The Prologue and First Commandment: Part 1
Feb 26, 2007
The First Commandment is recorded in Exodus 20:2 and 3,
" (2) I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery. (3) You shall have no other gods before Me."
Verse 2 is the prologue and the reason why Israel was to adopt this law for the nation. It is actually based upon the law of redemption. Exodus 15:13 speaks of Israel as being "the people whom Thou hast redeemed." In the law of redemption, the redeemed person was to serve his redeemer (Lev. 25:53).
In the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer (Gal. 3:13), and because of this, Christians have been purchased (1 Cor. 6:20). Christians, then, are not at liberty to do as they please, but are to submit to their Redeemer (Rom. 6:18). Thus, Paul tells us that grace is not a license to sin, but a means of becoming a slave to righteousness--as defined in His Word.
Our forefathers saw America in terms similar to that of Israel coming out of Egypt. The old world in Europe was "Egypt" to them. The Atlantic was the "Red Sea." In fact, Benjamin Franklin's proposal for the Great Seal of the United States portrayed Moses stretching forth his rod over the Red Sea, with the armies of Pharaoh being overwhelmed by the waters.
In those days the preachers warned that if we would forsake God and His law and abandon the covenant by which the fathers had established this nation, that God would surely forsake us and destroy us as He did the house of Israel thousands of years ago. They had a clear understanding that America had been redeemed by God from the oppression of Old World politics and religion, where men were not truly free to worship God.
It was in this context that the Declaration of Independence was written, speaking of "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." They declared "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights," and that Government was God's agent to uphold those God-given rights.
Yet America encountered the same problem that Israel did long ago. It was the problem of citizenship--that is, carnal people. It was an impossible task to try to distinguish between true believers and unbelievers and thereby grant or remove citizenship rights. There were already too many unbelievers in America and more coming every day. And there were already too many brands of Christianity, each having a different understanding of Scripture, and some even denying portions of it.
The ideal, of course, would be to allow only true Christians to be citizens of the nation, those who had no other gods before Jesus Christ, those who clearly understood that the Divine Law was the supreme law of the land. But even with that high standard, what does one do to keep out those who give Him lip service? Since each of the original 13 colonies had its own State Religion--Congregationalist, Quaker, Adventist, Anglican, Catholic--there would have been no agreement if they had had to choose whose view to establish as the Standard.
Hence, they agreed that the Federal Government would not establish ANY of them. They agreed that each State would retain its own jurisdiction over religious matters, and that the Federal Government would be neutral in religious affairs.
This compromise, while no doubt necessary in view of the carnality of man, ensured that the new nation would fall short of the provisions of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. While it did recognize the sovereignty of God in general, it would be left to future generations to work out the actual applications of it.
For the first 70 years, the primary issue was that of slavery and whether or not non-white people were included in the statement, "all men are created equal." Did God give equal rights to black people and to Indians? Were they indeed endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights? Early attempts to include them in the Declaration were defeated, because if included, the South would not have joined the Union.
The South justified slavery on biblical grounds; the North condemned it on biblical grounds. Obviously, they had differing views of biblical Christianity. They agreed that all rights come from God, but they disagreed as to whom God had granted those rights.
The Civil War succeeded in holding the nation together, but only at a severe price. A half million men died in that war, but slavery was only replaced by racism, bitterness, and resentment. The hot war was replaced by a cold war for an entire century. The War did not change the hearts of the people, nor did it change their views about those of other races.
Since the religious community failed in its responsibility, God called the secular community to do it. When such things happen, the secularists do a very imperfect job as well, for, like drugs, their solutions come with side effects. The primary side effect was that the secularists saw religion as the problem. And because they associated God with religion, they saw the belief in God as an obstacle to freedom. They removed God from government and detached law from biblical morality. Government then assumed the position of God and began to grant rights that were never given by God.
This usurpation of the right to grant rights is with us today. An "antichrist" is one who rules in place of Christ. As I have written before, this term can either be positive (as with King David) or negative (as with Saul or Absalom). The difference is whether one rules as an enforcer of the Divine Will or a usurper of His throne. The American Government has become a classic usurper and therefore "antichrist" in the negative sense.
Recently, I watched Senate hearings where the Committee Chairman was talking about the Constitutional provision in Article 1, Section 9, which says, "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended." This prominent lawyer freely used the term "Privilege" and "Right" interchangeably, as if they were the same thing. While I appreciated his objection to the President's suspension of this privilege, I was appalled at his careless use of terms, realizing that he really did not know the difference between a God-given right and a Government-granted privilege.
Habeas Corpus is said to be a "Privilege," because it is not expressly granted by God in Scripture. It is, however, an important part of American law, for it is a court-ordered demand to a person who has custody of another, to produce the person in order to determine the legality of that person's detention. (In this case, it was about the "detainees" at Guantanamo.) The purpose of this privilege is to liberate illegally detained persons, and serves as a protection against arbitrary imprisonment.
We might argue with the framers of the Constitution about whether or not they should have used the word "Privilege," but the fact is, they did not make it a "Right."
In view of the failure of Israel (in the past) and America (in the present) to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth, it is plain that good starts and good intentions are insufficient. The Kingdom of God can only succeed in the long-term with perfected people as citizens and all others excluded. Partial success can be achieved with perfect rulers and judges to teach Scripture and manifest the character of Christ by example.
This is the partial success that will be achieved in the Tabernacles Age after the overcomers have been raised to reign with Christ on the earth. The world will be a better place, but not perfected until the next great Age has been completed.
This is the first part of a series titled "The Prologue and the First Commandment." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones