Approaching God - RR171AM71

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Contents

Lesson

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Approaching God
Course: Course - Exodus; Unity of Law and Grace
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 71
Length: 0:34:55
TapeCode: RR171AM71
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Exodus Unity of Law and Grace.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by permission of the Chalcedon Foundation


Let us worship God. Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. It is good to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, oh Most High. Delight thyself in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Let us pray.

Oh Lord, our God, we thank thee that we live and move, and have our being in thee, that all things are of thine ordination, and even the wrath of man shall praise thee. Grant, oh Lord, that as we face this trouble-filled world, we walk in the confidence of thy grace and thy government, that in all things empowered by thy Spirit, we become more than conquerors through Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.

Our scripture is Exodus 20:22-26. Our Subject: Approaching God. Exodus 20:22-26. Approaching God. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.”

In these verses, we have some laws of worship. First, in verses 22-23, there is a prohibition of idolatry, and then second, in verses 24-26, instructions concerning an altar. The law against making idols specifies images of gold and silver, although it applies to any idol. Gispen said, concerning these two verses, and I quote, “Gold and silver are mentioned specifically to make clear that even the most precious and valuable things could not be compared to Him who spoke from heaven. He does not mean that simply images of wood or stone were permissible.” [00:03:47]

Idolatry is the attempt to make God comprehensible...

Idolatry is the attempt to make God comprehensible to man by giving an intellectual concept a physical form. Now, because God is God, He is incomprehensible to the mind of man. We can know him because all of God’s being is consistent with itself. So, there are no dark corners, no hidden aspects of God which can surprise us. He is what he declares himself to be, but He is so much greater than our mind can imagine, that while we can know Him truly, we cannot know Him exhaustively. But idolatry seeks to make God comprehensible.

When I was still an undergraduate at Berkeley, I read a book on the rationale of Hindu gods, in particular. It was, however false, a very persuasive book, because it pointed out that many of the idols in India are presented with many eyes, to indicate that God is all-seeing, or with many hands, to indicate that God is omnipresent. But the fallacy of this is that, among other things, it delimits God to what man considers to be important.

The same thing can be done intellectually. Men, when they begin to turn to a philosophical conception of God rather than a biblical one, create idols. Gods in their own image. The liberals in the church tell us that God is love, which is a biblical statement, but take alone it represents a falsification, using a biblical verse to make an idol. For we are told, among many other things, that our God is a consuming fire. So, to take one aspect of God’s revelation of Himself and to concentrate on that is idolatry. In Idolatry, man plays the revealer. He tells us what God is, and he seeks to give us what, to him, is a no-blur view of God. God is love, or God is this, or God is that, but God is what His total word declares Him to be, and that’s why, whenever you have people who take one part of the Bible as having more important things to say, or the rest being supposedly no longer valid in this dispensation, they are guilty of idolatry. [00:07:27]

Polytheism develops logically, moreover, out of humanism...

Polytheism develops logically, moreover, out of humanism. Because humanism refuses to recognize an ultimate unity in and behind the universe. A good many years ago, when I was, again when I was a student, there was a little bit of interest created when an anthropologist, I believe and Austrian, in dealing with the various pagan cults, said the further back we go, the clearer it becomes that there was an original belief in one god, not many gods, and that polytheism represented some kind of breakdown. Well, that was contrary to the evolutionary perspective, and the works of this anthropologist, whose name as I recalled was Schmidt, were relegated to the library shelves and forgotten. Today, of course, the stage has been set again for polytheism, because we are told that this is a multi-verse, not a universe, which means that many conflicting truths exist, as well as conflicting powers. The creation of images in history has been a rejection of any ultimate unity. It is a denial that there is a God. It is a belief in a multiplicity of powers, natural or supernatural.

As a result, we are again in a polytheistic universe, or multi-verse, intellectually. It has been affirmed by the universities, going back to the fifties when Clark Kerr of the University of California at Berkeley insisted that what we had was a multi-verse, and Berkeley and other schools had to be called multi-versities. Only those who believe in a blind necessity as ultimate still posit a universe.

In idolatry, men shape or reshape the facts of reality to suit themselves. They refuse to see the wholeness of God and, as a result, they insist on giving an edited version of reality. And all preaching which does not stress the whole word of God will give you an edited version of God. Men who insist, for example, on the natural goodness of man, or his moral neutrality, as humanism has done, are creating an idol, whether they acknowledge it or not. [00:11:11]

In verses 24-26, we go onto laws regarding altars...

In verses 24-26, we go onto laws regarding altars. First idols, then altars. The Hebrew word for altar means, or refers to sacrificial slaughter, and an altar is a table whereon gifts to God are placed, or where God requires certain sacrifices to be made. An altar is clearly associated with food, which represents life, and many of the sacrifices provided food for the priests, others provided food for a communion service, others were burned to be totally dedicated to God, but the association of the altar with food is an essential one. Until recently, the family table retained some aspects of the altar. In fact, sometimes it was called the family altar. It was a place for food, for family communion and fellowship, and for prayers. To be invited to eat at a man’s table meant, and still means in some cultures, to be offered friendship and communion, a bond of peace. In some countries, a foreign man is not safe until someone receives him into communion at his table.

In the Bible, the altar received clean animal, clean animal sacrifices, grain, wine and incense, for the most part. The altar also provided asylum. Any man fleeing from an unjustified threat or prosecution could find sanctuary at the alter, and then an investigation followed to see if, indeed, his innocence were true. Whatever foods were placed on the altar were called the food or, as in Leviticus 22:25, the bread of your God. The altar was also called in the Old Testament, the Lords table. In Ezekiel 41:22, Ezekiel 44:16, Malachi 1:7 and 12. It was at the altar that God’s glory appeared to His people in Leviticus 9:22-25.

With the Reformation, and especially with the Puritans, the importance of the family table came in for renewed emphasis as a place of grace and thanksgiving. If this is lacking at the family table, this recognition that God makes tables a place of grace, thanksgiving, and peace, then the sacrament of communion in the church will be little more than mystical self-communion. It begins with the family. [00:15:11]

The table and its food are necessary for life...

The table and its food are necessary for life. Hence the blood, which is the life of all flesh, had to be restored to God. It could not be eaten. Animals slain for food had to be slain at the tabernacle door. Game animals could be bled in the field but the blood had to be covered with dirt. To this day, even in Soviet Armenia, Armenian Christians take their animals to a large stone near the church steps, to be slaughtered there and to give the priest or the pastor his portion.

The altar represented, first of all atonement and then peace with God. After the fall of Jerusalem, in the Jewish/Roman war 60-70 AD, the Jewish family table replaced the altar in Jewish thought, and a like doctrine of the family table developed in time in Christendom, and it came into its highest focus with the Puritans. Over and over again in the history of the church, there have been times when strong emphasis has been made on the Lords Table, within the church. But such concerns for liturgical renewal usually wane and are empty if there is not an analogous emphasis on the family table.

In these verses, 24-26, we have laws concerning the nature of an altar before God Himself gave the laws for any construction of an altar. God can prescribe the manner of construction for an altar but man cannot. Three rules were laid down: First, an altar of earth was acceptable. This could be no more than earth heaped up, or better a natural high spot where the earth was naturally packed and hard. Then second, an altar of stone would be more convenient, one where stone were available and could be piled up to make a high and large surface for sacrificing animals. The stones could not be hewn but had to be natural. No implement could be used to make the altar, only stones collected and placed together as in some drywall stone construction. [00:18:23]

Man makes no contribution to the Lord’s table, because...

Man makes no contribution to the Lord’s table, because the altar signified atonement, peace, and communion. All of God’s grace and His work for us and toward us. Man cannot have any part in shaping the altar by his handiwork. Later on, God would give precise directions for making the tabernacle and all its furnishings, including the altar but it had to be His requirement.

Then third, there could be no steps against the altar, lest man’s nakedness be discovered, we are told. Later on, in Ezekiel 43:17, we see directions given by God for steps on the east side of the altar. This is not a contradiction because here it is God who requires it, as in Exodus 20:26, He forbids it. The objection in the latter case is to man’s design, not to steps as such. Man’s ideas are not to govern the church nor salvation. Nakedness here refers to the same fact. Although priests were to be God fully as the law required, the essential nakedness was a religious one. It refers to man’s attempt to negotiate with God on the premise of the validity of man’s thinking. It’s when we approach God with our ideas as to what He is like, or what He should do. When we try to say what God should do, then we are naked of Christ, then we are guilty.

This entire passage is against such a belief. That man can create an idol and then say, “God, this is how you should be.” We can only approach God on His terms, never on ours. When he says, “Come,” we must come. When He says, “Go,” we must go. The best that we can offer does not commend us to God. Neither gold nor silver, nor our best efforts nor thinking. Only His work and word can bring us to Him and bless us in our service. God requires of us that we be faithful. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before ordained that we should walk in them.” This is why every great revival in the church, beginning in the early centuries, has taken place when there has been a renewed interest in knowing and believing the every word of God, and in being faithful to it. Let us pray. [00:22:31]

Our Father, we thank thee for the plain speaking of...

Our Father, we thank thee for the plain speaking of thy word. We thank thee for the restraint it places upon our desire to have our will done, our will to impose our thinking upon thee and our ways upon thee. Lord, be merciful unto us. In thy grace and mercy forgive us. Give us joy in thy word and in thy kingdom, in thy ways, and make us faithful in serving thee with all our heart, mind, and being. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Are there any questions now about our lesson? Yes?

[Audience] An idol can be a mental abstraction, can it not?

[Rushdoony] What’s that?

[Audience] An idol can be a mental abstraction.

[Rushdoony] Yes, and that‘s why I referred to how the liberals take something like “God is love,” and insist that their concept has to be God, and today, of course, most idols in the western world are mental concepts, and men are killed as sacrifices to these false idols. This year is the anniversary of the French Revolution, and men are still dying to the idols created by the men of the French Revolution, and the killing is not over. Any other questions or comments? Yes?

[Audience] Could this also, could there be idolatry in some evangelicals when they use Madison Avenue techniques in order to build God’s kingdom?

[Rushdoony] Very good point. In fact, Dr. Hardman, who wrote the new biography of Finney, called attention to that. Finney switched the emphasis in revival from the power of God, to humanistic techniques, and what he taught was you could have a revival any time if you followed certain techniques. Today we would call his ideas the early prototype of Madison Avenue strategies, and since then, that has become very powerful in evangelical churches, and it has now seeped into modernist churches and various other groups so that, it’s very true. Yes? [00:26:18]

[Audience] Is man’s nakedness always related to idolatry...

[Audience] Is man’s nakedness always related to idolatry in the Old Testament?

[Rushdoony] Yes, it essentially means that he comes before God in his own power, not in the person of Christ or in terms of God’s prescription. If means he is claiming that his ways are valid. In the parable of the wedding feast, you remember the wedding guest who refused to put on the wedding garments provided by the king. Now that was a custom in Antiquity. You could not enter into the palace unless you put on garments, very beautiful garments, that the king provided, because you thereby recognized that you were his subject, you were his servant, you were under his dominion, and the only ones who could come into a king’s presence, in their own garb, were foreign ambassadors. So, when this man, who was a part of his realm, came into the king’s presence in his own garb, he was coming in, as it were, naked. He was, in effect, saying, “I am not under your dominion. I am an enemy, I’m another power.” And so he had to be thrown out, because it was a way of saying, “I am against you, you have no claim over me.” That was the significance of it.

There was a scholar, in England, Buckler was his name, who did some remarkable research in the theory of ancient kingship, and one of the things he threw a great deal of light on was precisely that parable, although that was not his purpose. He was an historian. And he did point out the seriousness of that kind of thing, that you had to be in the king’s presence, only with his garb, and that was a great honor and when you, in addition to that, ate at his table, it meant you were now a member of the family, and Buckler did point out that this was the meaning of the Lord’s table. You were now clothed in His garb, His righteousness and you were now at His table as one of His children. [00:29:29]

[Audience] What about when Noah’s nakedness was uncovered...

[Audience] What about when Noah’s nakedness was uncovered after the drunkenness? Is this nakedness dealing with idolatry, too?

[Rushdoony] No, that was different. Yes?

[Audience] Psalm 139:19-22 says, “If only you would slay the wicked, O God. Away from me you blood-thirsty men. They speak of you with evil intent. Your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? Abhor those who rise up against you. I have nothing but hatred for them, I count them my enemies.” Two part question: Was David is a godly frame of mind when he prayed this prayer, and secondly, would it be proper for us to pray this, to pray similar prayers in regard to those who hate the Lord today?

[Rushdoony] Yes. Now, David is not saying, “Lord, take care of my personal enemies,” and he is saying, “Do I not hate them that hate thee?” What is at issue is not personal, it is religious. God’s enemies, and his prayer is concerning the enemies of God.

[Audience] Would it be proper to pray that prayer today as we consider who are God’s enemies?

[Rushdoony] We can pray two ways and we should. First, that they be converted or changed. If not, then the Lord destroy them or remove them. Yes. Yes?

[Audience] Regarding this {?} there was only one, there was only ever one altar, correct?

[Rushdoony] Yes, there were other altars but they were not legitimate. There was the one at the tabernacle and then the temple.

[Audience] Alright, in Judges 18, where they took Micah’s priest away from him, was that priest then not performing the sacrifices, was he was one of levitical function, probably? I would think that if he had been performing sacrifices, he would have been guilty, too guilty to have been removed and made priest.

[Rushdoony] He was faithless priest who was ready to go to the highest bidder, and did, and it was a time of degeneracy and the priests were serving a kind of superstitious function. [00:32:19]

[Audience] Oh, okay...

[Audience] Oh, okay.

[Rushdoony] One reason, of course, why Jeroboam formed another temple and center, and an altar at Bethel was because he did not want the people of the northern kingdom Israel going down to Judah in Jerusalem, to the one temple and altar. Yes?

[Audience] The altar at Solomon’s temple was 10 cubits high. Must have had steps. Wasn’t that a violation of the commandment?

[Rushdoony] Yes, it very well may have unless there was an approach from the higher side. We don’t know too much about it, but we do know that when God required steps, they were legitimate. Well, if there are no further questions, let us conclude with prayer.

Our Father, we thank thee that thy word is given unto us as a light upon our way and as a revelation of thy being. We thank thee that thy word tells us the way wherein to walk, tells us the way of faithfulness, and of peace. Make us zealous in thy service. And now go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you this day and always. Amen. [00:34:31]

End of tape.