What is the most difficult obligation you’ve ever faced?
What a wonder that the God who created everything we know would also want to be personally invested in the lives of people who didn’t even know Him yet. The covenant He makes with Israel places His law in the center of their congregation and at the front of their daily lives. Is it any wonder that they became so focused on actions, on “doing” what they thought might gain them credit in heaven?
Election: Deuteronomy 7 and Romans 9-11
The election of Israel—God’s choice—was not because of Israel’s amazing characteristics, but because God had made a promise to Abraham, and He is faithful to keep them. Calvinism presents election as something people have no choice over, and it appears there is at least a bit of truth in that. Romans 9-11 argues that God’s election stands—He chose Israel because of His love and desire for the world to see His goodness. However, the covenant role Israel was to play cannot be equated to eternal salvation, and a once-saved-always-saved result. Election means purpose and privilege, not eternal security.
How should Christians respond to the idea that God saves some people and chooses others to be lost? Is this the idea of Biblical election?
What lessons should Adventist learn from Israel regarding God’s election and purpose for them? How does Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21:33-46 offer a warning to Christians believing their election and privilege is secure?
The 10 Words
Are the 10 Commandments essential to keep in order to maintain God’s covenant with us? If we fail, is the covenant broken? These questions make more sense in a marriage relationship, one of the most sacred and beautiful expressions of human-to-human covenant. When a couple vows to love and cherish, even in difficult times (sicker, poorer, etc.), they vow an ideal. But the reality is not always beautiful promise-keeping. In fact, it’s not the most difficult times that destroy relationships, but the mundane and daily grind that saps their love and destroys desire to fulfill their vows. But if those vows are intended as a promise to always be loving, does that mean an unkind word or insensitive action selfishly carried out suddenly and irrevocably destroys the marriage covenant? Is the couple then divorced because the vows were broken? I think most couples would argue of course not. The vows establish the hope of the best covenant relationship; reality can be less than that. Continual and flagrant ignoring of the covenant vows, however, will destroy the marriage. It will throw cold water on the fire of romance, and may even prevent any sort of reconciliation.
The 10 commandments of God are similar to the wedding vows on which God wants the best of relationships to be built. We cannot ignore them without great pain to God, and to our neighbors. Originally, the Hebrew term for the 10 Commandments was the “10 Words” of God. They aren’t even given in the imperative mood, that is, as commands, but rather as unfulfilled promises. Even when the New Testament quotes them, it does so by translating them as “future- tense” verbs, actions that Israel will perform, rather than using the available imperative mood. For Israel, these ideas were some of their first glimpses into the values of their Redeeming God. And just like a marriage vow, there is volition and choice; most people aren’t forced into marriage, and neither was Israel.
How would these ideas have struck the Israelites fresh out of Egyptian slavery?
In what way are the 10 Commandments promises of future behavior? Why weren’t they given as commands?
Describe how these 10 Words of God can be seen as all-encompassing in terms of human relationships and how they might be limited. Is there a difference between the letter of the laws and the principles of these laws?
If the 10 Commandments were written by the finger of God Himself, how might we explain the differences between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, especially the Sabbath commands?
How might we explain the similarities between the 10 Commandments and the laws of the nations around Israel? What are some of the significant differences? Perhaps a quick Google search can help you here…
What would Israel have looked like if they had kept these commands completely? What about our society today?
The commands of God are often viewed by sinful people as burdens that restrict their freedom, even though they ultimately lead to greater happiness and order in relationships. Others believe that keeping them as simply “rules” without concern for their relational value and purpose somehow earns favor with God. But a broader view of the commandments within the covenant clarifies their role as exemplars of God’s lovingkindness, a pattern for His people to have the best lives with one another, and the ultimate basis for determining righteousness and the need for forgiveness.