Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Hear, O Israel

It was at the end of his life, possibly his last days, that Moses declared what is often referred to as the Shema Israel, Hear, Israel. Tbe book of Deuteronomy is often sadly neglected being regarded as little more that a regurgitation of the Sinai events and laws. This misses its point entirely. This is Sinai + 40 years of thoughtful meditation and it contains some thrilling truths. It was this portion of Scripture that was uppermost in the mind of the Lord during his wilderness temptations. It is the context for our last blog; 'and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'.

That injection follows hard on the heels of the first and great commandment; Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Matt 22:37–38 KJV). Again, I have reverted to the Old English to stress the personal nature of this commandment. But the original setting of these personal commandments is of great importance. John Wycliffe encouraged all Bible students to consider not just the context but to to make a particular note of the intended audience of Biblical passages. "to whom" said Wycliffe "was this said?"

That's why I have entitled this blog 'Hear, O Israel'. This commandment was not delivered into what we might call the 'public domain' but was given expressly to the covenant people of Israel. It was enjoined upon men and women who had entered into conscious covenant with Jehovah (Yahweh) himself. Covenants have beginnings, conscious beginnings. They do not slowly cross-fade from 'not my people' into 'my people', they mark an event when men and women 'pass from darkness into light' and are translated from the power of darkness into another kingdom. (Col 1:13)

Many practical issues of life stem from the fact that Christians often mistake crises and processes; both are essential but they are not to be confused. I once heard George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation, say "any crisis which is not followed by a process will become an abscess." It is a stark way of saying that if we do not progress as a result of the the crisis, the blessing of the crisis itself will be eaten away. This is good counsel, but we need to be sure that we do not miss the corollary which is that every process must have a beginning, There must be conscious events in our lives where we pass from one state to another. "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him," (Col 2:6 NKJV). That is crisis followed by process, or if you prefer, it is process preceded by crisis.

As Hudson Taylor remarked in his little book 'Union and Communion' communion presupposes union. You cannot have communion without union. We must come into 'union' with Christ before we can have 'communion' with him. We must enter into conscious covenant with God before we can obey the injunction 'Love Jehovah THY Jehovah.

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