TMOC: Reign of Justice
(I offer this as a proposal for the third chapter in our book.)
God portrays Himself consistently as a shepherd sheik. This is the fundamental image offered throughout the Bible, an Eastern potentate. He reigns absolutely over His domain. Unlike our Western concept of feudalism, where the lord owns the land and whatever is upon it, the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cultural concept is one who owns the people and his power reaches wherever they go. He is absolute master of their lives, and so is our God over us.
The only thing we share across humanity is our fallen nature, and our obligations to Him as Creator. In almost every other way, we are each unique, and He cannot use each of us the same, because we are not the same; He made it so Himself. Jesus reaffirmed He knows each of us intimately, from before birth and well past our death. That we die in this world is itself a sign of the primary problem: sin.
You can know God directly only in your spirit. Your mind cannot rise to that level, nor was it designed to do so. Your mind was given only to organize and implement your obedience to His mastery. The Fall can be described as the choice to make the intellect the ruler of our lives, contrary to God’s design. The human mind was not supposed to decide what was right and wrong, because it lacks the ability to fathom God’s design on its own. Somehow, we must teach the mind to obey the spirit, once He has raised that spirit to life by unity with His Spirit.
The business of using symbols and parables is giving the mind a clue how to proceed with that obedience. We know God intellectually only in terms of what He demands of us. His revelation is chiefly in terms of Laws. We make a grave error when, in our Western intellectual heritage, we think of laws as primarily a matter of legislation and enforcement. God is Himself the Law, and any written code remains but a mere reflection, subject to His personal adjustment in our unique individual lives. Any verbal revelation of His Laws is merely a limited manifestation. Our instinct to pick over the precise wording is completely wrong for reading God’s revelation of Laws. The ancient Hebrew people would be amused at such antics.
That’s because Truth is a Person; truth cannot exist apart from God’s being. There is no such thing as objective truth. If something is true, it is so only as it reflects God’s being. Our task as servants of God is to train the mind to remain utterly dependent on His whims, because we as fallen creatures cannot ever really understand fully as we might claim to understand physical reality in this universe. The apparent consistency of physical laws of matter is a reflection of the human instinct for pride in our intellect. It’s one of the gaping holes in our souls where the Enemy takes advantage of us. God can change reality at His whim, and has been known to do so, contrary to everything we imagine we understand of this broken reality after the Fall.
God’s Laws reflect His Person, but we should approach it in terms of justice rendered by verdict. This was a primary function of every Eastern potentate. All things judged by His plans and purposes, by what promotes His glory. So when we think or speak of God’s Laws, perhaps a better term would be God’s Justice. Divine justice is setting things right. Woven into Creation itself is a moral fabric, indiscernible to the intellect on its own terms. However, in learning how His Justice has been revealed through the record of revelation, we can begin to discern that moral fabric as a pattern which no science can discover.
The moral fabric responds to the desires of the heart, not simply physical actions. Creation itself is wired to notice when God’s Justice is at work inside our being, and amplifies His glory by responding according to His promised blessings revealed in the Law Covenants. At times the difference is startling, as with the miracles recorded in Scripture, but most of the time it takes place much more subtly. The objective is His glory, and His judgment against sin.
We struggle in our Western minds with the notion His wrath can heal. Yet this is how the Bible approaches the question. God acts against sin. How it affects us depends entirely on how well we cling to Him and His revelation. To the degree we are clinging to sin, His wrath is painful and sorrowful. To the degree we cling to His glory, His wrath sets us free. The human experience of pain and sorrow is itself a deception, an element of this broken reality. The very same act of God to judge sin can bring both suffering and relief, and our only hope for sanity is catching a vision of His glory in the moral fabric of His Creation.
Here we come to the primary problem with allowing the intellect to rule in our lives. Eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolizes the human drive to decide what is good and evil, to be one’s own god. Not only is the intellect incapable of measuring such things, it is guaranteed to get it wrong. It’s the decision to place reason above all other things which is sin in itself, though it is slightly better than relying on emotions and physical appetites. God has revealed what is right and wrong, and we were meant to enslave our intellects to the frame of reference in His revelation.
Jesus clarified the whole thing. The Gospels are our single greatest authority on Jesus, and these were not written in terms of free standing absolutes. Each of them reflects something of the man who wrote, and how he perceived Christ correcting something which was very wrong in His world. Jesus was the living manifestation of God’s Justice, the Son who was sent to correct abuses and reaffirm the original intent of revelation. The driving force of all His words and actions was always His Father’s Justice. In His conduct, He faithfully carried out His Father’s will, faithfully declared His Father’s intent, and paid the ultimate price to open that revelation to all humanity.
We are called to examine His life and death, but if we ignore the context in which He lived and died, we will simply perpetuate the failures of His nation, a nation which had long failed to understand the revelation granted them. Their ultimate failure was misunderstand the revelation in His Son. Our only hope is to gain some understanding of who this man was, and some measure of how He thought, so His actions and words make better sense to us. Critical to that understanding is how He was driven by the moral sense of God’s Justice.
(In the absence of more direct input, I’m going to begin addressing some fundamental assumptions of mind common to ancient Hebrew people. After that, I hope to start hitting some of the more confusing incidents in the Gospels. I really need your help in identifying some of those.)
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
I moderate comments. Take a moment to scan the "Readers Note" tab on the menu bar at the top of the page.
As a minister of God, I do accept donations. Please click the "Donate" tab above.