Friday, February 10, 2012

“God the Lawgiver”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“God the Lawgiver”
For the week of February 5-11, 2012
A while back an acquaintance whom we’ll call George spent considerable energy giving me a hard time about the legalistic, fun-spoiling, bondage that is Christianity.  One of his favorite sayings was, “According to the Bible thumpers, rules reign and fun is ruled out.”
Interestingly, this same acquaintance is an avid football fan.  In search of enlightenment about George’s mindset, I decided to do something I have not done for more than 30 years.  I sat down and watched a part of a football game.  It was, in fact, a part of the recent Super Bowl game.  When I got online and started the video stream, the camera was repeatedly showing one “play” over and over from different angles and at different speeds.  It seems that millions of hyped “fans” were anxious to cheer or jeer one certain player depending on whether or not both of his feet touched the ground for a fleeting second on the preferred side of a little white line.  Not only this, the player was scrutinized to see whether or not he had managed to maintain full control of the ball while falling across the line, touching his toes on the preferred side, and while simultaneously being brutally attacked by two huge opponents.  According to the commentator, millions of dollars and untold fame for a whole team hinged upon all these little technicalities.
Talk about extreme legalism in the name of a game!  I wondered if George felt that his “fun” was being “ruled out” by all this attention to rules! 
The fact is, nobody anywhere can have any “fun” – any peace – any security – any enjoyment of anything from games to serious business – without the rule of law.  How many millions of people in Middle East “hot spots” are testifying today that life under harsh dictators was better than what they are experiencing in that transition time during which there is no organized enforcement of law and order.
How beautiful are the laws of God’s government!  Every one of his “rules” is designed for our benefit.  He, Himself, abides by these rules.  He is not hypocritical.  He does not make one set of laws for us, and another for Himself.  Furthermore, His law is so designed that it is an accurate “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). 
God’s law is the standard by which He will decide who your neighbors will be through eternity.  Think about that for a moment.  Who do you want God to put in the mansion next to yours?  Do you want it to be someone who has a problem with any of God’s Ten Commandments?  Seriously?
Romans 13:8–10 has some instructions for those who are preparing to inhabit the mansion next to yours in heaven:  “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another:  for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.  For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
After reading all of the scripture passages from this week’s Sabbath School lesson, it is clear that keeping the Ten Commandments is just a symptom of being in love with God and our fellow-man.  Law-breaking is positive evidence of a heart in which love does not reign.  How, then, have we managed to let the enemy twist our minds to the point that we, as a society, could complain of God’s strict attention to law while demanding that our sports icons submit exactly to a host of technicalities in the name of a game, whose consequences are not a matter of eternity – or even of life and death in the here and now?
The officials who oversee football games must show no particular attachment for any player or team.  The public demands that they must rule strictly according to the laws of the game.  By contrast, our heavenly Lawgiver cannot hide his affection for those who are playing the game of life.  The stakes are infinitely high, the odds impossible, and the game is intense.  The Enemy of Souls is the one who is constantly watching technicalities – constantly screaming “Foul play!” 
Incredibly, the Judge of the whole earth – the King of the universe prefaces His law with this amazing statement:  “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” 
With minimal research, it is clear that “the land of Egypt,” and “the house of bondage” mentioned here are symbolic of our slavery to sin and our place on death row.  Instead of counting us out because of our unworthiness, the King of the Universe here guarantees us that He, as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) has found a law-abiding way to set us free from the penalty and the power of sin.  The Sanctuary services were an elaborate attempt to help God’s people see how far He was willing to go to meet the demands of the law on their behalf.  Not only this, He remains willing to live out His life within us so that only the “symptoms of love” (obedience to the Law of God) may be seen in us when the judgment sits and the books are opened.
Should a member of law enforcement hear any parent say, “I didn’t kill my child today because I could not figure out any way to do it without getting caught and sent to jail,” you may be sure that this child would be immediately removed from the home because it is an unsafe environment.  No child on earth is safe unless his parents have true love for him or her.
By the same token, any person who seeks to keep the law in order to “get saved,” or in order to “avoid burning in hell” is not safe to have in the mansion next to you in heaven.  Nothing short of true love for God, which creates in our hearts true love for our neighbors can make us safe to save.  Such love does not come from trying hard to keep the law.  It comes from looking at the Lawgiver.  
“Look unto me, and be ye saved [from your lack of love], all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else….Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness [law-keeping] and strength [to obey]: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.  In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isaiah 45:22-25).
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14).