Pastors Report - 23 Jun 2017
towerBlockOnFire

God's Law on Tower-blocks:

"... and my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation and in sure dwellings and in quiet resting places." (Isaiah 32:18)

Grenfell Tower:

Around 1 o'clock in the morning of Wednesday 14th June – just last week – a fire began in a 24 story high-rise tower block in North Kensington, West London. By the end of the day 79 people had lost their lives in a towering inferno that burned out of control for 24 hours – the deadliest fire in Great Britain since those caused by the Blitz, the air raids of World War II, and a tragedy that hit the news all around the world.

Almost immediately – even before survivors and relatives had time to comprehend their loss – the recriminations began. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, criticised the safety guidelines and in particular, those telling residents to stay in their flats until rescued by fire services. This advice assumed that the fire services would be able to contain a fire within the interior, which was impossible in this case as the fire was spreading rapidly via the building's recently installed exterior cladding. Since 2013, the residents' organisation, Grenfell Action Group, had repeatedly expressed concern about fire safety, and had warned the block's management in November 2016 that only a catastrophic fire would finally force them to treat fire precautions and maintenance of fire-related systems properly.

So residents blamed the tenant management organisation (TMO) and the contractors they employed, who during recent refurbishment fitted cheaper, flammable exterior cladding, banned by several architectural firms, reputedly to save a meagre £6250 in the £8.7 million project. The TMO in turn blamed the penny-pinching attitude of the council. And the council blamed the UK central government – for attempting to rein in profligate local spending by reducing the grant given to local councils. Put simply, the entire problem of what went wrong is a Gordian knot of a mess – that has unfortunately had truly devastating, agonising and lasting consequences for so many London families.

God on High:

In Isaiah we are given a glimpse of how God looks at mankind and our feeble efforts at civilization:

  • Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket, and valued as dust on a scale. Look, God weighs the islands like fine dust.
  • Lebanon doesn't have enough fuel; its animals aren't enough for an entirely burned offering.
  • All the nations are like nothing before God. They are viewed as less than nothing and emptiness (Isaiah 40:15-17 CEB)

And in our daily prayers, we are told by Christ to address God as: "Our Father – who is in heaven". In so saying, we remember and acknowledge His elevated perspective – high above our own current mundane grasp of the events around us. In effect we are saying the reverse of the position taken by our first parents – who, as Mr Armstrong points out below, wanted God to keep His nose out of their business:

And so it is. Adam had made his choice. In other words, Adam said to God in effect … And let me just paraphrase it in my own words. In effect, he said: “God, I want you to keep your nose out of my affairs. I will not accept you as my ruler. I reject you as my king, as my ruler. I reject you as my God for salvation. I reject you as a source of knowledge to tell me what is good and what is evil, and I will decide it myself.” (Transcript - Sermon (1978-05-13) - Creation And The Gospel)

So for the past 6000 years God has indeed kept His nose out of our business – allowing man to make his own decisions in all areas of life. Not only moral codes, but also day-to-day judgements – for example, regarding the dwellings he builds, and the kind of cities he lives in, the fire codes he decides upon, and imposing whatever legal structures he chooses to implement. This is very much not God's world, and trying to change anything within it independently – for example, modifying a tower block into a more 'righteous' structure by attempting to give its inhabitants more safety, privacy, space, beauty – is nothing more than an exercise in futility when – according to God's clear principles regarding such things – the entire edifice should never have been built in the first place!

Only Tinkering:

And yet there is still this assertion within traditional Christian thinking, that by continually tinkering at the edges of the plethora of problems in this god-forsaken world, some form of pseudo-kingdom of God will miraculously appear – brought about within the hearts and by the actions of men. As Mr Armstrong puts it:

Haven’t you heard men speak of the kingdom of God something like this: “By Christians everywhere working together to bring about world peace, tolerance and brotherly love, the kingdom of God may at last be established in the hearts of men.”

Because they rejected Christ’s gospel 1,900 years ago, the world had to supplant something else in its place.They had to invent a counterfeit!So we have heard the kingdom of God spoken of as merely a pretty platitude – a nice sentiment in human hearts – reducing it to an ethereal, unreal NOTHING!Others have misrepresented that the “CHURCH” is the kingdom.Others confuse it with the millennium.Still others have, earlier in our century, claimed the British Empire is the kingdom of God. But no one makes that claim any longer.How DECEIVED CAN THIS WORLD GET?

The prophet Daniel, who lived 600 years before Christ, knew that the kingdom of God was a real kingdom – a government ruling over literal PEOPLE on the earth.

Jesus Christ brought additional knowledge about it that the prophet Daniel might not have known.Still, Daniel knew there was going to be a real, literal kingdom of God on the earth. ( Mystery of the Ages – chapter 7 – page 296)

And it is that kingdom – the literal Kingdom of God – that is the ONLY real solution to the tower block problems found within our cities. A LITERAL, Spirit Born, divine ruling government that is prophesied to spread through all this earth following Christ's return – FORCING mankind to live a certain way – God's way – not only in the dwellings we build, but in every facet of existence – a TOTALLY new and different civilisation, literally from the ground up.

Individual Laws:

But is there not a need for individual laws- "building regulations" – covering such things as, say, fire codes? Indeed there is! And the principles can be clearly seen within the health and safety concepts found within certain old Testament building-code commands given to ancient Israel:

  • When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof, so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof. (Deuteronomy 22:8 NIV)
  • And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein;
  • The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his. (Exodus 21:33-34)

But there is a fundamental difference between the law of God and the laws of man. Even the above judgements fit and amplify further God's overall command to love our neighbour as ourself. The "Golden Rule" that is virtually extinct in our society today! And we are always to administer such laws according to the spirit and intent – not merely by the individual letter – as Mr Armstrong explains in the Good News article on Divorce and Remarriage:

THERE IS ONE great difference between the law of God and the laws made by human government. God has given us His law in form of general principles to be applied in various cases, whereas in national laws, state laws and city ordinances, MAN tries to make multiple thousands of laws, “spelling out” every little detail in a separate law.

It is made clear for us in the third chapter of II Corinthians. ”[God] also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit” (verse 6).

God’s law is given in one single word – LOVE. God is love, His law is love – that word sums up God’s CHARACTER. The law then is amplified into the two Great Laws, love toward God, and love toward neighbor. God amplifies it a little further in the Ten Commandments – the first four giving the broad principles of how to love God and the last six how to love neighbor. But God intended us to understand the PRINCIPLE involved and apply it honestly.

Now it comes to my attention that many are finding gray areas in the D & R law. I will try to spell out a little further in a general way, and those who seek the WAY OF GOD instead of their own way will have, I hope, no difficulty in applying God’s law properly according to its intended spirit. Otherwise, those who try to reason around God’s law to have their own way will stand condemned in the sight of God.

GOD DOES NOT COMPROMISE WITH, OR WATER DOWN HIS LAW. Rather than that He GAVE His only begotten Son Jesus to pay the penalty of repented sin in our stead. ( Spelling Out The Official Doctrine On D&R - GN Oct/Nov 1979)

God's View:

So taking the overall command to love our neighbour as ourself – along with a multitude of individual judgements found within Scripture – what IS God's view of tower blocks? And what is therefore prophesied when this entire earth will indeed be ruled by the Spirit Born Family of the Kingdom of God – correctly administering the laws of God?

According to the following passage in the book of Isaiah, even the concept of the semi-detached house goes against the thinking and aim of God – let alone piling dozens of dwellings on top of each other, making people live like a bunch of battery hens, in order to maximise profit from each square metre of city land – as we find in the modern tower block. Perhaps some form of high-rise structures will be permitted in the future – but from this passage and others it is very clear indeed that they will not be dwellings of any kind:

  • For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
  • Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth !
  • In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. ( Isaiah 5:7-9)
Peace and Quiet:

When God first created mankind, He created them male and female – the beginning of the first traditional family unit – and placed them in a garden ... essentially setting them in magnificent parkland. The restoration of this parkland environment Jesus Christ certainly alluded to when He assured the thief on the cross that he will eventually be with Him in "Paradise" – a Persian word for a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting ground, park, shady and well watered, in which wild animals, were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for the hunters (Luke 23:43). Such a setting would indeed give mankind the kind of environment in which to think deeply about the important spiritual things of life, and is far, far removed from what we find today in the noise, dirt, crowds and hustle and bustle of our modern cities. But it appears to be what is clearly indicated within the following passage from Isaiah:

  • Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment...
  • ... the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.
  • Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
  • And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
  • And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; (Isaiah 32:1,15-18)

The clear contrast between "Paradise" and "tower block" could not be more stark! In Grenfell Tower there were 127 dwellings, each piled one on top of another and side-by-side. Can anyone say such a configuration can ever give "quietness and assurance ... a peaceable habitation ... and in quiet resting places" for those who are forced to exist in them? And can anyone honestly say they are truly loving their neighbours as themselves when they design, build, and rent-out such structures?

God's Glorious Future:

At the time of "the restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21) the entire idea of having to dwell cheek-by-jowl in a tower block will very much be something of the distant past. As a model nation to which the entire world will look, the land of Israel at that time will be regarded as "the land of unwalled villages" (Ezekiel 38:11) Certainly, in the context in which this phrase is found it indicates a people who are regarded as unprotected – but the phrase also has more to tell us: A village that was unwalled in ancient Israel was treated differently to properties in a walled town at the time of the Jubilee. Properties in the unwalled village would return to the family as their inheritance every 50 years. Such properties were not able to be sold permanently – unlike a townhouse. Such a phrase gives even more weight the idea of a paradise parkland environment in the future – as far away from inner city tenement buildings, urban sprawl and massive apartment blocks and as it is possible to be!

  • And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it.
  • And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile.
  • But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country : they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile. (Leviticus 25:29-31)

A similar conclusion is reached when we consider the case of the Sabbatical year as it will be implemented in the future. God gave the command to our forefathers in ancient Israel that debts were to be cancelled (Deuteronomy 15:1-2) and at the same time the land was to be rested (Leviticus 25:4). There is no record that this commandment was kept – to their own detriment! But on examination, keeping a Sabbath for the land would have had another quite profound effect on the make up of society in general. Greengrocers – today's supermarkets – would have been out of business for a full year or more – effectively removing them as a business and once again forcing the general population into a more agrarian environment if they wanted the volunteer salads and vegetables as a continuous part of their diet:

  • "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord.
  • Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit;
  • but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.
  • What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.
  • And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you
  • for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land--all its produce shall be for food.(Leviticus 25:2-7 NKJV)
The Real Answer:

So the arguments continue as to who is to blame for the tragic fire that occurred just over a week ago – when the real answer, the real culprits, were our first parents who wanted the right to decide for themselves. And they did ... they rejected the tree of life and told God to keep His nose out of their business – thereby choosing for themselves the determination of what is right and wrong, rather than humbly submitting to God's much wiser direction. As God inspired Jeremiah to note: " For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13)

But we can take heart.....things are about to change – with an entirely new civilisation based on an entirely new way of thinking and the legal framework that flows from it.... just waiting in the wings.

  • A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
  • And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
  • And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
  • I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.
  • And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.
  • Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
  • Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
  • Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
  • And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
  • And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
  • Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. (Ezekiel 36:26-36)

The restitution of all things is about to happen – with each family in peace and safety, under their own vine and fig tree – within a parkland paradise – and without a tower block in sight!

When we comprehend the amazing future prophesied, and compare the paradise that is soon to come with what we witness on our TV screens re. the misery of those affected by such tragedies as the Grenfell fire, we get a fuller understanding of the need for the earth to be full of the knowledge, the WAY of God, as the waters cover the sea. And it puts a whole new complexion, and a different emphasis on our heartfelt request...."YOUR Kingdom come, YOUR will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."

  • But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
  • And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
  • And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
  • But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. (Micah 4:1-4)