Saturday, September 27, 2014

The scriptures give us identity

The scriptures don't often speak of themselves. Partly because those who wrote them did not know they were writing scripture and partly because the goal of their writings was to reveal God not the writings themselves or those who wrote them. However, there are still a few references and clues within the scriptures themselves that teach us of their value to our lives. In the following few posts we will look at some of the benefits of the scriptures.

Our identity

"See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" (Deuteronomy" 4:5-8)
Moses was about to die and leave the people in the very capable hands of his apprentice Joshua, but before he passed on he wanted to remind them of the covenant God had made with them and to encourage and exhort them to keep true to the covenant all the days of their lives. This covenant was written in books describing the laws and regulations of God that covered almost every aspect of their lives. These laws and regulations were the very covenant God had made with them and it was these laws and regulations that separated them from the rest of the nations around them. While the nations around them lived after their passions and lusts, the laws they had received from God enjoined them to live godly and holy lives. They were to live after the precepts of God not after the lusts and desires of the flesh. The nations around them also sought to appease their gods who at any time might bring calamity upon them; gods who were distant and in some cases even unknown. However, the covenant that God made with the Israelites was that God would be near them. Their laws were designed, not to appease God, but to allow God to be near them and to dwell in their midst. God already loved them, now He wanted to be with them. This is evidenced by a very curious verse in the scriptures.
"You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you." (Deuteronomy 23:12-14)
It seems odd that God would have to instruct them on how to go to the bathroom, but the purpose of this regulation was not the despotic control of the people but rather that everything would be done decently and in order as to not offend the presence of God in their midst. These things were enjoined upon them that the presence of God might remain. This covenant, written in books, became the identity, glory, and joy of the nation of Israel and caused them to be "the joy of the whole earth... The city of the great King." (Psalms 48:2

As great as that covenant was, as full of glory its laws were, how much more is our new covenant and the fullness of the scriptures we have received. Paul wrote.
"But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory." (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)
If the law was to the nation of Israel their identity, their glory, and that which separated them from the rest of the nations of the world, how much more should the scriptures be to us today? They are our identity as it details God's working though history, leading to the coming of His Son and our salvation as children of God, leading further in prophetic utterance towards our adoption into eternity with God. The scriptures are our glory as they tell us of God's love for us, our uniqueness and purpose among His creation, calls us to to a holy walk in keeping with our holy calling, and declares to us the many promises God has given us in both this life and the next. They are also what distinguishes us from all the other religions of the world. What other religion speaks of the love of God for all people, the desire of God that all should be reconciled back to God, the universal nature of mankind and the value of each human life, the free offer of forgiveness of sins for all who trust on God's on work on the cross, and the promise of eternal joy and felicity in heaven with God for all who become His children. No other religion is founded on such great promises, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.  No other religion motivates its adherents to holiness, not out of fear, but as a response to the love and kindness of God. No other religion promotes such beneficial love for the whole of mankind; causing its members to identify themselves with all of mankind, not just their fellow believers. No other religion preaches such patience, peace, and love in the face of oppression, opposition, and confrontation. Yes, the words of these scriptures are full of glory. To us they are, or should be, our glory, our life, and our joy.

David Robison

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