Tag Archives: Promised Land

God’s Decree

Meditations on the Psalms

I will tell of the decree (Psalm 2:7 ESV)

All creation is bound by the laws of God. What is a decree? A decree is a legal ordinance prescribed by a ruling authority to resolve, to limit, or to fix and approve a specific required action. God is speaking in the first person about an action He has determined necessary which has already been done and finished. History, from God’s perspective, is complete and finished, even though people have yet to live it. He sees and knows what will happen. God is telling us about that which He decided in eternity to accomplish in space-time history.

King David desired to build a temple for God in Jerusalem, to house the ark of the Lord. Before he died God told him, through the prophet Nathan, that he was not the one who would build a temple for God. “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV). God decreed David not build the temple but that Solomon, David’s son, would build a house for God and the ark of God in Jerusalem. This is what happened in history.

From the beginning, when God created Adam in His image, He gave Adam a boundary. There was only one constraint placed upon him. He was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:1 6-17 ESV). Adam was given dominion over the earth and everything on it. He was given the enjoyable responsibility of being fruitful and multiplying and subduing the earth. He was even given direction to care for everything, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The only restriction place on him was that he did not have permission to eat from this one tree. If he ate from the tree he would die both physically, though not right away, and spiritually. Surely die is actually the word die twice. Die die.

When God brought His people out of Egypt, making them wander through the desert, He gave them laws and ordinances. He decreed they follow His laws. Exodus through Deuteronomy are a compilation of laws and the history of Israel from the time they entered Egypt until they entered the Promised Land. In two places the Ten Commandments, ten irrevocable statements of God about Himself and those who are His, are given, once at the beginning of their wanderings and then at the end. God is specific and pointed in His statements. They are to worship Him only and love each other. (See Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.) These are immutable laws, absolute in the physical world and the eternal realm. They transcend space and time, and are upheld by God throughout eternity.

God’s decrees are not simple corporate mandates for nations and peoples to blindly follow. They are commands for each individual.

God leaves the Christian in the world as a testimony to the world about Him and His grace. Having the image of God gives the ability to naturally follow God and His will. For the Christian, having the indwelling Holy Spirit, because of the corruption of the vessel containing the image of God, gives the tools needed to live righteously in an unrighteous world. Christians do not try to be salt and light. They are salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

Following God’s laws and decrees are a natural ability for those created in the image of God. That He has to tell us His decree about His Son is a testament to the truth of rebellion and sin. God gives His written laws so there is no mistake about His absolute will. Go sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as irrefutable evidence of the need of Man and the grace of God toward those bent by sin. Jesus’ life is God’s decree about life

Advertisements

Torah

Meditations on the Psalms

but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2 ESV)

God has declared one Man righteous because only that one Man has not rebelled against Him. That one Man is Jesus Christ. He is not wicked and ungodly, He does not sin because His essential nature is righteousness, and He does not scoff at God with His words and actions. God now tells us what this one godly Man does which sets Him apart from all others.

Jesus Christ, the godly Man, delights and meditates day and night on the law of God. This delight and meditation gives the godly man the tools needed to fight and combat against the guerrilla tactics of the enemies of God. God’s enemies are His enemies.

The Psalmist uses another set of parallel statements to describe the motivation of the blessed man. He unceasingly delights and meditates on the law of God. Delight means longing and pleasure. Meditate means to speak or groan in musing, devising or plotting a circumstance. The blessed man finds pleasure in contemplating and considering the law of God.

Law is the word torah and includes the entire writing of God’s Scripture, especially the Hebrew Scripture. Torah is the teachings of God for Man. Torah is derived from the word yara which means to throw or cast, as in shooting an arrow, a teaching which hits the mark. So, the torah, the law, is the perfect instruction of God given to lead men to righteousness. We learn the truth about God through the writings of God, which makes the contemplation of Scripture of vital importance in intimately knowing Him.

Man’s sin nature precludes any from accomplishing a complete and thorough understanding of Scripture. This does not mean those who are called by God should cease their efforts to delight in and meditate upon Scripture but should redouble their efforts in their struggle against sin. God gives Scripture so we might know Him and His Son and the work of the Holy Spirit.

God, speaking through Moses, commands the people He brought to the Promised Land to love Him. He then tells them how to love Him. People are created by God for relationship with Him. To do anything less than to love God is to live a truncated and ineffective life.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Jesus, the only One who has perfectly fulfilled the eternal intent of God for Man, uses His knowledge of Scripture to counter the wicked intent of the Deceiver to tempt Him to sin. Even the Deceiver knows the Scripture and uses it to further Its deception. But to know God intimately, and the Scripture He has given, is the only means available to counter temptation. Jesus uses truth to counter and defeat the lie.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (see Deuteronomy 8:3)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (see Psalm 91:11-12)

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (see Deuteronomy 6:16)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (see Deuteronomy 6:13)

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:1-11 ESV)

Jesus knew the Scripture because He is the Author of all Scripture. God created all. God sustains all by an act of His will. God governs all, determining the scope and direction of His creation without fault. To question His will is an act of rebellion. God gives purpose to all, demanding from His creation as a natural function of its existence, obedience to Him and His will.

The Price of Peace

The Lord said to Moses, “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.” [Exodus 30:11-16 ESV]

I asked when the tithe turned into a tax. Scripture never calls what is collected for the temple or the Priests a tax.

How often was a census taken in Israel? What are the words used to describe the money collected. What are the implications to the story in Matthew 17? What are the implications for the Christian throughout history?

In the Hebrew Scripture there are several words used for numbering the people. However, the word used in Exodus 30 is better translated “muster” which means head, top, beginning, chief or choicest, as well as sum or division. Three times God commands Israel to count the fighting men, not the entire population. Before they entered the Promised Land each fighting man was required to redeem themselves.

Toward the end of his life King David counted the fighting men. He was not instructed by God to do so, nor is there any indication those counted paid redemption for their lives. Counting the fighting men of Israel was an act of arrogance and the entire nation was punished for his rebellion.

In Exodus the money collected from each person counted was not called a tax but the price for atonement. During these censuses the people were not redeemed by an offer of sacrifice. They redeemed themselves, paid for their own lives. Perhaps, and I am only making an assumption, they redeemed themselves from the possible death they would face as a warrior for the Lord. The consequence of not paying the redemption was certain death. Death in war is a fact facing all. Being in God’s army and redeemed guaranteed life even during war.

Those numbered were going to war. They were entering the Promised Land and devoting the inhabitants to destruction. God promised to be with them yet, they refused to go in, except for Joshua and Caleb, because of fear. So none went. God turned them around because of their rebellion. At the end of their wanderings, before they went in to take possession of the land, another census was taken. Not one man was alive, except for Joshua and Caleb, counted in the first census. Their rebellion against God, in the face of His absolute promise, guaranteed their deaths before seeing what was promised. They paid the redemption price but still died in the wilderness because of rebellion.

Whatever money was collected was God’s just as much as they were God’s people. Each person gave same amount whether rich or poor and was a sign to them of their inclusion in God’s kingdom, His army, and His victory. It is called atonement money. Atonement brought peace between God and His people.

We are at war in this world. While here we are enlisted in His army, at war with His enemies. Rebelling against this purpose does not remove us from His kingdom for we are at peace with Him. We are not at peace with this world. When Peter compromised with those seeking the temple tax, which is not even vaguely related to the redemption money collected during the two census’ in Numbers, he sought to mitigate conflict with the world. Jesus moved his thinking, and moves mine, back to the truth of His kingdom. Money has no value in His kingdom. It is the people who are His who have value.

God redeemed us yet we are still responsible to obey. Those who are rich must rely upon the blood of Christ and offer themselves. Those who are poor must rely upon the blood of Christ and offer themselves. Only as a citizen of His kingdom will we have peace. We do not get to choose the method or means of salvation, only obey.