Lesson 1: A New Order – A Different God?
The story of the God of Israel picking up a group of slaves and turning them into a nation depicts the story of redemption of mankind and hence forms the backbone for the rest of the scripture. Nothing explains the power and patience of God and the weakness of humanity better than the story of exodus. This week’s lesson brings out a theme in the Pentateuch that is strange to me, a twenty-first century Christian: Order. As simple as this week’s lesson is, it made me think about the God I worship and the way the book of numbers portrays Him.
As you can imagine, getting thousands of people from one country to another on foot is not an easy task. There had to be a leadership and some order. To me, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of order is rigid rules. The God of the Old Testament seems to be overtly concerned about rules and order. But Jesus in the New Testament condemns the pharisees and the scribes who were concerned about keeping those rules and order.
How about a Hebrew Jihad? The slaves who were unarmed and unskilled in war were organized into an army for war by the God of Israel to execute judgment on wicked nations. Its not just any war, but a holy war – a Jihad! In today’s world, war, especially jihad is looked down upon as a disaster or terrorism. Cultural differences between ancient Israel and the modern world aside, what I am concerned more here is the contrast between Yahweh’s approach toward judgment in the Old Testament and His words to love even our enemies in the New Testament.
The God who set all the tribes in order around the tabernacle and instructed the people not to intrude the holy sanctuary and punished the ones who violated his instruction with death is still the same God we worship week after week at churches. For some reason, order during worship has become more and more subjective.
The unchanging God (in His character) has definitely changed His way of dealing with His people over the centuries but what about order and rules? Is He still “that concerned about order?” or is He more….you know…. “liberal”? Jesus definitely sounds more “liberal” than when He spoke as Yahweh to the Israelites at mount Sinai. Is He fine with any kind of worship? any kind of behavior? any kind of religion? Nature tells me that He is still keeping the universe in order. The earth hasn’t slipped out of its orbit yet. As gracious as He is, He still desires order in our lives today.