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The Future of Progress

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Reacting to the unbridled modern confidence in progress, G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.” He realized that real progress is not simply a temporal assurance as though the future hold unlimited promise for progress. The proper question is, “Progress toward what?” Where are we headed?

If I am moving closer and closer to an oncoming train, am I making “progress?” Chesterton viewed this unreflected confidence in the abstract spirit of the age as a bit absurd, he said, “Progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.” And then, “The modern world is a crowd of very rapid racing cars all brought to a standstill and stuck in a block of traffic.” Recently a friend recommend I read last December’s, The Economist; where sounding very much like G.K. Chesterton, they published an article asking, “Why is the modern view of progress so impoverished?

The article weaves Imre Madach’s “The Tragedy of Man” (1861) throughout. Madach tells an industrial age version of “Paradise Lost.” Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but Adam is not repentant. He glories in his power and free from God’s rules, proclaims his dream of human progress and achievement. Lucifer lulls him to sleep and then leads Adam through a series of future epochs. The Economist summaries,

Adam gets the chance to see how much of Eden he will “regain”. He starts in Ancient Egypt and travels in time through 11 tableaux, ending in the icebound twilight of humanity. It is a cautionary tale. Adam glories in the Egyptian pyramids, but he discovers that they are built on the misery of slaves. So he rejects slavery and instead advances to Greek democracy. But when the Athenians condemn a hero, much as they condemned Socrates, Adam forsakes democracy and moves on to harmless, worldly pleasure. Sated and miserable in hedonistic Rome, he looks to the chivalry of the knights crusader. Yet each new reforming principle crumbles before him. Adam replaces 17th-century Prague’s courtly hypocrisy with the rights of man. When equality curdles into Terror under Robespierre, he embraces individual liberty—which is in turn corrupted on the money-grabbing streets of Georgian London. In the future a scientific Utopia has Michelangelo making chair-legs and Plato herding cows, because art and philosophy have no utility. At the end of time, having encountered the savage man who has no guiding principle except violence, Adam is downcast—and understandably so. Suicidal, he pleads with Lucifer: “Let me see no more of my harsh fate: this useless struggle.”

With this backdrop, we now visit the perplexing history of progress in the modern world. “Optimists in the Enlightenment and the 19th century came to believe that the mass of humanity could one day lead happy and worthy lives here on Earth. Like Madach’s Adam, they were bursting with ideas for how the world might become a better place.”

The Economist explores the troubled history of the word and idea of “progress” since its flowering in the 17th century. Some of the various approaches to progress include an accounting model, a scientific model, and a business model.

Accounting – Progress by the book
The libertarians Julian Simon and Stephen Moore wrote an extensive study arguing that “It’s Getting Better All the Time.” While they amass statistics highlighting amazing improvements in most living conditions , they ignore increased government oppression in the 20th century. They demonstrate a significant improvement in health and wealth but the numbers do not voice greater contentment, more happiness, a deeper sense of responsibility. They also fail to take into account the dangers as a result of progress like nuclear cataclysm, environmental destruction, or the decline in moral power as demonstrated in Alisdair MacIntyre’s work on moral philosophy.

Science – Discovery with a Hint of Alchemy
While science has transformed our modern world and made possible many of advancements in health and wealth that Simon and Moore document, we cannot ignore the power science wields to change and possibly even destroy the world. The Economist summarizes:

Modern science is full of examples of technologies that can be used for ill as well as good. Think of nuclear power—and of nuclear weapons; of biotechnology—and of biological contamination. Or think, less apocalyptically, of information technology and of electronic surveillance. History is full of useful technologies that have done harm, intentionally or not. Electricity is a modern wonder, but power stations have burnt too much CO2-producing coal. The internet has spread knowledge and understanding, but it has also spread crime and pornography. German chemistry produced aspirin and fertiliser, but it also filled Nazi gas chambers with Cyclon B.

Economics – The End of the Rainbow
There is a bit of irony in this section since The Economist virtue of its name is commited to strong business and a healthy economy. “Yet even the stolidest defenders of capitalism would, by and large, agree that its tendency to form cartels, shuffle off the costs of pollution and collapse under the weight of its own financial inventiveness needs to be constrained by laws designed to channel its energy to the general good.”

Free markets may have delivered economic prosperity but they can’t deliver inner peace, true joy, and an assured future growth. If the natural resources are completely depleted, we may hand our children an ugly world with even uglier social problems haunting them and their descendents.

A Vision of Moral Progress
In the end, we are presented with a possible approach for progress rooted in moral sensibility coupled the junior partner of democratic governance. Citing Susan Neiman, The Economist proposes that there are ways of thinking about morality that are not trapped in power games or institution bigotry. “Ms Neiman asks people to reject the false choice between Utopia and degeneracy. Moral progress, she writes, is neither guaranteed nor is it hopeless. Instead, it is up to us.”

My Initial Responses
While this article doesn’t fully answer Chesterton’s critique of the lack of a specific goal for progress, I think it does point us toward a conversation where those goals might be elucidated. Neiman’s language of moral sensibility is appealing though not having read her, I am not clear the path where she uncovers these moral senses, but I am attracted enough to learn more. It makes me think of C.S. Lewis’s language of moral imagination.

As a person who has been called by Jesus Christ, I look toward the person of Jesus Christ as a starting place for thinking about moral sensibility. Now some might suggest that this is immediately a closed-minded, bigoted response to this call for a “universal moral sensibility.” But as Chesterton points out some where, (and I am loosely quoting from memory) you can’t turn right and left at the same time. The act of turning right eliminates the left turn. The decision to speak of moral sensibility immediately changes the question from the universal to the particular. The real question is whose particular moral sensibility.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, I encounter a moral sensibility that fulfills the Ten Commandments including the Law and the Prophets. I can engage someone with a different foundation for moral sensibility. I simply make my starting point for moral imagining clear. It is not my own sense of morality (which is often deluded and corrupted) but the Ten Commandments fully enfleshed in Jesus that serves as a starting point for me to think more deeply about moral imaging and the future of progress.

3rd Commandments

June 29, 2009 Leave a comment
The Good Shepherd (Ravenna)

The Good Shepherd (Ravenna)

If you haven’t guessed, I’m working my way through each of the 10 Commandments and meditating upon the glory that I believe is revealed and guarded in the command. This is not comprehensive but thoughts that come to mind after spending the last 18 months reflecting on these grand and wondrous Words.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Deut. 5:11)

Blessed be the our Lord Creator and Ruler of all times, all places, and all peoples. We bow our knees and confess, “Jesus is Lord, Jesus is King, Jesus is Savior.” We confess Jesus as the name above every name. We lift our voices to the Lamb of God who is worthy of all praise and honor and glory and power and wisdom.

We rejoice that the Father in heaven has adopted into the family of God through our Lord Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for sealing us with the Spirit of Truth, who teaches us to say, “Jesus is Lord.” Not simply with our mouths but with our lives. The word of truth articulated and translated in our tongues, in our hearts, in our hands and in our feet.

We rejoice King Jesus in your righteous rule. We didn’t know what greatness was, we didn’t know what glory was, we didn’t know what beauty was, until you came. You revealed the rule of the Father in the heart of a servant. Clothed in glory and dwelling in unapproachable light, you precede all things, all thoughts, all referents. No idea, no concept, no word can contain you, the Lord of Glory.

And yet.

Instead of grasping for glory and power and honor (which are all yours), you let go and humiliated Yourself before all creation and entered into creation as Word made Flesh; as servant; as criminal; as the cursed scapegoat of all our violence, all our cruelty, all our pain, all our brokenness, all our sin. You carried all of the darkness and pain and evil of the world upon yourself.

In dying, you poured out your body, your love, your life into the Father’s hand who raised you up by His Spirit and exalted you above every name. We glorify this name. We honor this name. We bow before this name. We swear fealty to this name.

We confess this name by Your Holy Spirit.

By the great and wondrous Grace of Your Spirit, we’ve been caught up in your Righteous Rule and we rejoice. We’ve been taken up to the throne. We’ve been set in a family: the family of God. We’ve been made kings and priests of our Lord Jesus, the King of all Kings.

May our words and our hands and our feet and our hearts become an anthem of praise and glory and honor unto the true King, the Kinsman-Redeemer, the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

1st Commandment as Praise

June 28, 2009 Leave a comment


I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. Deut 4:6-7

Thank you Father for rescuing us from the house of slavery. In your great and wondrous grace, you’ve adopted us into your family. You’ve rescued us from the folly of our own foolishness. We were taken captive by our own lusts and desires. We not only turned away from you but we turned away from one another. Our selfish desires led us astray and we fell captive to unforgiveness, self-pity, inglorious imagination. Seeking to be wise we became fools and worship created things and people instead of worshipping you, the Creator of all things.

In our despair and confusion, you remembered us. In our state of war against you and your kingdom, you loved us. Like the only true Father, you came to us in our confusion and rebellion, and you rescued us.

You’ve led us forward into the wideness of your grace, and we are overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by your unstoppable love. Overwhelmed by your songs of deliverance. Overwhelmed by the joy of your salvation.

You’ve freed us from the tents of wickedness and welcomed us into the house of the righteous where we feast upon you and your goodness. As the only good and gracious Father, you shower us with ever good thing and all we can do is rejoice. Thank you oh great and gracious Father. May your Spirit teach us to sing anthems of praise to your name. Blessed the Lord, God Almighty, Our Father and Protector and Provider and Royal King both now and forever. We rest in Your embrace.

Deuteronomy 4:1 – Law and Grace

January 19, 2009 Leave a comment

“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you.” Deuteronomy 4:1

Israel stands at the edge of the Promised Land. Soon Moses will leave them and Joshua will take charge as they cross the Jordan and take possession of the land. On the eve of this historic conquest, Moses delivers a sermon on God’s faithfulness in the midst of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

He has been calling to mind their journey after receiving the Law at Mt. Horeb and journeying toward the Promised Land. While their parents didn’t trust YHWH’s command (and died in the wilderness), the children have been brought back to the place of promise with the same command to go in and possess the land.

As Moses recounts God’s victories on behalf of His people, He reminds them of the foundation of their commission: observance of the Law.

“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you.” Deuteronomy 4:1

Each word in this verse opens in summary a vision of how Moses and Israel understood their calling under the Law. As I reflect on these words, I hear insight into how Christian may understand our calling in light of the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus Christ.

Now – In light of God’s unwavering faithfulness to His promises, let us trust and obey His words. As I meditate on that transition word, “Now,” I can’t help but hearing Paul’s word, “Now.”

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2b

Paul has been talking about the great reconciling power of God’s grace in the midst of our human weakness. Now he exhorts the Corinthians to live as God has called them and empowered them to live in holiness and separation from the idolatries in the world around us.

Through Scripture we see images of people living and walking outside the fullness of God’s power and grace. I think of Zacheus, living of the exorbitant overcharges he places upon the people. Jesus comes to dine with Him, and the “Now” happens.

In the “now,” Jesus calls. “Come out and lived in the freedom and fullness I have prepared for you.” This now, is the now of Spirit calling me forth into a new way, a new path, a new life. This now is the now that proceeds out from the “fullness of time.”

O Israel – Moses calls out to the elect named by God. While Jacob is named by his mother, God calls him Israel. He is a given a new name and raised into the status of royalty and promise by God’s grace and goodnness.

The sons of Israel or the children of Israel grow up as a blessed people who will fulfill the call upon Abraham to bring God’s blessing to the whole earth.

To hear the name Israel is to hear the blessing of God. In Jesus, this blessing is fulfilled. And now all who are in Christ Jesus, hear the blessed name of Israel, called out to be God’s blessing for the whole earth. Paul writes:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:3-5

Listen – In the middle of His sermon, Moses says, “Listen.” Makes me think of the preacher who pauses and says, “Listen up people.” Or more directly, it makes me think of Jesus speaking to His disciples, “Truly, Truly I say to you.”

It is as though Jesus is saying, “Now you better make a note of this. I am getting ready to say something that is deep truth and I want to make sure you remember and heed it.

As Moses calls us to “listen,” we lean in for a word from the throne of God. We hear a word that defines out mission and action in this world.

Statutes and Judgments – The two corresponding Hebrew words are khuqqim and mishpatim. These two words appears again and again when Moses is preaching about the Law.

The first word, khuqqim, is related to the idea of inscribing or carving. While Moses dictated the whole Law for the people, he received the “10 Words” inscribed by God’s hand. The fact that these words are inscribed in stone seems to give them a significance that no other words in Scripture have—except one.

There is a glory surrounding the giving of the 10 Word. Such glory that Moses has to cover his face. When I hear verses about God setting our feet on the rock, I think there is a connection with this stone. To stand on the 10 Words is to stand on the unchanging words and commands of God.

In the New Testament, the glory of the stone inscribed with words is surpassed by an even greater glory: the heart that is inscribed with the Word. Jesus comes as a fulfillment of the stone for now the 10 Words are united in a single Word made flesh.

This word completes, fulfills and reveals the Law. Jesus leaves us with a promise that we will be united with Him by the Holy Spirit. Paul continues Jesus’ theme in Romans by writing about how we are united with Christ in death and resurrection. Then in 2 Corinthians, we read about the glory of the Law in stone is now surpassed by a glory of the Law in flesh: not simply Jesus’ flesh, but our flesh.

The Spirit is writing the Law in our hearts, and we are moving from “glory to glory.” Eventually, we will see the image face to face:

7 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:7-18

The other Hebrew word used for the Law here is mishpatim. This word has to do with the ability to judge. James Jordan understands wisdom as the ability to judge between good and evil. We see Solomon practicing wisdom in judging between two prostitutes with similar stories. He speaks and by the power of his word, reveals the liar (thus judging between good and evil).

This power to judge is directly tied to ruling. If we cannot judge, we will be like the simpleton who cannot distinguish between the house of lady wisdom whose house leads to life (Proverbs 4, 8 and 9) and the foolish woman whose house leads to death (Proverbs 4, 5, and 7).

There is a path that leads to the house of lady wisdom and a path that leads to the house of the foolish woman (Proverbs 4:18-19). One leads into the full light of day and the other stumbles further and further into darkness.

We see Israel walking into the light of day from David to Solomon’s rule and stumbling into darkness from Solomon to Zedekiah’s rule (although some kings in between do walk in light, the overall movement of the nation is a descent into darkness).

As I begin to wrap around this idea of rule and wisdom and the path of wisdom vs. the path of foolishness, I can see references to the law throughout the Psalms and prophets and more. There are multiple a references to walking in the path, I will show you the way,” do not turn to the left or right, the road to righteousness, the path of holiness, standing on the rock, and so on. I would suggest all these references are rooted in observance to the Law (meditation upon and obedience to the commandments).

Just a reminder, we do not simply go back to Deuteronomy 5 to meditate upon the Law. We have hear the same rhythms in Matthew 5 and other sermons by Jesus as well as the letters from Paul and others. These are not a bunch of regulations we post. Rather, we ruminate and reflect on them. We walk according to them. The Spirit teaches us them.

We enter into the heart of them: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. In some ways, the New Testament is an extended reflection upon the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus Christ and through His cross, and how it now is revealed in the midst of His people and in the midst of the world.

Live, and go in and possess the land – Moses ties the Law directly to the action of entering, possessing and living in the land. The Law is the wisdom that gives Israel boldness to enter the Land (because the covenant-making YHWH stands behind it with promises of a His faithfulness).

Observance of the Law is connected with Israel’s fear of God. As they walk in the fear of God, other nations fear them. For they bear the name and the power of YHWH (who makes mountains melt and by a single word causes the earth to melt).

Observance of the Law is essential for Israel to dwell in the fullness of God’s provision as they live in the land. In other places, Moses will predict that in prosperity, Israel will forget the source of blessing and quit observing the Law. This forgetfulness will cause God to forget them, thus allowing their enemies to overtake them.

Paul quite possibly gives us a poetic reinterpretation of this phrase by quoting a poet of his day. In his sermon to the idolatrous philosophers, Paul says “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, is the source of our courage and power and prosperity. We are blessed in Him and live in Him and live to glorify Him in all things.

LORD God of your fathers – Moses reminds the people that the source of the Law is not some oppressing dictator, but the covenant-making God who remembers His promises. LORD or YHWH is a covenant name for God, which connects with His faithfulness to the promise. The Creator God made a promise and cut a covenant with father Abraham. This covenant promise was renewed with Isaac and then again with Jacob. Now as the children of Israel look at how the Creator God did in fact remember his promises to the ancestors, they can call Him YHWH for he has demonstrated His covenant faithfulness again and again.

We are brought into this family of Abraham through the covenant faithfulness of Jesus. Jesus answer’s YHWH’s faithfulness to man by becoming the man who is completely faithful to YHWH. In Jesus, we enter into this circle of covenant faithful love. In Jesus, we enjoy the fruist and healing blessings associated with the covenant, and in Jesus we are transformed by the Spirit in the covenant faithful people, revealing the fruit of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). This fruit reveals the fulfillment of the Law in us by the power of the Spirit.

Giving You – The land that Israel will soon possess does not come through their own efforts, their own righteousness or their own prowess. It comes as pure gift.

While they must possess and follow the prescribed ways of possessing each area, they are simply obeying the Father who is giving them the gift.

For those who think grace suddenly appears in the New Testament as opposed to the Law in the Old Testament, they should go back and reread the Old (especially Deuteronomy). As we read and reflect on the rhythm of the Law, we realize it is gift. It is grace.

It is grace stretching and reaching forward. To what? To the fulfillment. When Jesus comes, he fulfills the striving and longing of law. This law is incomplete until it is fully enfleshed by God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

Law and Love and Grace

August 1, 2008 2 comments

As a Special Agent for the FBI, my father spent his days enforcing the law of the land. With the weight of the Federal Government behind him, he arrested bank robbers, diffused hostage situations, and even followed Russian spies. I grew up under the shadow of the law.

This law provided a sense of security to a child with an overactive imagination. My world of fantasy seemed as real of the physical world, and so I always sensed aliens, monsters and ghosts were just around the corner waiting to reach out and grab me. My dad, as the physical presence of the law, represented a protection from this impending chaos.

Oddly enough, the law meant something entirely different in the context of church. It was repressive, controlling, announcing impending judgment and always holding before me the terror of either being “left behind” to live in a land with a cruel and evil antichrist, or being cast into hell for torment and repression.

So I carried within me two very different images of law: one of protection and safety, and one of doom and terror. In my childlike mind, I never tried to reconcile them. Once the idea of God’s grace penetrated my mind, I discovered such joy and freedom in faith that I assumed law and grace were opposites.

So my first venture into grace meant abandoning and running in terror from anything that hinted of law. Love was the only law that commanded my allegiance. And yet, this didn’t work out as clearly as I would hope. I watched people use the words love and then act in ways that seem to betray the very idea of love.

I served in a church where people freely embraced and cried together and reaffirmed their love for one another. Yet all the while the same people were betraying each other, lying to each other, stealing from each other. Sadly, I watched this behavior repeated in multiple churches where I served or participated.

I reached a point where I was prepared to abandon church altogether. I often said, “I love sinners but I can’t stand Christians.” While this is not really possible according to a Biblical understanding of love, it reflected my anger and frustration at what seemed to be a disconnect between words of love and actions that violated love.

At that time (and for many years later), I failed to realize that I was just as guilty as anyone around me in my failure to love. I knew nothing of the painful calling and challenge of love. What seems so simple often requires many slow and painful deaths.

This failure of love in the church and in my own life brings me back to the law. When Jesus commands the disciples to love, he puts it in the context of keeping his commandments. He links law and love together.

If I pay attention to the pattern of law and love throughout Scripture, I found out that they are often linked together. When Moses reviews the commandments in Deuteronomy, he reiterates the call to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength. And even more strangely, the psalmist will link the giving of the law with God’s grace.

So law and love as well as law and grace are not the opposites I would have imagined. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one that has struggled with the relation between these words. In fact, many theologians continue to wrestle with the connection of law and grace in relation to the gospel.

In this short essay, I cannot begin to explore all the nuances of such a question, but let me suggest that I am coming to realize the Scripture does not pose these ideas as opposites in the way we might tend to do. In order for me to begin to even grasp how this might play out, I must return to the idea of law in my childhood.

The law my father represented in some small way begins to help me reframe how I think about law in the Biblical sense. So I want to offer a few images that are helping me to reframe my image of law. These images are drawn from Scripture and help me begin to think about how law is both a gift and a judgment in Scripture, and why we should spend more time considering God’s law in our lives.

First, I want to think about Hurricane Katrina. A catastrophic storm blew into New Orleans. The power of wind and rain sent the city into chaos. Homes flooded. People drowned. The city fell apart. Even as natural order seemed to break down, the social order broke apart. The world watched in terror as a whole city descended into chaos.

This terrifying image of a chaos-inducing storm reaches a global terror in the story of the flood. Think about Katrina repeated on a national, international and global level. After a few days, cities break apart in chaos. All social order is gone.

In the fight for survival, people lose all restraint and every imaginable evil explodes within the cities. Yet the storm continues. The chaos of natural disaster mixes with the chaos of social disaster. All order disappears. An ocean of chaos consumes everything until nothing survives but the chaos.

This terrifying image grips the imagination of the psalmist who pens psalm 46. He writes,

“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Even though the earth be removed,
And thought the mountains be carried
Into the midst of the sea:
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.”

In this image of the sea swallowing the earth, we see an image of chaos encompassing order. Our ability to function and live in the world is dependent on the regular order of the world. The sun rises each day. The stars don’t fall from the sky. The oceans may swell but they don’t overwhelm the earth. And when a furious storm brews and the ocean does overlap the land, we are overawed by the terrible power of the chaotic waters.

This sense of order, of regularity is sometimes referred to as law or the laws of nature. In this sense, law is not viewed as a bad thing but as the order in our world that allows us to have some predictability over life. We expect winters to be cooler than summers. We expect the sun to shine and rely on the energy it provides. We expect to remain fixed to the planet and for all the spheres to remain in the heavens.

The psalmist considers what happens when this expectancy disappears and the seas surge over the land. In this moment, the psalmist realizes that expectancy and security are really found in God. While the natural world may have something like law, the real law is found only in God. True order and absolute reliability is found in God alone.

God is the ruler because the rule proceeds from God. All order, all law, all security proceeds from God. He is the rule and the rule proceeds from Him. One way for me to understand this is to think back to my father. He embodied the law to me, therefore I found security in him. In our home, he was the law, he embodied the law and the law proceeded from him.

Think of Robin Hood. In this story, roles are reversed, and the bandit is actually good because he represents true justice. He is standing against the oppression of the false law that oppresses the people—the rule of the Sheriff of Nottingham. The great hope in Robin Hood is for the return of Richard the Lionhearted.

In this story, Richard represents the true law. When Richard returns, Robin Hood will be vindicated. The false law of the Sheriff will be exposed as lawlessness and true justice will be restored to the land.

In one sense, this was the hope of the Jews. They were waiting for the true law to come in the person of the Messiah. When Messiah comes, he’ll overthrow the oppressor and restore true justice in the land. It will be a day of vindication for the people of God.

While many don’t recognize him, the Messiah has come. Jesus comes as the true law. He says that the kingdom of God has come. What is the kingdom of God? The rule of God or the law of God. He appears as the embodied word. He embodies the fullness of the law. He is the law and the law proceeds from him.

And in an unexpected turn of events, he also bears the judgment for breaking the law. In Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham is imprisoned for breaking the law. But in the gospel, Jesus the lawgiver and law-fulfiller also bears the weight for the transgressions against the law. And in so doing, he frees us from the curse of the law.

He doesn’t bring this gift to do away with law and order, allowing chaos to descend upon the earth. Like King Arthur, he does this to establish a land, a world of true justice. For me, Camelot embodies the hope of justice. In Camelot, true peace is brought to the land.

The glimmering and fading glimpse of Camelot is but a picture of the kingdom that Jesus establishes by His Spirit. He fulfills the law that is first revealed to Adam. This law that establishes proper order between God and humans, humans and other humans, and humans and the land is fully revealed and perfected in Jesus.

This kingdom is now growing and emerging in the midst of another kingdom. In the midst of a sinful world at war with God and with the law of God, the kingdom of God is firmly established and set in place. The kingdoms of the world must and will eventually fade and fall away completely.

The triumph of kingdom of God will ultimately be revealed, and all people will confess Jesus as the Lord of this permanent kingdom.

So how do we live in this kingdom of God while still existing in the midst of other kingdoms that are at war with God? How does the rule and law of God function in our lives?

I’ll offer some thoughts in part two.

Jesus as the True King of Israel

March 31, 2008 Leave a comment

Jesus comes as the Messiah, the true King of Israel who serves with his life. He brings us into the land and fulfills the Law. Listen to a description from Deuteronomy 17 of the good king:

14 “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
18 “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

I am thinking it would be interesting to work through each aspect of the king’s responsibility in relation to the law and find Jesus fulfillment in the NT. Some jump out immediately. Then how does this relate to the land (world) today as we serve the good King?

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