Monday, 8 May 2017

The Ultimate Imperative


Having spent quite some time thinking about the New Testament's use of the imperative mood, and after exposing what a wide range of meanings it is used for, from requests to military-style commands, my thoughts turned to what could be called the ultimate imperative. Which is, of course,God's own use of the command. The proclamation which does not ask for obedience because His word in and of itself has power to achieve what it declares. For example, the creation word which begins the whole Bible, and the book of Genesis - the book of 'beginnings'.

"And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light."
(Genesis ch 1 vs 3)

That's some imperative. Literally, it says "LIGHT - BE!" We just don't have the tense flexibility to represent it properly. When you think about it, this is command at a level which is not possible for humans at all. Only God's word can accomplish what He sends it forth to do - without agency. When we humans issue commands, we are completely dependent upon someone else receiving our command and executing it - an 'agent'. Even if it is just the dog! Another living being has to be the recipient of the command and decide, whether coerced or not, to fulfill it. Without which, it doesn't get done. But God doesn't have that restriction at all.

The Faith Factor

 In fact, the whole essence of faith is the realisation that everything depends on this invisible word of the Almighty. Hebrews tells us:

"By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." (ch 11vs 3)

That can only be 'seen' by faith. It's a tacit realisation that this is the way things work. Mind-blowing, isn't it, to appreciate that what we perceive as the so-solid, physical universe actually relies for its existence on something completely intangible. Faith says 'what God says goes. And comes. And is!'

So when we hear the promises of God concerning and unseen future, or our unseen hearts, or our unseen Lord, it is faith that insists that even though we can't perceive these things with our five senses, nevertheless they are realities. And we trust them completely. That faith rocks the world!

The Mystique of Magic

The history of our race demonstrates the preoccupation many have had with 'magic'. Childrens' fairy stories and adult fiction too entertains us with the idea of someone, somewhere being able to control the inanimate with a word of command - a spell. Harry Potter. Witches and wizards. Superstition. All ideas about our own tight control over our environment, and bending it to our will. But of course, it's just impossible, and may be our hankering after wanting to be our own God. To be able to do for ourselves what He does.

God's Perogative

As believers, we attribute great majesty to Him for this very thing:

"I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? " (Jeremiah 32 vs 27)

And of course, when Jesus stands in a fast-filling boat in the midst of a stormy sea and commands 'peace' to the winds and the waves - and all is still, He is demonstrating that He has this power of command, and thus He is God. Well might the disciples frame their question.

The centurion, of whom Jesus marvelled at his faith, got this, didn't he? Remember what he says to Jesus? Luke 7:

“Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it."

He sees - amazingly - that this is none other than God in human form, and that He has the power of God-speech. If Jesus just 'says it', it will be!

Indeed, the Lord didn't even have to utter words. When the devil throws in His face the worst case of demon-possession there ever was, the demons are reacting before He even speaks out loud:

"For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”"
(Mark 5 vs 8)

God-speech for the New Creation

But it isn't just the creation 'ex-nihilo' of our universe. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4, has this to say about our new life in Christ:

"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ."

Which brings the whole thing right home to us. We are a 'new creation' And God has brought this about by the same means - by commanding in our very being "let there be light" - that oh so powerful ultimate imperative. And there WAS light - there IS light. In you. In me. The light of the glory of God.

God-speech in Transformation?

So when it comes to Christian obedience, I wonder whether more is going on in our Spirit-filled hearts than just the process:

1. God speaks
2. I hear
3. I obey (or not)

I wonder whether the command-voice of God is at work here too. That when we 'hear' an instruction to do with our living out the life He has given us, there is that same empowering - on an ongoing basis, as we walk in the Spirit. And that whereas the process I have just outlined is how law works, this is precisely what the New Testament means when it insists that believers are not 'under law'. And that this is why His word is described as a 'living word'. So, we get what Paul says in Philippians 2 vs 12 & 13:

"... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."

- which really reads as:

"... continue to demonstrate in your lives your salvation ... for it is God who energises you to will and act ..." (two different words for 'work')

Hmm - food for thought!

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