Archive for the ‘Theocracy’ Category

I have a question for you.  Can you recite the second stanza of Robert Robinson’s ageless hymn, “Come Thou Fount”?  I will get you started, and you see if you can get through all eight lines of the poem.  Here is your clue:

 “Here I raise mine Ebenezer …

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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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On or very close to September 18 of this year, there may very well be a moment of solemn silence in the Courts of Heaven. For that day will mark the 2600th anniversary of one of the most melancholy events in the history of God’s dealings with mankind. 


The date of the historical incident is defined in Ezekiel’s introduction to the extended visionary experience which he records in chapters 8 to 11 of his prophecy. 


     And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. (8:1)


Given the vagaries of the ancient Hebrew (lunar) calendar, it is impossible to be precise as to the very day, but that date is very close to September 18, 592.


The event which I can imagine might excite such unhappy and sober memories among the angelic host is described in a drama composed of a series of scenes witnessed by Ezekiel in those four chapters. Central to those scenes is the Glory-Cloud – that majestic physical manifestation of King Yahweh’s regal presence which had dwelt (not without some interruption) in the Temple/Throneroom ever since the inauguration of the Theocracy in 1446 BC.  The climax of that drama is simply this: Ichabod!  That is, The Glory Has Departed (cf. 1 Sam 4:21).  In this regard, two brief thoughts.


First, though I can imagine that such an anniversary of the abandonment of the Theocratic relationship by King Yahweh might be noted in the Courts of Heaven, I cannot imagine that it will be much noted or remarked upon here on earth.  The primary reason is that the very idea of a real Theocracy – a relationship in which, to use the words of an Old Testament theologian of the 19th century, “Jehovah condescended to reign over Israel in the same direct manner in which an earthly king reigns over his people” – is almost entirely foreign to most Bible students today.  The Scriptures could not be more explicit, and yet the concept has been largely lost today.  (In part because so many frame an understanding of what is going on in the Old Testament without ever reading the Old Testament.)  That is a bottomless misfortune.  Absent the reality that there was already 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.  With all that, I would like to offer a whisper in defense and definition of the glorious reality that the question put to Jesus by His disciples as He ascended to the Father, “Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6), is at once legitimate and coherent only because there has already been a time when Yahweh ruled as King in Israel (1 Sam 12:12).  To that end, there is an essay posted on this page in which I try to trace the outlines of the Old Testament Theocratic rule of King Yahweh.  I invite your reaction.


Second, the final scene of the drama of King Yahweh’s departure is described by the prophet as follows:


     And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain which is on the east side of the city. (11:23).


Of course, that mountain is the Mt. of Olives.  It is abundantly meaningful that the Scriptures record a later time when the duly authorized King of Israel, this time her Messiah, late on Tuesday of the week of His passion left the city of Jerusalem for the last time under His own power, stood on that same mountain, and in tears pronounced Ichabod once again over the city which had rejected Him just as it had rejected the reign of Yahweh earlier in her history (Mt 23:37-39).  But even more importantly, Yahweh is a God who keeps covenant, and in His unfathomable mercy He has promised to bring that rebellious people to Himself; thus there will come a day when King Jesus will descend to rescue His people, when He will stand again on that same mount, when the Spirit of grace and supplication will be poured out and that stiff-necked people will look with faith upon the One whom they once pierced.  Then, indeed, the God who is jealous for His holy name “will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel” (Ezek 39:25; cf. Ezek 20:40; Rom 11:26), and thus the covenant-keeping name of King Yahweh will be celebrated throughout the spheres.


September 18, 2009.  The 2600th anniversary of the day when the Glory-cloud departed because of the continued covenant faithlessness of the people whom God had called His own.  But don’t let it be just a remembrance of man’s covenant faithlessness.  You have biblical warrant to rejoice in that day as a reminder of the covenant faithfulness of that God who, though once and again rejected, will never fail to be Yahweh, who will never abandon His Word.

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