Answer? I don’t know yet.
The Cycle is a research project, and intellectual honesty means not predetermining the outcome just to tell a cool story.
But the Bible is full of cool stories, sometimes even with lots of commands, illuminating life-changing faith in the least-likely of places.
Hopefully, we can thirst for Joshua and beyond together.
Exodus Chapters 21 – 24 have 108 verses referring to the Cycle, 82 of which are commands! Another 23 verses show unity with God, as God occasionally explains why he is doing what he is doing. And only 2 verses show God’s never-ending love. What is happening here?
Last time we saw that after multiple moments of disobedience and lack of faith in God’s deliverance, God gave a terrifying warning to Israel in the form of thunder and smoke atop Mt. Sinai. The Ten Commandments which followed can be viewed as a deteriorated relationship with God, one of unending love, yet strong distrust of a sinful people. They needed sin to be spelled out in giant capital letters. Those capital letters, which would be repeated to them many times to come, were, “You shall have no other gods before me!”
The 82 commands in this section can be viewed as God’s cooling anger. Chapter 21 starts out with a series of ordinances, which sound more pastoral than commanding. The ordinances include issues related to personal injury, property rights, and various other laws that might be called common civility among a sinful people.
But note carefully that, almost as a refrain to each section of the 82 ordinances and laws in these four chapters, God goes out of his way to repeat:
- · Anyone who sacrifices to any other god will be utterly destroyed
- Be on your guard and do not mention (even) the name of any other gods
- You shall not worship other gods nor their deeds
- You shall make no covenant with other gods
It jumps off the pages. Even though all the other rules and regulations are important in a world full of temptation, the one thing that guarantees thunder, smoke and judgment from God is succumbing to the man-made gods of culture.
God is saying, often with never-ending love but also with occasional terrifying judgment against past sins, that he tolerates Israel’s sinful nature, as long as they get the capital letters correct: NO OTHER GODS!
What is the parallel to the Christian church of the New Testament? What are the capital letters spoken by Jesus that trump all sin?
Might I suggest they are: LOVE EACH OTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU!
What is ahead for us?
Repentance reforming to perfect unity?
Or thunder and smoke?