Friday, January 7, 2011

On the Government of Living Spirit

Most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus' costly grace.  -Tim Keller (via Jared Wilson)

The Government of Death, its constitution chiseled on stone tablets, had a dazzling inaugural.  Moses' face as he delivered the tablets was so bright that day (even though it would fade soon enough) that the people of Israel could no more look right at him than stare into the sun.  How much more dazzling, then, the Government of Living Spirit? 
If the Government of Condemnation was impressive, how about this Government of Affirmation?  Bright as that old government was, it would look downright dull alongside this new one.  If that makeshift arrangement impressed us, how much more this brightly shining government installed for eternity?  2 Cor 3:7-11, The Message

 The "makeshift arrangement" in this passage is Law of Moses, the older covenant.  But the phrase makes me think of the quite practical aspect of worship that involved a tent, back in the wilderness days of Exodus.  This was a "makeshift arrangement" for worshiping Yahweh.  It was packed up from time to time, moved around, and eventually abandoned altogether as the people of God moved into the promised land.  This arrangement was impressive (I mean, have you read all those specifications for the Tabernacle?)  but not permanent. Nor was it as impressive as what was to come- the Temple.  If we run with the metaphor, the Temple was much less makeshift than the Tabernacle, but then the Temple as well turns out to be makeshift in comparison to what comes next.  Solomon's Temple, in all its splendor, was too a "chasing after the wind."

The permanent dwelling place (for that's what 'tabernacle' means) is of course, Jesus.  His is the "Government of Living Spirit" which far surpasses all other governments, whether that of the Law of Moses or any new law man has installed since.  Its splendor exceeds the brilliant craftsmanship and beauty that went into the Temple, or the just governing power and authority that was exercised by the Law.  I don't think it's  a huge leap to say that by instructing his disciples to "dwell in me" in John 15, he is referencing their national history, a time when their wilderness wandering involved transporting a great big pile of hides and fabric and poles and whatnot around in a desert.  So that they could meet with God.  "Makeshift."  A Jew knows what is  meant by a "dwelling place."

Thankfully, the transfer of power has taken place.  We no longer look to buildings or tents for anything except to meet the simple needs of keeping our bodies warm and dry.  This is because the glory is fading from everything, except the face of Jesus, who, on the Cross proves his worthiness to Govern all of creation and history.  The words "forgive them" are cannon shots fired at an elaborate Parliament of ruling-class policymakers, meeting in an elegant palace which, for all its splendor, keeps people poor, afraid, starving, sick, and perhaps worst of all, uninspired.  It's the beginning of a Revolution which can't be lost.  He has usurped the Government of Death, and all governments but his are looking rather dull, even as their halls of power crumble.  While some will stubbornly stand inside as the stone and mortar crash down around them, mumbling that it's not really happening, a few will run out to join the thankful, rejoicing peasants, newly liberated, now dwelling in a new Government, one that leaves them unimpressed with anything else.

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