Friday, December 25, 2009

Commentary: God’s Theocracy (part 2)

Commentary: God's Theocracy (part 2)

Last week we saw how God's government is not a democracy, but a theocracy.  We also saw that God's theocracy is different from man's version of theocracy.  Man's theocracy is imposing the religious values of a group of clerics on all inhabitants of the land.  God's theocracy is based on agape.  God has our best interest at heart.  This week's lesson shows more proof of God's theocracy.  Chapter 33 of Numbers starts with these words,


Num33:1 These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Num33:2 And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.


It's really an incredible history, if you think about it. An entire nation flees its captors after centuries of oppression and survives for four decades wandering in the hostile environment of the Sinai wilderness. This happened only by the grace, power, and miracles of God.  Notice, too, how the text in Numbers 33:2 stressed that they moved place to place "by the commandment of the Lord." The Lord wanted them, and future generations, never to forget that the whole story of the Hebrew people on the move in the wilderness was, really, the story about God and His dealings with sinful human beings in an effort to save them and to bring them into the Promised Land.  So, God commanded the people to go and stay at His command.  Remember back in Numbers 9 when the Lord instructed Moses about this,


Num9:15 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.

Num9:16 So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.

Num9:17 And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.

Num9:18 At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.

Num9:21 And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.

Num9:23 At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.


In the next chapter Moses narrates the first time they started this process,


Num10:11 And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony.

Num10:12 And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.

God decided where they went and when.  It was not Moses' decision; neither Aaron, nor Miriam's.  It was not the people's consensus.  No elections were held.  In fact, they did not even send spies to gather intelligence on the land.  They followed the cloud by faith. 


You may be asking yourself, "where is my cloud?"   The cloud shows God's mercy, but it is a visual sign, and "faith comes through hearing and hearing by the Word" (Romans 10:17).  God gave the children of Israel visual signs because of their unbelief.  When you believe the Word you hear, you do not need a cloud.  Are you hearing and believing the Word? 

Raul Diaz

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Commentary: God’s Theocracy

God's Theocracy


There are different kinds of government.   There are those who have studied them, and come up with different ways to categorize them.   IN the past monarchies and aristocracies were popular.   The monarchy is where a king or queen governs.  The aristocracy is where elite governs.  In our time democracies are more popular; the word "democracy" literally means "rule by the people." In a democracy, the people govern.  This is only an ideal, because a literal democracy is impossible in a political system containing more than a few people. All "democracies" are really republics. In a republic, the people elect representatives to make and enforce laws.  Then there are dictatorships.  A dictatorship consists of rule by one person or a group of people. They are not monarchs or aristocrats per se, but act as if they are. 


Among many predominantly Islamic nations theocracy is a growing form of government.  Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state's supreme civil ruler, or in a higher sense, a form of government in which a state is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In Common Greek, "theocracy" means a rule [kra′tos] by God [the.os′]. For believers, theocracy is a form of government in which divine power governs an earthly human state, either in a personal incarnation or, more often, via religious institutional representatives (i.e., a church), replacing or dominating civil government.  Theocratic governments enact theonomic laws.  Theocracy should be distinguished from other secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are merely influenced by theological or moral concepts, and monarchies held "By the Grace of God".


A theocracy may be monist in form, where the administrative hierarchy of the government is identical with the administrative hierarchy of the religion, or it may have two 'arms,' but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy.


Iran's government is described as a "theocratic republic".  Iran's head of state, or Supreme Leader, is an Islamic cleric appointed for life by an elected body called Assembly of Experts. The Council of Guardians, considered part of the executive branch of government, is responsible for determining if legislation is in line with Islamic law and customs (the Sharia), and can bar candidates from elections, and greenlight or ban investigations into the election process.


The main difference between a theocracy and democracy is that in democracy the leaders are supposed to do the will of the people.  


What type of government did the Israelites have before adopting a monarchy (and rejecting God in the process)?  They had a theocracy.  God spoke His will through the prophet, the priest and the judge.  Of course it was different than modern theocracies; God's theocracy is based on agape.  This week's lesson is perhaps the best demonstration of that.  Who chose how the land should be divided?  As we see in Numbers 26:52-56. God did.  Even when the daughters of Zelophehad came to petition Moses their father's inheritance (Numbers 27: 1 – 11), Moses prayed to God with the question and did as God commanded.  Who chose Joshua as Moses successor?  As we see in Numbers 27: 12 – 23, God did.  God told Moses his time was soon to come.  Moses asked God, to not leave the people alone; they needed someone to lead them.   "And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him" (Numbers 27:18).  Moses did as God ordered.  Who designed the Israelites worship service at the sanctuary?  As we see in Numbers 28: 1 – 8: God did.  All God did was remind them of what He told them in Exodus and Leviticus.  Everything was done according to God's plan. 


Who is making the choices in your life?  Are you the monarch or dictator?  Are you living by democracy?  Or are you yielding to Heaven's theocracy?

Raul Diaz

Friday, December 11, 2009

Standards alone do not help1.doc

Standards alone do not help


I recall as a child hearing the expression, "the taller or bigger they are, the harder they fall."  Typically, it was short guy bragging about how he could beat a taller or bigger person.  The expression has also been used to describe buildings falling.  Some seem to modify it to address the fall of value of stocks.  In such a case I would I would modify it to say, "The higher they go the harder and lower is the fall."    This is very true in moral issues.  The list of public personalities that have fallen in disgrace is endless, and it continues to grow.  At the writing of this commentary the latest victim was golfing great Tiger Woods.  His fall, and that of others, however was not overnight.  This phenomenon is not new.  And, it is perhaps the major them of this week's lesson.


The author of our lesson says that the Israelites didn't fall into sin overnight. It was a step-by-step process.  Indeed, Sister White agrees with his assessment, she says,


"It was when the Israelites were in a condition of outward ease and security that they were led into sin. . . . They neglected prayer and cherished a spirit of self-confidence. . . . A long preparatory process, unknown to the world, goes on in the heart before the Christian commits open sin. The mind does not come down at once from purity and holiness to depravity, corruption, and crime. It takes time to degrade those formed in the image of God to the brutal or the satanic. By beholding we become changed. By the indulgence of impure thoughts man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed will become pleasant to him."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 459.


Rightfully concerned about the church today, the author asks, "What about us as a church today? Are we letting down our guard regarding things that could, ever so slightly, allow us to become hardened to what will lead us into Satan's traps? What role does the issue of standards play in this important area? How can standards help protect us against this slow and steady move toward apostasy and ruin? Or can they at all? Or, if they can help us, how should they be applied?" 

Can we fall as the Israelites fell?  Can knowing that something is wrong stop us from engaging in it?  The Israelites knew the law.  God through Moses had given it to them.   This, however, did not stop them from indulging in Sin.  So, again the question is: Are we in the same danger?  Will knowing the standards prevent us from falling? 


Paul seems to think so.  In 1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 14 he warns the brethren,


 1Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

 2And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

 3And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

 4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

 5But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

 6Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

 7Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

 8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

 9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

 10Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

 11Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

 12Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

 13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

 14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.


The passage gives us a warning and a promise.  We are not immune.  We can fall as the Israelites did, but if we stand in faith God gives us a way out of temptation.  This is our only way out of Sin and idolatry. 

Raul Diaz

Friday, December 04, 2009

Commentary: A Lack of Due Diligence

  A Lack of Due Diligence

Two teenage girls had become enemies.  No matter how hard they tried to end their animosity it continued to grow.  At one point they gave up trying to find peace.  One of them, Theresa, decided to stay away and avoid any kind of contact.  Linda, the other girl, did not react well to Theresa's avoidance.  Linda said she now felt disrespected.  Linda thought that she had to do something to show Theresa not to mess with her. 

Linda talked to Tommy, an aggressive young man.  She offered to pay him a few dollars to beat Theresa up.  Tommy accepted.  So Tommy showed up at Theresa and Linda's school.  He asked for Theresa, someone pointed him to her.  Tommy was puzzled.  The young lady they pointed to him was his cousin, whom he knew as Tia.  Linda did not know the young man she hired was Theresa's cousin.  And Tommy was not about to beat up his cousin.  Now he wanted to beat Linda up.  Theresa was surprised to see him and walked up to him excitedly.  "Hey, Cuz, what are you doing here?"  "Not for anything good, but my plans changed.  Cuz, we're family and I didn't know your first name," Tommy replied.  Theresa said, "What's wrong Tommy?"  "Where is Linda", Tommy asked.  Tommy looked angry.  Theresa again asked him, "Tommy, how do you know?  Why are you here, what's wrong."  Tommy told Theresa the story, and added, "But I am gonna beat her up, instead."  Theresa then grabbed Tommy's arm, and begged him, "Tommy, No!  Let's go talk to the head mistress.  Tommy reluctantly obliged Theresa.  The head mistress convinced Tommy to let her and Linda's parents take care of Linda, in exchange of her not calling the police on him.  Tommy agreed and left the school. 

What saved Theresa?  Linda did not know that Tommy was Theresa's cousin.  Linda acted on incomplete information.  What saved Israel from Balak's intention of using Balaam to curse Israel?  He did not know that the God behind Balaam's power to bless or curse was the same God blessing Israel.

Balak was an idolatrous king.  Like most idolatrous king's he thought that the god's were behind the fates of war.  Instead of arguing like boys do today, "my dad can beat your dad", they argued my god can beat your god.  In their mind, whoever won the war had the stronger god.  In Numbers 21:25 - 26 we read,

Num21:25 And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.

Num21:26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.

Although Israel was at the very borders of Moab, Israel had not bothered Moab.  It is not clear whether it was God's intention for them to do so.  We could assume it was not.  Balak reasoned that if the God of the Israelites was stronger than the god of the Amorites, then most definitely the God of the Israelites was stronger than his god.  He feared the Israelites would attack his kingdom so he thought he should act before others did.   Balak's assessment of God was partially correct, making him completely wrong.  He thought that maybe there was someone with more power than the Israelite's God.  So, Balak had called Balaam, a man known for influencing the outcomes of wars.  As Balak said of Balaam, "… he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed" (Numbers 22:6). 

Balak thought that Balaam was a sorcerer, which would explain the diviner's fee (Numbers 22:7).   He was unaware that Balaam's power came from God.  Therefore, Balak was unaware that he sought to secure a blessing from the very God of the people he sought to destroy.   In conclusion, Balak was unaware that he thought he could buy God's favor.  (Of course, it did not help that Balaam was inconsistent in his relationship with God. How different would the story have been, had Balaam been faithful to God?  I can only speculate, but had Balaam been faithful, the Gospel could have been preached to the Moabites and many including Balak could have been converted.) 

Balak let fear cloud his judgment.  Any reasonable person would have at least suspected that Balaam's power came from the God of the Israelite's.  Let's look at it logically: you have a man that vetoes the decrees of the gods and a people whose God delivers all other kingdoms to them.  Could it be the same power source?  Balak failed to do his "due diligence".  Due diligence is research or analysis that is done to acquire accurate and complete information, especially before entering into an agreement or a transaction with another party.  If Balak would have done due diligence then he would have found out if Israel was planning to attack.  Also, he should have asked questions about the Israelite's God.  I am pretty sure Moses and Eleazar would have been more than willing to share with him.  If he still wanted to inquire from Balaam, he should have asked where his power came from.  And since, Balaam was a "diviner" in Balak's eyes, he should have asked him about the Israelites and their God.  In fact, had Balak started by asking the probably prevented a lot of what happened next.  

Are we like Balak: jumping to conclusions with out doing due diligence?  Do we judge a situation before finding out whether what we think is true or not?  Could we be fighting against the God we profess to worship because we are fighting against those whom He called to service?   Are we letting fear, or any other emotion, control our thoughts and actions?  I pray that we learn from Balak's example.  Let the Indwelling Spirit of God give you victory where Balak failed. 












Raul Diaz