What is “God’s Law”?

Helpful hint. When you’re talking about law in the Bible, provide context. Don’t merely say “God’s Law” as if that defines it. Clearly He has given different laws to different people.

Here’s a quick review.

1.) I call this God’s universal law, it’s that which was given to mankind in conjunction with the Fall. This is how Cain knew murder was wrong before God confronted. This is how countless societies that were never given the Mosaic Law knew murder, theft, adultery, etc. were wrong. Some call this “Natural Law” or “Law of the conscience.”

2.) God gave Noah law after the flood abated. Genesis 9:3-6 (HCSB) “Every living creature will be food for you; as ⌊I gave⌋ the green plants, I have given you everything. However, you must not eat meat with its lifeblood in it. I will require the life of every animal and every man for your life and your blood. I will require the life of each man’s brother for a man’s life. Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image.” This is remarkably similar to what the apostles wrote to the Gentile churches in Acts 15; check it out.

3.) God gave Abram law, but we don’t have a concise listing of it. In confirming the land promise to Isaac, God said: Genesis 26:4-5 (HCSB) “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My mandate, My commands, My statutes, and My instructions.”

4.) God gave law to national Israel. In introducing the law a second time, Moses said: Deuteronomy 5:1-3 (ESV) And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.

Here, Moses is rehearsing the Decalogue with national Israel. The Decalogue is called the tablets of testimony of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 34:29).

5.) God gave a new law to those in the New Covenant. This covenant is not like Mosaic Covenant (Jer 31:32) and the law is not like the law of the Mosaic Covenant. Hebrews 7:11 says the Mosaic Law was given under the Levitical priesthood; verse 12 says the change of priesthood (going from Old to New Covenant) required a change of law. Verse 18 says the Old covenant was annulled because its law could not perfect anyone. As covenant and law, the Mosaic culture is no longer in force as covenant or law.

The law of Christ is what is written on the hearts of saints. It’s not like the old law, which was carved in stone for people with stone hearts. You can read about it in 1 Cor 9, Rom 10 & 13, Gal 6, James 1 & 2 among other places.

So when you talk about “God’s Law”, please let us know which law of God you mean. Thank you!

Isaiah 2: Warnings and Rebuke

Isaiah chapter 2 is full of warning and rebuke, foretelling of that great and terrible day when Christ returns to judge the nations. National Israel is warned that their long record of rebellion against YHWH and friendship with the world will bring judgment. God has turned His back on them.

Isaiah 2:6 (HCSB) “For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of ⌊divination⌋ from the East and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines. They are in league with foreigners.”

Here the prophet speaks of YHWH, how has abandoned the house of Jacob. They were in league with foreigners. Verses 7 & 8 describe these foreigners: rich, self-satisfied, idolaters. Verse 9 brings the first of three declarations that man will be brought low on that Day. Isaiah 2:9 (HCSB) “So humanity is brought low, and man is humbled. Do not forgive them!” There will be no forgiveness when the Lord makes His second advent (Heb 9:28).

Those who have not been reconciled to God will seek a hiding place: Isaiah 2:10 (HCSB) “Go into the rocks and hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor.” But creation cannot hide creatures from the Creator!

Isaiah 2:11-12 (HCSB) “Human pride will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. For a day belonging to the LORD of Hosts is ⌊coming⌋ against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—it will be humbled” The second time we read of humanity being brought low. For when the Lord of glory returns, ALL will kneel before Him, some in worship and adoration; others in terror beyond human description.

Verses 14-16 describe the symbols and signs of the worldly riches that will crumble on that Day. And then the third time of man’s undoing. Isaiah 2:17-18 (HCSB) “So human pride will be brought low, and the loftiness of men will be humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. The idols will vanish completely.”

Those who have been reconciled to God will seek a hiding place: Isaiah 2:19 (HCSB) “People will go into caves in the rocks and holes in the ground, away from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth.” But creation cannot hide creatures from the Creator!

Isaiah 2:21 (HCSB) “They will go into the caves of the rocks and the crevices in the cliffs, away from the terror of the LORD and from His majestic splendor, when He rises to terrify the earth.” This verse and verse 10, above, ought to bring to your mind the scene in Revelation 6, when the sixth seal is opened:

Revelation 6:12-17 (HCSB) “Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?””

Carnal man will not willingly surrender to Christ on that Day, for the day of salvation has passed. He will return when the last spiritual stone has been mined from the earth and placed in the celestial city of New Jerusalem.

What is the bottom line? Isaiah 2:22 (HCSB) “Put no more trust in man, who has only the breath in his nostrils. What is he really worth?”

There is only One in whom we can find safety on that great and terrible day. Christ Jesus is a strong tower of refuge, and advocate for all who are in Him. If you hear His voice, do not harden your heart, for the day of salvation will not last forever. He is coming back. To judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new.

Hebrews 7: The Promise of an oath

I was reading in Hebrews 7 and my eye settled on this:

Hebrews 7:28 (HCSB) For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, ⌊appoints⌋ a Son, who has been perfected forever.

The “promise of the oath, which came after the law.” What was this? I initially focused on “promise” and thought of Gen 12, the promise that was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But that promise preceded the law by 400 years.

Ah – I was distracted. It was the oath which came after the law, not the promise.

Which oath? Not this one: Hebrews 6:13 (HCSB) “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself.” Nope, same problem.

It is this oath, which comes from Psalms 110:4 Hebrews 7:17 (HCSB) “For it has been testified: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Further emphasized here Hebrews 7:20-21 (HCSB) “None of this ⌊happened⌋ without an oath. For others became priests without an oath, but He became a priest with an oath made by the One who said to Him: The Lord has sworn, and He will not change His mind, You are a priest forever.”

Promise fulfilled by an oath that could not be broken. Hail Jesus, high priest of His people; King of glory; and judge of all flesh.

Introduction to Isaiah and Chapter 1

This is the first in a series that I pray will work all the way through Isaiah, with an eye to seeing Christ where He is truly presented.

Isaiah is a vision given to the son of Amoz. This gives us a clue about the nature of this book – similar to John’s Apocalypse, wherein he was shown a vision and told to write what he saw. So as you read Isaiah, bear in mind that visions tend towards the symbolic, often using common vernacular to paint a word picture of something else. Isaiah brings a four-fold message to the reader: a.) Accusing God’s covenant people of sin, rebelling against the God Who made them; b.) Sinners are instructed to repent and reform; c.) Announcing God’s judgment on people because of their sin; and d.) Revealing the redemption of His people.

Chapter 1. We find out who Isaiah is the extent of his vision. Isaiah 1:1 (HCSB) The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.  

Isaiah 1:2-4 (HCSB) Listen, heavens, and pay attention, earth, for the LORD has spoken: “I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s feeding trough, ⌊but⌋ Israel does not know; My people do not understand.” Oh sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, brood of evildoers, depraved children! They have abandoned the LORD; they have despised the Holy One of Israel; they have turned their backs ⌊on Him⌋.

Out of the gate, YHWH brings a charge against Judah. He calls heaven and earth as witnesses, reminding His covenant people that He raised them and they have rebelled, turned their backs to Him; weighed down with sin, full of wickedness.

Isaiah 1:9-11 (HCSB) If the LORD of Hosts had not left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would resemble Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats.

How often did Israel lament that if YHWH had not acted, they would like Sodom and Gomorrah! Isaiah then addresses Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah and tells them He’s fed up with their hypocritical religion.

Isaiah 1:13-15 (HCSB) Stop bringing useless offerings. ⌊Your⌋ incense is detestable to Me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies— I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with ⌊them⌋. When you lift up your hands ⌊in prayer⌋, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.

When unrepentant sinners do religious rites, they are detestable, burdensome, hated, and YHWH will not pay attention to them.  If your religion is mere formalism, it is detestable to God. If you and I are not repentant and humble, thankful and in awe at being in Christ, we are tiresome to God.

Isaiah 1:16-17 (HCSB) “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.

Israel had a long record of abusing widows and orphans, waiting for their Sabbath to be over so they could cheat people with unbalanced scales. They were called to repent and make good on those they had taken advantage of. Then we read, “Come, let us reason together …” And then:

Isaiah 1:19-20 (HCSB) If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.  

This is the constant refrain in Scripture is those who do not repent will suffer the wrath of God – for the mouth of YHWH was spoken it (cue Handel!)

In verses 21-23 Israel is judged as guilty – doing all the same things He noted earlier in this chapter. The rulers were corrupt and vile. Yet in verses 24-31 God promises to punish His enemies, remove the dross from Israel, make the remnant righteous, a faithful city.

Isaiah 1:27-28 (HCSB) Zion will be redeemed by justice, her repentant ones by righteousness. But both rebels and sinners will be destroyed, and those who abandon the LORD will perish.

Here is the repeating contrast, repentant people redeemed by justice are made righteous. Rebels and sinners will be destroyed.

Be not deceived – God is not mocked, is not ignorant of our sin. Foolish are we if we think we can wink at sin or, hiding it from other humans, thinking He doesn’t see either. Let us agree with God – everything good is from Him; we can add only sin. By His Spirit we are given the will and the ability to do good (Phil 2:13).