Random Blog Clay Feet: December 02, 2007
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Telescope of the Law

Brothers and sisters, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4 NRSV)

I spent a little time looking up some of the words in these verses today and found some more interesting things. Here are a few of them.

The word translated “desire”, as in how Paul feels toward his “former church”, the Jews, conveys the idea of kindness, what would make him feel satisfied, his wish. Even though these are the very people who usually cause most of the trouble for him throughout all of his efforts to spread the gospel throughout the world he feels only a longing that they would come to see God through new eyes, to put down their defensiveness and embrace the truth about God's love for them as revealed in the life of Jesus. I am praying for God to implant that same kind spirit in my own heart toward those in my church and in Christianity who have unenlightened zeal for a form of Godliness without knowing God personally.

In my last post I stated the the “knowledge” (which is “enlightened” in this version) is the kind of knowledge used in intimacy, like when Adam “knew” Eve and she had a son. I need to back off of that statement a little after looking up the original word for it appears to not go quite that far, though it does move in that direction. This word is simply a lack of understanding, a failure to have the proper basis for doing something, a situation of ignorance. I believe that this lack of knowledge is both intellectual and heart knowledge. Their stubbornness in refusing to change their intellectual opinions about righteousness and the correct way to get in right relation to God was due largely to the heart remaining closed to the experiential knowledge that most religious people look upon with disdain.

The next phrase that is here quoted as being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God is not as clear to me and I would have to defer to someone more trained in reading Greek to see what the original might convey. Other translations simply refer to this as God's righteousness instead of the righteousness that comes from God. It is also quite possible that it could be stated both ways just as easily though it can mean two different things. Either way, the main point still remains that intensely religious-focused people all too often are ignorant of God's righteousness, the truth about how good God really is. For every religion that I know of on the face of the earth is riddled with lies about how God deals with sinners. We desperately need a fresh revelation of the true glory of God, a revealing of His true character of love. The Jews refused to believe that in their ignorance and most people are still doing the same today.

The next fascinating insight I ran across was when I looked at the word behind “establish”, as in seeking to establish their own (righteousness). Some of the words used to define this word are “stand, abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set up”. This presents several things to my mind. The first comes from learning about the nature of covenants and all the implications that involves. I don't have time to go into all that here but it is a very fascinating and enlightening research well worth the time to look into it. The best resource I know right now is a teaching on CD called The Blood Covenant that can be purchased from Family Foundations International. You can find their contact information on my list of resources.

What I see Paul saying here in reference to the Jews is that they were insisting on either clinging to the covenant that had been set up with God at Mount Sinai (whatever you ask us to do we will do it), or they were trying to set up another covenant of their own devising. Either way, any covenant other than the one revealed through the death and resurrection of Christ cannot bring anyone into right relationship to God. This is borne out in the verses immediately following this.

Another reference that comes to mind when looking at this is the definition “to present”, as in one's own righteousness. That takes me back to the problems encountered by Cain when he attempted to present the f

ruits of his own labor, the best fruits that he could produce as an offering of sacrifice to God. I have little doubt that the gifts he brought were not the very best that could be produced, but it represented his own efforts to please God his own way and without submitting to a position of entrusting himself to the God who was providing the ultimate Lamb for all sinners.

Many people use this story to make a strong point about obedience and how Cain was cursed because he refused to obey. That may be true in a sense but ironically that type of spin of this story can also produce the very results that we think we are trying to avoid. The Jews themselves became prime examples of trying to please God enough through explicit obedience to get onto right terms with H

im. That is too often the implied (but not explicitly stated) goal of our rehearsing of the story of Cain. We are trying to intimidate ourselves into more perfect obedience which is often just a nice way of promoting performance. The failure of Cain's offering to bring him into harmony with God had much more to do with the condition of his heart than it had to do with the wrongness of his offering. In fact, the offering of improper gifts was simply a symptom of the condition of his spirit toward God. He was going about trying to establish his own righteousness just like the Jews and just like most of us are still doing today even though we try to deny it. For God makes it clear throughout the Bible that He is far more concerned with the offering of a humble heart that embraces and trusts in the covenant of God revealed in Jesus than in any amount or quality of supposed righteousness we may attempt

to perform and present to Him.

The next phrase I feel has much more embedded in it than I am yet seeing. They have not submitted to God's righteousness. I see at least two things here right away. First of all sin has caused us to resist being humble or being submissive. Submission in our world is also usually associated with force which is not part of God's way of dealing with His created intelligent beings. Therefore we start out with mixed ideas in the very concept of the words.

Secondly we have extremely twisted views of God's righteousness. As I have said before, righteousness is one of the most misunderstood words in religion. This is because the whole purpose of sin and Satan is to obscure the righteousness of God, His goodness, compassion, never-ceasing love etc. so it is no surprise that there is such ignorance about His righteousness because we are all living in the miasma of sin. And if we are ignorant as to the truth about God and what His righteousness really entails it makes it very difficult to submit our hearts and minds to something we don't understand or worse yet we are very afraid of.

I believe that possibly this is the sharpe

st point yet in this book where Paul is trying to make very plain what salvation is all about. This is where he is putting his finger on the most sensitive areas of our heart and trying to get us to see the truth of the gospel that he introduced in chapter one. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

The word “end” here does not mean at all that the law is no longer applicable or a description of reality. What the original word means is that Christ is the focal point of the law. The Greek word is “telos” which I suspect might be the root for our word telescope. If it is then that would make a lot of sense, for a telescope is used to

focus and amplify a particular point in the distance so that we can view it better and admire its beauty.

In that case this verse could read, Christ's beauty and character is the object of focus that the Law amplifies so that in viewing the perfect revelation of God's righteousness in the life of Christ we will be made righteous through believing and embracing His attractiveness.

By beholding we become changed. That is the method that the gospel uses to heal and save us. As I focus my attention on Jesus through the lenses of the telescope of the Scriptures I become drawn to be more like Him naturally. The effects of staring at His beauty is the growth of fruit in my own life that look more and more like His loveliness. This fruit is not something I work hard to produce but is a natural outgrowth of simply spending time soaking in His love and presence.

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