Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 1:1

1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Many have pointed out that the Bible begins in media res. Even though it is “in the beginning” of our story, it is also in the middle of another larger story: God’s story. Humanity and animal life and the mountains and the sea do not yet exist at this point, but God still does. He is already an entity, already all-powerful, and already commanding legions of angels to do His will.

And the lesson that stands out to me from this is that we are fundamentally different from God and we need to appreciate that fact. He is mysterious and He always will be. He is not a mortal man and cannot be understood in mortal terms. And yet we often try to do just that, stripping away the parts that exceed our understanding and remaking Him in our own image. That is folly.

Yes, there are parts of Him that are connected to us. There are things that we learn about Him by examining ourselves. He is our Father and we are His children, we have the same basic desire for good, and the same natural repulsion for evil. But still we are not entirely the same as Him, and we never can be so long as we live in this smaller, mortal story. Thus we will get along much better if we do not try to project onto Him our opinions of what He “should” be like, and instead rely on what He has personally revealed to us about His nature.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- John 18:37-38, Matthew 5:14

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

COMMENTARY

Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?
It is in our nature when we hear something untrue to correct it. Even small children cannot help but call out when a known fact is misstated. Point at something and call it the wrong color, mess up on a simple mathematical operation, attribute a quote to the incorrect historical figure, lie about where you were yesterday…someone will call you out on it. There is something in each of us that just wants for the truth to be spoken.
And certainly this applies to moral truth as well. When we have awoken to the balance of right and wrong we become unsettled to hear any declaration that is morally askew. When others speak a morally untrue message we feel compelled to correct it.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid
And this is a great source of friction to those that proselyte, for there are some who would rather they just kept their moral truths to themselves.
But exercising that restraint runs contrary to the very nature of truth. Truth is like a light: it shines forth. It is a city on a hill that cannot be hid, a candle that cannot be stowed beneath a bushel. When someone casts shades of untruth, whether it be “1 + 1 = 3” or “joy can be found in carnal living,” then truth is compelled to sweep forward to correct it. Truth, even undesired truth, yearns to fill every dark corner with light.

The Need for Law- Social Law vs Divine Law

Yesterday we looked at natural law, and what principles of law we can glean from it, which principles we would then expect to find in moral law as well. And yet we usually struggle to see moral law as being as “real” of a law as natural law. We see the forces of gravity and magnetism as universal and uncompromising, yet believe we can make bargains about moral rights and wrongs. Not only that, but we believe that if there are moral laws, we can transgress them, and yet avoid consequences through bargaining or concealment.

Why is this? A major reason is because we have human “laws” which defy all of the principles we found in natural law. Where the forces of nature never change, apply equally to all, and are cannot be petitioned for cancellation, both the laws of government and the trends of society do change, do not apply equally, and can be petitioned for cancellation.

Our first lesson in this likely occurred when growing in our childhood homes. Parents are forever inconsistent in how they respond to the same behaviors. Sometimes they let misdeeds slide and sometimes they don’t, they might punish incorrect behavior at a severe level one day and at a more measured level the next, sometimes they let one child get away with a certain action but never the other child. Parents can be persuaded and bargained with to let go of their principles. In short, parental law is extremely organic, based a great deal on their mood in the moment, and teaches a pattern that morals are flexible.

In school we learn about our governments, and the principles and laws upon which they are founded. We are told that those laws are meant to be administered universally and indiscriminately, but obviously they are not. Different officers and judges of the law act on different biases. What is more, their presence is not total enough to respond to all queries or misdeeds, making holes in the law’s coverage of the nation. Laws can be changed and even abolished, and the laws of one nation are different from the laws of its neighbors, an artificial boundary changing the legality of one’s behavior like the flipping of a switch. This starts to make us believe that moral law only applies so far as it can be seen. That it can be compartmentalized, hidden from, and vetoed by a strong enough consensus.

Social law, of course, is the most flimsy of all, the same behaviors being simultaneously applauded and condemned by different circles at the same time. There is absolutely no consensus whatsoever, a million different voices saying a million different things. This suggests to us that moral law is worse than organic, it is non-existent. All that we call morality is opinion, and has no universal binding whatsoever.

Our mistake is taking all these imperfect forms, and trying to extrapolate from them how Divine Law must work as well. We assume that certain commandments no longer apply, because society has come to a consensus to vote them out. We assume that if we hide our sins, then we need not pay the price of guilt. We assume that if we butter God up with love in other ways, then He might give us a pass on our misdeeds. We use the strategies that work with our fellow man, and try to apply them where they can never work. Divine Moral Law, to be Divine Moral Law, must be constant, universal, unchanging, non-negotiable, all-reaching, and all-encompassing. And even more than it needs to be all those things, we need it to be all those things. For with anything less than a totally sure foundation, nothing permanent can ever be built.

The Need for Law- The Principles of Law

Each of us is a member of our mortal world and are therefore subject to its laws of deterioration, entropy, and death. Or in other words, the laws of physics are inescapable to us. We are forever under the powers of gravity, force, action and reaction, magnetism, electricity, temperature, and everything else that is baked into the matter of this world.

We do not have to like these laws, but we do have to adhere to them, simply because we have no other choice. These laws are not elected, they just are.

These laws are impersonal and unbiased. They can work for our bad, such as tripping and being pulled by gravity into a hurtful fall. They can work for our good, such as jumping in the air and being pulled back to where its safe instead of floating out of the atmosphere.

That is the nature of pure law. It is entirely unbiased. It enacts itself the same way to a king as to a slave, and it never varies in its order. Also, it never ceases to apply. At all times and in all places the laws are in full effect. In fact, multiple separate laws may apply to the same subject at the same moment, but each will have its full realization, none will be denied effect by another. They will each control what they control, and not what they don’t.

The laws of nature not only give our world structure and predictability, they also serve as excellent schoolmasters for understanding law itself. If there is a moral law, then to be a law it must also be impersonal and unbiased, just like natural law. There can be several facets of moral law, but to be a law, then each of those facets must have full expression, with no variance in how they execute themselves on one subject or another. To be a law, moral law must apply at all times and in all places, it simply must be. Also, to be a law, it must apply to what it applies, and not to what it does not.

And that last point is why we find it far more difficult to accept the existence of moral law than natural law. For where natural law applies to the forces of nature exclusively, moral law applies to the soul exclusively. Thus we can see, hear, and touch the evidence of natural law with our external senses, but we cannot perceive the effects of moral law with our external senses. That simply is not the realm of its jurisdiction. We only perceive them in our heart. Not only that, but where the forces of natural law are often immediate, the effects of moral law are often enacted over a prolonged amount of time, making it difficult to draw the correlation of cause and effect.

But though it is harder to recognize moral law, it is still there.

Individual Trials- Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 24:15

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

COMMENTARY

I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life
Choose you this day whom ye will serve
Yesterday we observed how the most common trial God places before us is the trial of our own nature. But the war with ourselves is certainly not some singular event, rather it is broken up into many skirmishes spread throughout each day. Therefore the trial of our nature is further divided into the trials of our individual choices.
Some daily decisions are made easily, but even if we dismiss all of these, there yet remain numerous times where we want one thing, but our conscience wants another. Each one of those is a trial. They might seem like small ones, but each one is a question from God that asks “will you choose Me, or will you choose you?”
That realization has aided me greatly when my small, daily trials come to bear. It is so much harder to deny God when I consciously know that that’s what I’m doing.

Individual Trials- Exodus 32:1, 7-8, 21-22

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

COMMENTARY

They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them
Thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief
We have previously examined that God tests His people with afflictions, but also with blessings. This is not all, though. Of all the ways that we are tested, perhaps the most prominent method is that of being tested by our own nature. Each one of us has our predisposition for sin. Some of us are drawn towards the bottle. Others are firm teetotalers, but then are drawn towards pride. Others are well able to remain humble, but fall prey to their lust. Doesn’t matter what it is, we all have our Achilles’ heel.
Throughout the scriptures we see people that are called to become something more than what they were, but are then tempted to slip back into their old nature. As we see in these passages from Exodus 32, the newly-freed Israelites struggled to cleave to God. Many times they turned back to their idols. In Numbers 22-24 Balaam was convinced by God to pronounce a blessing upon the Israelites, but then in Numbers 31 we learn that he went back and taught the Midianites how to corrupt the Israelites. In John 21 Peter returned to the provincial life of fishing, rather than answer the call to lead the church.
Yes we do have extraneous forces that tempt and try us, but by and large the old adage is true: we are our own worst enemy. The path to exaltation is attained less by powering through intense moments of adversity and blessing, and more by consistently looking ourselves in the mirror and choosing the better part.

The Way That Things Are- Acts 26:9-10, 12-14, Proverbs 21:2

I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

COMMENTARY

I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus
Saul had convinced himself that the world ought to be a particular way. Having been thus convinced he felt very strongly about it. He was very energetic in his opinions, going to great lengths to enforce them upon the world. But no matter how hard he wanted the truth to be the way that he wanted it to be…it just wasn’t.

Why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes
As Saul came to learn, it frankly doesn’t matter how strongly we feel that the world should be a certain way. If it so happens that it isn’t that way then it just isn’t. All of us convince ourselves that what we believe is right in one way or another, and when the actual truths of the world do not align with our expectations we feel pierced, like an ox kicking against the pricks.
We often speak of our desire to “change the world.” Our choice of words here betrays our vain arrogance, because in truth we can do no such thing. We can change society and we can change physical constructs, but the world, nature, and the underlying systems that define the way things are? Never. The rules of heaven, of earth, and of the soul: these simply abide as they are. So yes, we may change society, but we often change it to be contrary to actual truth. And then we fight for what we want but we never get it, because the entire world seems set to frustrate us instead. We are kicking against the pricks and wonder why it hurts.

The Nature of Sacrifice- John 12:24, Matthew 16:25

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

COMMENTARY

Except a corn of wheat die, it abideth alone
Whosoever will save his life shall lose it
Each one of us is given something at birth: a life to live. It is the greatest gift we possess, and it is ours to do with as we will. Understandably, we tend to put a lot of value in that life and guard it jealously. We avoid anything that we deem a danger to it, and prickle at the notion of someone else taking control of it. These instinctive tendencies of ours are good things, and they represent a healthy mentality.
But then, sometimes, the one that gave us that life asks us to give Him back a part of it. In some cases He even asks for all of it! And then those protective tendencies start to prove a hindrance. They naturally balk at the request. If we listen to them, and refuse our creator’s request, then we might be able to keep our life, but now it will be alone and empty.

But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit
Whosoever will lose his life shall find it
If, however, we overcome the natural man, we might be able to give a completely bizarre and unnatural response, instead. We might agree to part with that which we have. In this case we take our precious life and hand it over, saying “it isn’t for me to choose anymore, God, you steer this thing where you want it to go.”
Make no mistake, it is a hard thing to do. Even Jesus hesitated at the prospect of it, and wondered if the cup could be taken from him. But, in the end, he settled on the mantra “not my will, but thine be done.” And because of it, he was resurrected, and the life he gave up was replaced by one that was better. So it will be for each of us as well. We have to be willing to part with the good things we have if we are to ever have space to receive the better.

Our Dual Nature- Question

In my last study I examined how God gives us laws so that we may receive blessings and grow spiritually. But then we require a Savior to save us, because inevitably we end up breaking those laws instead. It frankly seems like a very roundabout way of doing things, which would suggest that there is more to the story.

Our problem, of course, comes from the fact that there is a good part to our nature (the spiritual), and a bad part (the carnal). If we just didn’t have this carnal side, then it seems like everything would be solved! We wouldn’t be swayed by temptation, we could effortlessly keep all of God’s laws, and we wouldn’t require saving.

So a few questions naturally arise. Why do we have this carnal side to us then? What is God’s reasoning behind raising imperfect children who require a Savior to rescue them? How does this all fit into His plan?