The Need for Law- Isaiah 51:4-6, 8

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

COMMENTARY

For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner.
To understand the need for God’s law, we need to appreciate that we are under another law already: that of mortality. And the final fulfillment of that law is spelled out in total clarity: heaven shall vanish away, earth shall wax old, and all of us that dwell therein shall die. These are the commandments of the earth and they are immutable.
We try to medicate ourselves into longer life, we try to cryogenically freeze our cells, we try to create a legacy to outlive us. We do all of these things to defy the doom of earth’s law, but they are, at best, very temporary solutions. If nothing else gets us, the universe is set for total entropy, which will ultimately unmake any edifice that we try to preserve ourselves in. Whether we live for ten years, a hundred, or find a way to live for a thousand, we will still die.

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
But my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
And now, under that context of dark gloom, God gives His divine law as a light, to provide us a hope that was impossible by any worldly means. It offers another outcome, a different destination than the silent grave.
Who can deny the worthiness of this? On these facts alone, it is a law that we should all subscribe to. It honestly wouldn’t matter what its principles and commandments were, we would be fools to not adhere to them. Any cost that it asked would be worth the outcome.

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.

The Captive Heart- Summary

The purpose of this study was to consider all the different ways in which we become lost or broken, and how the atonement of Jesus Christ addresses each of these issues. Through this study I have gained a greater appreciation for how multifaceted that sacrifice was, and how it fulfills many laws and overcomes many challenges and defeats many enemies all at once in order to rescue us.
For each one of us has been lost and broken in many and unique ways, and your remedy must be different than mine. We require a surgeon who is prepared to care for every kind of wound, and every combination of wounds.
I was also struck during my study by how deeply aware the gospel is of this situation. I found that the scriptures, which written millennia ago, already held the answers to questions that I only thought to ask today. Let us review what those questions and answers were.

We Are Broken and Lost in Diverse Ways

As suggested above, we are each wounded in unique and diverse ways. During the course of this study I broadly described those wounds under three categories: wounds that we inflict upon ourselves, wounds that are inflicted on us by others, and wounds that are inflicted on us by the fallen world. Without exception, each of us is broken under each of these categories.
But, of course, each category can itself be expanded into innumerable instances, each of which comes with its own individual heartache. The regret of telling a lie is different from the guilt of giving in to lust, which is different from the pain of being insulted, which is different from the shock of losing a loved one, etc.
Heaven is a place of perfect cleanliness, perfect peace, and perfect joy. And as such, we are ill fitted for it if we are filthy, or conflicted, or even sad. Which, of course, we all are. Not only that, but we are filthy without the power to clean ourselves, conflicted without the power to mediate our own peace, and sad without the power to give ourselves lasting joy. We are not only lost, we are lost without any power to find the path back.
Isaiah 53:6- All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.
John 5:6-7- When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

Being Broken is Mandatory in a Fallen World

Our hubris is that we so often think we can do something about this brokenness. We believe that if we exercise enough self control, we will never sin. We think that if we wall off our heart, we will never be hurt by another. We hope that if we take enough precautions, we will never fall to the misfortunes of the world. And if we have already suffered any wounds, we tell ourselves that we can work around them, or else that we’ve cured them by sheer force of will. In other words, we live in supreme denial.
Mortals trying to defy gods. Just who do we think it is that we are trying to bowl over with our grit and spunk? Our foes are Satan, human nature, and the very world, beings and forces that are immortal, that have broken men long before our birth and will continue to do so long after our death.
Which death we should make special note of. Each of us was born, and therefore subscribed ourselves to entropy and deterioration. We will decay until everything is broken. We must. It is not that it is hard to resist, it is that it is impossible. We were born into it, and the frantic way in which we try to control this world only proves how fully we live under its fear, and therefore under its power.
Isaiah 2:22 (TLB)- Puny man! Frail as his breath! Don’t ever put your trust in him!
Job 38:31-33- Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?

The Laws of the World Must be Fulfilled

But then, perhaps we aren’t as foolish as all that. Perhaps all of our hustle and bustle is due to a true intuition that burns inside. Even though this world is unfair, in our hearts we know that there should be order and balance. Even though others hurt us, in our hearts we know that there should be healing. Even though we let ourselves down, we know that there should be second chances. There is a seed of divinity in us, and it refuses to accept the terms of fallen mortality.
And this is not wrong. We were given that fire in order to seek our own better nature, and to be agitated into seeking salvation from our own brokenness. We just need to stop trying to save ourselves by our own power, and start looking for a method that actually works.
Jesus Christ is the mediator between the laws of the fallen world, and the divine law that burns in our hearts. He is uniquely capable to satisfy both without denying either.
And so, even though we will sin and that sin must be matched with damnation, Christ has already endured the depths of hell in Gethsemane, that law is therefore fulfilled, and we can have the second chance that our heart knows we should. And even though we will be hurt by others, which our mortal justice requires retaliation for, that retaliation is given to Christ instead, that law is fulfilled, and we obtain healing for our hurt and forgiveness for our hurter. And even though we will suffer sickness and death, Jesus has also endured that death, that law is fulfilled, and we will obtain a resurrection.
In this life, all the demands of mortal law have been fulfilled, and whether in this life or the next, all the expectations of our divine soul will be fulfilled as well.
Luke 4:18- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
John 16:33- These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Revelation 21:4- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

The Captive Heart- Matthew 5:38-39, 1 Peter 2:24, Colossians 3:13

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

COMMENTARY

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also
Yesterday we discussed that the only form of justice our fallen world can provide is “an eye for an eye.” It is fair, but also harsh, and it is destined to worsen the whole human experience over time.
Jesus, of course, recommended a different way. By taking the insult, having the right to lash back in kind, but yet not doing so, the cycle of harm comes to an end. For the first time it becomes possible for the human situation to actually become better instead of worse. It’s an exciting prospect, but who has the strength to do it? How do we find the power to let go of vengeance, when our mortal frame cries for it?

Who bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we should live unto righteousness
Our heart cries for justice. There is an eternal force that sees offense and demands retribution, and that force resonates through us all. It is one of the laws of this world, and it cannot be denied, the compensation of an eye for an eye must be answered. What we need to recognize, though, is that it already has been.
When my fellow brother or sister has offended me, the offense that I would do to make things even has already been endured by Christ. He stands in for them, having that right as their spiritual father, and takes the pain until things have been made equal to what I endured. And because that balance has been made, I no longer need to hurt my brother or my sister. I can forgive them instead.

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye
And what is more, I am not only able to forgive them, I am compelled to! For I have also been forgiven by Christ, and not because of any merit of my own. I have been forgiven undeservedly, thus creating an imbalance, which that same eternal force of justice now compels must be matched by another act of undeserved forgiveness. Because I have been forgiven freely, I feel that I must forgive another freely.
And just like that, the self-destructive cycle of the world applies to us no more. It is not that it has been broken, it is that it has been fulfilled (Matthew 5:17).

The Captive Heart- John 15:19-20, Exodus 21:24

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot

COMMENTARY

But because ye are not of the world, the world hateth you
In our lives, others will hurt us. Indeed, we experience this unpleasant heartbreak when we are still very small. Our parents are harsh with us and our peers make fun of us. Those we depend on for support and love while still so vulnerable betray us instead.
When we get older the circle of criticism goes out further. When we are children our view is limited to immediate family and friends, but when we grow older we become aware of the greater world. And there we discover that there are those who call us evil and wish we were eradicated. It frankly doesn’t matter which ideology or belief we subscribe to, there is always someone who sees our way of life as the source of all the world’s problems.
We feel the truth of Jesus’s words: that we are not a part of this world, and because of that the world hates us. This experience is true for all of us, for all of us are foreigners to this Earth. We don’t belong, and we distinctly feel the friction of that.

Eye for eye
And, of course, the natural reaction to being hurt by that friction is to hurt back again. An eye-for-an-eye is the rule of this world, it is simply the best form of balance and justice that the mortal realm can provide.
It is a hard law. Each of us will transgress it at some point, because we are imperfect. Each of us will unquestionably wound another, and then balance will demand that we must be wounded, too. Thus we must all be hurt, but should we just try to be hurt as equally as possible? This would mean each new invention of cruelty must eventually be permeated through the whole. The entire world situation could only become more miserable. In a way it is fair…but what a horrible fate for us all.
Can anyone question that somehow we need to be saved from this mortal condemnation?

The Captive Heart- Romans 5:12, 15; Revelation 21:4

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

COMMENTARY

By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men
Previously we discussed how each of us have come to recognize that our world is harsh and unfair. The way of this earth is that we come to misfortune, even when it is not our fault, even when it is no one’s fault. We don’t have to succumb to sin or be abused by others to already know sorrow. It comes and finds us where we are, and no amount of doing good will prevent it.

For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain
Yet in all this there yet remains grace. For though we suffer undeserved sorrows, through Jesus we also receive undeserved joy. Today we are given rewards that we do not have the merit for, and in the next life all the agonies of this life, even the ones we did deserve, will be purged away by God, Himself. And then dismay will be counterbalanced with joy until the scales have been made right and order restored. But even then the blessings will still continue, tipping forever further into the good.

The Captive Heart- Ecclesiastes 2:11, 15-18

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.
For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.
Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

COMMENTARY

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever.
I hated all my labour: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
Ecclesiastes is a most interesting book. There is not another volume in all of scripture that is so pessimistic and fatalistic. The Preacher describes a world where consequence does not match behavior, where the good and the evil meet the same fate, where the lazy prosper and the hardworking remain desolate.
And quite frankly, the world he sees is not inaccurate. For while we have some level of control over our fate, it is minimal at best. So much is left to chance and whim. At some point or another we all come to the same realization: “life isn’t fair!”
And that is correct. Life is not fair. How could it be? We live in a fallen world, where injustice and imbalance will forever hold sway. This is a very hard pill for us to swallow, for it is in our nature to believe in order and balance. It takes a breaking for us to finally accept that the world does not match what our hearts know it should be.
And this is the entire point of Ecclesiastes, to show the hopelessness of the material world. If there was no God, if there was no heaven, if there was no measuring of justice and recompense in the hereafter, if this world were truly all that there was…then things would be very bleak indeed.

The Captive Heart- John 16:33

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

COMMENTARY

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
We have spoken about how we tend to fear the world, and have a strong desire to conform to it. This eventually leads us to compromise our conscience, which results in us feeling broken and unworthy.
And so we are, for we have traded God for carnality, and have consigned our fate with the rest of this temporary, soon-to-die world. The pain that we feel is nothing more than the accurate and appropriate realization of our own condemnation. Our fates are now sealed with this world forever.
Or so they would be…if one had not come to overcome the world. When Jesus speaks of his conquering the mortal realm, it has two applications in our life. The first is that he is able to ransom our hearts from the fallen world tp which we have sold it. He brings us back to belonging to heaven, and not to earth. The second application is that he can overcome the fear of the world in our hearts, so that we do not feel so compelled to sell ourselves to it again in the future. He both frees us, and enables us to remain free.

The Captive Heart- Question

The end of my last study was very impactful to me. It brought up the point of how we so often choose the very things that hurt us the most, and how God must intervene to save us from our own selves.

But to be sure, each of us are also victims to the onslaughts of others. Indeed most of our own acts of self-harm have their roots in the way others cut our confidence out from under us. We were made to question our worth, and that wasn’t right. So God must also intervene to save us from others.

Yet is it any wonder that others have learned to be cruel, given how harsh and uncompromising this world can be? Sometimes it is neither ourselves nor another that causes offense, it is the misfortune of nature, of chance, of having a physical body and a frail mind, of being subject to disease, deterioration, and death. So God must also intervene to save us from the mortal world.

And He does so. With this study I would like to examine how we are assaulted, and how we find reclamation in the gospel. In the meantime I would invite you to consider in what ways you have been hurt by yourself, by others, and by the world? How are you hurting right at this moment? In what ways is God trying to rescue you? Are there ways in which you are blocking Him? What are the reasons why?