The Keeping of Torah Positions Us for Revelation

“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast of restraint, but blessed Is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18 ESV)

    This is one of those verses that just “leapt” off the page at me.  It is so ripe with meaning that a brief discussion of it is in order.  God is called “The Living God” and as such, desires a dynamic and individual relationship with all of us.  There is to be an “ebb and flow” between us and the spiritual realm.  Without this relationship, things don’t seem to go well for us humans.  We are the agents of God in the physical realm.  We were created in His Image and Likeness and we are to be everything in this realm that He is in the spiritual realm.  We are His representatives and co-laborers.  We are commissioned by Him, to loose His Will on earth as His Will exists in heaven.  This demands a dynamic relationship between us and Him.  This is “prophetic vision”.  That God will reveals His will to us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in and it is then our job to release His spiritual power into that circumstance to bring heaven on earth. This keeps us grounded as human beings.  It gives us focus, destiny, and purpose and, when this is lacking, people tend to cast off restraint.  Without this prophetic mission, human beings tend to become very human indeed.  We search for fulfillment in things that were never meant to be fulfilling.  Sin is the main dish of this diet.   However, there seems to be a lifestyle that we can adopt that will position us to receive prophetic revelation.

The keeping of the commandments of God demonstrates our great love for Him.  If we are keeping commandments for any other reason other than an expression of our love for Him, then we are either self-righteous or embracing works based theology.  Neither, of which, is capable of producing spiritual life.  But, when we keep the Torah out of a love for Him, we position ourselves to receive prophetic revelation.

The Law has a restraining effect upon the lust of the eyes, the world, and the flesh.  This restraining effect positions us to receive spiritual revelation and keeps us grounded in Him.   It is the prophetic vision of that God shows us about our lives that keeps us grounded and the restraining of the flesh by the keeping of Torah positions us for spiritual release.

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Deep Calls To Deep: A Study in Calvinistic Spirituality

“My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. My soul is cast down within me; Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Sections of Psalm 42 ESV)

I’ve been, predominately, an Arminist in my spirituality. (Arminius was a theologian who focused on the free will of man in creating their spirituality) Recently, God has been doing some things in my life and in the lives of many who I am close to, that relate more to Calvinism. (John Calvin was a theologian who taught that God’s will controls the circumstances in our lives and our personal will matters little) (1) It is my opinion that the two positions are neither diametrically opposed, as church history has tended to make them, nor are they necessarily mutually exclusive, also as the church has tended to make them. Be all of that as it may, I’m progressively embracing more Calvinistic spirituality. (2) What I mean by Calvinistic spirituality is “God orchestrating circumstances in our lives to bring us into a position where we will do His will.” He is a really Big and Smart. He knows the hearts of people and how they will respond in a given set of circumstances. This is what I will define as Calvinistic spirituality. Let’s come back to this in a minute.

In Psalm 42 (sections of which are quoted above), the Psalmist is very depressed. He is “pouring out his soul”, and is “downcast” and crying. We are not told of the circumstances surrounding this depression; but, a solution is offered. The Hebrew word for “deep”, in the Psalm, generally refers to the deepest part of a body of water. (Hence, the references to water in the rest of that verse.) It can also mean the “deep part.” So, how is it that deep calls to deep? It is evident in the Psalm that the “deepest part” of man is calling out to the “deepest part” of God. When the heart of man touches the heart of God, things get shaken up in both the physical and the spiritual realm. It is my opinion that God desires this and, using my new found Calvinistic spirituality, orchestrates circumstances, occasionally, in our lives where the deep of us calls to the deep of Him. Today, I found a biblical example.

In the opening chapters of I Samuel, we read of a woman named Hannah. She is married to a man who has two wives. One of them, Penniah, has children and Hannah, the other wife is barren. Two times the text tells the source of her barrenness. It states, “the Lord closed her womb.” (I Samuel 1: 5&6) As a result of the Lord’s action, she is provoked by her rival, the other wife. In ancient times, a barren woman was considered cursed. She would’ve been seen as a social outcast. This, of course, greatly distressed her. She gets depressed and she is stirred in her deepest parts. At the yearly sacrifice, her deepest parts can no longer take it. She arises from the festive meal and the deepest part of woman calls to the deepest part of God. She pours out her soul to God and, in doing so, is accused of drinking by the High Priest. She informs him that she is not drunk but she is praying out of the depths of her soul. He, in turn, speaks blessing over her. She arises from the prayer with a sense of release about the matter and returns to the festive meal contented and eats. Shortly thereafter, she gets pregnant and has a son. That son is Samuel. In Hebrew, the name means “heard of God.” She names him a name that describes what takes place when the deep of humans call to the deep of God. He hears and He acts. It is my supposition, that God set all of this up. He is the One that closed her womb. He is the One that put her in a position of adversity from her rival. He is the One that caste her in the social light as being “cursed.” What could be His motive, a Samuel.

Samuel was not birthed by chance. He was prayed into existence when God ordained circumstances in the life of Hannah, knowing how she would respond, where the deepest parts of her would call out to the deepest part of God and give occasion for God to act and birth a Samuel. The prophet and priest. God ordained all of this. Thus, Hannah happened to be on the receiving end of Calvinistic spirituality.

What can we learn from all of this? The next time we find ourselves in an emotional pickle, it may very well be that God has ordained these circumstances. Why, to birth something great our of the deepest part of me calling out to the deepest part of Him.

Endnotes

1. It is not my intention to delve deeply into the doctrines of either camp here. My superficial parenthetical note does neither Arminius nor Calvin justice. Anyone wishing further information is encouraged to Google either name, and a wealth of information will follow. Wikipedia has good stuff on both.

2. By spirituality I mean the way that I live out my theology. Thus Calvinistic spirituality looks for the hand of God in adverse circumstances.

The Kingdom

There is a tremendous difference between the spiritual realm and the physical realm.  The physical realm is experienced by the five senses.  We see, touch, taste, hear, and smell and this gives us information about the physical realm.  The spiritual realm is the invisible realm around us.  It is the unseen world where God reigns supreme.  God is Spirit (John 4:24) and His Domain is in the spiritual realm and there He is King.  The Jews took Jesus to Pilate to have Him crucified.  Their accusation against Him was treason according to Roman law.  He says, “He is a King” and Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king and Jesus replies, “My Kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:37)  God’s Kingdom is a Spiritual one.  The Kingdom of God is not currently a place that you can travel to.  It is not a physical destination in the physical realm and won’t be until the millennial reign.  Nevertheless, Jesus tells us He is King and that His Kingdom is not of this place, implying that it is of the spiritual or invisible realm around us.  This is where the Kingdom of God exist today.  In the unseen realms of the invisible supernatural spiritual place.

There is also a tremendous difference between religion and spirituality.  Religion is focused on the physical realm while spirituality is focused on the unseen invisible realm.  Religion tells us what we can and cannot do in the physical realm.  It tells us what to eat, what to wear, how to dress, how often to pray, and how often to read scripture.  Religion is very focused on behavior and not focused on faith or belief.  Spirituality is focused on the unseen realm of faith and belief and relationship with God.  Religion advocates that we can behave our way into stronger belief.  Spirituality teaches that we believe our way into better behavior.  Religion promises holiness but it can only produce death because it is focused on self-driven power which will ultimately fail.  Its works will only produce sin, and reveal sin, but the only promise of overcoming sin is in self power which will ultimately fail and lead into death.  Spirituality promises holiness as a work of grace (unmerited favor and the ability for God to do through me what I am incapable of doing myself) and faith (confidence toward God) when I trust in God to sanctify me and not myself.  It is based upon relationship with an inner dwelling God of my soul who guides and empowers me to overcome areas of sin by administering inner power greater than the sin.  In essence, God works in my heart to produce holiness through my relationship with Him.  Spiritual disciplines are driven out of a heart that desires to be obedient because of an experiential love through relationship.  When I experience God’s love for me and when I know that to sin would be to break God’s heart, I desire to not grieve Him who loves me so much.  Religion cannot teach it.  Relationship and experiencing the presence of God produces sanctification by the Spirit.  Jesus Christ never died to give us religion.  Religion existed long before the time of Jesus.  It was Judaism.  If Jesus only wanted religion, then we could have all become proselyte Jews or perished without it.  But, what Jesus accomplished is much greater than religion, it achieved the relationship that was lost on account of sin.

The barrier that separated us from God was sin.  The perfect fellowship with God was shattered in the garden by a man-made attempt at spiritual self-promotion.  Humans have been separated from God since that day.  Sin cannot be in the presence of God.  He is way to Holy.  Jesus removed the sin barrier and this has enabled us to again have fellowship with God.  How is this possible?  By removing the sin barrier from us, by our faith and trust in His accomplishments, our sins are forgiven through His Sacrifice (Lev 17:11).  The shedding of His blood is the giving of the life that is required for my sin.  The Bible says that the “the day that we sin we will surely die” (Genesis 2:17)  The penalty that we all deserve for sin is death.  Jesus has taken this penalty for us; thus, He has set us free from sin and death, and alive to God.  This allows the Holy Spirit to invade our hearts and awaken us to see and enter into the spiritual Kingdom of God.  This Holy Spirit invasion births us into spiritual beings connected to His Spiritual Kingdom.  Thus, I can now have a spiritual relationship with a Spiritual God and can move and operate in His Spiritual Kingdom.  This spiritual re-birth by the Spirit release the Kingdom of God into our lives.  Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is around you (Matthew 4:17) and inside of you (Luke 17:20-21).  With this spiritual invasion, God births us into His Kingdom.  The Presence of God lived behind the huge veil in the temple.  When Jesus died, removing the sin barrier, the Presence of God burst out of the Holy of Holies like a football team running through a banner on Friday night.  Thus releasing the Kingdom of God to be available for all people. (Matthew 27:51)

Jesus has  a discussion with a very religious man that solidifies all these points.  We read in the gospel of John, “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (John 3:1).  Nicodemus was a very religious man.  One might say that he was the ultimate religious guy.  He was a Pharisee, and they were regarded as the most religious sect of Judaism at the time of Jesus.  Furthermore, he was on the ruling council.  Only 70 of the most religious men in the entire nation were appointed to this council and Nicodemus was one of them.  Nicodemus, therefore, represents the ultimate expression of religiosity at the time.  He comes to Jesus at night.  Why?  Because to be seen with Jesus during the day and be seen with the people Jesus hung out with, would not have been very religious.  Nevertheless, Nicodemus has some question for Jesus.  “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God for no one can do these sings that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2) Nicodemus is really asking, “We don’t know how you are doing all these miraculous works because you are not as religious as us.”  Another way of saying it would be, “You are doing miracles being less religious than us and we want to know why.”  Nicodemus can’t see the spiritual because he is so focused on the religion of the physical realm.  Jesus begins to teach Nicodemus about His Kingdom.  Jesus tells Nicodemus that without a spiritual invasion of the God that births one into the spiritual realm one can’t see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)  This really freaks out the religious man.  He doesn’t understand.  He states, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (3:4)  Nicodemus is so focused on the physical realm that he can’t see the spiritual truth that Jesus is illustrating.  Jesus begins to explain the difference between the physical realm and the spiritual realm.  He states, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes,  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)  We can’t see the wind.  We can see the effects of the wind but not the wind. (Interesting side note: often time the word for “spirit” and the word for “air/wind” is the same word).   The same happens with the spiritual Kingdom.  People will see the effects of God in our lives; oftentimes,  before we will realize it.  People only focused on the physical realm can not see the spiritual kingdom at work around you, they see the effects that it causes and they wonder where it came from .  This is the quandary that Nicodemus was in.  He saw the effects of the Kingdom, but not the Kingdom itself.  Nicodemus still doesn’t understand, “How can these things be?”  Nicodemus is dumbfounded because it has nothing to do with religion and the physical realm.  Jesus counters, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?  Most assuredly, I say to you, we speak what we know and testify what we have seen and you do not receive our witness.  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:10-13)  The only person on earth that was ever qualified to teach about Heaven or the Kingdom of God was Jesus.  He was the only one who had ever been there.  He relates a spiritual experience from the Old Testament to illustrate a Kingdom principle about how He would remove the sin barrier. (John 3:14-15).  Then, He gives us the motive behind the Divine Intervention.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)