I recently had a friend visit from Colorado, and we decided to attempt to go through Hosea while she stayed here. These are the sessions… the Hosea files.
I recently had a friend visit from Colorado, and we decided to attempt to go through Hosea while she stayed here. These are the sessions… the Hosea files.
With the discussion of the two trees in the Garden, we’re again discussing the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. These are two different cultures at enmity with each other. Within the first two chapters of Genesis, we have the Kingdom of God expressed. In Genesis 1:16-8, we have the darkness being “ruled” over by the sun and moon. In Genesis 1:26-27, we have humanity being made in God’s image, that it might “rule”, or “have dominion”, over the creation. This ruling is described in further detail with the wording of Genesis 2.
The words of our English Bibles tell us that God God commanded the man that he would “tend and keep” the Garden. The Hebrew words denote something slightly different than what commonly comes to mind. In my mind, I always read that Adam was to “tend” the Garden, and I assumed that meant working. But God isn’t talking about work. He isn’t talking about labor. Rather, God is talking about a certain kind of building up, a certain kind of servanthood that takes into consideration what the creation needs, and then becomes that foundation that tends to the needs of the Garden. This describes nothing short of what it means to be apostolic or prophetic. Apostles and prophets are called the foundation, the very thing that holds up the building, and gets walked on without any thought or consideration.
Our word “keep” doesn’t work well anymore. It used to be that to “keep” something was to guard and cherish it, but it has now become simply possessing. For God to tell Adam to keep the Garden, He was telling Adam to cherish and guard it. This is also the word used for the commandments of God. We’re to keep the commands, which we’ve interpreted as flawlessly adhering to their demands. While it might be true that God expects we’ll live in obedience to Him, the word that he used was the same as here in the Garden. The Hebrew word shamyir means to guard, or to cherish. If you tell someone who loves God to guard His commands, they would gladly risk their lives to make sure that they do so. In fact, many of the traditions of the Jews come from this very thing. They want to guard the commands, and so they must rigorously ask the question of what exactly it means to covet, or to steal, or to bear false witness.
God’s Kingdom is expressed fully in the Garden of Eden. His rule is one of service, giving itself over to the needs of others. Indeed, just as Jesus taught, we should not be rulers in the sense of the Gentiles, who lord over one another. Rather, anyone who wants to be great must become the least, and anyone who wants to “rule” must serve. This idea of being a servant is scattered throughout the parables of Jesus. At one time He minces no words in telling us that some are made eunuchs out of their own volition, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
To be a eunuch for the Kingdom is to strip away your own rights, your own thoughts, your own needs, and your own reputation. Eunuchs are servants who have no regard for their own households. Their only regard is for building up the house of their master. Just like the apostles wrote themselves as being “bondslaves” and “servants” of the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle is one who fundamentally stands in adherence to the word of God. Every waking moment is a pulsation of desiring and coveting that God be served and get the glory in all things. Our life is no longer our own. “I must decrease so that He might increase.” Just as the prodigal son desired to come to the Father no longer deserving to be a son, but now coveting to be a servant, for the servants have bread and enough to spare, the apostolic man and Body does not seek their own fame and reputation, but rather seeks to train the sons in maturity and fullness, that they might become heirs.
What strikes me is that Scripture doesn’t say anything negative of the eunuchs, other than that in Leviticus they are told not to come near the altar. Every other mention, and certainly the concept of that lifetime devotion unto your master, is blatantly held in high regard. Isaiah claims that these eunuchs shall indeed come near the House of God, and shall even be given names better than sons and daughters. It is said of Elijah that he comes at the end of the age to restore the sons unto the fathers, and to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the sons. This heart is one that bleeds of that eunuch-type servanthood. It has laid down everything so that it might raise up heirs who will inherit the glorious City. As Paul said to the Corinthians, they have been prepared for one Husband.
The Elijah people are they who have given up everything of their own, they who see the Bridegroom and rejoice, preparing the Bride for but one Husband, decreasing so that He might increase, and jealously seeking to build up His house alone. For this reason, because they have no desire to build up their own name and household, they are entrusted with the secret things of God, and they are men of authority. These apostolic and prophetic men are they who God has created from the beginning. Adam was the first foundational man, expressing what it means to rule in the Kingdom of God, and was therefore the steward of the great mystery. This mystery is God revealed. Adam reflecting God outward to all creation, and bringing even the creation into fullness and maturity, that the way may be prepared for the coming of its King.
When we examine the two trees of the Garden, we must bear in mind that they are given as symbols as much as they’re real things. Yes, Adam ate a tangible fruit. Yes, there was a real and lasting death that took place. However, the two trees represent heavenly realities as well. To the tree of life we have full expression of overcoming and ruling in the Kingdom of God. To the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we have full expression of dwelling in death, choosing death moment by moment rather than life, and thus becoming the antithesis of “seek first the Kingdom of God…”
When we begin the last chapter of Galatians, it seems to be starting off well. Paul says that the who are spiritual should restore someone who struggles with temptation (notice he doesn’t say sin – more on that in a minute). Yet, when you come to the last statement of the passage, you read Paul saying that everyone should bear their own load. What the heck? Am I supposed to help, or not help? Are we to bear one another’s burdens, or examine our own work?
This makes me to think of the crucifixion of Jesus, even. Did He carry His own cross, as Matthew and John say? Or, did Jesus have help from this Simon fellow, as Mark and Luke say? I’ll try to give some advice, even if the truth is that I find this passage perplexing as well lol.
If someone is struggling with a sin, then let you who are spiritual do all that you can to help them bear that temptation and overcome. Yet, if it isn’t “temptation” in this sense, but is rather the following of an utterly different Gospel, a Gospel of works, then each man must examine his own work. For you who are attempting to stop smoking, or quit drinking, or break the porn addiction, or find healthier lifestyles in eating and exercising, then you need to find someone who is able to wrestle alongside of you. Find someone who you know to be spiritual, and not simply a pastor or elder. This is one of the biggest problems in our day. With all of the people in “leadership”, I don’t know them well enough to know whether I can trust them. And, it only takes that one time that you confess a fault to someone, and they then gossip it around town, that you no longer trust anyone.
We need to be incredible careful and wise with who we reveal our faults to. They need to be someone that we know will have gentleness and compassion on us, but at the same time are spiritual enough to perceive past just the struggle.
What do I mean?
You aren’t smoking because you’re addicted to cigarettes. You’re not playing video games for many hours into the night on multiple days a week because you simply enjoy video games. You’re not looking at porn, or flirting with boys/girls, or seeking intimate relationships because you enjoy the feeling. There is something deeper here. Before you ever smoked your first cigarette, you never had the need for a cigarette. Before you lost your virginity, you never needed sex. You never needed alcohol to have a good time and party before you first started drinking. What has changed that you now look for it?
This is the issue behind the issue. They who are spiritual can help you wrestle that one though, and in wrestling together, to overcome the original problem that led to the addiction. It might be that there are wounds that haven’t healed, wounds that you’ve forgotten of, but when you start to attempt to wage war against the demonic voices and the lies that you’ve believed, the wound is uncovered, and now you’re reminded. It takes someone who is able to stand with you, and not accuse you, in these moments. This is why Paul charges they that are spiritual to restore their brother with gentleness, and not to assail them.
In regard to the other issue, in examining ourselves, notice the context of the statement. “If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” What are you saying Paul? He’s saying that there is a mindset of exaltedness, one that comes from a knowledge that puffs up, in which we can live and believe, simple because we are under law. You who are spiritual, who think yourself at a place to help they who are struggling with temptation: Why are you capable? Is it that you don’t commit the same sins they do, and therefore you’re at a place of higher devotion and holiness? Or, is it because, by the grace of God, you’ve been given a disposition that is servant-like? Are you at a place to better help others because you’re “more spiritual”, understanding “spiritual warfare”, and “prayer”, and other such tactics to cause for this “weaker brother” to be brought into maturity like you are? Or, are you able to recognize that apart from the grace of God, none of us are righteous, none of us are able, and therefore it is only through the grace and power of God that we will have ability to help them overcome?
Here is the dividing line, dear children. I could go off into the various Scripture references to bring you to seeing how Paul uses this language all over his epistles, but what is more important to me is your freedom. For you who are free, and who live in that freedom, and who fight to remain in that freedom, help they who are overcoming. Notice that Paul doesn’t call it sin. According to the Gospel, we’ve died with Christ, and we aren’t any longer “sinners”. The “sinner” is dead; I am alive in Christ. What now must happen is that I need to learn how to live again. I must relearn what it means to walk, to talk, to live, and to move, and to have my being in God instead of self. That is not a process of putting to death the old man, for the old man has always been dead. That is a process of learning to live out of the new man, the one who is truly alive. It takes time, but they who are mature should be able to perceive what is necessary to bring the young into maturity.
In this passage of Exodus, we have the reiteration that God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh, and that Aaron will be his mouthpiece. It it interesting that God tells Moses that he shall be “Elohim” (God) to Pharaoh, and Aaron shall be the prophet. This is actually how the chapter begins. We saw this same declaration back in chapter 4, but here it is in a slightly different context. It is one thing for God to tell Moses this at the burning bush, but for it to be said again just before entering the court of Pharaoh is something altogether noteworthy.
When the Bible says the same thing twice, it needs to be noted. Something is trying to be conveyed here. Why would Moses be “Elohim” unto Pharaoh? Why isn’t Moses the spokesman of Elohim, and therefore Aaron is just the guy who is speaking on Moses’ behalf? The answer lies within Egyptian tradition. Pharaoh is not simply a human prophet or “frontman” for the gods, but the Egyptian Pharaohs were claimed to be gods incarnate. Certain Pharaohs were considered to be one of the gods in the flesh, and they had their palace and burial place decorated to commemorate that. Moses is “Elohim” unto Pharaoh, just like Pharaoh is supposedly “incarnate god” to the Egyptians.
The passage as a whole revolves around a certain notion: God will harden the heart of Pharaoh. Why is Moses and Aaron to go unto Pharaoh? Because God will release His people through mighty acts and judgments. Why can’t God just perform the mighty acts and judgments, and thus cause Israel to go out apart from Moses and Aaron addressing Pharaoh? There are a couple reasons for this, and probably the most difficult to grasp is that God works alongside of humanity, and not independently.
Pharaoh is to know of the judgments of God. He is to know of the coming wrath. In fact, there is extremely good Scriptural support that God does not send judgment without also first sending warning. Thus, between God’s fairness and His drive to work hand-in-hand with His creation (instead of independently), we have the reasons for why God would send Moses and Aaron at all. He certainly has every ability of bankrupting Egypt and causing it to collapse, thus giving more than sufficient means for Israel to leave. But, that isn’t how God works. Ever.
Instead, God will harden the heart of Pharaoh. Even here, the question can be asked: Why?
Why does God need to harden the heart of Pharaoh? Why can’t the command go forth, and then let Pharaoh to decide whether he wants to obey or not? Why would God deliberately harden the heart of Pharaoh, and thus keep His people in tribulation for another few weeks or months? These sorts of questions will ruin you. You will either find no comfortable answer, and therefore be left with questions that force you to lose your faith, or you will find the deepest, most intimate, and apostolic answers, which will uncover to you the very essence of who God is.
So, why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Notice Deuteronomy 2:30. What does it say? “But Sihon, king of Heshon, would not let us pass through, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day.” Notice Joshua 11:20. “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
This phrase is specific to the deliverance from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan. Maybe you can find it elsewhere (and please correct me if I’m wrong), but I can’t find the phrase anywhere else. It isn’t in Judges, it isn’t in Samuel, it isn’t in Kings, and it isn’t in the later history after the exile. You don’t find this hardness in the New Testament, except to point it our from the past. Even Paul saying, “God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardens whom he will harden”, it is only a statement in a larger context pointing back to Pharaoh, and decreeing that God has hardened Israel in these last days so that they would now be “not His people”, as Hosea has proclaimed, only the then be the selfsame people that God will turn to and proclaim, “they are my people”.
What am I getting at?
Go to Revelation 16. This concept of hardening the heart is only found in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, only to then be used of Paul to claim that Israel has now been hardened so as to no longer be God’s people (but only temporarily). Notice Revelation 16:13 and onward: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. (Jesus speaking) Behold, I am coming as a theif. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”
Two things: first, notice that the gathering together of the nations for the final battle against Jesus at His second coming is prompted by demons. Second, notice that Jesus’ “thief-like” coming isn’t the rapture (as if it happens before the tribulation), but His legitimate, actual second coming, which is what all of the prophets and apostles have always declared.
Now go to Revelation 17. There is a great harlot that sits on many waters, and she is riding the scarlet beast. This beast is the self-same beast mentioned in Revelation 13, which is the Antichrist Kingdom. There is something happening here, a mystery. The beast somehow represents the whole kingdom of Antichrist, and yet the Antichrist himself as well. The beast that comes out of the waters is a hybrid, or a composite, of the four beasts of Daniel 7. There are seven heads on the beast, just like when you add up the heads on the four beasts of Daniel, there are seven altogether. Here we have the seven-headed beast, along with the ten horns, which is the Antichrist Kingdom.
How do I know this?
When you look at Daniel 7, you find that each beast represents a different kingdom, just like the statue of Daniel 2 represented different kingdoms. Yet, there is a continuum from Genesis 4, the city called Enoch, unto the Tower of Babel, and ultimately unto Babylon, which is the first kingdom mentioned in Daniel 2 and 7. Look at Revelation 17:9-11. The seven heads represent more than just the amount of heads upon those four beasts, and the kings are more than just the kings of Daniel 11. We have here the seven oppressors of Israel: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and finally the Antichrist. This is why “five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come.” The first five of those kingdoms by this point were no longer oppressive super-powers. Rome was the dominating force, and there was to be another oppressive force against Israel that would rise up as a world super-power after Rome.
Let us look at the woman for a minute. Who is this woman? Look at verse 6: “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” Now examine the words of Jesus. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who have slain all the prophets.” Or, what about, “Would it be right for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem?” What about Peter ending his first epistle, saying that the “saints in Babylon greet you”? Peter wasn’t in Babylon; Babylon didn’t exist anymore. Peter is writing from Jerusalem.
The woman is called a harlot. Go to Ezekiel 16. In Ezekiel 16, you have the prophet speaking the word of God over Judah and Jerusalem. In verse 15 you have it begin, “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.” Now, just because Israel is called a harlot doesn’t mean that Israel is the harlot of Revelation 17. Let us get better evidence than this one verse. When you continue through Ezekiel 16, you come to verses 35 and onward, where we find statements like, “I will gather your lovers with whom you took pleasure… I will gather them all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. And I will judge you as women who break wedlock… I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy… They shall also strip you of your clothes, take you beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords. They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you…”
Go back to Revelation 17. You find in verses 16 and onward, “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh (compare Psalm 14:4, Micah 3:3, Jeremiah 10:25, 1 Corinthians 10:21, etc) and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” Now look at Revelation 18:4, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”
What am I getting at here?
When we look at Exodus 7:1-7 and the other places where God hardens the hearts of the wicked kings, it is in relation to Israel being freed from oppression and bring brought into the Land of Canaan. When you examine the Old and New Testament in regard to the end times, it seems like there is a small pattern in only a handful of verses. Jeremiah 16:4-5 is a more obvious depiction of this small pattern. It claims that Israel, after they have been judged for their iniquity, will no longer say, “As the Lord who brought us out of Egypt,” because what God is going to do is going to surpass what He did when He brought Israel out of Egypt.
You have in the end times a “new exodus” of sorts. Somehow, Jerusalem itself is made to be the “Egypt” and “Babylon” that must be judged. Somehow, Israel herself is the one hardened, but unlike Egypt and Babylon, she shall not be utterly destroyed. Instead, the cry goes forth to “come out from her”, and God speaks over and over again (even in Romans 9) that though “not all Israel is Israel”, and though they are the people who have been made “not my people”, as Paul will conclude later, “all Israel shall be saved”, and they who were “not my people” shall be the very ones who are now called “my people”.
Here is the great mystery, and incredibly difficult concept to grasp. Somehow God only hardens the hearts of they who He shall send judgment upon in regard to His people. Yet, there comes a time and place – which has indeed already come, and is at hand – when God shall send judgment upon His own people, hardening His own people’s hearts, so as to bring deliverance and salvation. Do you see the extreme difficulty that this produces? The pre-tribulation rapture then neuters this view by claiming that the mechanism of Israel’s deliverance (the church – Rev 12:6, 13-17, Rom 11:11, 25-31, etc) is supposed to be gone. Replacement theologians neuter this understanding by claiming ethnic Israel means nothing, and neither does the land itself. But, if it means nothing, then why does the entirety of God’s cosmic redemptive paradigm utterly revolve around that people, and that land, to such a degree that God gathers all nations at the end of the world unto Israel and Jerusalem – at Har Megiddo – where Jesus shall then return? It has great significance, and we need to know our place as His people in this end time stratagem, or else we will be destined to always seeking “more”, “deeper”, “bigger”, and “powerful”, because we have not the actual authentic thing.
Genealogies are possibly the most boring (am I allowed to say that?), and yet sometimes also the most insightful pieces of Scripture. When you are able to trace the names through the Bible, you begin to put pieces together that you would have never noticed before. One of my favorite examples, because it brings such a massive perspective change, is to trace Nimrod and the cities that he established. You find Nimrod in Genesis 10:10-12, where he is the one who builds Nineveh (capitol of Assyria, who will later be a hostile enemy of Israel). Yet, it is also Nimrod who builds the tower of Babel, in the plains of Shinar, which is the exact location that the future Babylon would be built (the city, before it was a super-nation). Babylon was not only a hostile enemy of Israel, but is the prophetic kingdom of darkness upon the face of the earth (which is why Babylon shows up in Revelation 17, even though its been in ruins for centuries by that point).
Here in Exodus 6, we have the heads of the families mentioned. At the last, you have Levi, and you have from Levi the priestly family (Aaron). So, here is my question: Why is it that Levi is chosen instead of Reuben, Issachar, Judah, or some other tribe? What does Levi have that others don’t? Or, is there nothing that Levi brings to the table, and it is all God’s prerogative and Divine choosing?
First off, let us address one thing. When you begin to read the passage, you find Reuben first mentioned (see Genesis 29:30-32). He is the first born, and therefore the first genealogy. Then, we find Simeon, who is the second born to Israel (see Genesis 29:33). Then, when we turn to Levi, we find the genealogy all the way down to Moses and Aaron, but we don’t have a continuation of the genealogies of the other tribes. Obviously the point of this genealogy is not to show the heads of all the tribes, but to come unto Levi. But, then we can ask why Reuben and Simeon are even mentioned…
My best guess to why they are mentioned is to point out that Levi is not the eldest son, but it is who God chose to be the priesthood (which is the leadership until the kingship is established). We all know according to history, and according to Levitical/Deuteronomic Law, that the eldest is the one to get the birthright. Yet, in Genesis, over and over again it isn’t the firstborn, but some later son. You have Seth rather than Cain getting the blessing. You have Shem rather than Ham or Japheth. You have Abraham rather than Nahor. You have Isaac instead of Ishmael. You have Jacob instead of Esau. You have Joseph and Benjamin being loved more highly than the other twelve sons. You have Ephraim being blessed over Manasseh. And here in Exodus, you also have Levi instead of Reuben or Simeon getting the blessing of the firstborn.
This seems to be the way that God works (even with David being the youngest of his brothers). Traditionally, the first name is the firstborn. And so, with the sons of Levi, you have Gershon, the eldest, Kohath, and Merari. Then, you have the genealogy traced through Kohath. Kohath’s eldest is Amram, and it is Amram who was the father of Aaron (the eldest) and Moses. Now, in regard to Korah, I want to kill this bird here and now. When you read the Psalms, you find that certain psalms are either dedicated to or sung by the Korahites. We then think this means that Korah, who rebelled against Moses and Aaron (Num 16), had children who repented. That isn’t so. We have here in Exodus 6:21 that the second son of Kohath, Izhar, bore Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri. The Korah mentioned in the Psalms would be of this genealogy, and not the rebellious Korah of Numbers. You find that they even had the honor of working along with the priests under David (1 Chron 6:31-38), but so did the other sons of Levi.
This genealogy ends with Eleazar, Aaron’s son, taking for himself one of the daughters of Putiel (only place name mentioned in Bible) as wife, and she bore him Phinehas. Phinehas is later going to be the one who steadies God’s wrath by throwing a spear through a Midianite woman and an elder of Israel who are weeping before the Tabernacle, and before Moses (Numbers 25:6-9). This elder so desperately wants to continue to commit idolatry with his wife that he will weep outside of the Tabernacle with her – right in the very face of God.
The place of this genealogy seems strange, unless you comprehend the Hebrew mind. In the Hebrew mind, you focus upon stories instead of chronology. So, for example, the book of Exodus opens up with the genealogy to connect from Genesis to the current time. Then, we move from there to finding the great oppression of Israel, the birth of Moses, the life events that led to Moses’ fleeing Egypt, Moses’ life in the wilderness, and then God calling Moses back unto Pharaoh. Wouldn’t it seem a good place to put this genealogy back in chapter 2 with the introduction of Moses? Yet, that isn’t the place that we find this genealogy. Instead, we find the whole of the backstory given, all the way through to Moses going unto Pharaoh, the oppression worsening, and God reassuring Moses of what is about to happen.
The Gospels also have this. Why does Matthew conflict so heavily with Mark, Luke, and John as far as chronology? Why do all of the Gospels have the same teachings and stories (save John being 92% original), and yet not a one of them have the same chronology of those stories or teachings? It is because each Gospel is being written with a certain intent in mind. There is a purpose behind the story, and a purpose behind the teaching, that while the story/teaching gives us great understanding by itself, when coupled with the events before and afterward, we find there is a larger reason why it is placed where it is. This is why John has stories that the other Gospels don’t, and why certain Gospels have certain stories or teachings, while the others seem totally oblivious to such events. They aren’t oblivious to the event, nor the chronology, but are desiring to put forth a certain argument beyond just the stories and teachings.
Here in Exodus, we have the opening scene of the book, which might be longer than most television shows or movies, but is nonetheless the opening scene to give us all of the background information necessary. From there, we transition to the credits, which is this genealogy of Aaron and Moses. From there, we transition back to the story, picking up where we left off, that Moses and Aaron go back unto Pharaoh and demand that he let the people go. Whether this encounter we’re going to go into in chapter 7 is a reiteration of chapter 5, I’m not sure. It certainly could be, but there are also some distinguishing marks. Either way, the passage at hand is not something to simply skip past because we find the genealogies boring or uninteresting. Within it we find the heritage of the priesthood, of which we are called.
In the Old Testament, you have even within the book of Exodus a priestly nation (Israel – Exodus 19:6), and then a priesthood within that priestly nation. So it is today, that you have the priesthood (Church) within the priestly nation. In Exodus, the priesthood is quite tangible, with certain duties that surround the Tabernacle/Temple. In modern times, with the Temple destroyed, the priesthood is spiritual. The whole understanding of what it means to be Israel is spiritual. Jacob wrestled with God and with man, and yet overcame. That is why he inherited the name Israel. It is no less true today. Just because natural Israel doesn’t fit the bill doesn’t mean it isn’t their call, for “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable”. I could make the same argument that in many ways the Church hasn’t fit that bill either.
What does it mean for us to be priestly, even in the New Covenant? One thing it must certainly mean is that we know our heritage. We might not be of the priesthood of Aaron, but that doesn’t nullify its significance. The Melchizedek of Genesis has no heritage, and that is the point, but we must realize that our heritage is found in Hebrews 11, and that we do have roots that go back to “Adam, the son of God” (Lk 3:38). That priestly heritage is everything that it means to be Levitical (of Levi).
Malachi 2:1-6 gives us that perspective. I’ve actually heard this quoted (the first half) to ‘prove’ that Israel is no longer God’s people, but it is now about the Church. It’s incredibly ironic that the very passages that these supersessionists choose are the very passages that will demand Israel’s chosenness if you keep reading.
“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts, I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it. Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that my covenant with Levi will continue, says the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear me; so he feared me and was reverent before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity.”
Can you follow that? Let me repeat, for it bears repetition: They who are priestly are they who 1) give glory to God’s name, 2) fear God, 3) revere His name, 4) have the law of truth in their mouth, 5) keep injustice far away from their lips, 6) walk with God in peace and equity, and 7) turn many away from iniquity. You know what this sounds like? It sounds like the very Davidic heart and character. The Kingdom of God is eternally a Davidic Kingdom. The heart of David is the heart of God, and the heart of God is the heart of David. The character of David is the character of God, and the character of God is the character of David. What David represents is the quintessential Jesus, and visa versa. If you want to know what it means to be priestly, you must know what it means to be Davidic. If you want to know what it means to be Davidic, you must immerse yourself in the Psalms, and within the books of Samuel and 1 Chronicles.
David was a priestly king, and a prophet as well. Jesus was also prophet, priest, and King. This is our heritage. This is our mandate. Unto this glory have we been called, whether we know it or not, and whether we know how to communicate it or not. We have fallen far short of this glory, but that doesn’t then negate our purpose. Let us run the race, casting off all restraint to come unto the beauty of holiness, seeing Jesus as our High Priest and the author of our confession, and seeing the great cloud of witnesses, who are our heritage, both enduring along with us, and not made perfect without us. Let this be the greatest motivation necessary, that the eternal covenant (known in the New Testament as the “new covenant”) is sufficient to save to the uttermost, because Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient.
In Exodus 5, we left off with Pharaoh tormenting the Israelites, and Moses lamenting before God. Here in chapter 6, God is beginning to respond. He affirms to Moses that He shall indeed redeem and give inheritance. In verses 2-3, God even says, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I was not known to them.” I have heard it said, and seen it written, that this verse is often interpreted that the patriarchs didn’t know the name YHWH.
Here is my contention with that: in Genesis, they address God as “YHWH”. Even within Genesis 2, we find LORD God, YHWH Elohim, and this is only in verse 4. So, if from the very start of human history recorded in Scripture, YHWH is being used, then how can we claim that the patriarchs didn’t know this name? To claim Moses wrote these books doesn’t cut it for me. Instead, I would like to suggest something else.
Associated with the names of deity are their power and character. We have something similar today. When you give someone your word, you are putting forth your reputation and everything that people know of you on that promise. We can even think of sayings like, “smeared his name through the mud”. To smear someone’s name is to smear their reputation, their esteem, through the mud. It isn’t about making their “name” ignominious, but but rather the very person and character.
What I want to posit is that this promise to the patriarchs was based utterly upon God’s character. God promised to Adam and Eve a deliverer (Gen 3:15), He promised to Abram a son who would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:4, 7, 18-21), but He didn’t show them the fulfillment of that promise. In fact, when you get to the book of Hebrews, you find the author saying, “having obtained a good testimony through faith, all these did not receive the promise”. The next verse does not say, “But you…” Instead, it says something better is presented to us, that together with us they might be made complete.
Unto the patriarchs, God has promised the inheritance of Canaan, which is seen in the Hebraic mind as being the very place where heaven and earth meet. This is the very place where God dwells – a Garden of Eden restored. But, the patriarchs didn’t receive the inheritance. Moses is being told here that God had given them the promise, but didn’t give them inheritance. Therefore, the patriarchs did not experientially know the power and glory of the name of YHWH like God will reveal to Moses and his generation. It is about God’s name, His honor, His power, and His character. It is about an experiential knowledge of that Name.
To trace this thought forward in the narrative, not just unto Sinai, but beyond Sinai, we find that God’s name is repeated throughout Scripture. For example, you have God revealing Himself through His name quite directly to the Hebrew children. They experience His power and majesty in the wilderness, and eventually in the Land itself. Joshua leads Israel to inheriting the Promise. Yet, we then find later that the psalmist declares, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’.” (Psalm 95:7-11)
Let us think this through. The psalmist is not writing about this “today” in the generation of Joshua, who was promised to inherit that rest, but rather centuries after Joshua. The psalmist is writing this while in the land. Somehow, Israel is in the land, inherited the promise, and yet there is a promised rest that if that generation, paralleled with the generation that was killed in the wilderness, will hear God’s voice, they can enter into that promised rest.
It is then the whole point for the rest of the book of Hebrews to show how it is that we haven’t come to the physical promises, but the eternal, which are not separate from the physical, but are interwoven. It is the physical promise that reflects the eternal and heavenly. We have not come unto Sinai, the physical mountain upon which God came down, but unto Zion, the New Jerusalem, which is the throne of God, revealed to us in explicit detail in Revelation 4. It is not Sinai that the prophets envisioned with theophany, in places such as Isaiah 6 or Ezekiel 1-3, but the heavenly Zion.
And so, we see the “better” inheritance that we have, not exclusively as the Church, but together with “them” who are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the saints eternal, they who are called “Israel” by most theologians. There is an connection, then, that cannot (and certainly should not) be severed. It has always been that the prophets perceive beyond the physical and tangible into the spiritual and equally tangible. That is our inheritance as the saints. And, there is an eternal “today”, that if you are willing to humble yourself, ceasing from your own works (namely, righteousness through our own efforts), we can enter into that rest, which from the beginning has been established for all who by faith will enter.
Yet, we cannot conclude that this is the fulfillment. Remember that God put His name upon the physical inheritance – not the spiritual. There must be a physical that is coupled with the spiritual. It is for this reason that we read various texts in the New Testament about the “inheritance” at the end of the age. Jesus promises that His disciples will rule over all Israel upon twelve thrones (Matthew 19:28-29). Paul speaks about we, as Gentile believers even, who shall receive an inheritance with the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:14). He then further explains what this means in Ephesians 3:1-6, in which he makes the statement that “Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel…”
What is this “body” that is spoken of? It cannot be the Church exclusive, for that would demand a “new” body. The context of Ephesians 3:6 is that this body apparently is already in existence, and hence “same body” instead of “new body”. Don’t quote to me Ephesians 2:14-15, that Christ has made “of the two” “one new man”, and therefore the Church is new and distinct. That isn’t what Paul is saying at all, for only if you skip Ephesians 2:12 can you come to that conclusion. It is because we, even we Gentiles who were aliens and at enmity with God, have been brought near, and made to be partakers of the promise and covenants, being grafted in (to use the language of Romans 11) to the already existent House of Israel. We are not the elite, but the remnant.
Therefore, we know that we have received a spiritual inheritance, even being sealed by the Holy Spirit according to Ephesians 1:13, but that isn’t the fulfillment. It is only the guarantee of the future inheritance at the end of the age, which is not ours exclusively, but unto the whole House of Israel – both the natural and the wild branches. Interestingly to this study, one of the promises to the seven churches in Revelation is that “I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, And I will write on Him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12)
That promise, in the context of what is written to the rest of the seven churches, cannot be understood as the New Heaven and New Earth, but at Jesus’ return. There might be legitimacy to saying that it is fulfilled to the uttermost in the New Heaven and New Earth, but don’t squash the beauty that is presented in that we rule with Christ for 1000 years. When you parallel the statements of Revelation 2-3 and Revelation 20, you find that there are certain things that are doubled.
Notice again Revelation 22:4. Here it is that having the name of God written upon our foreheads is coupled with seeing God face-to-face. There is a revealing of God intimately that cannot take place apart from the judgment that we experience during Tribulation (not judgment as in condemnation, but judgment as being within the nations who are being judged, and within Israel [the people] who are under judgment). Just as Elijah endured the judgment alongside of his fellow Israelites, and just as Joshua and Caleb had to endure forty years before being permitted to enter the land again, so too must we wait for the second coming – after seven years of Tribulation – before we shall see the fulness of our inheritance in Christ.
The blessed hope of Titus 2:13 is not rapture, as I’ve heard so many say. It is the coming of the King, and with Him the Kingdom of God. It is the redemption of Israel, and with them all the nations. It is worldwide peace. It is the obliteration of the kingdom of darkness. It is the inheritance of promise – heaven and earth becoming one. It is the climax of the covenant, the culmination of the ages, unto which we’ve been progressing since “God separated the light from the darkness”. The blessed hope is the longing of every heart, whether we know how to intuit it or not, whether we’re believers or not. It is a Kingdom that is ruled in justice, equity, and righteousness, instead of bureaucracy, greed, and patriotism. To then take that verse out of context completely, simply to hold that we’re not supposed to endure “wrath” (as if that is even what 1 Thess 5:9 means), is to cast down all hope and all eternal weight of glory that might make out suffering and affliction momentary and light.
We’re progressing to a climax. The age is crescendoing. It is our opportunity to work with God or to do our own thing. We can either play church, play Christianity, or we can be the saints in our own generation. The hope that God is giving to Moses in this passage is the very blessed hope that is to give us satisfaction and perseverance unto the end.
Paul likes to repeat himself. He likes to make the same statement twice, both with different ways of stating and different contexts. By somewhat progressing from this subject, to that subject, and then to that one, and then tying them together with similar wording and phraseology, Paul helps us to build a larger view than to be stuck assuming that it all has the exact same meaning, or that he is speaking in regard to completely different subjects.
We’ve examined the justification through faith (3:1-9), the eternal covenant (3:10-18), the purpose of the law (3:19-25), sonship and adoption (3:26-4:7), the principalities and powers (4:8-20), and the two covenants (4:21-31). Notice here that we have a few subjects that are interlocking. Justification through faith and the purpose of the law seem at polarity with one another, and the eternal covenant is the subject to interlock them. We have then again the two covenants repeated later after the issues of adoption and the principalities and powers. Within the text examining how the powers of the air are at work within “law”, we find Paul explaining that we shouldn’t return to “beggarly elements”, thus being brought again into bondage. Here in Galatians 5:1, we have Paul addressing the issue of putting ourselves back in “bondage”.
It is for freedom that Christ has made us free, therefore don’t go back into the miserable principles, those “beggarly elements” that brings you into bondage. Notice again, especially if you haven’t been keeping up with these posts, that the whole point of “law” and “beggarly elements” isn’t specifically the words of the Torah (five books of Moses). It isn’t specifically the Old Testament. There is something at work behind it, a righteousness that comes from works, that because we have the “manual” of how to live (the Bible), we can attempt by our own abilities and our religious systems and institutions to be “righteous”. Yet, the whole mantra that Paul explains in every single one of his epistles is that righteousness comes by faith, and not by works.
The works are not to be what make you righteous, but simply what the righteous do. The righteous do righteously, not because the works make them righteous, but because they already are righteous, and so why would they do unrighteously? Therefore, when we read Paul’s assertion that they who become circumcised are somehow “fallen from grace”, it isn’t to mean that they who do one or two things of the law (like grow peahs or keep kosher) are indebted to the law entirely, but that they who find the necessity to do such in order to maintain righteousness are indebted. I have peahs (the curls on your sideburns), but I don’t find righteousness within my peahs. My wife and I attempt to eat kosher, just not the Leviticus 11 kosher diet. We try to eat healthy, caring about where our food comes from, and in that keep kosher. Does that mean that our righteousness comes from law? God forbid. It’s about maintaining my body – which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Let us not forget that Paul continues to explain that both the circumcised and the uncircumcised wait for the righteousness that comes through faith. It isn’t like one is somehow more righteous than the other based upon what they do or don’t do. My walk with God is not based upon my adherence to Scripture and how well I keep the commands (even within the New Testament). My walk, and the proximity to God that I have, is totally based upon the faith in Christ Jesus, and the relationship that I cultivate through that faith.
If the Spirit tells me to not watch television because I’ll spend five hours watching shows, but I won’t spend five minutes reading and/or praying, then I need to give up watching television. That isn’t about law or commandment, but about relationship. Imagine if your best friend told you they love spending time with you, and yet every time that you ask if they’re available they give you some lame reason they aren’t available. I’m not talking about legitimate reasons, but lame excuses. If my best friend said that he can’t spend time with me because he wants to make sure that he knows his job schedule for next week, that’s a pretty lame excuse. You look up your job schedule when your at work, not when you’re at home. Who do you know that purposefully goes to work to check their schedule unless they’re coming back from vacation or something? (By the way, Jesus got at this too when he gave the reasons for why people refuse to come to the wedding at the end of the age – Luke 14:16-24.)
Our Christian liberty, as my Bible has the subtitle for this passage, is not found in our “liberty” from the law, but that in Christ we have been set free from the things that have kept us in bondage. In Romans 8:1-2, we find that there is a law of the flesh and a law of the Spirit. There is no condemnation for they who walk according to the Spirit, but for they who are working according to the law of the flesh, you stand condemned. Do you see the importance of this? It isn’t freedom from the law, but freedom from the death. It is freedom from the flesh.
In Colossians 3:1-7, Paul puts it this way (to paraphrase):
You have been raised with Christ, resurrected and no longer dead, and therefore are no longer of the earth, but now in heaven. As such, think upon and live out the things that are of God, that which is heavenly and eternal, and put off the old mindsets and lifestyles that you inherited from the death that you’ve lived in. You are no longer dead, but alive in Christ; therefore act like it.
Does that sound like freedom from law? With one breath Paul speaks about freedom from the law, and righteousness by faith, and salvation of grace. With the next breath he speaks of works, of do this and don’t do that, and of judging whether you’re truly saved by that which you do or don’t do. This is the way Paul writes, because it is exactly what I said earlier. I shall repeat it, and finish with the statement:
The righteous do righteously, not because the works make them righteous, but because they already are righteous, and so why would they do unrighteously?
This section of Exodus begins with Moses and Aaron going before Pharaoh, and ends with the Passover and the declaration to leave Egypt. It progresses from confrontation to freedom. In this section, the significance for you and I is to recognize the plagues as more than plaguing Egypt, Pharaoh, or the Egyptians. Here is where the rubber meets the road in Christianity.
We cannot believe in systems, whether governments, religious, or academic. A system is an institution, a machine established to produce a certain result. For businesses, the machine is worked through marketing, management, and “customer service”. The workers themselves are merely numbers, and expendable at that. The workers are simply means to the end – growth in the company as well as wealth. For government, a system is even easier to recognize. For we Americans, we just have to look at Washington D.C. and how far outside of actual American culture it is. The famous quote by George W. Bush makes it clear, “Not everyone would pick lettuce for $50/hour.”
Over these systems, the principalities and powers rage. What the secular/pagans don’t know is that they aren’t simply devoting their attention to science. It isn’t about saying that science proves truth, but about devoting your entire existence to demons. They who are so naive to think that if you can’t test it, it isn’t real only show forth blindness that goes beyond human capacity.
Organisms are not this way. The Body of Christ is exactly that – a body. A body is not something that is mechanical. Our church services might be, but the Church itself is not. If we are indeed connected to the Head, who is the creator of the universe, then we should not find the boring and mundane repetition that characterizes our services. Truly, the problem is that our buildings and programs are not run out of the authenticity of the life of God, but rather from the expectancy that the “show must go on”. There is an agenda. The people come for a certain kind of biblical teaching, they want to hear some sort of moving music that they can sing along with (and they want to either know the words, or learn the words quickly), and maybe they want to then know that there are certain programs or events in place that “benefit the community”.
That kind of Christianity is Egypt.
Egypt is the definition of system. It builds an empire for itself, amassing great wealth and prestige among the other nations, and yet builds this empire upon the backs of slaves. Modern Evangelical Christianity has enslaved the pastor, which is why the pastor has to pay so much in insurance, is stressed almost daily, many pastors have been divorced at least once, and they are financially almost unable to stay afloat. We have erected a Christianity that is based upon self. I can prove this by the question you ask when you leave the meeting: “What did you think of the sermon? What did you think of the worship? What would you like to eat?”
Over Egypt are gods, which are not truly gods, but demons. It is these unseen powers that pervade our societies and cultures – including the Christian society and culture if we’re not careful. Whereas I thought for a long time that the principalities and powers was a subject exclusive to the New Testament, I am beginning to see it everywhere. Our understanding of what Paul is expressing as “the principalities and powers” cannot come from Ephesians alone, or from the handful of other passages that mention them either directly or indirectly. Where does Paul get his understanding? Is it strictly from the Holy Spirit, or is there a reference in the Old Testament that he would have been able to provide?
I think one of the places that Paul would have used is this very passage. In Exodus 5-12, we have the plagues of Egypt, but they are not sent in judgment upon the Egyptians, nor Pharaoh, for enslaving God’s people. Rather, these plagues are sent in judgment upon “the gods of Egypt” (Ex 12:12). Now, either the gods of Egypt are just wooden or stone carvings, not really anything at all, or they are indeed something. If they are nothing, which is certainly attested to in the Old Testament, then why would God send judgment upon them?
What is happening here we find explained in Deuteronomy 32:16-17. The idol itself is nothing. As Isaiah mocks, with half of the log they keep themselves warm, but with the other half they carve their idol. How can you be so ignorant to bow down to an idol that you yourself carved, even knowing that the other half of the log was used for firewood? What significance could your idol possibly have? Yet, what Moses is saying, and it’s ultimately God saying it here, is that the idol itself is only a representation of a demon that is truly being worshiped. That demon has the power to cause for titillations and “feelings” so that the worshiper will continue to bow down, completely convinced that they are indeed worshiping gods, because they can feel it.
Science is no different. Think of the many atheist scientists who are not willing to simply do their jobs. They have an agenda, and if you start to disagree with their beliefs, they must rise up in furor to defend “science”. That kind of zeal does not come from simply being devoted to your job, nor does it come from a love of your study. That kind of zeal only comes from a devotion to something beyond the physical world.
The Egyptians plagues are plagues against the demonic realm. We find this significance in multiple ways, not the least of which being that the plagues of Revelation mirror many of the plagues of Exodus. This is a pattern. God doesn’t combat the principalities by us “casting down strongholds” or claiming “in the name of Jesus”. This kind of dethroning only comes through plagues, which is attested to in 1 Kings 17-18 as well. For they who are desiring to overthrow the rule of the demonic forces at work in our nations, states, cities, or churches, we must understand that what we are asking for is a plague that neuters any possibility of that god being considered as having power.
This text begins with Aaron being told to meet Moses in the wilderness. In true prophetic form, I see great significance here that gets passed over with a light reading. The prophet Moses is in the wilderness. Prophets are ever and always wilderness prophets. While the priests were in Jerusalem, with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, John the Baptist is out in the wilderness at the Jordan. While the false prophets of Baal are in the palace with King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, and the false priest-draft dining well with them, the true prophets are hidden away in a cave (1 King 18:13), and Elijah is sitting at the brook Cherith (1 King 17:3). Right down the line, from Abraham unto Jesus Himself, every prophet that we behold seems to be a pariah, outside of the systems, in the wilderness secluded, somehow “disattached” to the Body in the eyes of the priests, yet never truly “disattached” from the Body (how can that be so?).
Here we see it. Moses in the wilderness, as every prophet is truly a wilderness prophet. And Aaron, who represents the priesthood, is going out to meet him. In the Gospels, the priests and the religious leaders sent men out to John the Baptist, but it was not in belief. It was in curiosity. Here, we have Aaron going out to Moses to return hand in hand with the prophet. Such a scenario is rare. The priests often mock the prophets (just listen to some of the teachings of modern day pastors and teachers regarding the prophets. They’re wild, untamed, spouting out who knows what, and full of judgment and condemnation), and the prophet often comes against the work of the priest (which you can find in statements like Isaiah 1:13-15).
The two are not meant to go in opposition to one another. It is God’s intention that the prophet and apostle would be the foundation, held to account by one another, but inevitably on a different plane than the pastor, evangelist, and teacher. The prophet and apostle are given the whole counsel of God, given the perception of eternity itself, that they might communicate and reveal to the people the very heart and word of God. The priest, ordained by God indeed, is to submit to the authority of the prophet and apostle (that is, the true apostle and prophet) as the very spokesman of God (Ex 4:16). This is a beautiful example of the prophet and priest working together – Aaron speaking to the people and displaying the signs in confidence of what the prophet has declared, and Moses boldly declaring the word of God both unto the people and unto Pharaoh.
Even the embrace of Aaron and Moses, with the holy kiss of affection, is deeply significant. Do you not realize that between these two men we find “the Spirit and the Bride say come”? We have a pattern – a paradigm – of eschatological significance. Out in the wilderness are the prophets, who are hearing the voice of God and speaking boldly in His name, and out to the prophet comes “Aaron”.
Turn to Revelation 12.
The book of Revelation inevitably calls all the followers of Jesus “prophetic”. It is subtle, but it is there. One of the more blatant displays of this is Revelation 19:10, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” At the beginning of Revelation we are called “servants”, along with John being a “servant” who “holds to the testimony of Jesus”. The testimony of Jesus is something that shows up over and over in Revelation (always in relation to something that the saints hold to). If the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, we have a subtle suggestion that the saints are a prophetic body (even if not necessarily prophets themselves).
We have in Revelation 12 an endtime outline. At the first part of the chapter, we find two signs. The first is a woman (Israel, compare with Gen 37:9-10), the second is identified as Satan. Satan chases the woman into the wilderness, where God has prepared a place for her. The KJV follows the Greek accurately here (which is surprising, because the KJV is usually one of the versions that doesn’t in controversial passages) where it says, “And they shall take care of her for 1,260 days”. Who are the “they”? It is the prophetic body of Christ that is already in the wilderness, the overcomers who love not their lives unto the death. For that reason, we have the persecution of the saints mentioned at the end of the chapter (notice that the woman can’t be the Church for this very reason).
At the end of the age, we have another gathering together of Moses and Aaron – being typified by a prophetic Body of Christ and the Jews. Within this text of Exodus we have a pattern of what we should be seeing in the Body of Christ, and what we shall see at the end of the age. It is through the prophetic declaration, and the priest being the mouth of the prophet, that we have the Israel of God believing. This isn’t a formula, but it is a statement of how the Kingdom of God works. It is with the prophetic declaration, and the priest and prophet working together instead of against one another, that causes for the people to believe, to take hope in their God, and to worship.
In this passage, Paul gives “the purpose of the law”. You see, as we’re reading through Galatians 3, it doesn’t take long before certain questions begin to arise. We begin the chapter with Paul asking who has bewitched the Galatians, because they are beginning to stray from the faith that is indeed of faith, and beginning to in its place cling onto a faith that is of works, specifically the works of the law. Now, in my series, I’ve left the door open on purpose here. With Paul, he is explicitly talking about Leviticus and Deuteronomy (truly, he is speaking of the entirety of Torah and the commands that the Jews believe to be the covenant). I, however, have attempted to point out that “law” goes beyond just the Torah and unto any and every tradition that we’ve developed to vouchsafe our righteousness.
From that first statement, Paul then goes on in explaining how Abraham was not considered righteous because of circumcision, but because of his faith. The argument is powerful and subtle. You are required as the reader to go back to Genesis 12-17 (which Paul assumes you already know well enough for him to just quote and make allusion to), for if you don’t go back to Genesis 12-17 you will not understand the arguments that Paul is making. It isn’t enough to just clap our hands and say Paul is telling us we’re allowed to eat pork, because law is not of faith, and that is bad, and we’re not under that oppression. There is an argument that is being made here, which doesn’t annul the law, but rather all the more embraces it.
Read Romans 2:28-3:5. Paul here as well is expecting the same question. If it is of faith, and if we’re seeing that the promise to Abram was before the covenant established (whether in Genesis 15 or in Genesis 17), then why did God even give the law? Is it now obsolete and we can just throw it away? In both places Paul is telling us, “No; may it never be!” Look carefully at Romans 3:31 (which is reflecting again back upon Romans 2:28-3:5). What we expect is that Paul would say the law is no longer of effect, but instead he proclaims boldly, “On the contrary, we establish the law.”
So, when we come to this particular passage in Galatians, it is important to know that Paul is not telling us to eat, drink, and be merry. He isn’t saying that we are now allowed to neglect the law of circumcision, or the Ten Commandments, or the laws of cleansing, or any of the other commands in the Torah. Rather, Paul is explaining to us that there is a law – given in the form of a promise – that is transcendent of the Sinai command. When we go back to Genesis 17, we see that God promises Abraham an heir through Sarai (soon to be called Sarah), and that it is Isaac who shall be the bearer of the eternal covenant.
Notice Genesis 17:7-8. It is not mentioned anywhere here that Abraham is to circumcise himself or those with him. No, rather a few verses later God says to Abraham that they shall keep His covenant, and here is the covenant: “Every male child among you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” Now, I have a question. Is circumcision the covenant, or is it the sign of the covenant? The difference is paramount. It says quite clearly that the sign is circumcision, but the covenant itself is declared a few verses earlier: that Abraham’s descendants will eternally be God’s people (God’s nation in the midst of nations), and that they shall dwell in the land of Canaan.
So, in Galatians 3, Paul is intent upon focusing around Abraham. When we go back to Genesis 12-17, we find over and over again that the covenant is confirmed to Abraham that his descendants shall be God’s people, and that they shall dwell in the land of Canaan. That is the covenant – the eternal covenant even. It is about God’s Kingdom established upon the earth, through the seed of Abraham, where Paul’s argument of “seed” versus “seeds” is pointing back to Genesis 3:15 (that there should be one man who will deliver humanity from the curse, and not an entire people), and that one seed is Christ. Yet, Paul is not negating Israel. He is establishing over and over again by pointing back to the promise that it is Israel who are the people of God, and that the covenant was not made at Sinai.
I’m sure you’re now wondering about you and I, who are Gentiles, and how we fit into this. Truth is, we fit perfectly. Remember in Genesis 17 that Abraham is called a father of many nations. This promise is given again to Isaac (both in Genesis 17 and later), and we then see in Genesis 48 that Ephraim (the son of Joseph) is called to be “a fullness of nations”. Thus, we conclude quite evidently that the nations are not apart and separate, but that just as Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba, Uriah (the husband of Bathsheba), Solomon (who was half or quarter-Gentile), and the many more examples of the Old Testament were accepted as God’s people (even though they be Gentile instead of Israelite), so too are we Gentiles in Christ accepted as the people of God – the Israel that God has always intended and embraced (which is not just Israelite or Jewish, but consists of many nations).
To get into the question at hand, the purpose of the law, let us examine Galatians 3:20. “Now a mediator does not mediate only for one, but God is one.” What the heck does that have to do with the law? Again, look at Abraham. In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham. Here we see the sacrifices cut in half, which was a regular way in which you strike covenant with another party. The two parties would stand opposite one another at either end of the sacrifices. They would then walk through the middle of the sacrifices, and would meet in the middle. It is essentially saying, “Let it be unto me as unto these sacrifices if I don’t uphold my end of the covenant.” Yet, in Genesis 15, Abraham doesn’t walk through. He falls asleep, wakes up, and behold God is going through the sacrifices without Abraham.
Thus, when talking about Moses, we see that a mediator must be between two parties. So, Moses stood between God and Israel as mediator. Yet, in regard to the eternal covenant, God was the only one to go through, hence God being “one” and truly the only party of the covenant. Israel, the descendants of Abraham, is not a part of the covenant who walked through the sacrifices. Rather, the basis of the promise is solely upon God and His faithfulness. As such, we see Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, is God incarnate, mediating to the one party (God) in order to reconcile not just Israel, but all of humanity to Himself (see Gen 12:2-3).
The law, therefore, served as tutor in the sense that it was not mediated by God, but had a different mediator (Moses – Deut 5:5). The law was purposed as a means of covenantal relationship between God and Israel – which was to then go beyond Israel to the nations (Ex 19:6) – through the mediator Moses. It was not the final statement, but a progression toward that final statement when the true mediator, the seed promised to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15) and Abraham (Gen 17:19) would arise. In Exodus 19-31, we have all the signs of a good Jewish wedding. Sinai was the wedding of God unto Israel (thus making Israel the Bride of Christ). However, Israel instead told Moses to mediate, and that the themselves did not desire to hear from God anymore. Do you see what happened? The law was not intended to be what it was. Rather, Israel desired a mediator other than God Himself, thus being clothed with a set of ‘fig leaves’ called ‘the commandments’.
It held all in sin, because no one is able to uphold all 613 commands in totality. Yet, they who live by faith uphold all these commands through the eternal Spirit, just as Jesus was perfect and sinless (Rom 2:28-29, 3:31, Heb 4:15). It is not that we are commanded to uphold the Torah in Christ, but that through Christ we are again brought back to that Mountain of God to be married unto God. The commands are revealed to us as they were originally intended – not as “law”, but as a revelation of God’s heart. As Jesus taught in Matthew 5-7, so too are we able to go back to these books and understand God’s heart through the law. It is in that way that we keep the law, not by the letter of the law, but by the Spirit of the Law (namely, Christ).