if so and so does that, then this is what happens, etc. It’s all if-then, if-then, if-then, that’s the format. But woven into that in the Scriptures Jehovah says I tell you I want you to circumcise your hearts. I say to you that you will come before Me and worship Me. You will bring your sacrifices before Me. There’s a personal conversation going on mixed in with the “if-thens.” So why do we stress this? Because the law is defined in terms of a personal relationship and that isn’t so in just a bare naked law code. We’re going to run with this a little tonight because there’s a certain implication that falls out of this whole point, there’s a fundamental assumption. You want to asterisk that paragraph where it says “it is more of treaty that defines a relationship between Jehovah or Yahweh and His Son,” remember the nation is referred to as “my son,” Exodus 4, “Out of Egypt have I called my son,” now we know that the greater fulfillment is in Christ. What’s happening is that Jehovah reigns and it’s the nature of a personal relationship, and the nature of the personal relationship has another feature to it.
Let’s analyze this just a little so we get background for this law code, because it’s coming and we want to make sure we understand what law is. Jehovah is God. Here we have Jehovah and man, the Creator/creature. Jehovah has certain attributes, He is sovereign, He is holy, He is omniscient, He is loving, He’s omnipresent, He’s omnipotent, He’s immutable, He’s eternal. God has those attributes. Those are absolute characteristics. Man is made in God’s image as a theomorph, and he has analogs to those attributes. We complete the box because in man’s case he’s finite; in God’s case we leave the box open to indicate He’s infinite and can’t be bounded by human discourse. What’s the analogy in man’s life to sovereignty? What faculty do we have that corresponds to God’s sovereignty? Choice or will. What faculty corresponds to God’s holy character, what is it that’s sort of a receiver that’s tuned to that in every man’s heart? Conscience, so man has a conscience. What corresponds in man’s heart to God’s omniscience? Our desire to know and think, the human knowledge base. Love corresponds to God’s love. This is the spiritual nature and the personal nature of man.
Here’s the problem. If God reveals the law, it’s coming out of this character and it’s talking to that character. That’s the law in Scripture. God is the Law-giver at Mt. Sinai. If God is the Law-giver, then the law expresses His holiness, expresses His knowledge of all things, and is also given with the attribute of love. Law isn’t given out of hatred. The law was given out of genuine love, because it’s the constitution of the kingdom of God. What happens if man tries to mimic this relationship? If man tries to rule over man, and create some sort of quote “law,” what is the difference between this product and this product? That’s the heart of the issue here. If God is the One who is giving the law, the law comes out of omniscience, absolute holiness, sovereignty, power, love and immutability as the Creator, if man tries to make law what are his capacities? They’re finite. In particular let’s look at knowledge. How can man design legislation that is wise? What is the weakness that all men have when it comes to try to design a piece of legislation? Limited knowledge.
Let me give you an example. Congress and the state legislatures in this country have been under pressure from Audubon Society, Green Peace, Sierra Club and everybody else, to enact environmental regulations. Some of that’s good, we have neglected the environment. But like everything else it becomes a sacred crusade, it becomes extremist, and one of the great examples of this is that we’re seeing the Congress legislate something called the Clean Air Act, which says that every community will meet a certain level of the ozone content, etc. and the various products that come out of that, and if you as a community don’t meet those Clean Air Act standards, we are going to penalize. And here’s how we’re going to penalize the whole community? We’re going to restrict the commuting miles and time that you have in your cars. This is one penal thing that can happen, we will say that we have to reduce commuting man hours by 20% because we’re going to reduce the noxious pollutants, noxious gases, etc. and that’s what we’ve decided to do because automobiles are the biggest thing of that, etc.
What was obviously missing from this brilliant piece of legislation was the fact that you can’t prove if you have ozone in Baltimore that it came from Baltimore. But the penalties are applied to a municipality. Nobody thought of the fact that there’s something called wind that blows from point A to point B. So how do you prove that ozone in Baltimore came from Baltimore? You can’t. And we were involved in some studies, some of the power companies got together, put a lot of money in a big bucket, did a lot of research, I was involved in it for two years, and what we found out was that every night in the summertime when certain things are right, there’s a wind that starts about 100 meters above the ground, it’s about 20-30 miles an hour, and what it’s doing, it’s just scouring out all the pollution from Washington, Virginia, sweeping along the seaboard all the way up to Massachusetts. Excuse me! Tell me which community is to blame for it? It’s the whole region. That’s my favorite example of a group of lawyers who write this stuff before they know what it is they’re writing. This goes on and on and on.
Once we have man generating law, we’re in a dangerous position because he is stupid. And in the Bible, God and God alone generates law. Think about this, from the day we were in fifth or sixth grade we learned there were three functions of government, the executive, the judiciary and the legislative. In Israel, who was the executive, later on who was the one person who really led the country? The king, before him the elders, remember the elders of Israel, that’s the executive branch. You read passage after passage in the Old Testament, it talks about how to hold courts, laws of evidence, penalties for crimes, what’s that addressed to? The courts, that’s the judiciary. Question—where’s the legislative? Why, in this nation of Israel, do you have one-third of it missing? Why is one-third of the function of Israel’s government missing in the Bible? I don’t read anything about a Senate, the House of Representatives, I don’t read anything about a Parliament, I don’t read anything like that. Why is it missing? The serious reader of Scripture, if you’re going to read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and you think while you’re reading, you should say wait a minute, what’s the analogue to this function? Certainly they functioned as a nation, where did the law come from? We know where it came from, it came from Mt. Sinai, there’s no question about what the legislation was. So it’s interesting, right off the bat, and it gets back to this way of thinking about Scripture that I want to stress.
When you look at these events, take the center of that event and squeeze it, just like an orange, to get all the juice out of it. Think about this Mt. Sinai event. Why did God choose to intervene most prominently at the legislative level, and back off and let man do the executive and judicial? There’s a reason for that, and this is not to say that, obviously, Gentile nations shouldn’t have bodies of legislation, but what is it to say? It is to say that when man makes his laws, it would be kind of smart if he mimicked God’s laws. That’s the whole point that we’re making.
On page 64 I have three nouns there, values, ethics and law. I tie those three together. A lot of people say oh, wait a minute, those are three different nouns and they mean three different things. That’s correct. Values are things that people hold to, personal values, ethics, the study of standards in society or what standards should be, and then law defines what has been enacted. You could have beliefs, couldn’t you, like this. In our society here’s the problem. We have laws here, and we have different people with different values, say this is one set of values over here, values one, values two, values three, etc. these are values of different groups that are all mixing together into the legislative branch of government and we’re cranking out legislation trying to blend all that stuff together. That’s the chaos in the law code, and it’s going to happen as long as you have sinners who come from different perspectives. That’s the doom of autonomous man, man has chosen not to live in the kingdom of God, and therefore we don’t enjoy… God didn’t make a constitution for the United States; we do not enjoy a legislative branch direct from God. We don’t have that; this is the problem that we have with our laws.
But what we want to see tonight is that the values here are separate from the laws here, but in the Bible, the laws, the values and the ethics all come together in the book of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Those four books, after Genesis, link these three nouns together. It’s able to link those three nouns together because God, who is the author of all three of them, knows what He’s doing. And when He talks about law, and now what we want to look at is this word, we’re going to concentrate primarily on law tonight, the nature of law, because it is different if you look at it from the Bible point of view vs. the pagan point of view. Just like we talked about biology, we talked about geology, we talked about astronomy, and now we’re in the field of law. I told you when we started this that when we get done there isn’t one area that we haven’t deeply and profoundly offended, because we’re going against everything that is taught in each one of these fields. I’m sorry, I didn’t write the Bible, I just read it.
We come now to the biblical view of law. We’ve already given the background, why God speaks and man listens. On page 63, “The Pagan View,” let me summarize that, follow with me. “On a biblical basis, then, ethics, values, and law come from above the ‘provincial and transient.’ ” Who said that, remember the words “the provincial and the transient,” they came from a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who went to temporary duty to Nuremberg, Germany in 1945 to be one of the jurists at the Nuremberg trials. What did he conclude when he had to face the attorneys that were defending the Nazis? Here you had the line of the S.S. Corps, Goebbels, for example, sitting there in the court room, and the attorneys that defended the Nazis argued that you cannot prosecute Nazis because the Nazis were simply following official policies. Weren’t they? Of course they were, they made the policies, and they were enforcing the policies. Did you kill Jews for the sake of Mother Germany? Of course you did. You’ve got to get rid of and genocidally remove all the scumbags from society, thought the Germans.
So you get rid of Gypsies, handicapped children, and Jews. That way you can purge the nation and have a eugenics type purification of the country. Were they or were they not wrong by German law? The answer is no, they could not be convicted on the basis of German law. So how do you convict them? To what standard do you hold them responsible to if it’s not German law? This is a tough question, this was a profound question and in 1945 the only way the world could bring conviction to the S.S. people was to say above Germany’s law there stands a higher law, and we will convict those men in terms of that higher law. But that law wasn’t written down, that law wasn’t the United States Constitution, that wasn’t the laws of the British Parliament, that wasn’t Spanish or French law, or Italian law.
What was this law? Where’s this law? Because remember what Justice Jackson said was that if you convict on the basis of these laws, these laws are all provincial and transient. Let’s think of those words. What did he mean when he said they’re provincial? He used that adjective to qualify German law as he would American law, English law, Spanish law, Italian law; it’s all “provincial.” What does he mean by provincial? Limited in space, limited to a country. The legislation by definition applies only to the country for which it was reckoned, therefore it is provincial. Then Justice Jackson qualified law by saying it is also “transient.” What does he mean by that? What did he mean that human legislation is transient? What happens to human legislation if you live more than ten years? It changes, we’ve got to do something to keep the whole legal community in business, so you change the laws, and everybody has to reinterpret everything. Human law is transient. So it’s provincial and transient. If it’s provincial and transient, once you admit these, you defend the Nazis, don’t you, because after 1933 Hitler changed the law, transient, sorry, that’s just the Tuesday’s law, and I killed somebody on Tuesday, it’s okay; Wednesday we changed the law and it’s wrong, but you can’t convict me if I murdered somebody on Tuesday and that was the law on Tuesday and then I go out and I don’t kill someone on Wednesday because Wednesday we’ve got a new law now. That’s stupid, we all smile at this, but this is the dilemma of the non-Christian.
If we don’t have the Bible, see we’re all used to, as Christians, say we’ve got to defend our faith and we’re the poor people and these other guys got all the answers, their system seems so strong and we’re just kind of plodding along by faith, we’re the weak ones. No-no! Get away from that, you’re the strong ones. It’s the unbelieving people trapped in darkness that are the real fools. This is really foolish, because on a human basis all you can ever generate is something that is provincial and transient. And when you come to something like 1945 and the Nazi [can’t understand word] you grope around trying to find something, so here all the great judges of the world said gee, what are we going to do to convict these guys. We’ve got to grab at some transcendental imaginary law; we all come out feeling in our hearts that it was wrong to kill Jews, Gypsies and handicapped kids. We feel that way, so by golly, put them in jail forever. You didn’t do that on the basis of law, you do that on the basis of how you felt, but from the Christian point of view, what did we say was true of man, every man, including the jurists that lined that trial, including all the witnesses to the trial, what was in all of them we know biblically that corresponds to God’s holiness? Every one of those people in that courtroom had a conscience. They all knew that it was wrong to do that, and really so did the Nazis. And by convicting the Nazis of those atrocities, they were affirming that all men have a conscience, and that all men deep down in their heart know very well what is right and what is wrong.
Now we come to the pagan view of law. Let’s look at that for a moment. Read through this with me and then we’ll get to where this leads us. We’ll discover something interesting out of this, and we’re going to go to the New Testament for explanation. “The pagan mind of flesh began when Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, when he tried to become,” and notice this, you might mark this, “when Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” he became, or attempted “to become his own moral authority. Yet once the pagan mind has suppressed consciousness of its derivative, created nature and the inherent authority of God,” now here’s the key, “it is left in complete vanity when it tries to build values, ethics, and law.”
That’s the dilemma of the non-Christian, where does he get these. We know where he gets them because of his conscience. But in his view he’s only a pile of atoms and molecules, burped up from a gas one day. Out of this come values, ethics and law? I had to go to college to get two advanced degrees to really learn that, and pay $50,000 in tuition. So he is “left in complete vanity when he tries to build values, ethics, and law. Man just cannot build absolute values on the basis of his limited experience and reason. Even in innocence” now look at this, “Even in innocence Adam needed God’s Word to interpret his environment properly and know which trees to eat and which not to.” Didn’t God tell him there were certain trees not to eat? If God told him that do you suppose, and the doesn’t tell us, this is an exercise in imagination, what do you think, do you think if God hadn’t told Adam and Eve not to eat that tree over there that it would have been intuitive obvious whether or not to eat of the tree over there? They’re in innocence, no sin around.
Isn’t this remarkable, in a sinless environment it is essential that God define things. Now if that’s true in a sinless environment, how much more is it needful in a sinful environment, for God to define things, because now with my eyes open as a sinless person, as an Adam before the fall, I can see pretty well out there but even though I think I can see pretty well, there are things I can’t see and He tells me what I can’t see. Now I’m fallen and I’m walking around blind, I sure need some guidance now. So it’s a tremendous argument that even the sinless innocent man needs legislation. He needs external compasses, he needs an external dictation of what the will of God is, at least at some points, it’s not all intuitive to a sinless person.
Then what happens, now here’s something neat that. What we’re learning is how pagans think, and it’s how our flesh thinks, really we’re learning about our own depraved hearts. But we want to notice something. At this point there’s a fork in the road, and paganism has to do one of two things and it always does one of these two things, and it bounces back and forth between these two things like a yo-yo and you can see tendencies is your own heart. The first tendency, page 65, “Paganism, therefore, runs in one of two directions. One way is to deny ‘traditional’ values and redefine good and evil and to call evil good, publicly approving unethical behaviors.”
Open your Bibles to Romans 1:32. If there was a legal society in the ancient world, it was Rome, so it’s ironic therefore that Paul addresses the precise group in the ancient world known for their laws, the Romans, with these words. He says these people, unbelievers, “although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” Look at that last clause? What does that mean legislatively? If you really think verse 32 is correct, and you really think way, how would that influence your legislation, if you were the law makers? What would you do if you thought that way? Let’s read it again, “not only do they do these things, but they give hearty approval to those who practice them.” Would you, therefore, start massaging the law to say evil is good and good is evil? This is perversity, and perversity in law comes naturally to paganism. It has to design perverted law because the heart from which it comes is perverted. So this is why today there’s no… you know, if Hawaii wants to declare homosexual marriages, or the next thing may be killing people, that’s getting to be the thing because after all, it seems right in our own eyes, and we’ll call good evil and evil good.
The one thing that paganism tries to do, follow in the paragraph, “This tactic” and this is the psychology behind it, we’ve got to understand why do we sinners think this way, there’s a dynamic, a spiritual dynamic in our hearts that causes this, and we still fight it as Christians. “This tactic appears to relieve the pressure of the conscience,” by saying to my conscience this is right, this is right, this is right, and I get 550 people saying this is right, what am I trying to do to my conscience? I’m trying to override my conscience. Law becomes a tool, peer pressure becomes a tool, a tool to override my conscience and wreck it. It’s called hardening the heart, putting a callous on the conscience; the New Testament has a lot of names for it. We are going to label this option, this direction of the pagan mind, to licentiousness. This is the licentious option. Licentiousness perverts standards, twists them. “Typically, it is the choice of those who defy reason and tend toward depression. The result, however, is nearly always chaos and social breakdown.” But there are certain types of people that gravitate to this, and at certain times in our age. In fact, if you think about your own flesh you’ll see there are areas in your life where you tend to do this; we have zones in our horizon where we tend to be licentious. The opposite reaction starts setting in the next chapter, the next verse is the opposite one, and that’s legalism. So paganism goes back and forth, back and forth between these two things and neither one of them is right.
In Romans 2:1 Paul says, now he’s getting to the legalistic counterpoint to this. “Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment,” notice, “passes judgment,” see the word judgment or judge, that answers to verse 32 of “approve.” See the two verbs correspond. In verse 32 the licentious option approves evil; in 2:1 it judges evil. So in verse 1 it looks like it’s pretty good because legalism at least recognizes there are rights and there are wrongs, and it doesn’t matter. We have this tendency to be legalistic. But here’s the problem, and by the way, think about the results of this. The licentious option always leads to what, eventually? Social breakdown, chaos. Since the licentious option always leads to chaos, then what is it that becomes the threat? Here the man of the flesh is, he wants to go out and raise hell, but he finds out after 3 or 4 weeks that there’s wreckage all over the place. There are consequences to this stuff. Now what’s the threat? What does that do in the psychology of the flesh? I’m threatened by the debris, by the chaos I’ve created. Why does that threaten me? What is true of the flesh man, deep in his heart, deep in the heart of every man who knows not Christ? Does he have security?
Does man, apart from God, have security? No. Why doesn’t he have security? Because at the most deep level we know that we’re offensive to God. This is a very insecure position to be, if I walk around the universe knowing that the grand Creator of this universe is at odds with me, I’ve got a big problem, and I want to forget my big problem. Most of all I want security. So what did Adam and Eve do three seconds after they fell? They were naked and they started building clothes for themselves, it was a form of security, a cover-up going on, literally. And what happened in pagan religion? You have the same kind of thing; you have all these demonic practices that go on. Why, because they like the demonic practices? No, it’s because they fear, they FEAR, and they want somehow to placate whatever this force is out there. So there’s a cry for security.
So there’s a cycle here, you go to licentiousness, chaos breeds frustration, chaos says okay, now I want the opposite of chaos, I want order. But how do I get order? I go into legalism. “This failure leads to a second pagan attempt in the opposite direction. Since paganism has no ultimate security, it cannot long tolerate chaos.” The next line should be “To attain security for itself, it reverts to imposing law upon surrounding society to keep some semblance of order.” That’s Romans 2. “This tactic offers another attempt to relieve the pressure of conscience and is the legalistic approach. Typically, it is the choice of those who elevate reason,” oh, I have this great vision of this orderly society, reasoning it out. Do you know who the big guy in western civilization was that did this? He wrote a big book that affected political thought for 2,400 years? He was the guy that used to be read in English classes before we started reading Ernest Hemingway. Plato wrote a book called The Republic. He was a failed Greek politician, so he retreated into his little monastery and he started thinking, what was the ideal society; he called the ideal society the republic, wrote the book about it, and he became the great political philosopher.
The legalistic approach tends to be favored by “those who elevate reason and tend toward optimism. The result, however, is usually embarrassing failure and declining hope.” And the problem over here is what? What are the limitations of man? When we started out tonight we said when man tries to do his thing, he doesn’t have these attributes, he has these, so when man, who has these attributes, tries to do something that only the Creator can do, which is what he’s trying to do here in legalism, what eventually is going to happen? What eventually is going to happen is personal failure. What is Paul’s critique of the legalistic person in Romans 2:1-4? He says “you are without excuse,” also because you what you judge in another, you condemn yourself for you who judge, you do the same things. Can anyone phrase what Paul’s critique is of the pagan tendency toward legalism. It produces a body of law, it produces values, but what’s its weakness, according to Paul? I’m doing all this, I’m saying you guys do this, you guys do that, you guys do this. What’s the weakness? I’m not doing it. Later in Romans he goes on to say why he can’t do, remember the cry in Romans 7, oh Lord, it’s not in me to do it.
You see now this is a serious dilemma of the flesh, and when we’re out of it, we oscillate back and forth, back and forth, back and forth between on the one hand the tendency to say the heck with it, and go into kind of a chaotic depression, always grrrr about everything, and then we wallow around in that for a while and don’t like it, then we come out, well I’m going to have order, umph! And we do this for a while, and then that doesn’t work, so then we come back over here. Apart from the grace of God, a person who is a non-Christian has no home, he only has these tendencies, back and forth, back and forth, no wonder the guy is frustrated and worn out.
Let’s come back to 1 Samuel 16:7. We want to stress an interesting thing that happens between Samuel and one king. I take you to this passage because in context, perfect passage in context, this is picking out a political leader, and Samuel has been sent by God, so you can conceive of Samuel, if you want to visualize this as God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. Samuel stands as representative of the Lord, and he approaches looking for the next king of Israel, and he makes this significant point. “But the LORD said to Samuel,” because the Lord’s coaching Samuel on the choice, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him;” he looked at this guy and he failed the qualification. Now here’s the key, “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” When God gave the law at Mt. Sinai, and it was done His way, what was it addressed to and by whom? It was addressed all the way down to the depths of our hearts by one who could see to the depths of our hearts, therefore the law at Mt. Sinai is values, ethics and legislation all wrapped up in one package because the perfect lawgiver is speaking His character through people that are like glass to Him. That’s why He says to obey Me and follow Me you must circumcise your hearts.
The law of the Old Testament is addressed to the heart, and we see this now, if we come to Matthew, because Jesus had the problem in the Beatitudes. He had the problem that people were misinterpreting the law. Turn to this famous passage, the Sermon on the Mount, and it was addressed in to a day, or to a people, who had been taken over by Pharisees, Pharisaism. The thing that the Pharisees did, we can do, in fact we’re seeing it done all the time. And what they had done was they had bureaucratized this great sacred law of the Old Testament. The law was addressed to the heart by the King of Kings. They had taken it, as amateur lawyers, into regulations. Let me read some of them. I read from a book called the Mishna. This is a compilation of what the Pharisees taught in Jesus day. [blank spot]
… modern day bureaucracy is just neo-Pharisaism all over again. Listen to how stupid this is, I mean, these were the thought police, walking around a society enforcing all this junk. “An egg may not be put beside a kettle on the sabbath so that it shall get cooked. Nor may it be cracked with hot wrappings,” see somebody was real sneaky about how to do eggs, you put it just near the kettle or you can take a hot wrapping and wrap the egg so you’re not doing any work. So they had to legislate against the hot egg gimmick. But another rabbi, Rabbi [can’t understand name] permits this. “Nor may it be buried in hot sand or the dust of the road so it gets roasted.” So we had four ways that people were cooking their eggs on the Sabbath day without doing any work. I mean, these people were geniuses, and the Pharisees had to go around, every time a new guy was on the block, he’d figure out a new way to do an egg on the Sabbath day, so they’d pass another law. They have all these laws. This whole section is devoted on how to cook eggs. And we could go on and on. Sometime when you want a laugh, you ought to go to the library and pull out the Mishna, it’s great background reading for the New Testament, it really is.
I want to take you to a passage in the New Testament where it led to a confrontation. I’m going to skip the Sermon on the Mount because a lot of us who have been Christians for a while are used to that so I think it’s clearer if I turn to Mark 2:23. Now let’s see if we can visualize this. Watch this one. “And it came about that He was passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain.” What they’re doing is just grabbing a head of grain, flicking it to get the grain out and eat it. Snacking!  “And the Pharisees were saying to Him,” and the verb here is they kept saying to Him, they didn’t say this once, they kept saying it over and over, oh, look at that, oh, look at that, oh, look at this guy, etc. They probably had box lunches for themselves while this was going on. “And the Pharisees kept saying to Him, See here, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Now by not “lawful on the sabbath,” they meant this; this is the law that they were thinking about. It wasn’t lawful. Somewhere in there you could find the grain passage, they had some rule and regulation, 108.5, paragraph 3, that said you couldn’t flick grain in the field on the sabbath day. Imagine the scene. These guys are the lawyers, they’ve been studying that thing ever since they were 17, they know this… you think you know your Bible, they’d quote this sucker.
They’re following Jesus around, they keep doing this, keep doing it, keep doing it, you’re busting this law, you’re busting this regulation, etc., etc., etc. Excuse me, may I ask a question? Who are you accusing of breaking the regulations? Think of it. Who’s being accused of breaking the regulations? The guy that gave it on Mt. Sinai. So you kind of think that there’s something wrong the way these guys are reading their Bibles; something is wrong about how they’re interpreting law, isn’t there? If you’re so screwed up that you can take the guy that gave you the law and tell Him that He’s busting it, He doesn’t know what He’s doing, but you really know, you’re such an expert in the law, you tell Him what He meant. That’s what’s going on, that’s the irony of this scene in Mark 2. So he’s going through the grain fields, the Pharisees keep saying oh, you didn’t do this, why are they doing that which is not lawful?
In verse 25 Jesus gives them a little hint about how they ought to be interpreting Scripture, “And He said to them, Have you never read what David did when he was in need and became hungry, he and his companions.” He says, since you guys read, did you ever check out what David did when he was in need and became hungry? That was slick, because who was David? He was the king, and they all worshiped David, the Pharisees, oh boy, David, that was the last time of he golden age of Israel. Why don’t you read his life, when you’re over there in the Old Testament, try putting on David for a few chapters, now follow him; what did he do when he was hungry, he went in and he ate, he entered the house of God. Now you think it’s bad to flip grain, what did David do, he ripped off the showbread, because he wanted something to eat, how’s that one for you, how does that sit, does that violate regulation 108.6, you’d better believe it does.
Verse 26, “How he entered into the house of God on the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he gave it also to those who were with him?” What is Jesus getting at? Let’s think through lest we drift into a licentious mode. He’s not saying that the law is bad, but what has happened here, there’s been a disconnect going on with the way these people look at the law. They are thinking of the law as a product of human people, they wouldn’t say this, but what happens is when you get into this mode of thinking, law becomes a mechanical thing, just like programming a computer or something. I’m going to stick this program in a computer and I don’t have to make any decisions, I can go on auto pilot the rest of my Christian life, bing-bong, will of God for this, will of God for that. That’s legislation. What have I done when I’ve done that? What have I done to my relationship with the Lord? What’s happened here, when this concept of law happens, I have made my knowledge separate from my conscience. The flesh wants to cover this up, and put a big barrier around it so it doesn’t get bothered by it, and once that happens, now I rely on knowledge. But the knowledge has been severed away from the conscience and the conscience is what makes me aware of my accountability to God.
The conclusion, verse 27, “And He was saying to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” We could get into a lot here but the idea here is that once you get into paganism you wind up with a see-saw, going back and forth between licentiousness and legalism, licentiousness and legalism, and both are wrong, because both of them is my attempt to live apart from a real personal relationship with the Lord. That’s why the Code of Hammurabi doesn’t look like the Code of Moses; the Code of Hammurabi is made by Hammurabi. The Law of Moses was not made by Moses; it was made by the God of Moses who spoke that law, all the way down to the depths of our hearts.
Out of this comes, on page 66, the thing that law always leads to is what Jesus pointed out here when He said “I am the Lord of the Sabbath,” is that if you have law in a biblical sense, it’s given by someone and that someone is Lord. Lordship is always the presupposition of law, because in law I’m responsible. Law is supposed to define right and wrong, I’m supposed to be responsible for right and wrong. Responsible to whom? See the dilemma. In a pagan fleshly attitude, what is the answer to the question, “to whom am I responsible?” When there’s a county building code, or the State of Maryland’s codes, or the Federal Law codes, when you’re faced with those, to whom are you responsible? You’re responsible to society through its lawmaking agencies. But that’s not Scriptural; you are responsible for that but only because God tells us to be responsible to that. We are ultimately responsible to Him and Him alone. That’s real law, and that’s what’s lacking. So the nature of Lordship is that Lordship is the presupposition of law, you can’t have biblical law without a Lord behind that law, with whom you have a personal relationship.
This is a good illustration, on page 66, “What mattered in their [the Pharisees] view, was whether a murderer got caught.” Remember the Beatitudes; Jesus said “You have heard it said do not kill lest you be in danger of the court.” You have heard it said from whom? From the Pharisees. So what was the motive not to kill somebody? What might happen to you? Go to jail! In divorce, what was the issue in divorce? You can divorce but you have to have the right paper work. So now we’re talking about murder but you don’t murder because you’re worried that you might go to jail; when you divorce your wife/husband, don’t sweat it as long as the paper work is in order. Do you see what has happened here? Total disconnect between the spirits of the law in the first place. That’s the point that always happens. In other words, the Lordship has gone away.
In conclusion, I want to deal briefly with this issue that’s cropped up recent years in Christian circles between, the two parties you hear about are “Free Grace,” and “Lordship Salvation.” If we can’t argue about something we’ll find something to argue about so we can waste our energies that we should be devoting to evangelism, and we’ll sit and have a fight inside the Christian camp. Free grace vs. Lordship salvation. Both sides, I believe, are talking by one another, I think there are good people on both sides and I think there’s some true propositions in both sides of the equation, I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. I happen to have friends in both camps. What has happened here is the free grace people argue that when the gospel of salvation is drink of the waters of life freely, there’s no conditions on there, it doesn’t say dedicate your life, vow to God you’re going to do great things, it just says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, none of these conditions in there. And to say anything else is to demand of an unbeliever that he has to do something before he’s worthy of salvation. That’s the free grace people. They’re emphasizing the grace part of salvation. The Lordship people are saying wait a minute, you guys are saying that a person can just receive Christ like eating an apple and go on the way unchanged, add Jesus to the rest of your gods. The Lordship people are saying there’s got to be something a little bit more than that.
Let’s go back and see if we can get a hint on the solution, and we’ll talk about it more next week. If you look at those two events, Exodus and Sinai, think about it. Which event has something to do with salvation, and which event has to do with a revelation of Lordship? Which comes first? Sinai, God didn’t come to the Jews in Egypt and say do, do, do, do, and if you don’t do this I’m not going to save you. There’s none of that, you don’t see that. What do you see when God approaches the Jews, while they are in Egypt, not on Mt. Sinai, while they’re in Egypt? He says I’ve heard your crying, I see what a mess you’re in, follow Me, trust Me, and I will deliver you. All I’m asking for you to do is trust me, there’s no laws against homosexuality, there’s no laws against stealing, there’s no laws against any of that, none of that’s in the invitation in the Exodus. That’s not the law that’s coming to them in Egypt? It’s “I have heard your sufferings, and I invite you to come with Me, but you’re going to have to trust in Me,” it’s going to be scary, but you’re going to have to trust Me. Now when God gets them out in that desert, now He says this is what I want you to do, I did one for you, now you owe Me, so here it is, boom, boom, boom, boom, and if you don’t do it, bam, bam. That’s Lordship.
My idea in pointing this out is how handy it is to know these events, because the events themselves balance your theology, they keep you from drifting into weirdo things. Just think through, which comes first, Sinai or Exodus? We can’t argue that God’s just an add-on in Exodus, by the way, because they had to trust, and then when we get out in the desert, it’s not an issue that they’re going to hold on to their salvation, because even in the cursings section of the law, ultimately I will bring the nation of Israel back together again. Israel is never lost because of disobedience. God works sin their heart through many trials and tribulations, but the nation will never ever be destroyed; once saved always saved! Through tribulation, oh yes, some pretty nasty stuff, oh yes, but is Israel saved in the end? Of course she is. So there’s salvation and then there’s this issue of my relationship once saved with the Lord.
Someone handed me an article, it’s kind of interesting, it goes back to what we were talking about right after Noah, the civilization that occurred right after the flood, and in Ohio discovering these strange formations in the ground, some great symbols of serpents and apparently even the base of a pyramid in the Ohio valley. You see this stuff all the time, and for 50 years you walk into a classroom and they teach North American history like they know everything, oh, we’ve got this stuff aced out to the third decimal place. So you kind of grow up in that kind of an environment where you feel, gee, sounds like they really got a good case, and then something likes this happens. Come on, what’s going on here, why couldn’t you guys have been honest up front and tell us that hey, this is the best hypothesis we got, but it’s not locked in concrete, we don’t have all the facts. Nobody wants to be humble about their knowledge. So they’re always revising things.
Another person sent this which is kind of interesting. These are two missionaries in Indonesia with New Tribes Mission and I have always thought that New Tribes Mission probably of all the missions has the most advanced concept of this framework, because these people really have this framework down. When they preach the gospel they don’t just walk in there and translate the gospel of Mark and give them Jesus stories. They start with Genesis 1 and lead them on through creation and then go through the Scriptures with them, not every Scripture but they walk through the flow until then they get to the gospel.
Here are two people narrating this problem they had. They had gone into this area of Indonesia, and there were these people who were very righteous, very moral, very upright. “How can we teach these people, whose social control was so effective there had not been one theft, one divorce, one wife beating or one adultery episode in the village as long as we had known them. They were proud of their superiority over the corrupt and scandalous lives of civilized people, and yet their lives were not as idyllic as it appeared. Feuding and fear permeated their lives, feuding among the clans, fear of unexpected repercussions for the slightest offense against unpredictable spirits. As we learned their language and studied their culture, we often wondered, what name shall we use for God. We prayed that God would show us. My husband, Bob, recorded several legends on tape and after gaining fluency began writing down the stories they reported.”
What did we say was true of all civilizations? If you look into their legends, you look for pieces of that Noahic story that may be hidden down into the bowels of those myths and those legends. This is what this missionary couple did. Anyway, “the story of the snake and the man yielded an astounding answer to our prayer. ‘The one who formed our fingers’” that’s their name for this God that was lost in their memory, “had made a beautiful place, and when he made man and woman he told them they were to live in the beautiful place. So they lived there and their fire never went out and their water flask never went dry. ‘The one who formed our fingers’ said he was going away, that they must not eat of the fruit of one tree while he was gone. And then he left, and while he was gone the snake came. Now the man and the snake were brothers. The snake told the man that the fruit was so good that he should try some, and the man ate of the fruit. Then he was afraid of ‘the one who formed our fingers.’ When ‘the one who formed our fingers’ returned he knew right away what had happened, he chased the man away from the beautiful place and said from now on the water won’t come by itself, the fire won’t come by itself and the food won’t come by itself, the sweat will drip off your jaw and your fingernails won’t get long because you will have to work to get food. The people knew nothing else about ‘the one who formed our fingers’ except he wanted somebody to die. There was no amount of ritual that could stop death. He is above all, he is very far away.”
And then he found another story about the flood, and it turned out that they assumed that God was a noble, that he exists, as clearly as anybody who has ever seen God. “At this point we introduced the Bible, and we told them the Creator had made Himself known, He had spoken to a select few people, the people wrote down the things God the Creator had done in their lives and what He had said to them. It is a record of real people and real experiences. The Bible is a chronological historical account, and to teach it we began at the beginning. First we told them in the beginning God made light,” so it’s a story of this missionary couple working their way through the framework. That’s all they did. “We taught the story of the Garden of Eden, we told the story of the temptation, we told them about the snake and linked it with their own snake in their story, so that they realized that this wasn’t white man’s story, but what the white man people, the couple, was telling them was about things that they had hidden away in their own native corpus of legends.
Then they led up to the gospel, etc. and sin. “It took several weeks to teach just the first three chapters of Genesis.” Several weeks, it wasn’t a five minute gospel presentation. “These stories struck a chord in the people’s hearts, it was all so true, they were separated from God, their life was so hard, it was all Adam’s fault. If only Adam hadn’t done what he did, people blamed Adam. They were confident if they’d been there things would have turned out differently. So we continued through the stories, we told them stories of Cain, of Abel, of Enoch and Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We stressed God’s holiness,” etc. Then they go into the book of Exodus, “then we talked about the Ten Commandments. We gave the people an overview of the history of the Jewish nation. We explained God’s provisions, sacrificial lamb. We showed them places where God kept reminding Jews, there’s someone coming who delivers people. Finally, after months of teaching, then we taught them about Jesus.” See what I’m saying, they didn’t talk about Jesus stories up front. I often wonder whether that’s wrong, whether we should even do it with children. We take time to explain history and who God is, and then we get to the Jesus stories.
“We showed the ways in which the prophecy of the Old Testament were fulfilled,” etc. The people of [not sure of word, sounds like: Sympang] heard the message of the Bible in a comprehensive chronological way. It took months of teaching before they would even admit that they were far from God. Teaching the Bible from the beginning was the only to build a sure foundation for their faith. They needed to know about God’s love and power shown creation and His holy standards shown in the law. Only then did they understand their need.” And it tells about what happened in that village. But there’s a neat story there, because I think that’s proper methodology, and all that couple was doing is doing what we’ve been doing, no big hairy thing, wasn’t PhD consultants figuring out how to do this to the strange culture. They just connected. I think that’s an excellent illustration.