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Archive for March, 2009

In an earlier blog I mused a bit over the significance of a melancholy anniversary.  I didn’t start out to be quite so contemplative.  Indeed, I intended only to draw attention to a brief excerpt that I have posted elsewhere that concerns the reality and the dimensions of the Theocracy in the Old Testament.  To make sure that doesn’t get lost in the loquacity of that earlier blog, and in an attempt to whet your appetite a bit, here are two sections from that excerpt, here without documentation.

The theocracy is well defined as the “form of government under the sole, accessible Headship of God Himself,” who was “the Supreme Lawgiver in civil and religious affairs . . . and when difficult cases required it . . . the Divine Arbiter or Judge.”  In sum, “the legislative, executive, and judicial power was vested in Him, and partially delegated to others to be exercised under a restricted form.”   Gleig emphasizes that in this arrangement, God “assumed not merely a religious, but a political, superiority, over the descendants of Abraham; He constituted Himself, in the strictest sense of the phrase, King of Israel, and the government of Israel became, in consequence, strictly and literally, a Theocracy.” 

 

That theocratic relationship, formed by Yahweh with Israel, was unique to human history.   Thus, the term should not be taken as descriptive of God’s perpetual rule over all creation; as Oehler insists, “The Old Testament idea of the divine kingship expresses, not God’s general relation of power toward the world (as being its creator and supporter), but the special relation of His government toward His elect people.”   Indeed, there has never been another people who knew God as their King in this immediate and actual sense (Deut 4:7).  Peters makes this point carefully: “The simple fact is, that since the overthrow of the Hebrew Theocracy, God has not acted in the capacity of earthly Ruler, with a set form of government, for any nation or people on earth. . . . the application of the word to any nation or people, or organization since then, is a perversion and prostitution of its plain meaning.

 

I would challenge you to consider carefully the Old Testament reality which students of that portion of God’s Word have often called the Theocracy.  As I say in the longer blog, Absent the reality that there was indeed a period (indeed, a period of over 850 years) when Yahweh ruled as a real, actual, physically present Sovereign King over a nation of people, there is no making sense of what God is doing in the Old Testament and little hope of making sense of what He intends to do in days to come.

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Here is a chance to honor your spiritual heritage, to ponder that portion of written revelation which was written for your admonition upon whom the end of the ages has come, and to focus on one of the most important and instructive – if woefully under-appreciated – doctrines of Scripture. Celebrate Purim! Perhaps quietly – in conversation and cogitation more than with costumed children and ratcheted noisemakers.  But in some conscious way that spills over onto the lives of those around you, celebrate Purim.

 

Perhaps you say, “What is Purim?”  Gotcha!  Purim is the Jewish festival that remembers the Esther story.  It is not an “official” Levitical feast; that is, it is not among the shelosh regalim, the three pilgrimage feasts mandated in Leviticus 23.  But the deliverance it remembers was so remarkable and so unlikely that in the biblical record of that deliverance the command was given that two days celebrating the event “should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province and city” (Est 9:28).  The Feast of Purim, observed this year on March 10th and 11th,  is the way in which the people of Mordecai and Esther have been faithful to that command through the ages and around the globe.

 

I cannot think of a story – fictional or historical, biblical or secular, ancient or modern – which is more attractive or more winsome or more compelling or more delightful than the story of Esther.  There is tension; there is drama; there is character development; there is progression and climax and denouement/resolution; there is moral instruction; there is profoundly satisfying narrative coherence and worth.  It is the perfect novella – the stuff which, in a day far, far away and long ago, would have been irresistible to pre-nihilist Hollywood.

 

So seize the season! Find some time to immerse yourself for a few happy hours in the story of God’s providential intervention on behalf of His people in the days of Ahaseurus.  Set that story in its historical setting.  Be honest with the weaknesses of the central players, as well as their strengths.  With all that the story includes, notice that very significantly it does not include miracle.  (That is central to the point being made.)  Search out something of the way the feast is observed by Jewish folk today. Try to figure out the title of this piece! Ponder what God has for you in the narrative; there is much to be learned and much to share.  But beyond that, it is simply a flat-out fun story.  And so again, celebrate Purim.

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