I – Law and the birth of Chaos
In Exodus chapter 17 we read the account of Israel, just having left Egypt, being confronted by the Amalekites in battle. Moses stations himself on a hill with the staff of God in his hand. According to the text, as long as Moses was able to raise the staff over his head, the Israelites prevailed in the battle. When he would become tired and have to lower his hand and subsequently the staff, the Amalekites would prevail. Finally with the help of two other men, Aaron and Hur, Moses was able to keep the staff raised over his head and Israel won the battle and drove off the Amalekites.
Much can be taken from this text. Sermons galore have been written on it. For me, however, the most obvious observation that can be drawn from this account is the existence of a simple correlation... Hands up... Israel wins. Hands down... Israel loses.
There is no rational explanation for this phenomenon. The Israelites, after 400 years of slavery, were probably not well-educated and certainly not skilled at war. Nevertheless they won simply because Moses had kept his arms up in the air!
I like to think of this passage as the “light switch” passage.
The comedian Steven Wright tells a story about how he rented a new apartment. He walked in and the light wouldn't go on. He flicked the switch up and down several times to no avail. Immediately he got a call from Germany telling him to “cut it out”.
When we turn a light switch on we expect the light to go on.
To a toddler a light switch is a fascinating thing. Like magic it turns the lights on and off. To an electrician however, I would imagine there's nothing mysterious about it, 'though he too, might not understand the intricacies of the sub atomic particles that generate the current.
I suppose there's always more to learn... mysteries to explore. And once a mystery is understood and no longer a mystery there remain a zillion more mysteries to investigate.
The light switch, however, is governed by laws. We call these laws the laws of physics.
But the text that we were looking at was not about light switches. It was about a war that was won or lost simply because someone had found a way to keep his hands in the air. But Moses' keeping his hands in the air was in obedience to another law. According to the text, God had told Moses to keep his hands in the air. That was the law! It overrode the laws of warfare. It overrode every rational law, but it was the law of God.
“Moses... keep your hands in the air.” Obey the law, you win. Disobey the law, you lose.
When Israel was parked on the eastern side of the Jordan River, at Mount Nebo, prepared to enter the promised land to the west, Moses reiterated a more elaborate law that he had received from God. This law was the law concerning how these people were to conduct themselves once they would enter the land. In summary, he declared... 'If you keep the law you will prosper. If you disobey the law you will be scattered to the far corners of the earth and endure hardship and persecution. However, one day you will return to the land'.
Like that light switch, promising luminescence in a darkened room, and like Moses raising his hands to defeat the Amalakites, Moses' promises have shown themselves to be trustworthy because they've been fulfilled to the “T”.
At the very heart of this law that Moses gave to the Israelites was the command to “Love God with one's whole heart, soul and strength”. But how can people love something or someone that they can't see, hear, smell, touch or taste?” The command was there nevertheless because the only thing that could possibly keep this new nation of former slaves together was a law that required voluntary obedience. What would keep a man from say...
raping as many women as he could get hold of or stealing, or murdering, and getting away with these things because he was the “baddest dude on the block?
What would keep him from taking land and making slaves of people for the same reason as above?
It was intended to be fear of, respect for, and a sense of accountability towards this infinitely powerful unknown intelligence who's eye was on the thoughts and actions of all individuals and who, in the end, was the dispenser of justice that, in the long run, would make this law work and keep this society functioning and thriving. Without this element, as the Book of Judges recounts over and over as having happened during its time, everyone “would do what was right in his own eyes” and the society would fall apart.
So, it was faith that such a god existed that maintained order, temporary as it was, in Israelite culture. The land to the west of the Jordan, where the children of Israel were about to enter was in the cross-roads of the trade routes of world. Traders selling and buying their wares would pass through that little patch of land as they drove their caravans from India into Africa or Europe and back or vice-verse. God's intent was for the land of Israel to be like a rest stop on the highway for weary travelers. And it was not just supposed to be just a rest stop. You've heard of the seven wonders of the world. This rest stop was to be like all seven of the wonders of the world combined and then some!
The traders passing through would see a people who were given to generosity, love for one another and love for them. It would be like nothing any of them had ever experienced and they would go back home and tell their friends and relatives about this wonderful land and about this wonderful god who'd superintended the authorship of this magnificent law that regulated the lives of this marvelous people.
Indeed during the time of Solomon, the people of Israel had become the talk of all the nations. Solomon had become the foremost horticulturalist and zoologist in the world. As we recall, the Queen of Sheba traveled over a thousand miles to meet him because of the fame he'd attained throughout the known world. It was estimated that Solomon had acquired, for use in Jerusalem alone, over 600 tons of gold! Because of Solomon's disobedient conduct late in his life towards the law of God, however, his son, Rehoboam, lost just about every ounce of that gold after an Egyptian invasion and the prosperous and thriving kingdom was divided.
Just as obedience to the Law in the time of Israel was necessitated by individual faith in a god who'd superintended the authorship of that law, so adherence to the American Constitution is necessitated by the faith of the individual Citizens of the United States' faith in God. The Constitution of the United States, in no way, resembles the Law of Moses. The Constitution is not dogmatic about how one must perceive God to be like. However, it was founded on Biblical principals based on an understanding of the nature of man. It was created with checks and balances to prevent one individual from gaining too much power because history had confirmed for the founding fathers who'd fled and fought against the monarchy of England, that any individual with too much power would become tyrannical.
John Adams' (the second president of the United States) perception of the Constitution was as follows:
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
And so, where do we find ourselves today? America has a population who's citizenry is subject to “human passions that are unbridled by morality and religion”. The end result as we are seeing and shall more acutely see in the future will be anarchy and chaos... a people without laws, where people take and do what they please... where “might makes right”... where “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” especially the eyes of the dictator(s).
II The Case for American Imperialis? Or is it more appropriately Evangelism?
One of the rallying cries from the political left in America has been that the United States is imperialistic and imperialism is fundamentally evil.
Imperialism that has been exploitative is most definitely evil. However, when the United States defeated Japan and Germany during the second World War, over the period of the next 60 years, those defeated nations were converted into the second and third largest economies in the world. Ironically, the people of Germany and Japan thrived as a result of having been defeated by us. I remember my father jokingly referring to it as US foreign aid. Furthermore, not only were their economies improved and subsequently their lifestyles, but they ceased to be warmongering and aggressive.
I recall flipping through the channels one day and I ran across a Little League World Series game. A team from Japan was playing a team from the United States in a game of baseball. I marveled that 60 years earlier, the fathers and grandfathers of these kids were being trained to kill each other. For the most part, contrary to earlier expectations the citizens of our two nations have acquired a mutual respect and appreciation for one another.
I kind of look at governance as a sort of socio-political DNA molecule. Food is good. It's made up of all sorts of sugars and fats and proteins and other good things. But when food is chewed up and digested, it would be worthless were it not for an amazing mechanism found in all life forms that uses digested food for energy and converts it into a complex of large complicated interacting molecules that work synergistically to sustain life, and give form to that life. From what I understand, DNA is a long molecule that bears a code. It's like a long circular staircase and it's rungs are made up of four molecules that exist in only two combinations. For the sake of argument, let's simply say that molecule A only forms a bond with molecule T and molecule G only forms a bond with molecule C and as such they tie the two “railings” of the staircase together. The order that these two molecule combinations take on this “staircase” serves as a sort of biological Morse Code. It tells all of the digested food where to go and what to do to make the unique shape of an ear, or determine the color of an eye... whether it should be used to make a dog or a cat or a mouse or a person. In essence this DNA code is like a law which gives order to what would otherwise be for all intents and purposes, dead garbage.
So why do I say that human governance is like that? This may be somewhat of an assumption but, for the most part, I think it's safe to say that everyone wants to be happy. I would also argue that everyone has a different idea as to what they believe would make them happy. Some men might feel that raping women makes them happy. On the other hand such actions would most assuredly make the women victims unhappy. Without law human beings tend to descend into chaos. Invariably everyone winds up being unhappy.
So then, what law enables people to live together harmoniously while maximizing human happiness? The author of said law would most certainly have to be intimately acquainted with what genuinely gives people optimum happiness. Said author must have an accurate ability to discern the differences between human wants and needs and have an understanding as to what deterrents are most effective at preventing bad choices in this area. The author of such a law must be entirely empathetic. He must be acquainted with disappointment that comes from wants and/or desires that, of necessity, must give deference to those things that are incompatible with them yet which are, in the long run, and objectively speaking, more appropriate. Perhaps He might have an understanding of what might be an appropriate reward or set of rewards for those willing to make those necessary sacrifices for the sake of the more appropriate options. That is truly the law for which the world ought to be longing!
It seems, however, at least at face value, that no such constitution has been written to date, but even so, invariably there are going to be those who will not be willing to abide by such a constitution anyway. They'll still have their own opinions about what makes them happy. They'll go on raping women or stealing or doing whatever aberrant behavior that they do.
And so the question arises... who is it who desires to experience this utopia of guaranteed happiness? I would hold that it would be those who would be willing to submit to the authority of the Constitution... the law that creates order out of human chaos. Hence, the citizens of this kingdom must actively pursue conduct befitting this constitution (This conduct is pretty clearly defined in Jesus' sermon on the mount). It is sad to say that those who would be unwilling to abide by the constitution must, therefore, of necessity, be left outside the kingdom where, as the writer of the Book of Revelation puts it, “there will be eternal wailing and gnashing of teeth”.
So far, I've given somewhat of a feeble picture of the ideal constitution. In the meantime, history has been replete with all sorts of constitutions. Which is or was the best? I'm sure that there are countless parameters for evaluating them. But allow me to suggest one parameter... Immigration. Are more people desirous of entering a country than leaving that country? Said numbers can serve as a pretty fair indicator concerning where relative happiness of the population can be determined. Interestingly it seems that everyone and his uncle wants to come to the United States. Given my suggested indicator, it seems that the US constitution has created an environment most consistent with overall human happiness and prosperity in our modern world. And so, we have an immigration “problem”.
So what is the solution to this immigration problem? Like DNA the US Constitution is a template for the best known governance in the modern world. It, as we've already seen, can really only be effectively upheld if, as John Adams stated, “human passions are restrained by morality and religion”. But there are elements within the United States whom, according to the Psalmist, declare “Let us cast their (the L-ord and His Messiah) bonds asunder and tear their cords far from us” (Psalm 2). They want freedom from God and freedom to do whatever they want, whether it be sleep around, abort babies, leave their wives, engage in homosexual conduct... You name it. The less laws the better. Yet in the process they replace what will ultimately cause the greater happiness and good for all with what they want or desire. And they do this at the expense of their spouses, their children or whoever else might be the victim of their decisions. And according to John Adams, the US Constitution cannot maintain a society under that weight of such “lawlessness”.
Presently, illegal aliens are crossing US borders as if these borders were osmotic membranes. Why are they doing this? For the most part, they're primarily doing it to escape the lawlessness in their own countries and seek a better, more affluent life for themselves. This tendency toward immigration will undoubtedly end when the misery index in the United States reaches the same level of the countries from which these illegal aliens are coming.
What is the solution to this? T'shuva... repentance. The church, for one thing, does not have a proper understanding of law and grace. It has mistaken grace for antinomianism. One of the most disconcerting comments I've heard of late was stated by a man who'd sponsored a race about five or six years ago in Tennessee. I don't recall all the details, but either a tire, or one of the cars itself launched into the stands and killed several bystanders. In an interview on the TV news the sponsor of this event declared “I've done nothing wrong. I'm a Christian.”
Yes... he had done something wrong... The Law of Moses declares...
When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.
Building a barrier around a flat roof where people went up for celebrations so that they wouldn't fall off was declared to be the responsibility of the owner of the house. Such an action truly falls under the larger heading of “loving your neighbor as yourself”. Plainly the law of Moses applies here. The sponsor of this racing event, if he is in fact a Christian (God only knows), should not only not be hiding behind the Name of Jesus by declaring himself as a Christian in his defense (which is tantamount to taking God's name in vain), but he should have taken the necessary precautions so that this accident could never have occurred... if for anything, for the purpose of doing all things to the Glory of God. As it turned out the safety criterion for this race were determined to be woefully below standards. I pray that he comes to the point where he can acknowledge the depth of God's love and forgiveness that's available to him. On the other hand, he needs to be pursuing holiness rather than making excuses.
The church needs to utterly divorce itself from the idea of cheap grace... that Jesus died for me and therefore I can flippantly go about my merry way without concern for seeking to please God in all I do. Cheap grace has destroyed the power of the Gospel. Cheap grace contributes nothing but lawlessness to a culture under the guise of “religiosity”.
The church needs to be actively engaged in evangelism. The population of the United States and the whole world is casting its vote. They're voting that they don't want to be citizens of the kingdom with the ideal constitution. The church needs to be exhibiting righteousness, preaching repentance and preaching forgiveness for sin through and only through the blood of Jesus.
Only then can the integrity of the United States life-style and Constitution be upheld if that is still possible.
From a political standpoint, righteous governance needs to be encouraged world-wide. Through the application of pressure upon tyrants, people can be enabled to live more freely. Islam and other false religions must not be placated. Their veracity must be challenged at every turn and their practice must not be accommodated at the expense of the freedom of others.
Earlier I posited my feeble description of righteous governance. Does the Sharia law of Islam seem to even come close to that? Does it even remotely understand and look after the needs and wants of women? What about the Hindu Laws of Manu which lock people into a caste system whereby untouchables are denied any opportunity for upward mobility in Indian society. The Gospel is accomplishing amazing things in India. What about communist countries where God is the state and “religion is the opiate of the masses”... where people are made to do and believe what the state tells them to do and believe? What about North Korea where Kim Jong Un, the little tyrant from hell, is God?
The probability of the United States returning to those carefree days of long ago is very remote. Even those days were not carefree. Discrimination and segregation were rampant. As sacred as the US Constitution is, it is still a flawed document though it's the best thing out there. And it's citizens have always been a flawed people. Though the world is casting it's vote against the ideal constitution, there are some on this planet both from the past and of the present who are looking forward to its actualization. For a while it seems that those against the ideal constitution will be having their way as the world heads further and further into chaos, lawlessness and bloodshed. But fear not. If you cast your vote for the kingdom with the ideal constitution that day shall surely come. It is inevitable.