September 8, 2010

The Movement of God - 16

The Law stands forever.  It does not pass away.  It is outwardly static... and yet inwardly dynamic.  God's Law has within it the power to convict consciences and to motivate turnarounds (repentance).  For the righteous, God's Law is something to hear, and something to do.  There's a reason God said, over and over, in the Old Testament, "Walk in my commandments."  The word of God has always been living and active.

What's more shocking still, the Mosaic Law demanded improvisation.  Three thousand years of Jewish midrash is testimony enough that God did not institute, in the Law, an exhaustive set of prescriptions for all situations and circumstances.  Yet, God absolutely did establish his Law as an everlasting institution.  In one form or another, it still "brings wrath" and it still "imputes sin"... and all the while it can still be summed up in those two beautiful phrases - love God, and love others.

The abiding power of God's Law is dynamic potential for all who would hear and obey, even whether or not we succeed in obeying.  But let's note, once again, this incredible balance:  abiding power; dynamic potential; stability, poised to erupt!  Once again, we have change being sparked by constancy, motion springing from stillness, change and permanency together.  Who is like unto God?!!

Point:  When Moses repeatedly heard God say "This shall be a statute forever." it underscored that the Law was absolutely God's way of establishing an everlasting institution on Earth.  However - and this is a very big "however" - this was no human effort at institution.  In the Law, God established something far beyond the control of humanity.  A living and powerful foundation, directly constituted by God himself, so divine that the priests and the elders most responsible for its administration must have been terrified on a regular basis.  That was no normal set-up!

We'll come back to this contrast - God's institution vs. human institutions - later in this series.  Count on it!  But for now let's get back to the story.

At the Law's giving, on Mt. Sinai, God had been leading Moses and Israel a ways through the Arabian desert.  God could have taken them straight to the Land, but He had other designs.  For the time being, Israel was wandering.  By God's personal choice, and direction, they remained vagabonds for a time.  Sending spies into the land came more than one full year after crossing the Red Sea.  During all those months, God kept his people in tents... homeless.  As both God and humanity had truly been on the Earth, in fact, ever since Eden.

This Exodus through the desert was THE movement of God on Earth, at that time.  That much is clear.

What gets noticed less is that God's Movement itself was - and had been for a very long time - firmly enmeshed within exile.

To be continued...


Franklin said...

Love reading this series, and will follow it to the bitter end! ;).

I do wonder how you define the word "law" (maybe I missed that).

Further, what things are specifically said to be a "statute forever" (rough quote). A quick scan on my end seemed to catch a few of those things referring to priestly clothes or something, did I read that right? I can't help but wonder if "forever" means...whatever forever means.

If the "law" stands's important to know what those words mean..."Law", "stands", "forever".

I think you get my point.

Bill Heroman said...

It's a good point, Frank, and I'm not sure I can say better than what I've said, but I'll try.

By "Law" (capital L), I mean the Law that was given to Moses, for Israel, from God. Why does it stand forever? Well, for one thing, it remains part of the Word of God, right there in your 'Old Testament'. For another, Paul never said the Law died. He said we died to the Law. That's a big difference, and explains why Paul can describe the Law as still being active in people's experience, after the cross.

You're right, of course, that "statute forever" isn't all over the various portions of Law in the Pentateuch. But I felt like it was frequent enough to be startling, and profound enough to serve as a representative phrase. I mean, if the ordinance about priestly clothing is that important... then what should we suppose about the Ten (or even better, the Two Greatest) Commandments?

Of course Psalm 1 (etc) and Matthew 5 come to mind, as much as the practical bits I linked to from Romans, in this post.

But I probably couldn't put the real core of my thought on "Law" better than Doug has put it, just recently.


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