Saturday, February 4, 2012

the impossible standard

Deuteronomy 28 tells us what it looks like to be the head:

Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses, and in all which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

The Lord describes blessing in every conceivable way. It even extends to the defeat of all enemies who rise against them. This is clearly and pointedly what life in the promised land is supposed to look like. The enemy will "flee before you seven ways." Though the seven nations are greater and mightier than you, they will run away in seven directions. This promise of blessing is not something to be "named and claimed" while we are committed only to life in the wilderness. That's the central error of the prosperity message-that God wants us to have and be all these things in the wilderness. Only in the active conquest of the seven greater nations will He bless us like this. And there's more:

The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. Then all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give to you.

Johnny Enlow. The Seven Mountain Prophecy (pp. 183-184). Kindle Edition.

A few things to point out here.

First, who is God talking to here? This is recorded in Deuteronomy, God made this statement to Israel at the of Moses, which means it was said roughly 3,500 years ago. That's a long time ago. I hadn't been born yet, my father hadn't yet been born, even my grandfathers were not yet born. God was speaking to the people alive at that time, and more particularly to the people of Israel, and one could say by extension their descendents after them. It was a promise to a particular people, Israel.

As such, then, this promise is not to the church. The church does not have some kind of metaphorical or spiritual land that we must conquer, somehow analogous to Israel's conquest of Canaan, the Promised Land.

Second, look at this passage. It has a stipulation to it, an "if". I'll single it out here, but keep in mind the context above.

if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.

The promises Enlow refers to are not without condition. They are promises based on Law, conditioned on the obedience of Israel to the Law God had given to them. And dare I say, it had to be a perfect obedience, for as it is written, to keep the whole Law but to violate it on one point is to break the whole Law.

So, Enlow makes a couple of errors here. One is that he's claiming a promise not addressed to him or to the church, and the other is that he is claiming a promise that's conditioned on perfect obedience to the Law, which he as a fallen sinful man cannot accomplish, nor can anyone in the church today.

Only one has lived a sinless life, has lived in perfect obedience to the Law, and that would be Christ.

Israel could not live up to the stipulation of this promise. They failed, and so they did not receive these blessings. But I think that the Bible says that God is not finished with His dealings with Israel, but that's another topic.

This rhetoric of "We should be the head and not the foot" is an insult. It insults those who over the years have had faith in Christ but have struggled in regards to material things because of their beliefs--they were outcast, they were persecuted, they were robbed and beaten, they were persecuted and even martyred. It insults the early church and the Apostles. It is about the Apostles that Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4, "1co.4.9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.† 1co.4.10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. 1co.4.11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 1co.4.12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 1co.4.13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day." The Apostles certainly weren't treated like the head and not the foot, and in fact did not seem to have much expected to be.

Finally, it is an insult to Christ, who humbled himself to become a man, and became obedient to the point of death by crucifixion, one of the most shameful and painful and humiliating deaths man has deviced. By his own words, He came to serve and to be served. Here is what Isaiah wrote concerning Him.

is.53.1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?† is.53.2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. is.53.3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.† is.53.4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. is.53.5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.† is.53.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.† is.53.7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. is.53.8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.† is.53.9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.† is.53.10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.† is.53.11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. is.53.12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Brown, David; Fausset, A. R.; Jamieson, Robert (2011-06-02). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible (best navigation with Direct Verse Jump) (Kindle Locations 144642-144666). OSNOVA. Kindle Edition.

Christ did not live His life on Earth as the head, but the day is coming when He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But we the church are not called to rule in such a way. As it is written somewhere, let us go outside the camp, bearing his reproach. And as Christ Himself said, If they hated Him, they will hate those who love Him.

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