After a visit from some Filipino friends.
Kings and priests or government and church reflect the biblical aspects of law vs. grace. Both are critical for a functioning society. They must hold each other accountable to their particular role. Law defines order for society and prescribes the enforcement thereof, but the law can only condemn. Grace provides amnesty. Where people violate the law, grace enables us to put things right so that further offense is avoided. In recent political debates my feelings have tended towards expecting Government to establish godly laws, but not to be the provider for the community – this is the church’s job. The government must inhibit the exploitation of individuals and foster individual and community responsibility. In times of disaster or threat, the government can mobilize military forces to rescue or protect the individuals. However such forces cannot rebuild the community and every effort is required to avoid developing such an unhealthy dependency.
For example in the drug war, the police must be empowered to hunt down the perpetrators, but the church must be available to provide amnesty to those who want out. Of course the muscle of the police want the church to do their job for them, but really it is better if the police can help promote amnesty. Instead of demanding that the church spy on the community so arrests can be made, the church should be empowered to bring a resolution without force. We need the threat of the law to drive criminals to seek restoration to upstanding citizens, which the church can provide best.
I am currently fascinated in Mt Sinai, from which God thundered the 10 commandments to millions of Jewish refugees under Moses leadership. This mountain was in the territory of Abraham’s son Ishmael – not in the place of Israel’s slavery (Egypt) or exile/judgement (Babylon/Iraq) or inheritance (Israel). I believe it to be Jabal al Lawz in western Saudi Arabia near a water-eroded rock overlooking dried up river beds, such as Moses struck to quench his people. This happened a few days after crossing the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba west of the commonly held location of Mt Sinai in Egypt. That beach is large enough to rest millions of people. It is only reachable by a canyon, where God’s ‘bonfire’ could easily block the pursuing Egyptian army.
Ishmael was Abraham’s slave’s son. Although first-born, he was not the legitimate heir to the inheritance. Disputing this is the core of Islam, who claim that it was Ishmael, not Isaac whom Abraham almost sacrificed to God. The truth is revealed when Isaac’s descendant, Jesus was sacrificed to change the world 2000 years ago.
God gave the law outside of the land of promise, but he brought restoration (grace) from near that same mountain where Abraham almost sacrificed his son (the temple mount in Jerusalem). Moses kept the stone tablets of the law hidden in the ark of the covenant – a box, which was covered by a lid called the mercy seat. God’s grace (mercy) covers and hides the law. One rumor places this lost ark under the mountain where Jesus died, with his blood seeping through a crack to cover the law – a poignant image at least.