Monday, May 07, 2012

Law and Covenant

Been rereading a great book. I forgot how good it really is.
Is the law of God beyond our reach? No, not in any of its parts. We don't have to steal, but we do. We don't have to lie, but we do. So what is it about sin that is so bad? The problem with sin is that it is a relationship killer. It alienates. Take adultery as a classic example. An indiscretion like adultery is like taking an axe to a tree and cutting great chunks out of it. Even if the adultery is undiscovered, the relationship is damaged, sometimes beyond repair. And it isn't only the relationship with the mate that is damaged. The relationship with God is damaged as well.

Sin involves alienation from God. There is no better illustration of this than the story of Adam and Eve. The happy pair were placed in Paradise, and given very simple instructions: You can eat of all the trees in this garden except one. Leave it strictly alone. How hard could this have been? All they had to do was believe God. Think about it. God said that if you eat of this tree, you will die. If they had really believed that, would they have eaten of it? Would you? What they did was a breach of trust. What is your reaction when someone won't believe you, won't trust you? Doesn't it damage the relationship? Or at least reveal that the relationship is in trouble?

I went on for years accepting a simple equation from the Garden of Eden. God gave Adam one commandment. Don't eat of that tree. Adam broke the commandment and God expelled the first couple from the garden. Then one day I was studying the Book of Hosea and found that God, through the prophet, condemned the men of that generation and saying this of them: "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant - they were unfaithful to me there" (Hosea 6:7 NIV)

A covenant is not mentioned in the creation story, but it is implied. God gave Adam a commandment and presumably Adam agreed. Then, he broke covenant with God. This seems to be a much more serious matter than for a person to sin when not in covenant with God.

So Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And they died. But here is what is interesting about this story. God did not kill them. He simply separated himself from them - and incidentally, cut them off from the Tree of Life. What this says to me is that the result of this sin was not punishment from God, but the consequence of being alienated from God.

This is underlined by what happened when Cain killed his brother Abel. God did not kill him either. He exiled him. And Cain, and all the rest of the children of Adam and Eve, died. They died because they were away from God - the source of all life. This is what the "fall of man" is all about. The result was, I think, not so much a change in human nature, but a change in man's environment and a loss of man's relationship with God. If you read the Genesis story with that in mind, it is clear enough right there. There is not a word about a change in the nature of man, but much about the change in man's environment - particularly his alienation from the source of life.

--Ronald L. Dart, Law & Covenant

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