What the Bible says about
Obedience to God's Law
(From Forerunner Commentary)
After reading this, some carelessly assume that, if Israel had just obeyed God, they would have taken over the Promised Land without having to confront the people already there. This is most assuredly untrue. The blessings and cursings establish a biblical principle for God's people:
If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. . . . But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I will also do this to you. . . . (Leviticus 26:3-4, 14-16)
In a similar way, the promises of Exodus 23 are conditional. The bestowal of blessings depends upon obedience to the covenant. In covenantal matters like this with God, a Christian must expect reciprocity.
Notice this principle spoken by the prophet Azariah in II Chronicles 15:2: "The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." Will God bless rebellion by His people? Absolutely not! He answers rebellion by removing His protection.
Consider: Does God make growth and overcoming easy for us, even though He promises salvation? Are there no battles to fight while overcoming? If God completely smoothed the way for us, what would we have to overcome? If He smoothed our way, how would He test our loyalty? Would we be prepared for His Kingdom? Of course, He does not make it easy for us. Each of our paths is designed and tempered to test us on the level of our natural abilities and gifts (I Corinthians 10:13). Therefore, each Christian's way will be difficult; each will have to fight many battles at his or her level.
If God completely smoothed the way, it would create a walk-in-the-park scenario, eliminating the possibility of God's law being written in our hearts. When other biblical information is added to God's promise in Exodus 23, we see that what He guarantees is that He will drive out the people of the land, making it far easier for the Israelites than if He were not involved at all. God is comparing situations with and without His intervention.
In the analogy, the people of the land are symbolic of human nature, which cannot be made subject to God and His law, according to Romans 8:7. Like human nature, the people of the land could not be driven out without God's help. We can conclude that Israel would have been totally unable to accomplish even what they did had not God been with them.
How can we know that Exodus 23 is not an outright promise that Israel would not have go to war at some point in the conquest of the land? Seeing several scriptures together will make this clear. First, notice Deuteronomy 8:1-3. Clearly, God tests us to see where we stand, revealing to us at the same time where our weaknesses lie. Our standing must be revealed to both God and us because His work in us is a cooperative effort with us. Tests are not normally easy; tests are often clarifying experiences, exposing our strengths and weaknesses. They are designed to reveal spiritual and moral progress or lack thereof, and in so doing should motivate growth in areas of weakness and produce confidence in areas of strength.
We can now add I Corinthians 10:11-13 to our understanding:
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
An admonition is an instructive warning. It is not a "chewing-out" but a sobering, thought-provoking prod. Overall, Paul is encouraging us that God is carefully monitoring the tests we experience so that we do not get in over our heads. The sanctification process requires our cooperation with God, and He does not want to lose us through extreme discouragement.
Though He manages the operations of His creative process, His work definitely does not eliminate our involvement. Knowing that God carefully monitors each of us helps us to understand why the Bible cautions us to be careful in how we evaluate each other. God knows, but we certainly do not know all the factors working in other Christians' tests.
In Exodus 23:22-31, God makes six promises and gives one command to the Israelites regarding their conquest of the Promised Land:
1. I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
2. I will cut them off.
3. I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.
4. I will send hornets before you.
5. Little by little I will drive them out from before you.
6. I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand.
His one command, in verse 31, is, "You shall drive them out before you."
Consider what these seven statements reveal. The entire context suggests confrontation between God and the people of the land. However, the command, "You shall drive them out before you," should give us pause. There is more to this than a first glance might indicate. The easy assumption that God would remove every impediment upon Israel's entrance into the Promised Land proves false; that is not how it worked out in history. In addition, the Israelites knew for a certainty that they would have to face the people of the land in multiple confrontations.
In addition, they had already experienced a strong indicator of God's will for them regarding warfare when He permitted the Amalekites to attack the rear of Israel's column (see Exodus 17:8-13). That clash was only the first of an intense spate of battles in which the outcome hung in the balance on occasion. They knew that further warfare was a strong possibility.
Exodus 23:32 adds another factor that strongly hints that God would not simply drive the inhabitants from Canaan: "You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods." If He were going to drive the Canaanites completely out of the land before the Israelites, why would He need to make this warning? There would have been no people to make a covenant with!
Exodus 34:11-12, 15 repeats this command even more forcefully. If we take Exodus 23 and 34 at face value, the Israelites would have no opportunity to make a covenant with the people of the land because they would never encounter them to be tempted to make a covenant with them.
If the Israelites came into the land and began tearing down altars, would the people of the land have just stood around and let their revered high places be destroyed without resistance? No way! We can compare this to the confrontations many of us faced when we came to believe God, causing us to stop observing Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Sunday worship and to begin keeping the Sabbath and God's holy days instead. Did our families, friends, and employers give us no resistance to these changes, which severely disturbed these relationships? Did they not defend their lifelong practices?
Because they would have close contact with the land's inhabitants, the Israelites had a choice to make: They could either compromise with the inhabitants regarding their cultures or follow God's commands. The latter choice entailed doing things like destroying altars, which would produce intense confrontations—warfare. The evidence indicates that the Israelites expected that they would have to go to war.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part One)
A sign must be something that can be seen, yet it authenticates what cannot necessarily be seen. For example, one may see a sign on the road that reads, "Columbia, South Carolina—77 miles." A person believes the sign, which tells him that Columbia is 77 miles down the road. The sign points to a fact that cannot be seen. Likewise, a person cannot see the law of God written in one's heart, but when such a person obeys God's law, his obedience points to where the laws are, written in the heart, unseen.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)
1 Kings 12:26-27
The man possessed a real fear, but his behavior was motivated by a selfish regard for his life and his position as king and a disregard of the promise that God had made to him. God had already told him, "Obey Me, and I will establish you as king."
Obviously, Jeroboam was not walking by faith because he was more concerned about the people leaving him. Down in Jerusalem was the Temple and the brazen altar where the sacrifices were made—Jerusalem was the central location of the worship of God.
What could he do to keep the people from returning to Jerusalem and shifting their loyalty back to King Rehoboam through religion? Jeroboam was no dummy when it came to political things; he was politically astute, a real man of the world. He was as pragmatic as one can get, a practitioner of situation ethics.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Deception, Idolatry and the Feast of Tabernacles
Even as Christ, we have received the same commandment from our Father. Jesus set the perfect pattern in this, and this is what the New Testament teaches all of His followers. This, incidentally, is exactly what the Old Testament also teaches. His death was wholly voluntary, yet at the same time completely and totally in accord with the Father's will.
Briefly, then, He suffered and died because He willed to do it. He did it to show that He was in agreement with the Father's purpose. Therefore, the whole plan that Jesus carried out was motivated by His love for the Father.
The word translated "power" means that He was not a helpless victim. He had both the right and the power to become the instrument of reconciliation between men and God, and that is the course He took. He set His will to accomplish it. Jesus saw His whole life as an act of obedience to God: His Father had given Him a task to do, and He was prepared to spend His life to complete it, even if it cost Him His life'and it did.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest
Paul accurately records that the Israelites had a zeal, "but not according to knowledge." They were confused. The apostle Paul before his conversion is probably the prime example of such misdirected zeal. What did his zeal do to him? It so preoccupied his mind that it forced him to perceive Christ and Christians as enemies of the faith of his fathers. He was responsible for throwing many of them into prison, and some were even put to death as a result of his zeal. His mind could not tolerate anybody who thought a little bit differently from the way he did. God had to strike him down on the road to Damascus.
Even today, the Israelitish nations are dotted with church buildings, and the vast majority of the people are truly sincere, even zealous. However, true knowledge is still lacking. However, there is a difference between the Israelitish zeal of today and the zeal of Paul's time. The zeal in Paul's time reflects the Jewish belief that a person is capable of justifying himself before God on the basis of merit. In other words, as long as a person did what was considered "good works," he was earning "points," and God was obligated to mark this to his account and, therefore, owed him something.
Today's Israelites have gone all the way to the other end of the pendulum's swing, largely having thrown out responsibility to law and substituted a specious faith. Justification is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but that faith includes obedience to law, as Paul clearly shows (Romans 2:13; 7:7-12). If the law has been done away, then there is no such thing as sin—but sin certainly exists! James explains that the faith that is "living" obeys the royal law (James 2:8-12, 18-26). Thus, the faith that justifies—or is the basis by which God will justify—is an obedient faith. Most of Protestantism does not believe that way, holding to a "just-as-I-am" faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility
1 Corinthians 14:34
An examination of the whole context reveals that God's law was Paul's sole authority. One could be misled by the word also, as if it were just an aside or a secondary confirmation. No, Paul relied on the law to guide him in his decision.
But is he not the man who said that the law was "done away"? However, in I Corinthians 9, concerning the remuneration of the ministry, Paul's authority was again the law. Does God care only for oxen? No! Paul used that law to be applied to the New Testament ministry.
Here, regarding order in church services, Paul again appeals to the law. All of this confirms that the Old Testament was written with the New Testament church in mind. Yes, it covered situations of immediate concern to people in the area and at the time in which it was written, but it is more concerned with the New Testament church, as Paul writes, "on whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Corinthians 10:11; see also Romans 15:4).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 16)
This introduces us to another Protestant "ditch" we do not want to fall into. They assert that, because it is obvious that we cannot keep the law (because we sin from time to time), Christ kept it for us. "Christ did it all," they say. In so saying, they provide some with an excuse for not even trying to keep it and others with a justification for being passive and careless in their keeping of it.
In these five verses, Paul begins to show that the law is far from being done away and that we have a serious obligation to give our all in obedience to it if Christ lives in us and the fruit of God's Spirit are to be produced in our lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)
A mediator is only necessary when there is an agreement for two or more parties to agree to or discuss. God's promise to Abraham, and the inheritance that will come from that in the future, was not something that had to be negotiated. A mediator was not necessary, because there was only one party—God—who was agreeing to do a certain action. God's promise was His intent to carry something out, and so it was not necessary for there to be a mediator.
The Mosaic covenant required a mediator. Moses stood between the Rock and the children of Israel. The Israelites did not want to deal directly with God (Exodus 20:18-21) and instead requested that Moses speak with God and then speak to the children of Israel. The Old Covenant was set up with a high priest as an intercessor, who would stand between God and the people. The system, the covenant, did not allow for a personal relationship to develop between God and an individual, except in the rare exceptions where God made it happen. But it was not available to the average Israelite.
God's promise is sure! Abraham and the others in the "cloud of witnesses" all died without receiving the promises in their entirety. But the spiritual children of Abraham still stand to inherit eternal life, the earth, etc. This was not an agreement or covenant, but a promise.
When the covenant was ratified at Sinai, Moses was the mediator for only physical Israel. The Gentiles, the rest of the people who would be the spiritual descendents of Abraham, were not represented. Because of this, the agreement made at Sinai could not affect the unrepresented people. This is why the Old Covenant, or the Mosaic Covenant, is not binding anymore: Christ, the Seed, came to earth as a man, and the temporary covenant between God and Israel became obsolete.
God's law did not become obsolete, though—God does not change, and so His definition of what is right and what is wrong does not change. If it was wrong for the Israelites to commit adultery or fornication, it is still wrong now. If it was wrong for the children of Israel to break the Sabbath, it is still wrong now. Obedience to God's law was a condition of the covenanted agreement, but doing away with the covenant does not do away with God's law!
David C. Grabbe
Since God names individuals what they are, that, then is what this man is: "King of Righteousness."
Think of it! King of Righteousness.
Jesus Himself said: "There is none good but one, that is, God" (Matthew 19:17). Human self-righteousness is, before God, as filthy rags. None can be righteous but God—or one made righteous by God's power—Christ in a person! And certainly none but One of the God Family—the divine Kingdom of God—would be King of Righteousness. Such an expression, applied to any but God, would be blasphemous. Why?
Righteousness is obedience to God's law. Since God made all laws (James 4:12), He is Supreme Ruler or King. He determines what righteousness is. "All thy commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172). When speaking of one of the points of that law, Jesus placed Himself superior to it. He is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). No man is Lord or King over God's law. Only God could be! All human beings have sinned and broken that law of righteousness (Romans 3:23).
To continue with Hebrews 7. Note, too, that this man was King of peace. "Salem," from which Jerusalem was named, means "peace." And remember, Jesus is called the Prince of peace! No human being could be King of Peace. Men know not the way of peace. Read Romans 3:10 and 17: "There is none righteous, no, not one. . . . And the way of peace have they not known."
Observe further: Melchizedek was "without mother, without father, without descent," or as the Phillips translation renders it: "He had no father or mother and no family tree." He was not born as human beings are. He was without father and mother. This does not mean that Melchizedek's records of birth were lost. Without such records human priests could not serve (Ezra 2:62). But here Melchizedek had no genealogy. He must not have been an ordinary mortal. He had no descent or pedigree from another, but was self-existent. Notice Paul's own inspired interpretation of this fact: "Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life" (Hebrews 7:3). Therefore He has always existed from eternity! He was not even created, like angels. But He is now eternally self-existing. And that is true only of GOD deity, not humanity!
Yet Melchizedek cannot be God the Father. He was the "priest of that Most High God." Scripture says no man has ever seen the Father (John 1:18, 5:37), but Abraham saw Melchizedek. He cannot be God the Father, but rather, "made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3).
And there it is! In the days of Abraham, He was not the Son of God, for He had not yet been born of the virgin Mary but He was made like unto the Son of God in His manifestation to the ancients.
Notice again: Melchizedek, this scripture reveals, abides that is, remains permanently, continually, a priest. God the Father is not the Priest of God, but Christ the Son is! Yet, in the days when the Apostle Paul lived and wrote, shortly after Jesus ascended to heaven as High Priest, the scripture states that even then Melchizedek "abideth"—which means does now abide—"a priest continually." The Moffatt translation states it: "continues to be priest permanently" even while Jesus Christ is High Priest!
And notice that the order of Christ's Priesthood is named after Melchizedek. It is the High Priest's name that is placed upon an order just as Aaron's name was upon the Aaronic priesthood. Thus Melchizedek was then High Priest, in Paul's day, and even now, and He will rule forever! And at the same time Christ was, is today, and shall be forever High Priest!
Are there two High Priests? No! Impossible! The conclusion is inescapable. Contrary to many cherished man-thought-out ideas, Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same! Some people have stumbled on the statement that Melchizedek has no "end of life." They contend that since Christ died, He had an end of life! If that be true then Christ is still dead! But Christ is not dead. He is alive. It was not possible for Christ to be held by death (Acts 2:24). Melchizedek would never have fulfilled His office of High Priest if He had not died for the sins of the people and risen again. It is the function of the High Priest to lead the way to salvation.
Indeed, Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 5:9; 12:2). He is "called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:10).
And no wonder. Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same Person!
Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
The Mystery of Melchizedek Solved!
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