Pastors Report - 23 Oct 2020
The Way Of Man

"The Way" of Man:

"O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jeremiah 10:23)

Welsh-Covid Firebreak:

Well, it is now official. As of 6pm Friday night, 23rd October this area of Wales in which we are currently living is officially in a two-week lockdown as part of the whole principality, even though our specific area has a very low percentage of cases. This means that travel within this area is now restricted to essential services only. Apart from key workers the population is being strongly encouraged to stay at home and not venture out. All shops – apart from takeaways, food shops, banks and chemists must now close their doors. Households getting together – both inside and outside the home – is now forbidden.

The whole 'covid experience' is becoming increasingly aggravating, to say the least. The present lockdown has been imposed by the Welsh government – now at odds with the rest of the UK, where a more focused approach is being tried – each area being independently placed in one of 3 categories (minor to more severe), according to the number of cases present per 100,000 of the population. Whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland – like Wales – are intent on doing their own thing, and the result is chaos all round with restrictions changing in each area day to day and week to week.

But God's people have to live in this present world and we therefore need to ask ourselves "what are some of the major things we must learn from the chaos that we are witnessing"? Is there anything specifically relevant that God Himself wants us to really understand ... to 'get'? I believe one of the main things has got to be the incredible difference between the WAY man governs, concocts and, in particular, administers his laws, and the very different WAY of God – His laws and their administration. And it's imperative that we recognise this vital difference, so that we don't end up using merely a human approach in administering the very laws of God, both now and in the future.

Man's Laws:

What we're witnessing in our current situation is the result of 6,000 years of having chosen the wrong tree. And the very essence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that each individual – unguided by God – chooses for himself what is right and wrong as each situation presents itself. The result of this approach is contention and strife, with each person both doing and promoting what he or she sees as right ... in their own eyes. And this was the major reason for chaos in the time of the judges, summed up in the final verse of the final chapter ... and you have to wonder if this is not to be the final verse in the final chapter of what we are seeing in the western world right now!

  • In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

From a spiritual standpoint, this explains the lack of a truly united and 'joined-up' plan currently within the UK. Even 'following the science' isn't any help in the process, as the scientists themselves are in disagreement as to the best way forward. What we are seeing played out is a carnal government attempting to impose unpopular restrictions on a carnal population. I think a good illustration of this chaotic state of affairs are the scenes – repeated numerous times across the UK – of parties, raves, pub crawls etc taking place up until the very last second when the restrictions are imposed. It's obedience – but grudgingly so – to merely the strict letter of the law, whereas the problem itself is spiritual in nature – and therefore demands a truly all-encompassing, joined-up spiritual solution.

Our current situation is compellingly summed up in the first 15 verses of Isaiah 59 ... and verses 8-10 seem particularly relevant right now ...

  • ... there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.
  • Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
  • We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. (Isaiah 59:8-10)
God's Laws:
  • For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
  • For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

In contrast to the fractured and disunited attempts we are presently witnessing, God's way and His laws apply to every man, woman and child in any village, city, country or continent – at any time in history. And His laws manage to be all-encompassing at the same time as being straightforward and concise. The Ten Commandments are better described as 'ten phrases' that give a perfect summation of each and every individual's responsibility in life. They can even be further refined into just two succinct concepts – loving God with heart, soul and might and neighbour as oneself. How different from man's complicated approach. For example, the Lord's prayer has either 55 or 66 words (depending on which version), the Gettysburg address around 270, the Magna Carta not much over 600 but on top of EU regulations running to 32,000 words, farmers in the UK have to abide by the Assured Produce Standards (Red Tractor) for their produce, a hefty additional tome of around 23,500 words.

God's 'joined-up' (connected, united, combined) approach stems from the very character of God Himself – expressed simply as love, ['agape': outgoing concern] in 1 John 4:8 and 16, and amplified further throughout the entirety of scripture. This is the fundamental difference with God's Law. It's not an extensive list of random do's and don'ts – it's more a joined-up pointing to a way of thinking, that then gives rise to a way of life – one which is outgoing, loving, with concern for others equal to self – which does away with the necessity of pages of "small print"! The very word 'torah' comes from a root that means to shoot, or aim for something. [Strongs 08451 and 0338]. Using this definition, the individual points of the law or torah of God should be regarded as 'way pointers', pointing the direction in which we need to travel when attempting to approach a subject with the mindset of God.

This fundamental difference between man's arbitrary laws and God's 'joined-up' approach therefore demands a fundamental difference in the way that the law of God is administered. The administration itself must also be 'joined-up', to effectively provide the spiritual solutions to the problems facing mankind. It is the application of the law's principle and intent that is so crucial. Notice how Mr. Armstrong describes it as a basis to what he points out in the subject of divorce and remarriage within the church:

"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 Divorce and Remarriage)

Tomorrows Teachers:

During the Feast this year a good deal of the emphasis given within the messages was on our future role as teachers during the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgement period. But there is one vital aspect that we all need to keep firmly in mind if we are going to be able to fulfil that calling, and that is the kind of administration that will need to be used at that time.

That administration will be that of a God-being. From those divine teachers, God's Way will cascade down to every aspect of society, at its core being "the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5) If the present Covid chaos can teach us anything, it must be the staggering difference between the carnal contention we see today and the absolute 'joined-up' harmony – based on that love of God – there will be in the future... the glorious LIBERTY of the children of God. That spiritual solution is much more than mere human commandment keeping. After all, Israel of old was given the commandments of God – so merely reiterating the laws, and/or changing the legislation is not sufficient, and won't bring about Utopia. It wasn't the law that was the problem at that time – but the carnal response from the Israelites that needed that law in their hearts through the very spirit of God – something Paul brings out in the book of Hebrews:

  • For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
  • Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
  • For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (Hebrews 8:8-10)

Tomorrow's teachers won't be haranguing people with a pharisaical approach to the laws of God, and handing out hefty spot fines for infractions, but rather, as pointed out in Isaiah, it is a way of life: "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." (Isaiah 30:21)

Able Administrators:

The scripture in II Corinthians 3 that Mr. Armstrong briefly quotes describes how God has, "made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter but of the spirit" (II Corinthians 3:6) . The word translated as ministers in the King James would be better rendered as administrators. It is how we apply, or administer the Word of God that is all important.

The problem is that applying the strict letter of the law is relatively straight forward, whereas applying the spirit and intent is often not. We can see this very plainly within the context of II Corinthians 3. The letter of the law clearly states that those that commit adultery should be executed (Leviticus 20:10) And more than this, the very next verse deals with the specific infraction that was found within the Corinthian church – so it is very clear that both the son and his father's wife should have been put to death:

  • And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
  • And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:10,11)

But the apostle Paul used a much more godly 'joined-up' approach to the subject, acknowledging that the spiritual INTENT of the law – after Christ had given the ultimate sacrifice for sin – is that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). In the case of the Corinthian church member, he had obviously repented and turned from his sin, and so the administration of the spirit – or intent of the law – was to encourage forgiveness and reconciliation – not just for himself but also among the other members.

  • Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
  • So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow ...
  • ... to whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
  • Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (II Corinthians 2:6,7,10,11)
Quarantine in Scripture:

Back in March this year I wrote a Pastor's Report on the Biblical Principle of Quarantine, primarily to counter the idea that we could disregard the covid legislation being enacted, and continue to meet as a church as normal. That principle still stands. Quarantine – or self-isolation – is indeed a biblical principle and we should all recognise this. But we also need to recognise that the biblical version of quarantine is applied to a person who is ill, or appears as if they are about to be ill. It was never applied to those without symptoms.

Man's way of attempting to control the virus by lockdowns etc ... ie. blocking any and all possible avenues of contagion, is resulting in businesses going to the wall, a serious increase in depression, bankruptcies, and damage to personal relationships. Because God and the Bible have been rejected, there is ignorance of scripture and therefore a failure to use God's outgoing 'joined-up' approach to this and similar problems. They are attempting to do two diametrically different things at the same time, i.e. halt the spread of the virus but also keep the economy afloat. As in many cases, the attempted cure is proving worse than the sickness itself.

  • And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
  • Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
  • Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
  • Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
  • Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28-32)
A Sinister Precedent:

To understand the most likely reason that we are currently living through this unprecedented pandemic and the world's attempted solutions to the problem, it is important that we try to put the subject into its rightful place prophetically.

  • After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7)

At some time in the not too distant future God's people are going to find themselves head to head with the authorities around them, refusing to in any way keep the letter of their law regarding the mark of the beast. Every indication provided within scripture, when dealing with this satanically-orchestrated trial, is that the real issue at hand will not on the surface appear clear cut. This is because we are dealing with a snake – and one that is described as more subtle than any other beast that God had made!

What we are currently facing with covid seems to be a comparatively mild trial run. But God has allowed it, perhaps to encourage us in being prepared to apply the right administration to a relatively minor problem. Certainly we should keep the letter of the law and respect the legislation within the areas we live, but there comes a time where God's law – and by that I mean God's Torah or overall pointing within the principle and spiritual intent within God's character of LOVE – takes precedence.

The one and only way we will be able to negotiate the maze of rules, regulations and restrictions that are destined to get more and more restrictive to our personal liberty is to constantly pursue a close relationship with God, so we have His Holy Spirit, His mind and therefore will walk His 'joined-up', outgoing way of life.

  • Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
  • As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!
  • When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
  • For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
  • Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those [ways] is continuance, and we shall be saved. (Isaiah 64:1-5)