By Larry L. Booker
Years ago I pastored a precious little lady in Oklahoma named Edith Floyd. Her husband, David Lee Floyd, had received the Holy Ghost in 1910 and had, along with Charles Smith, taken the message of baptism in Jesus’ name to the Elton Bible Conference in Louisiana in 1915. Dear Sister Floyd couldn’t sing; to be honest, she couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket. Her voice creaked and croaked and cracked and was not enjoyable to listen to. It didn’t matter if the musicians played well or not, because she always cut her own path anyway. But whenever the musicians got the idea that they were indispensable and church couldn’t go on without them, I would get Sister Floyd by the hand and bring her up to the platform.
I felt safe in doing this for the following reason; every time she opened her mouth to sing the glory of God fell. The saints would lift their hands, and soon there would be praying, shouting or crying. The presence of God grew stronger and stronger as she creaked and croaked her way through her song. Almost without fail visitors would ask; “What was that I felt when that old lady sang?”
No one ever complimented her ability, but they did compliment how God honored her effort. She didn’t sing every service or every week; I only had her sing maybe two or three times a year. But she was a good reminder that God blesses availability and consecration more than He blesses ability alone.
Money cannot buy His glory. Ability cannot bring it down. It will not manifest itself just because we think it’s a good idea. There has to be something in the hearts of God’s people that so loves, so appreciates and so desires it, that God responds by pouring it into their midst. There must be something in the hearts of God’s people that they would defend His glory, if need be, to the death.
A god without Glory
While Moses was up on Mount Sinai God spoke to him and said; “Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” (Ex 32:7)
Just 40 days earlier the glory had been at the bottom of the mount. The people had begged Moses to go and hear from God himself, as the sheer, raw presence and power of God was too much for them. Now, only 40 days later their awe had completely vanished, and their saying to Aaron was; “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” (Ex 32:1) So Aaron took their jewelry, which they had collected from the Egyptians, and from this jewelry he fashioned a golden calf and declared, “These be thy gods, 0 Israel…” (Exod. 32:4) At that point the people stripped off their clothes and began to dance and play around the golden calf.
While they carried on like ignorant pagans, God told Moses to get down from the mount because the people had corrupted themselves. Joshua, coming down with Moses, thought he heard the “Noise of war in the camp.” (Exodus 32:17) Upon further consideration he said, “It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.” (verse 18) These holy men of God came down from the mount and the presence of God—to behold a backslidden congregation.
Why in the world would a people—who had beheld such glory that it caused the entire mountain to shake—made lightning and thunder appear—and brought the blast of heavenly trumpets—trade that experience, power and splendor… for an idol made of gold? They had witnessed the creation of this “god” by Aaron and therefore knew the source of its being. This god possessed no aura, no power and no glory. It had not a hint of life. It could neither hear prayers nor answer them. It couldn’t make a twig shake, let alone a mountain. It couldn’t bring thunder, lightning, or produce the sound of a single earthly trumpet. Again, how could a people who had seen so much, been so blessed and received such a powerful deliverance by Jehovah God—trade such glory and splendor—for a speechless and lifeless god—in such a short period of time?
The god of No Demands
“For they preferred a statue of an ox that eats grass, to the glorious presence of God himself.” (Psalm 106:19-20) (Tay)
“They exchanged the glory of God for the disgrace of idols.” (Hosea 4:7) (Tay)
The answer is, that a golden calf asks nothing. It makes no demands; you can live any way you want, talk any way you want, and go anywhere you want. You can even take your clothes off and dance around in its very presence naked if you have a mind to. In this regard there is no comparison between the golden calf and the God of Glory.
As soon as the God of Glory began speaking, He began making demands. The first thing He said was, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” God’s glory makes demands on those who are allowed to have it in their midst.
Benjamin Disraeli once said; “Life is nothing but a series of negotiations,” or in other words, “everything in life is a trade-off.” To have the glory requires a trade-off of our will for God’s will, His word over our ways.
What a glorious trade-off! We are seemingly so insignificant compared to this vast universe. Yet if we will but love and serve Him with all our heart, the great God and Creator will love us in kind, even to the same degree that the Father loved the Son, or as the Divinity loved the humanity; the Spirit loved the flesh. “As Father hath loved me, so have I loved you…” (John 15:9)
Who can possibly begin to comprehend the depths of that love? cite but two of the many verses that give us insight into ‘that love and ‘that relationship’: “To whit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself….” (II Corinthians 5:19) and, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, in that He laid down His life for us….(I John 3:16) While everything in life is a trade-off, this surely is the most wonderful exchange of all: His love and care for our love and obedience. This ‘trade off’ is found (in different terminology in Isaiah 61:3 where God gives “…beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
I have been privileged to preach across America and around the world and have witnessed that the glory falls when people are living in close accordance with God’s word. It descends among people whose lives declare, “As for me and my house, we will serve God faithfully. I am going to do what He desires. I’m going to live the way He wants me to live, and worship Him from my heart accordingly.” When we live and worship Him in spirit and in truth, we are protecting the glory of God. Again, God will not protect it for us—He leaves that up to us.
In Defense of the Glory
“Be strong and of a good courage; for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do accordingly to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest; Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it” (Joshua 1:6-11).
God was about to give His people the land that He swore He would give unto their father Abraham. God promised that He would be with them and that they would see His victory and glory. Thus Israel began passing through the land experiencing tremendous victories, even overcoming the great walled city of Jericho.
They finally came to a small city called Ai. The fighting men said to Joshua that there was no point in turning aside the whole vast assembly in order to conquer such a minute city. Only 3,000 men should be sent to take Ai, while the rest of the assembly continued to go forward. This sounded like good reasoning to Joshua, so he sent this small portion of the army on to what seemed like certain victory.
They attacked the city—but were smitten and repelled. Thirty-six Israelites were killed and Israel was stunned. The victors over great Jericho were defeated before little Ai. The subdued Israeli army returned to the camp for a session of weeping and wailing.
“And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, 0 Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!” Joshua 7:6-7) Verses 10 and 11 go on to say, “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face Israel bath sinned….”
God let Joshua know that the problem was not with God, but Israel. “And they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies…because they were accursed.” God further states, “Neither will I be with you anymore except ye destroy the accursed from among you. (Joshua 7:12)
God gave this last pronouncement in spite of the precious promises already made to Israel. This teaches us that sin committed by God’s people does indeed have the power to forestall, if not negate, the promises of God. That He would go so far as to say, “Neither will I be with you anymore except ye destroy the accursed from among you,” ought to give us pause for great consideration.
Another crucial point is that only one man in that vast congregation had sinned. During the battle of Jericho, a man named Achan took a Babylonish garment, 200 shekels of silver and a wedge of gold and hid them in his tent. This defied the commandment of God to consecrate all the goods of that city to Him. Achan’s disobedience and covetousness led to the defeat of Israel in the battle of Ai. Consistent victory from God depends upon consistent obedience to God.
Through this episode, God is speaking to His people in all generations; ‘If you want my victorious glory to be with you, you must take care of it by keeping my commandments.’ If His commandments are not honored, God will back away from His people and their dilemmas. Before Israel could be returned to the realm of glory and victory, Achan—his immediate family—his oxen—asses—sheeptents—the Babylonish garment—the silver—and the gold—all had to be destroyed. God will find out how much His victory and glory really means to us. There are times in life when we are called upon to make excruciatingly painful but unbelievably important decisions. And even if dealing with friends or family, we must choose God—His glory and victory, over the way of Achan—his sin and defeat.
Defending the Glory Today
Only God Himself knows exactly how He views this principle and applies it to a local church of today. While I’m amazed at how long God seems to, at times, tolerate sin, yet I have also seen the progress of churches come to a complete standstill until sin is dealt with. How God can continue to bless in spite of sin I am not sure, especially in light of Joshua chapter 7. Perhaps one explanation is that, “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.” (Luke 12:48) Joshua’s generation had beheld so much in the way of glory, victory, promises, years of teaching and literally hundreds of years of spiritual lineage, that Achan’s disobedience was especially inexcusable. Whereas in many of our churches today we have such a large influx of brand-new people coming out of such a dark, blind and spiritually-ignorant world, that God seems willing to show more patience and long-suffering. The Apostle Peter spoke of the “Long-suffering of God” that “waited in the days of Noah.” (I Peter 3:20)
But God’s long-suffering is never to be mistaken for His doctrine. Patience is wonderful, but it does not change God’s truth nor His requirements. Somewhere, sometime, sin will be dealt with: either by the individual who has sinned, by those in spiritual authority, or by God Himself. All sin will be judged, either now or later, either by ourselves in heartfelt repentance or by Him in judgment. And however far off it may be, there is a Great White Throne of judgment looming.
Regardless of how it all works, we oft see that unchecked sin will wreak havoc in a church and the plan of God. Achan’s sin and Israel’s resulting dilemma are written about for our admonition. Judgment is always preceded by a warning from God, and an immediate if not gradual removal of His glory from His people.
Revelation chapters 2 and 3 bear this out. Unless the angels (pas- tors) of those reprimanded churches did something about sin and error in their churches, God was going to take drastic steps judgment, be it the removal of their candlestick, casting them tribulation or spewing them out of His mouth: God’s spirit was always going to strive with unrepentant saints—or preachers.
Today it is up to you and I to find the mind of God concerning our local assemblies. In our hearts there must be love, awe and desire for the glory and the presence of Almighty God. We will never righteous success without it.
Every now and then, I come to a place in God where I feel Him nudging and I know it is time. I begin to fast and pray, saying; want everything and anything, no matter what it is, that is blocking your glory and revival in this church to be taken out. I want people to be delivered from sin. I want our hearts, spirits and minds to be cleansed, renewed and set free. If anyone clings to sin and refuses to let go, then I guess they will have to be dragged out with it, because I want the sin removed.”
Several times through the years I have done this, always with dread in my heart. Because whenever I have sought God like this, it never fails that I will see His power to cleanse His people, and also the power of sin to take people away. I remember one such a season when, in the course of a 4 month period of time, we lost several families and individuals. We suffered sorrow and some distress, but in spite of it the glory began to return almost immediately. And over the course of several months, many more new people came in.
As we only pass through this life once, we don’t have time to play games with God. I want the church I pastor to be what God envisioned from before the foundations of the earth.
Paul’s Fight for the Glory
In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 Paul dealt with the church in Corinth regarding a member who was committing fornication with his father’s wife. No one really knows if it was his natural mother or his stepmother, but it really doesn’t matter; it was still vile. Paul told them that this sin was “So wicked that even the heathen don’t do it.” (Tay) To make matters worse, the church was apparently boasting of their magnanimous nature in allowing this state of affairs to go on.
Paul heard about this un-repented wickedness and wrote to tell the Corinthian saints what they must do. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
There are different theories as to how this was carried out and just exactly whose spirit it was that Paul was trying to save—the spirit of the fornicator or the spirit of the church. While I personally lean towards the former view, especially in light of this man’s later repentance (II Corinthians 2), I think that both outlooks have merit.
Paul commanded the Corinthian church to remove this man from their midst that the “flesh”—”what is sensual in him,” (TCNT)— may be destroyed but his spirit be saved.
“To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Cor 5:5)
The church had to do something to cause this man to awaken to righteousness and admit that he was living in sin. Thankfully, that is exactly what happened. In the second letter to the Corinthians, the man had found repentance, and Paul now told the church that they; “…ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” (2 Cor 2:7)
Now—after he had repented—was the time to show him acceptance. The churches acceptance of him while he was commit- ting the sin had blinded the man to his need for repentance. Further- more, his was not the only spirit being affected. There was another spirit that needed to be saved and that was the spirit—the glory—the church.
That God Himself did not take the man in hand and deal with him once again tells us that He will not defend His glory. He leaves t up to us; that is—if we care enough to do it.
When God Defends
In spite of all the examples I have cited to the contrary, I do find occasions and special circumstances when God will indeed—defend His glory. He seems to do it at certain times in order to declare His feelings and set precedence. Then—once He has made His expression clear—He will back off and leave it in our hands.
One such occasion was in the early days of the New Testament church, when Ananias and Sapphira sold land and kept back part of the price. Ananias brought a portion of the money as an offering and laid it at the Apostle Peter’s feet, while implying that he was giving the entire amount of the sale. Under the unction of the Holy Ghost, Simon said to Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained was it not thine own? And after it was sold was it not in thine own power? Why has thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men but unto God.” (Acts 5:3-4) At these words Ananias fell down dead, slain by God. When his wife came later the same scenario took place, and she was also judged and slain by God. The sin of this couple was not in keeping back part of the proceeds, but in lying to God about their generosity. As you can imagine, great fear came upon the churches.
Except for a somewhat obscure but utterly fascinating remark by Paul in I Corinthians 11:30 concerning weak, sickly and sleeping saints who did not bother to discern the sanctity of communion, there is no other record in the New Testament that God ever slew anyone in the church again. But this one occasion does reveal much about His feelings concerning lying and pretension in the things of God.
Personally, I don’t think what Ananias and Sapphira did was nearly as repulsive as what the fornicator did in 1 Corinthians 5. Weighed on my scales, I think the incestuous fornicator was far more ‘sick’ than the hypocritical benefactors. So why didn’t God kill the fornicator like He did the deceitful givers? In the same vein, why did God send fire to consume Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who offered ‘strange fire’, and yet allow the wicked sons of Eli to steal offerings and commit adultery for years before finally having them slain by uncircumcised Philistines? Why would God kill Er and On, the sons of Judah, for their wickedness, but leave it up to Joshua to slay Achan, the son of Carmi, for his covetousness? Why would God slay Uzzah for simply touching a wobbling Ark, to then allow Israel to completely lose track of it centuries later?
We will never have the answers to all of the questions asked on this side of Heaven. However, we do know that with Ananias, Sapphira, Nadab, Abihu and Uzzah, God was setting precedent. He was establishing His requirement of sincere holiness on the part of His people.
Forgiveness and Restoration
It is equally important to understand that once the Corinthian fornicator repented and came back, he was no longer a fornicator. He repented with godly sorrow and received forgiveness from God. Once that was done, Paul said, ‘Accept him and be good to him. Receive him back.’ Paul had spurred the Corinthian church to take the necessary steps to help this man find repentance that his spirit could be saved. The church, in doing their painful part, saved note man but the Holy Spirit of the assembly as well. Now they were being called upon to restore him.
While saints must be willing to defend the glory, with all that entails, they should never take on the role of the pastor or become `FBI of Pentecost.’ Saints must always let the pastor be the pastor He must be allowed time and space to deal with people and problems. Although at times it may seem like the pastor is not on top of things, or doesn’t know what is going on, that still does not anyone else pastoral authority. He may be dealing with the problems but not announcing that fact to the world. Maybe it has already been dealt with. Maybe he is in the process of feeling out exactly what to do. At any rate, saints should be glad they are not the ones why will have to stand before God in judgment. And when the pastor h issued righteous judgment, the saints should back him to the hilt.
God’s Usual Method of Cleansing
The usual procedure that God uses in dealing with sin in the saints begins with trying to reason with their minds and hearts (conscience and emotions). If a person does not listen or repent on their own, then there will come a church service where God will direct that the issue be preached about. Hopefully, at that point the individual will say, “God’s been dealing with me about this and now has spoken to me through His word. I am going to do something about it.” It is never wise to brush off the preaching of God’s word. If it is brushed off, God will then try to reach us in other ways. But note that He most always deals first with kindness, patience and His word. He will then ‘move on’ to other methods in order to break through the hardening effects of sin. Please take note of the following examples of Jesus’ wisdom in dealing with hearts that are less malleable than He desires.
In Mark 6:7 the disciples were commissioned to go out and preach the gospel, cast out devils and heal the sick. Jesus gave them the power to do this, and at the same time stripped them of all visible means of support. He took their money, bread, purses, extra staves and coats. The Lord gave, but He also took away.
With nothing but God to depend on they went out to preach, and did so with great success. Upon their return they told him, “…all things, both what they had done and what they had taught” (verse 30). (Note that they, the apostles, gave Jesus not one word of praise or thanks for the power and success He had given them). As a result of their preaching and miracles the people came “thither afoot out of all cities.” Jesus then began to teach their famished hearts. When the day was far spent, His disciples urged Him to send the people away, as they had nothing to eat for their famished stomachs.
Seeing the disciples had not ‘gotten the message’ of their utter dependency on Him—even though He sent them out to preach penniless—He set about to try their self-sufficiency. He therefore told His disciples, “Give ye them to eat” (vs.37), or in other words, `Okay big boys, since you have so much ability and power, you feed these 5,000 men, plus women and children.’
When they confessed their insufficiency in having only 200 pennyworth in funds and had only one little boy’s lunch, Jesus appropriated the lunch. He blessed it, brake it, and with it—fed the 5,000 men let alone women and children. Still He received no word of thanks or praise from His apostles.
After feeding the thousands and sending them away, He constrained His disciples to get into a boat. (vs.45) They apparently didn’t want to go, but they were compelled to get in and cross to the other side of the lake. Meanwhile, Jesus went up to the mountain to pray.
The disciples soon found themselves in a horrific storm. While they strained at the oars, Jesus came by, walking upon the water. Thinking that He was a ghost, they cried out (no doubt to God), and He replied, Re of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.” (6:50) The wind and waves stopped, calm reigned and the disciples were “…sore amazed in beyond measure, and wondered.” (Mark 6:51)
Verse 52 informs us why they were so astonished: “For they considered not the miracle of the loaves; for their heart was hardened.”
Having a hardened, insensitive heart should be a fate feared by any child of God. Nothing will rob us of blessings more thoroughly than a hardened heart. Nothing will blind us to the beautiful blessings of God more certainly than an insensitive spirit.
It is vital for us to understand that we most desperately need Him. The sensitive and thankful will recognize this through His provision for our needs. If we ever begin to think, as the disciples did, that our spiritual and material success is based on something that ‘we have done or taught’ then we have a lot to learn, and through possibly painful lessons.
God is faithful, loving and patient and does His best to teach us. He will use the miracle of the breaking of the bread (the preaching the word), service after service. If we don’t get the message way, He will be forced to use other means. If He must speak three times to Simon Peter through a crowing rooster, He will. If it takes giving the same vision three times to get His message through, He will do that, also. God even has a way of putting us into our own personal boat and bringing us into our own personal storm that we can awaken to our own personal revelation of our need of Him. He simply wants His work to go forward through obedient, sensitive hearts. We may make mistakes and do stupid things, but if we keep a tender heart God will eventually get through to us so we can make things right.
But where there is intransigence and a refusal to repent, there will be great trouble. If there is no surrender to God, it will affect what and how God performs in the individuals life. This is equally true in a church body. The more tender people are—the more quickly they respond and come boldly to the throne of grace—the more His glory can and will fall.
Moses’ Standard of Sanctifying
A few years ago I was able to spend every Tuesday morning for three years visiting with a very learned Rabbi from Santa Maria, California (I have yet to meet an un-learned Rabbi). On one occasion I asked him about Exodus 19:15-16 concerning the sanctification of the people. I asked him about the injunction of Moses that the men come not at their wives. Why did Moses command for the men to “Come not at your wives.” And. what did Moses base this action upon? Was it Rabbinical opinion that God directed Moses to do This?
“And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day; come not at your wives. And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.”
Rabbi Raich, who is very well-versed in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition, answered that in all the studies he’d ever made, he could find no precedent whatsoever for Moses’ decree. It is commonly believed to be strictly an edict of Moses, issued because he alone thought it was a good idea. However, this injunction became a general principle for Israel during special times of sanctification. The Apostle Paul may have drawn from this Mosaic precept of abstinence when mentioning prayer and fasting in 1 Corinthians 7:5.
One could easily say that if God didn’t give Moses that decree, he should not have instituted it. My question is, once Moses said it, did God honor it or not? Obviously the answer is yes. God did honor it, just as He honored other decrees Moses gave, such as the one concerning divorce (see Deuteronomy 24:1 and Matthew 19:7-8). Whatever Moses taught—Israel was expected to obey.
The First ‘Standard’ in the Bible
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1).
What the devil is basically asking Eve is, ‘Did God really say that you could not eat it?’ She answers, “We may eat of the fruit of trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst the garden, God hash said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall touch it lest ye die” (Verses 2 and 3).
There is no record that Eve ever heard God give the commandment: concerning this tree and its fruit. God gave Adam the commandment: (Genesis 2:17) before Eve was created. What He had specifically-said to Adam was, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” God never said anything about ‘not touching it.’ Technically speaking, Eve could have touched, yea she could have juggled the fruit. She could have taken it home and placed it on her kitchen table. What she could not do was eat of it, because God said, ‘Don’t eat it lest ye die.’ The specific injunction against the touching of the fruit could only have come from Adam.
In my mind, I picture Adam walking with his newly-created wife through the garden, telling her the names of all the animals and plants. As he approaches to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he says, ‘Eve, we can eat of all the fruit of the garden except this fruit. This is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We can’t even touch this fruit because the day we do, we are going to die!’
In his `un-fallen’ pure love for her he made an effort to protect her from death. He warned his wife not to eat—not to even touch this fruit. Later, as Eve walked about the garden, the devil, through the body of the serpent, came to her and played upon her lack of direct communication with God in this matter. His ploy was to place a dangerous question in her mind, ‘Did your husband Adam really hear from God?’
Her answer reveals the very first ‘standard’ in the Bible; ‘do not touch.’ This ‘standard’ was introduced by the first man, in the first home, in an effort to prevent the first and most far reaching fall. Had Eve kept Adam’s standard—of not even touching the fruit—she obviously could have never eaten it. Once the fruit was touched it was just a matter of time (literally seconds) before she ate it. Adam’s rule was a fence placed a few feet from the precipice to keep her from falling into the canyon below. I would like to compare Adam to a pastor, doing what he could to shield her from destruction.
One might say, “Adam lied and added to the word of God.” But how could he lie when he had not yet fallen? He was still pure and innocent. All he knew was the love and commandment of God. Because he was yet in the image of God he could only speak love and truth. Again, one could say, “Adam just wanted to show who was boss and make a bunch of rules and regulations.” No, he loved his bride and did not want her to be destroyed. Time proved him to be correct for—once she touched—she did indeed eat. As for Adam, he started down the slippery slope when he allowed his affection for Eve to compel him to break his own rule, and then God’s law.
As a minister in this 21st century I think it would have been wonderful to have been the pastor of the Garden of Eden. All he would have to do was get up and say, “Don’t anybody touch or eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God bless you, I’ll see you next week.” That would have been it. Alas, our lives have been immeasurably complicated by this modern inventive society. “Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) Thankfully, however complicated life may be, God’s lines and precepts never change and are still applicable. He “…hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who hath called us to glory and virtue.” (II Peter 1:3)
The first standard in the Bible was given on the basis of love. There was within this standard both line and precept. The line (commandment) was “don’t eat of the fruit,” the precept (principle) was “don’t even touch it.” With Israel’s ‘pastor,’ Moses, the line was “sanctify the people,” and the precept was “do not come at your wives for three days.”
Commandments and Principles
God gave His lines and precepts through Moses’, and it is amazing how far He was willing to work with and through Moses in this arrangement. This commitment by God to work ‘hand in hand’ God-ordained ministries and their judgment is tremendously important. The concept of God working with His man to teach the people is an integral theme of the Bible.
In Mark 10:2 is says, “…the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?”
It is intriguing that Jesus answered in this manner. He could have replied, “What does the law say?” Instead, he said, “What did Moses command you?” Verses 4 and 5 continue, “And they said. Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.”
Note that it does not say “commandment,” but rather “precept,” and that it was given by Moses because of the hardness of their hearts. Did God honor the precept that Moses gave? Without question, just as He still honored the seat of authority that Moses once held. Matthew 23:1 states, “Then spake Jesus to the multitude and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.”
It is easy to picture someone saying, ‘But Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees are a bunch of hypocrites. You yourself pronounced woe upon them. Why should we do what they say?’ The answer Jesus gives is, ‘Do what they say,’ but he goes on to say in verse 3, “But do not ye after their works; for they say and do not.” Jesus admonished the people to do what the Pharisees and Sadducees said, because of their place of authority, but not to live like them because they were hypocrites and “whited sepulchres full of dead men’s’ bones.”
He further said of the Pharisees that, “They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born, and lay them upon men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift them with one of their fingers” (verse 4). Jesus dealt with these leaders after their folly and carnality. He is also letting us know that being in a place of authority is never a ticket to run roughshod over God’s people, or to lord over them according to our whims or profit. Paul and Peter both dealt with this attitude. “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy….” (II Corinthians 1:24) “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (I Peter 5:3) What is best for God’s people will always be kept first in the heart and mind of a true shepherd.
The Word of God, the Spirit of God and the Man of God
How are these lines and precepts to be incorporated into our daily walk with God in this 21st century? God mainly uses three channels for the instruction and perfection of His people: the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the Man (or Men) of God. He used these three avenues consistently in both the Old and New Testaments.
We see this clearly in the New Testament in the 15th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Certain men of the Jerusalem church came down to the church of Antioch and taught that, in order for Gentiles to be saved, they had to be circumcised. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, knew that the essential circumcision was not that which is done by man, but that which is the “circumcision of Christ…buried with him in baptism.” (Colossians 2:12) God had revealed to Paul that baptism in Jesus’ name is the equivalent of Old Testament circumcision. Because he understood this, he would not put up with these Judaisers “…no, not for an hour…” (Gal 2:5) but went to Jerusalem to settle the matter.
At the Jerusalem council there was great debate among the apostles and elders. Peter spoke at length, using scripture and his own experiences to show that circumcision after the manner of Moses should not be mandatory for the Gentiles. Paul then set forth his teachings and works that had been wrought among the Gentiles. The final and definitive statement came from James. The essence of his judgment was “…My sentence is that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God….” (Acts 15:9)
Letters were agreed upon and written, stating that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. Paul, Judas and Silas returned to Antioch and read the decrees, which stated that, “It seemed good to us and to – the Holy Ghost to lay upon you no greater burden….” to the great joy-and may I say, relief of the Gentile believers. (Acts 15:28)
It is important that we understand that three main sources were drawn upon to reach the conclusion of this matter: the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the Man (or Men) of God. This is still God’s method today, and our acceptance or rejection of this principle reveals more about ourselves than about anything else. The precedent for New Testament lifestyles in the 21st century can be found in the answers to these questions:
- What does the scripture say?
- Does it feel right to ‘us,’ that is, the apostolic ministry?
- How does the Spirit of God feel about it; is it gladdened or grieved?
- Because they were His people, God intended to bless Israel greatly and in every way. Their greatest blessing was in receiving the laws, teachings, statutes, commandments, judgments and oracles of Almighty God. In the last book of the Law, Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to these chosen, blessed people. Note again the intrinsic role that Moses played in God’s process of giving Israel His oracles.
- Romans 3:1-2 says, “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”
- A Man to Follow
“Now therefore hearken, 0 Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:1)
“Behold, Ii have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons sons” (verses 5-9).
We know that God’s law was Israel’s preeminent and eternal blessing. We also know that God used one man, Moses, to lead His people out of Egypt and teach them these lines and precepts.
What was the key to Moses’ character that made him such a safe man to follow? What was it about him that caused God to trust him, entwine Himself with him and honor what Moses said and did? The answer is found in Numbers 12:3—”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”
It is a frightening and spiritually dangerous thing to follow a proud person. Proud people eventually—always cause problems. The higher they are in leadership roles, the more dangerous they are and more problems they create. But the man Moses, being meek, loved the people of God and labored always for their benefit.
When Israel worshipped the golden calf, they so angered God that He said to Moses, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make thee a great nation….” (Exodus 32:10) An egotistical m would have jumped at the chance of becoming the “new Abraham. Moses, however, “Besought the Lord his God and said, Lord why Both thy wrath wax hot against thy people…Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham….” (vs.11-12) God was entreated of Moses and thus spared Israel. God walked with Moses. God used him. God hearkened to him. He was God’s mouthpiece to that generation, and an example to every generation since. Like Adam in the garden—and hopefully—the ministry today, Moses’ only thought was to protect those whom God had called him to lead and love.
A man like that can be followed safely.
The above article, “The Glory and the Man of God,” is written by Larry L. Booker. The article was excerpted from the third chapter of Booker’s What a Difference a Line Can Make.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.