by Charles Clough
Series:Law, Grace, & Citizenship
Duration:1 hr 10 mins 32 secs

Law, Grace, and Citizenship Lesson 3

What Real “Social Justice” Looks Like (Part 1)

Labor Day Conference at North Stonington Bible Church
02 September 2012
Charles Clough
© Charles A. Clough 2012

Okay after being reminded 3 or 4 times at the door I will not forget the handout with the blanks.

(Opening prayer)

We are on session 3. If you look at that a moment I want to note that at the beginning of the outline for section 3, you’ll see that the title this morning is What Real “Social Justice” Looks Like.

The theme of the conference is Law, Grace, and Citizenship.

Several of you have already asked, “Well, where do we get the citizenship responsibilities?”

Well that has to come later which will be mostly tomorrow. We are laying the groundwork for that yesterday and today. Today we are camped on the law part. We need to press hard on this thing because our society is basically a lawless society.

So we want to go back and look at how God defines social justice. Where in the Bible would you go to find social justice? You go to the Bible to look wherever it was that God when He reigned as king, when He implemented His policies directly as at no other time in human history; we go to the theocracy of the Old Testament. So we go to the Old Testament, the sections that exposit the law. Now we’re not going to go to Leviticus or Numbers. Numbers is mostly narrative. Leviticus was a very technical address mostly to the priests. So there are very specific things that the priests do.

But what we are going to spend time in today is in the book of Deuteronomy. The reason we are going to do that is because Deuteronomy is actually a set of sermons that Moses preached to every person. How shall we put it? This is the layperson’s view of the law expounded by Moses in a series of messages. If you’ll look at Roman 3 in your outline you’ll see that I have given you a rough outline of Deuteronomy 5 to Deuteronomy 26. That actually is the second of several sermons (expositions) that Moses gave.

We will get to the details of that. We are obviously not going to go through the whole thing this morning. I gave you that overall view so you could see that there actually was a structure. There was a rhyme and reason to how Moses got up and he explained what the law was doing, what it was for.

But under Roman 1 on the outline you’ll see that we want to go back to these basic concepts. We spent yesterday going through 10 basic ideas. We spent that time because we can’t think and maintain our consistency, our logical consistency, if we don’t master these basic ideas. We as Christians today living in a highly secularized culture and a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Christian faith; we really have to devote energy and concentration to these basic ideas because these are ideas that cause a rupture between what we believe and what society-at-large wants us to believe. These are the friction points. These are the points where we cannot compromise. These therefore are the points of conflict. This is what is angering the people like I showed you yesterday in the slides that write in the journals these nasty things about home schools. Then Brittany pointed out yesterday the court cases. These are the concepts that anger people.

Hopefully now because you know the flow of Scripture – and I’ll keep going back to the flow - that’s why the framework approach is so important. That’s why those little pamphlets are out there in the hall. If you don’t have one you really need to grab hold of one of those little foldouts because that shows you the flow, the big idea of what God is doing down through the millennia of time. We have to learn to think in terms of that framework.

So when someone says for example, “Why do we believe in the fact that we have the only truth?”

It goes back to Genesis 12. So when you hear that, you have to train yourself to think where in the Scriptures does exclusivity start? It starts with the call of Abraham. Why did it happen? Why is it there as a feature of history? It’s there because of the paganized civilization. We know after the flood all people had knowledge of the Word of God. We know that. I mean that’s pretty clear from Scripture.

So that’s why some of you have asked, “What do you mean Charlie by the Noahic Bible. Do I go into the bookstore and ask for a Noahic Bible?”

No, that’s just a Charlie Clough’s label for the revelation that was accessible and available to the people in the family of Noah.

If we believe the text, we have to believe the entire tribal diversity of the human race; and I don’t say racist. There is only one race in the Scripture and that’s the human race. All else is a culture. We come out of tribes. Most of us if you traced your genealogy back most of us come out of a European milieu, a European history. Therefore if you traced your genealogy if we had super records and databases, we could go all the way back and we would find that somehow we are connected to Japheth. If we were living in Asia or Africa and we chased our genealogy all the way back we’d probably come back to Ham. If we come out of the Middle East (We’re Jewish.) we obviously trace our genealogy all the way back to Shem. So these are the fundamental families of the human race.

Those families at one time knew all the data in Genesis 1 to 9. They probably knew more than that because we know if you read Jude you have a whole sermon of Enoch and you can’t find the sermon anywhere in Genesis. So clearly there is a lot of information that was available to the human race.

What I often do with young people who I am trying to help understand history is if you take a piece of paper and divide it in half. Then write down all the elements of things that happen that you observe from Genesis 1 to 9. Do that on one side of the paper. Then go and read some of the mythologies. Go to the classic one Edith Hamiliton’s Mythology Book or go to the library get the Gilgamish epic or something. Then write down on the other side of the paper the elements you see in the mythology. What you will find if you compare the left side of your paper and the right side (those two columns) what you will notice is some similarities there. Those similarities are what were left of the Noahic Bible. Then you’ll find a lot of distortion and weird stuff. That’s the corruption that came. So if we take the text of Scripture and we take all the mythologies, the difference between those two sides of the paper is an empirical evidence of the preserving power of the Holy Spirit. In other words had the Holy Spirit not preserved the truth of Genesis 1 to 9, we would all be with the mythologies.

That’s the situation missionaries face. The missionaries are going into and you support the missionaries. It’s hard to be a missionary because you are coming into a totally different culture not only that but you are coming into a culture that has forgotten its own history. The problem often is that the gospel is presented like it’s western white man’s gospel. It’s not a white man’s gospel. If anything it’s the tan man. It’s the Semitic’s gospel. It came to the human race. It happened to be missionaries that came out of Europe; but Europe didn’t create it. Europe got it from the Middle East. That’s where the home of it is.

What’s hard to try and see is if in anthropological studies trying to evangelize you have to search and see are there any chunks of truth left in their own tribal historical memory. If there are some pieces of truth left, you want to point those out. Because by pointing out the fact that you are coming into their tribal situation with a gospel message, it helps to have them realize that the truth behind this book, you people once knew.

“If you could go back to your great-great-great grandfather, they knew this truth. This is not something new that we white people are inventing for you.”

So that’s why it’s so important to catch the flow of history. On the top of your outline we review the 9th and 10th major concepts. These are the two that I will highlight today as we start now through the Law and the structure of the Law. We rely on all the concepts but the 9th and 10th ones that we did yesterday are important to realize. The 9th major concept is there is a continuing war between God’s injections of special revelation (His interfering works in history) versus the paganized Noahic civilization which is corrupted and enthralled now with a vision of Babel. The vision of Babel is alive and well. It’s rooted deeply in the conscious of the human race.

At this time and I can tell you this because I have been involved in a lot of the climatological debates with the ecology and the Green Movement. The Green Movement in the world today is actually a movement toward global governance. The climate issue is a convenient tool to create a global consciousness. We have the economy of the West, the disastrous economic problems that we exported through our mortgages to the world banks. We have got this problem now with the financial interchange between nations. So we now have a global economy and what China is going to do affects what we’re going to do. What happens in Europe affects what we are going to do. So slowly there is developing a global consciousness.

Now is this bad or is it good? Well, it’s both. Here’s why. The global consciousness that I think God is sovereignly grooming us as the human race is going to be used for evil first. It is going to be the way the anti-Christ is going to take advantage. There will be a movement once the church is raptured; there will be a movement now without the restraint of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers. You will have a desire to recreate Babel. It will be Babel all over again, the same idea.

“We will make a name for ourselves.”

The sinful man does this because in our sin and in our unbelief we don’t hold to a God that speaks. So if God hasn’t spoken we have to do the speaking; and we have to do with defining. In a small manner it’s the same case that happened here in Connecticut with same sex marriage. It’s happening in Maryland with same sex marriage. Man is trying to define reality. So that’s the problem. That’s the 9th major c ... There is a struggle between this idea – not just sin – but also a special kind of sin that is inherited down through the ages what I call the Babel temptation.

Then the 10th major concept which is what we are really focusing on today and that is God once again intruded into history. The first intrusion in 2000 BC was when He said, “From now on I am going to reveal Myself only through the Jews. I will create the Jewish race (the Jewish subculture of Shem); and this will be the vehicle for My revelation.”

Now you say, “Well, what’s so special about the Jews?”

Nothing. It’s God’s choice. Now it does turn out there is a linguistic feature I believe to the sons of Shem. That is their language is conservative with time. I was talking to Wes about the missionary situation in Papua, New Guinea. The idea there is you can take a tribe and split it in half, put it on one side of the river and put it on the other side. You can give them 20 years; and they can’t talk to each other because they create their own languages. That’s the Hamitic thing. But it’s interesting that the Semitic languages (that is Aramaic, Aramaic and Hebrew) are extremely conservative with time. It think that is a design feature that God has placed into linguistics so that the very group that He has selected to be the custodian of revelation have a conservation feature in their own language.

A lady that was teaching me for a while in Hebrew pointed out to me - a native Israeli. And she said if Moses came back from the dead he could walk the streets of Jerusalem and carry on a basic conversation with most people. Now he wouldn’t know what an auto box was. He would have a vocabulary problem, but his language features would be that close.

Now this is a stunning thing to think that 3,400 years separate Moses from today’s Jews. Yet you are saying if Moses could back he could bridge 3,400 years of history. Yes, that is a dramatic feature of the Semitic language. I think God has deliberately designed that language to be that way so that we have a conduit of revelation. So the tenth major view is that God has chosen that vehicle beginning around 1400 BC. So it is 6 centuries now after Abraham.

So we come down to the Law. What about the Law? Well, I have given you several verses there.

But first, before we get to that, skip down to Roman 3 and look at the structure. You’ll see that it’s divided in half. That second exposition of the Torah is divided between chapter 5 and 11. Then there is a division between chapter 12 and chapter 26. That is a distinct break in the text.

You’ll know that the Jewish Shama, the confession of faith that “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all the heart with all your mind and with all your life” and so forth.

If you look at chapters 5 to 11, they deal with the struggle of the heart. That section where Moses is dealing with the heart of men I believe he is teaching how to love the Lord your God with all you heart. So those are heart issues. They are sort of generalized things, general rules.

But then in chapters 12 to 26 I believe there is very detailed. You can see. I structured the details for you chapter by chapter so you get the idea. Just skimming that outline you see how detailed it was.

So when Moses said, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy life,” then he spends half the sermon dealing with how to love the Lord your God and the details of life. That means he has to deal with details. That gets into what we call the statutes and the judgments.

Now you’ll read that again and again in the Old Testament - two words, statutes and judgments. When you see the word statute that is where he gives you a positive principle of a certain circumstance of life. Where you see judgments; it’s case law. See the text because when you see a statute; it’ll say “do this” or “don’t do this.” When you see a judgment you’ll read “if this happens then this occurs.” So there’s the case law.

The case law is given for the elders who had to serve on juries. This is how the society was structured. So you can see why Moses spent time developing the elemental case law. Maybe another way of saying it legally is that he is initiating the social precedent. They hadn’t had any precedent. But he is sort of giving them a precedent to get started with. It is a sort of kick to the judicial system. So that’s how to understand chapters 12 to 26 which we will look at in a little bit.

But before I do that you see we are quoting the New Testament. So let’s turn to the New Testament because there are some areas of the New Testament we all often times as Christians get sloppy about and I want to correct some things.

Let’s turn to John 1:17. In John1: 17 John is recording these words. He is quoting another John, John the Baptizer and John the Baptizer had a message.

John the Baptizer said:

NKJ John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses

No, this is John the Apostle speaking, commenting on John.

NKJ John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses

That’s the outline you have there in the handout.

but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Now that sounds as though there was no grace and truth in the Old Testament; but what you have to understand about the distinction in the New Testament between law and grace is this.  They are talking about a total cluster of commands. The New Testament has commands. So if you are going to say there is no law in the New Testament, what do you do with the imperative verbs? So there are ethics in the New Testament. So it’s not like the New Testament doesn’t have ethics. The New Testament has ethics; but the Old Testament has ethics. So here are two words to maybe help think this through. The Old Testament ethical system was a national ethic. It was designed for a society, a total society that would include believers and unbelievers. So those are nationalistic ethics.

The ethics of the New Testament however are not designed for society-at-large. They are words of God to the believers, to the body of Christ. So the New Testament set of ethics we call body ethics. Now I am just coining those words to help us think through the difference. In the Old Testament we are dealing with national ethics. In the New Testament we are dealing with body ethics, ethics given to believers for believers in that situation.

You say, “Why does there have to be a difference?”

There has to be a difference because the body of believers - we live in different nations. We don’t all live in the same nation. We don’t all live in the same circumstances down through history. So you might put it this way, body ethics are flexible because they were designed to guide believers in whatever nation they happen to be. They are addressed internally to the church whereas the national ethics were to one nation.

Then there is a further complexity here. That complexity is that the national ethics of the Old Testament were given not to every nation. It was given to a special nation. That nation was special because it was called into existence by God and God had a contract. In previous conferences I point that out.

Two things that you want to remember about history and Israel are these. Point #1 is that Israel is the only nation in history ever to be in a contractual relationship with God. Israel is the only nation in history ever to be in a contract with God. You could say plural, contracts with God. The contracts in the Bible concern Israel.

Now the second point is that every contract whether it is mortgage contract or any kind of a loan contract or a business contract – what do you need in addition to the contract? Why do you write the contract? Who enforces the contract? How is the contract enforced? It is enforced by monitoring the performance of the parties to the contract and measuring their behavior by the stipulations in the contract. So the contract becomes a yardstick to measure the behavior of the parties to the conflict.

In the Old Testament, who were the monitors? In other words, who were the people who were the enforcers of the contract? The answer, the prophets. The prophets spoke as God’s indictment. They would deliver indictment. In the Hebrew they used the word riv, r-i-v. The riv in the Hebrew in the Old Testament meant lawsuit. Very legal! First of all it’s a contract and second of all the prophetic books so misinterpreted by liberal theologians down through the years—The prophets were not innovators. These guys were not social reformers. That is a fallacy that you pick up on college campuses somewhere. The prophets of the Old Testament - think of them as messengers of an indictment. They are sort of like the sheriff deputies that show up with some legal papers. They are the people that are prosecutors. They act as the prosecuting attorneys. So all that is national ethics.

The church doesn’t get into that because the church has got a different relationship with God. We’re in union with Jesus Christ. We’re in union with the Messiah of that nation. But we are not a nation. We are a supranational entity because there are different people. We are all in union with Christ. The people in Papua, New Guinea are in union with Christ as we are. Our unity is not because we are in the same nation. Our unity is because we are joined to the same Savior. There is a distinction there. That is basically what John 1:17 is getting.

Now let’s turn to Romans 2. Paul deals extensively with the law. He was an expert in the Law. He tells us certain things. All this by way of introduction to the law code and what it’s doing. In Romans 2:12, this is a section where Paul deals with the moral and ethical awareness of unbelievers. The argument here and why this passage is so important is that this says that everyone in the world has some sense of God’s ethics. You are just fooling yourself to think that people really don’t know. In fact it’s because they do know and are aware of God’s ethics that they don’t like it when you remind them of it. If they didn’t have the standard, they wouldn’t be so upset when they are reminded of the standard.

Think about the first murder in history, Cain – Abel. In 1 John 3 there is an analysis of the first crime. It’s not a sociological analysis. For those of you who think sociologically and you are interested in this, here’s a challenge. Study why the first murder occurred. Did that first murder occur because Cain was economically disadvantaged? No, they were in the same family. It wasn’t due to economic disadvantage that the first crime occurred. 1 John 3 is very clear why the first crime occurred. It occurred because of a hatred for God. Here’s what happened. Abel’s sacrifice was accepted; Cain’s wasn’t. What was the problem? The problem was - go back to God’s sacred space.

“You don’t come to Me unless you follow My protocols. Those are My protocols and I expect both Abel and Cain to follow My protocols.”

Cain said, “No, I believe in ecumenical truth. We need to be creative. God, you have to be tolerant of my innovations.”

So he decided he would approach God on his basis.

God said, “I won’t accept it.”

Now the murder didn’t occur right then. What did occur was anger, which led to depression.

In the Hebrew text God speaks to Cain. “Why is your face fallen?”

That’s a Hebrew expression for depression. Here is a case of an intense form of depression not because of some chemical stuff in the brain which sometimes happens for depression. This is a different kind of depression. This is a depression of anger. It is a depression - the fact that “I know I am guilty. I am frustrated that I can’t do anything about it and I’m depressed.”

So God says, “What is his counsel?”

The first counseling session (well, the second one because He was dealing with Adam and Eve) but when God comes in a counseling session it is always fascinating to me that His first sentence is always a question. Why do you suppose God starts the conversation with a question? Because when you question someone you cause the other person to think. Questions stimulate thought.

That’s a lesson including myself we need when we discuss the gospel with an unbeliever. We need to start with questions. I recommend again the Geisler book (Norman and David Geisler’s book) Conversational Evangelism. You can get it on the Internet. It is a paperback. It’s a cheap book; but I tell you what – it’s packed with about 200 pages of wisdom on how to have a conversation with people, how to open that conversation. He uses questions –not defensive so you don’t get the person on the defense right way. You ask what appear to be very harmless questions to get them to relax, to get them so you can have a conversation with them. .

So God comes to Cain and He says, “Cain if you do well, everything is going to be okay.”

Now God isn’t asking him for human merit. What God is asking is Cain to do - “Pay attention to what I told you and do what I said to do and everything will be cool.”

But Cain didn’t do that. His depression went into anger. Basically his thinking was, “I am going to get back at Him for this.”

But he can’t touch God can he? So whom does he go after? The brother. Now it’s not just that the brothers have a falling out here. It’s deeper than that. It’s his brother reminds me of God’s protocols that I hate and I’m going to do something about it.”

And he does. 1 John 3 tells us how he killed him, slit his throat.

He said, “Okay, so he sliced lambs’ throat huh. I’ll show you God.” So he took the knife and sliced his brother’s throat.

“I’ll turn my brother into a sacrifice. You like sacrifice God? I’ll give you a sacrifice, my brother.”

So that’s the way of Cain - the hatred for the protocols of approach to God. So that’s what’s going on.

In Romans 2:12 Paul says of all Gentiles, of all unbelievers:

NKJ Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law

NKJ Romans 2:13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;

Now here is the key verse.

NKJ Romans 2:14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,

NKJ Romans 2:15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

So anytime an unbeliever behaves ethically he is showing you something. He is showing you that after all he does know right from wrong or she does know right from wrong because there is still in the heart of hearts an awareness of that standard. Thank God there is because that becomes the common ground for conversation.

We go to Romans 3:19. Here Paul discusses again the law and the world.

And he says,

NKJ Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law,.

That’s fine. We all agree that it was sent to those under the law. But now look at the purpose clause.

that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God

So what we have now is the fact that Deuteronomy 4 we said last night all the nations look and Moses said:

NKJ Deuteronomy 4:8 "And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?

So the Old Testament law is still a moral standard; and it’s been reflected in Western law.

Thankfully this month – I think this month - Dr. John Eidsmoe who is a Christian attorney who has studied the Constitution very thoroughly for years and years and years is publishing all the work of his research. It is going to be probably a thousand-year history of the affect of the Deuteronomic law on Western law.

He told me at one point he did a search engine of judicial cases in the United States (I think just the United States.) and he said, “You know you look at all the judicial decisions that we have in the database going back to the 1800s,” and he said, “I found over 1,000 cases in the American court system where the Ten Commandments are explicitly cited.”

He is going to document this in his book. So this is going to be a rich data source. In represents about 10 or 15 years work on this guy’s part. I don’t know what the title is going to be but Eidsmoe is E-i-d-s-m-o-e. You might keep Googling for that to see when it comes out. It will be a great source material.

So this is what I mean.

KJ Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

NKJ Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

So the law has a crucial, crucial ministry to all men. When we see the details of the Mosaic Law, we are going to be convicted of our sin. We need to be convicted of our sin, or we will never appreciate grace.

The old fashioned evangelist used to say, “People have to get lost before they can get saved.”

And it’s the truth. That’s why we have law and grace.

Now we have in Romans 6 we have Paul talking about the law again. This is his personal life.

He says:

NKJ Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

In other words you are in union with Christ; you are under another system. You have enabling power of the Holy Spirit that Israel, as a nation didn’t get through the law. What empowerment they had in the Old Testament as a nation came through Abrahamic Covenant, not through the Mosaic Covenant.

Then he says in verse 15:

NKJ Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

So the argument there is we don’t abandon the moral standard of the law.

Turn to Romans 7:7. He is still dealing with this struggle inside to understand.

“I am a sinner and I am trying to have a relationship with a holy, righteous God. It causes problems.”

So he is trying to deal with that.

So he says in chapter 7:

NKJ Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law.

One of the weaknesses in our Christian churches and it’s been this way for probably 50 to 60 years (maybe even further) probably all the way back to the 1890s is that many sermons or the majority of sermons are coming out of the New Testament. That’s fine, but to understand the New Testament you need to know the Old Testament. Two-third of the book that you’re holding in your lap – 2/3 of it is Old Testament. That might ring a bell that God has twice as much effort in the Old Testament than He does in the New Testament.

We might think, “Hmmm—maybe I ought to devote twice the amount of time it takes to understand the Old Testament than the New Testament.”

So what Paul says is:

I would not have known sin except through the law.

Watch this because now he is going to quote one of the Ten Commandments.

He says:

or I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."

What commandment is that? The tenth commandment

There is a practical illustration of the affect of the law on the human heart.

Well, on the outline under Roman 2, you’ll see where it says (And I am remembering the blanks everyone!) - the church doesn’t live in Israel’s theocracy. It lives in pagan cultures. So it has body ethics designed for it in its historic situation. However the law contains some stipulations unique to Israel. That’s true. Circumcision – it talks about certain sabbatical rulings and so forth. But within the law there are many universals, many universals to mankind because of God’s design to the New Covenant. What do I mean by that?

Well, we won’t have time today but if you go to Jeremiah and Ezekiel about the New Covenant that God is one day going to invoke to Israel when Christ comes back, guess what kind of statutes and judgments the Messiah brings back to Israel. The same ones! You see we forget something in our desire for Jesus to come back. We think of the Millennial Kingdom and how wonderful it’s going to be – you’d better read the language. How does Jesus rule in the Millennial Kingdom? With a rod of iron! Why does He need a rod of iron? Because, there are going to be sinners in the Millennial Kingdom. What does the rod of iron suggest about His governments? It’s pretty serious, huh! The use force. This is going to freak out people who always thought Jesus was this nice little Jewish carpenter patting everyone on the back. What happens when He comes back and starts ruling with a rod of iron? He has to. He’s God.

The other thing to think about is that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament, isn’t He? The trinity hasn’t changed. So actually in one sense Jesus in the God of the Old Testament. So you can’t split him off.

If you turn over to the next page of your outline, I am going to start here with samples of justice. Now when we come to Old Testament laws, if you’ve been in any classroom you’ll know this that people love to make some nasty remarks about your faith because you are one of the Bible believing Christians. “You believe all that stuff in the Law!”

In fact our President back in Chicago two years ago picked up one of the passages I’m going to deal with (Deuteronomy 21) to make fun of it, basically to denigrate the authority of Scripture.

Here is a choice quote. The 3 leading atheists today that right pop books of course are Christopher Dawkins The God Delusion, Sam Harris Letters to a Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchings God is Not Great - nothing new to their argument. These arguments have been around for about a thousand years. They are pop things. Unbelievers read these things. There are some Christian answers to all of that. I won’t go into it right now.

Listen to this quote by Richard Dawkins

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction. He is jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak, a vindictive blood thirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogenetic homophobic, racist infanticidal, genocidal, philiocidal, pestilential, megliomaniacal, sadocasimistic, capriciously , malevolent bully.”

Why is this reaction to the God of the Old Testament? It’s very simple. He sees God’s holiness and he sees his own guilt and doesn’t like it because he wants to be god and there is only room in the universe for one. So this is the deep offense that this law code.

Now if you look at your outline what I’ve tried to do here under Roman 4 the first and second commandments. Then if you down under the 1 Kings 12 quote you’ll see the tenth commandment. If mentally or if you have a pen draw a line between the first and second down to the 10th commandment because I want you to mentally go back to this chart where I pointed out that if the first and second commandment is like the last commandment in that it deals with heart attitudes and what we believe in our heart of hearts.

So let’s turn to Deuteronomy 12 and let’s see how when God was king – when God was king, how did He rule to enforce this commandment? Notice we are in the second half of Moses’ exhortation. This is the section that deals with statutes and judgments. So we are going to look at the first 4 verses.

NKJ Deuteronomy 12:1 "These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth.

So this is non-abridgeable law code. It consists of statutes that are positive statements. It consists of judgments to give precedent for the elders in their local villages for their trials.

Now we live in a pluralistic nation. By pluralistic nation we mean a nation of many different religious beliefs. That was not tolerated in the theocracy. There was only one belief.

You say, “Ah! Ah!” because we are so used to a pluralistic society. This is going to strike you as very offensive – these 4 verses. That’s why we picked them out to make a point. That is in the Millennial Kingdom this is the way it is going to be. And this is the way it is in the eternal state. There is not a diversity of religions in eternity. There is only one so get used to it. This is the way it is in real life. So these are the statutes and judgments.

2 “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree.

 3 “And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place.

 4 “You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.”

Wow, how did this happen? Obviously we are not saying that this is the behavior of the church today; but it shows you that God resents false approaches to Him. When He could rule His nation, He ordered the destruction of every religion except the true one. The reason He did that gets back to a principle. As a nation today we have this principle in tension - the principle that if we break the particular generalized view it is this. Every orderly society somehow has got to have cultural unity. Now you go to Japan and they have a cultural unity. The reason is because in Japan they don’t accept outsiders to immigrate. So they carry on the tradition of the centuries. So there’s vast cultural unity in Japan. It doesn’t mean political unity. It means underneath there is cultural unity.

This country was formed by the colonies basically an Anglo culture, an Anglo-Protestant culture. That unified the early colonies. Then there was Roman Catholicism that came in Maryland and other places, but it was basically a Christian culture. Then you had the Irish coming in say in the 19th century. But they were Catholics and generally got with the program as far as the general Christian culture. Even the Jewish people who were here from the colonial days you could say were basically pro-biblical. They believed in a transcendent God. We had a cultural unity. There was a kind of a unified everybody-knows-it kind of idea that God is above the state. There is a transcendent Bible culture.

Then we have beginning in the 1900s and so on, particularly now - now we’ve got Asians coming into the country who bring thankfully not a dogmatic form of Asian religion but just a secularism. Then we have most dangerously now are a group of Muslim immigrants who have no intention whatsoever of blending with the culture.

Now the Australians have understood this.

The guy that was the Prime Minister of Australia basically laid it on the line one day and said, “We’re Australians here. I want you to understand that when you come to this country you are going to be an Australian; and if you don’t want to be an Australian you can leave.”

What he was getting at - he wasn’t trying to be snotty about it. He was trying to say that we have to have cultural unity. You can’t have these enclaves of people that don’t assimilate. This is a problem now politically in our country because when you have a break in that cultural unity; now you are going to ultimately have a break politically. The only way we as Christians deal with that is through evangelism. This ought to be a call and a commission to start learning how to evangelize these different alien cultures. We need missionaries in our own backyard.

These four verses tell you what went on.

Now you say, “Why was God so dogmatic about this? Why did He do this?”

Let’s turn over to 1 Samuel 5. One of the delightful things when you learn Hebrew is to read the Old Testament in the original language. The reason is that somehow (I don’t know why.), but it really takes a good translator to translate the earthiness of the Hebrew. The Hebrew text once you see the Hebrew - and some of these passages you can tell that the English translators just didn’t want to translate what it really says here because it’s kind of embarrassing. Apparently the Jewish people weren’t that embarrassed; and they just went along with it. There is a passage that talks about men as people who piss against the wall. That’s not quite one of your top translations; but that’s what the original language said. That was the way they expressed themselves.

Here is one of the humorous parts. It is deep and profound theology with humor. The humor isn’t in Samuel; the humor is in the event of how God did this.

NKJ 1 Samuel 5:1 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.

 2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the temple of Dagon and set it by Dagon.

Dagon was one of the pagan deities. He is a fish god.

3 And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again.

 4 And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon's torso was left of it.

 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

The angels had a ball there. During the night obviously God sent angels in and they knocked over the statue. They didn’t get the message so they broke off his hands and head the next morning.

“Have you got it yet?”

This is a picture that the God of the Old Testament is not going to be added to somebody’s pantheon. Evangelistically this is serious application here. It’s easy if we don’t preach a clear gospel for someone to take Jesus and add Him to their other gods and goddesses. And where this is particularly a problem is in the Asian mind that has come out of polytheism. That is why those of you who know Goodseed - why John Cross started a new book in addition to The Stranger called By This Name. He found what happened was that if you go to a Hindu-type mind and they take the gospel and they bring it inside their system. So Jesus like Dagon is put into the temple along with all ...

“We’re open-minded. We have 99 gods; we need a hundred so we’ll add your Jesus over here.”

But that’s not the God of the Bible. So John found that the one event that he had to stress by this name was the Exodus. Anybody figure out why he picked the Exodus and tested it in the mission field and figured out this thing works? It’s because in the Exodus all the plagues on Egypt discredited all the Egyptian deities – the god of the Nile, discredited. He turned it to blood. The god of the insects and bugs and snakes - Moses showed our guy is bigger than that. Systematically every one of those Exodus plagues is directed at the theology, the ideas of the Egyptian tyrannical, pharonic state. That’s why the Exodus ....You have to see it had political and philosophical implications that struck at the very root. So this is how the Old Testament thinks. You don’t add God to the pantheons – He is either all or nothing.

This holds true in the New Testament. I want to take you to I Corinthians 10, which is talking about communion, how subtle this business can be and why we have to mentally prepare ourselves to be – like in the Old Testament they physically discredited these things. We have to watch in our heart of hearts that we don’t secretly entertain this kind of stuff.

So in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul has a little passage. He says:

NKJ 1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.

 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

 18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

 19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?

 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.

This talks about the invisible dimension of the world. Now we think four dimensionally – length, width, height and time. So we think of our existence in four dimensions. But the Bible doesn’t do that. The Bible thinks of our existence in 5 dimensions, that there is an invisible component to our reality. There are real things called angelic beings. Some are fallen and some are unfallen. Some are elect. What Paul argues here is these beings in the fifth dimension can intrude their thoughts into our hearts.

The church fathers argued that the physical statutes of idolatry were that product of a craftsman who dreamed that image. Those images that the craftsmen crafted of their gods and goddesses were given to them in visions and dreams. So this is how the invisible world in the fifth dimension can intrude itself in our world of 4 dimensions by creating ideas, shapes and forms that are very, very seductive.

That is why I showed you that Egyptian art form with the pillars. The Egyptian artist knew very that they weren’t just generating this on the fly.

The guy didn’t design the pillar saying, “Gee, I want to make a pretty pillar today.”

He was very thoughtful as an artist.

“What am I going to say in my art?”

The inspiration comes out of that fifth dimensional thinking.

So the idea here in the first and second commandments is that you need to beware of the affect of alienation from God as authority. I won’t go into all the things about demonic powers and so on. We aren’t getting spooky here.

This diagram I showed last time and I’ve shown it here several times. What this is - is to show you a four-layer cake. At the top we have a little political discussion. I don’t mean just politics here. I mean just social discussions. But underneath that there is a more serious level of ethics. Then underneath that is the area of epistemology.

Someone asked what epistemic meant last night. It’s just the study of how you obtain truth. Metaphysics is the study of what is reality. Don’t get scared of the big words. The bottom layer, the metaphysical, is reality. The second layer is how do we know reality. The third layer up the ethics is how do I conduct my life. What are the standards?

In the Old Testament the greatest sin was idolatry, not immorality. How do we account for that? Why is there such a passion about idolatry? We just read Deuteronomy 12 and they go around and they junk everything that smacks and smells of idolatry. Here is why. What is believed down here in epistemology and metaphysics – what is believed down there affects everything above. The ethics, the standards of morality are going to be influenced by your view of reality. That’s why God starts with the foundation. If the foundation is weak; the superstructure can’t be stable. So the emphasis then is on idolatry in the Old Testament.

Now in the interest of time I won’t go into this in much detail; but those of you who have been taught here over the years in the Old Testament – let’s just turn to one passage to show this. Those of you following – well, let me do this. On your outline lest someone remind me about blanks; let’s turn to Deuteronomy 16:18. I want to show you how the first and second commandment affected the judicial protocols.

There is a funny passage here. In 16:18 to 17:1, if you look at it - it is talking about the judges. It is talking about the proceedings in the legal system. Now notice what happens here.

In verse 18 it says:

NKJ Deuteronomy 16:18 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates,”

Those are the local city governments.

which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

By the way look at verse 19. Here are the first and second commandments. See what I mean. Ethics and politics are a result of your ideas of reality and how you know truth.  Look what happens.

NKJ Deuteronomy 16:19 “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality,”

By the way there is the equality of social justice - impartiality before the law. That is the social justice. It is not economic; it is legal.

nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.

NKJ Deuteronomy 16:20 “You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

The consequences people – you have a corrupt judicial legal system. You are going to have a destructive society. You can’t stop this cause-effect. But then, how do you explain the next verse?

Skip the next verse and go to verse 2.

NKJ Deuteronomy 17:2 “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant,”

See the “if”? That’s case law. So clearly verse 2 of chapter 17 deals with case law. Verses 18 through 20 deal with how you pick the judges that make the case law or execute it.

How do you explain verse 1? Packed in the middle of the very section dealing with judicial procedures, we have this strange verse.

NKJ Deuteronomy 17:1 “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

What the heck is that verse doing in the flow?

Well, here’s why. In the ancient world the court system (the judges) would often sacrifice the lamb because when they couldn’t figure out if someone was guilty or innocent they would sacrifice an animal and look at its innards and do some of hocus pocus with the sacrifice to see if the person was guilty or whether they were innocent. In other words they were relying on an idolatrous religion to give their ethical standard.

So what God is prohibiting here is, “I don’t want this stuff - I do not want false religion to influence your judicial system.”  

I mean you can’t get it straighter than this. This is a profound statement. This shows you what we are not thinking too carefully in our country about. You can’t be messing around metaphysically and epistemologically and hope to continue a just society. It doesn’t work - never has, never will. Okay, that is the first and second commandment.

I want to skip ... Do you see where it says 1 Kings 12 and the sin of Jeroboam? I won’t go into that, but if you know your Old Testament you know what happened. Jeroboam was the first king of the Northern Kingdom. He was worried politically about the fallout of three times a year the people in the North (That is in Israel.) would be traipsing down to Jerusalem, which was in the Southern Kingdom. He didn’t like the idea that people who were under his kingship would have to three times a year go under the Jewish King of Judea.

So he figures, “What can I do to stop this, to guard my throne?”

Never mind the fact that God said, “I’ll guard your throne.” We don’t listen to God of course. What can I do to secure my political reelection so to speak? What he does is he redesigns the religion. He creates two cultic centers - one at Bethel and one up in the northern end of the country.

Then he creates a new bureaucracy. Every government has to have a bureaucracy. So Jeroboam creates a new priestly bureaucracy. It’s not Levitical. This is a new religion. So he invents a state invented, state supported religion to protect himself politically. That’s a whole story.

Go to your concordance and look up the sin of Jeroboam and count the number of times you see that term in the concordance. It is repeated over and over and over in the Northern Kingdom. So and so reigned so many years and he committed the sin of Jeroboam. So and so reigned so many years and he committed the sin of Jeroboam.

 It’s repeated and repeated and repeated. Why? Because, the state religion was never disassembled and put under the first and second commandment.

Okay the 10th commandment - we’ll quickly go to Deuteronomy 25. This is thou shalt not covet basically.

Oh yes – blanks - false values and false justice. False religion creates false values and false justice.

Deuteronomy 25 very quickly is an example in the text of the callousness of people. And, God didn’t like it.

NKJ Deuteronomy 25:5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband's brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.”

NKJ Deuteronomy 25:6 “And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.”

Now you know that’s the background for the book of Ruth. What this man was – he was single apparently. He had a brother who was married. The brother dies. Now the problem is the property title and the assets have to go in the husband’s name. How is this widow going to survive economically? She is going to have to survive by the property and assets passing through the name of her husband. But her husband is dead. So what happens here is ... This is not a mandatory law in the sense - this is what you do if you care for your sister-in-law. It was an economic burden. That meant if you follow there if she bears a son that the first-born son will succeed to the name of his dead brother, not to the name of her new husband. So now this guy is taking his assets to support this family and he doesn’t get any return out of it.

So you can imagine this guy saying, “Why should I do that? Man, I am saving my money for my family. I have got not only the asset problem, I’ve got the fact that I’ve to pay for the raising for this kid.”

So this is an economic burden that’s placed on him. This is the background so that you understand better about Ruth.

But look what happens in verse 7. This expresses God’s heart.

NKJ Deuteronomy 25:7 “But if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders,”

This is the local city government.

“and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ ”

NKJ Deuteronomy 25:8 “Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ ”

NKJ Deuteronomy 25:9 “then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ ”

NKJ Deuteronomy 25:10 “And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’ ”

Now that sounds like some little trivial culture point. But think about the economics that’s involved here. It’s talking about caring for families. It is talking and addressing ... This man has an economic duty to sister in law. He refuses to take care of it.

“I’m not going to do it.”

The only reason to say no is because it’s an economic burden. It is a pain in the neck to do this. This is one of many instances. If we follow down in verse 17 there is another section in this section of the law that shows you how this 10th commandment. ... Don’t self-worship. It’s not all about you. It is about God and His will for your life.

So here in 17 there was a problem.

NNKJ Deuteronomy 25:17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt,

18 “how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God.

 19 “Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.”

Do you know what that’s talking about? Military battle. You’ve got your place secure. Again if you are a covetous person and all you care about is yourself - you don’t care about what God does. You don’t care about the future of your nation.

“We’ve had enough military stuff. We’ve got peace now. Let’s just relax.”

GGod says, “Don’t relax. Until you destroy Amalek you are not finished with your military missions.”

But it was very easy not to and that’s what happened. It wasn’t until David came along that they finally cleaned out the nest of perversity. It took them centuries to obey this little command. It was simply because people were tired. They were burdened. Maybe they were worried about starting their family businesses. Every time you go into a military situation; it’s another disruption. These last few verses, these last few cases are instances of just relaxing because it is more comfortable for me to do this relaxing than taking care of things that need to be taken care of because God cares for them. It’s easier for my care for my things rather than God and His things. That is the spirit in actual details of life in ancient Israel. That is how they thought of this thou shalt not covet rule.

We will go further into Deuteronomy.