Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Covenant (12) Purpose 2: Spiritual Protection

The Israelites had no spiritual protection, because they lived before the cross. The people of Canaan were saturated with evil spirits (the population of the world was much less then, so they were more intense). The only protection was to remain separate from the surrounding nations. God gave the Israelites cultural makers to make this easy.

The two main cultural markers were the Sabbath and circumcision. These were not about righteousness, as the Pharisees thought, but to keep the people separate and spiritually safe. The laws about sexual immorality had the same purpose, because immoral sexual behaviour, gave evil spirits free access.

This was grace, not works, because God did the initial driving out of the Canaanites; the Israelites just had to walk in the separation God had given, by remaining separate. (The Hebrew word for holy qadesh, means separate, more than good or righteous).

Moses started in good works and became a murderer. After forty years of watching daggy sheep, he was mellow enough to live in grace. But he occasionally slipped back. When he struck the rock, he had reverted to doing to receive, so God slammed him. Joshua struggled with grace. He experienced it at Jericho, but could not accept it, so he did some killing that God had not commanded. He seemed to want to do it himself, so for the rest of the time, he operated in human strength and the people went down with him.

The Sabbath was grace too. God chose to bless the people’s work on the first six days, so that they did not need to work on the seventh. Every other subsistence society had to work eight days a week, just to survive. The sabbath was a great blessing, gained by doing less work than everyone else. It was the Pharisees who turned the sabbath into a holiness burden. Christians have been pretty good at doing that too.

Another example of a cultural marker is wearing tassels on garments.

Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel (Num 15:37-40).
The tassels would be a reminder not to "chase after the lusts of their hearts and eyes" (Num 15:39). The tassels would not give them a new heart, but they would remind them of who they are and mark them off from the surrounding nations in the same way as a sports uniform distinguishes a sports team. The tassels with blue cords were the original "labelled sweater" showing everyone in the world that they belonged to God.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law had focused so strongly on the cultural markers that they had a twisted view of God’s requirements for his people.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former (Matt 23:23).
Jesus requires his followers to focus on justice, mercy and the love of God.

Jesus death on the cross provides much better spiritual protection, by destroying the authority of the spiritual powers of evil.

The old cultural markers are done. The new cultural markers are "love one another" and the gift of the spirit. They show that we belong to Jesus.

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