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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Light From the Crack." To view all parts, click the link below.
“Order, order,” the mayor shouted to the crowd. “Find a seat so that we may begin the meeting.” At first, there was no response, but upon further urging, the people reluctantly brought their conversations to an end and sat down. When the Town Hall was nearly quiet, the mayor began to address the people.
“As you know, a Town Hall meeting has been requested by Citizen Joshua, who says he has a message for us from the Creator Himself. We want to give him as much time as he needs, so I will take up no more of his time.” Turning to Joshua, he extended his hand toward him, saying, “You all know Joshua. Come and share your message.”
The people applauded briefly and inquisitively looked at him as he took the podium.
“There are three of us, actually,” Joshua began, “who have been given revelation to share with you. Each of us has a portion of the word, and the Creator has given each of us certain gifts to give to you.”
The people nodded approvingly and looked at each other with anticipation. Everyone loves gifts, for they are tokens of love, and when they come from the Creator Himself, they give everyone a sense of belonging and divine approval.
“As you all know,” Joshua continued, “my business is giving people rides in rainbow-colored balloons, so that they might have opportunity to rise above the earth, and, at least for a short time, to see things better from a heavenly perspective. Specifically, the multi-colored balloons remind you that you are under covenant with the Creator.”
The people nodded in agreement. They were all very familiar with both the balloon rides and with their history. The town itself had been established long ago by a covenant at the base of the mountain and along the river that ran through it.
The town of Newkirk was not the original settlement there. An older town had stood there many years ago known simply as Kirk. That town had been founded under an earlier charter by another covenant with the Creator, but it had been declared null and void after the people had continually violated its terms. A new covenant was then established on better terms, and this was what Joshua needed to explain to the people, for it was plain that they had long forgotten its terms.
“All of you know something of the history of our town,” Joshua continued. “Many of the original inhabitants of Kirk did not believe that they needed a new covenant. Being content with the first arrangement, they fought against those who desired the will of the Creator. At first, they succeeded in driving out our forefathers, but in the end they themselves were driven out. That is how we came to resettle this valley and to rename our town Newkirk.”
“Yes, brother,” a man shouted enthusiastically from the audience. “They got what they deserved.”
Joshua continued. “It is never good to disagree with the Creator. Technically, though, they did not reject the new covenant, at least not in their own minds. They believed that the new covenant was just a renewal of the earlier covenant. Many of you do not know this earlier history, for it occurred a very long time ago. During the centuries after the town of Kirk was established by the first covenant, they violated the terms of their covenant. So the Creator brought judgment upon them for breach of contract. As a result, the Creator sold the people of Kirk to a foreign nation—as was His right—and they were resettled as aliens in a foreign land.”
“But after three generations,” he continued, “the Creator’s contract expired, and the descendants of the destroyed town of Kirk were allowed to return and to rebuild their town and homes. At that time they renewed their covenant with the Creator and vowed obedience to His laws once again. It was their opinion that this renewal of the original covenant was the new covenant which had been prophesied by the prophets.”
“They were wrong!” shouted an old man from the audience. “The new covenant came many centuries later, and they even killed the messenger of the new covenant. For that reason they were driven from here!”
“That is true! Yes! Amen!” the crowd roared its approval.
“Are we then in agreement that the new covenant is not simply a renewal of the first covenant?” Joshua asked them.
The applause conveyed their answer as it resounded through the hall.
When the people were quiet once again, Joshua stated, “But you have done the same thing.” Stunned, the people looked at each other in shock and disbelief.
“What do you mean?” someone asked.
“You have prided yourself on being under a new covenant, but because you have not fully understood its terms, you have done that which you condemn the people of Kirk for doing.”
A muttering restlessness rippled through the crowd. It was obvious that they did not agree.
“If you go back to the original archives in our Historical Library and read how the first covenant was established, you will see that your forefathers vowed obedience.”
“Yes, I know that is correct,” said the old man loud enough for all to hear, “and now we have vowed to obey the new covenant. That is what pleases the Creator.”
“Then how do these two covenants differ?” Joshua asked. “In both cases you have vowed obedience, making the second covenant as dependent upon obedience as the first one was.”
“They are alike in that way,” the old man replied, "but the first covenant required them to observe the laws of the Creator. This requirement proved to be impossible, so a new covenant was established apart from the law. The standard of compliance was changed from obedience to faith alone. The mediator of the new covenant was able to keep every requirement of the law, so we do not have to do so ourselves. That is why we are no longer required to obey those laws.”
“Were those laws evil?” Joshua asked.
“Yes!” one shouted. “No,” shouted another. Still another called out, “Some were bad, and some were good. We observe those that could be salvaged and have cast out those that were evil.” It was apparent that many disagreed about the nature of those laws. If specific laws were held up as examples, such as laws forbidding theft or murder, the good people of the town would have agreed that they should follow those laws. Nonetheless, many wanted to retain the right to reject any law that seemed evil or disagreeable to them.
“Has any evil law come from a good Creator?” Joshua asked.
“Well, yes,” said the old man, who seemed to be the town historian. Though he did not want to attribute evil to the Creator, he was forced to admit that only evil laws ought to be rejected. Since some laws had been repealed by the Town Council, he had to support their decision to reject certain laws.
The old man hastily explained, “It was left to us—that is, our Town Council—to decide which laws were good and which were evil, since it is hardly possible for an ordered society to have no laws at all. Prominent citizens of Newkirk have arisen in our history who have decided for us what laws were good and which were not. These are our traditions.”
Joshua smiled. “Are you saying, then, that the Creator gave men—or certain men—the right to repeal any law that the Creator Himself had pronounced good in earlier times?”
“Yes, that is the way it is,” came the reply. I know, because I am a member of the Council. The Creator gave this duty to those among us who were wise. Certain revered men of Newkirk in past generations have determined which laws should remain and which are no longer relevant.”
“Really?” Joshua questioned. “Have you never read in the Archives that this manner of thinking is what caused the Creator to sell the people of Kirk into captivity? It is written, 'These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the traditions of men. They have invalidated My word for the sake of their traditions.' Do you not see this as a problem?" Joshua added.
“That is no problem,” the old man responded, “because these great men in our history act as advisors to the Creator. When they agree and come to a decision, the Creator changes His mind if necessary and conforms to their standard of right and wrong. That is a long-established practice, and it has worked out very well for us.” The mayor clapped his hands, and the audience applauded its approval.
“Long live the Town Council!” they all proclaimed.
“I believe that you should reconsider your view of the Creator,” Joshua told them. “If He needs help in understanding right from wrong, we might question His wisdom and even His goodness. If men are wiser than He, then should we not worship the Town Council? But I see that we will not be able to come to an agreement on this today. Let us move on to another topic. Has anyone read the terms of the new covenant in the archives?” Joshua asked.
“What do you mean?” the old man asked. “Of course we have read it. In fact, I always carry a copy of it with me wherever I go. Here it is.” He held up his copy for all to see.
“Very good,” Joshua responded. “Please read me the appropriate passage.”
The old man opened up the book and turned its pages to the place where the new covenant was mentioned in writing. Clearing his throat, he began to read: “Behold, days are coming, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Kirk, though not like the covenant which I made with their fathers after they had broken it. For this time I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No longer will anyone have to teach the law to his neighbor, because all will know Me.”
“Is this covenant different from the previous one?” Joshua asked.
“Yes, of course.”
“How does it differ?”
The old man responded readily, as if the answer had been well established and known since the town of Newkirk had been founded on its new charter. “The laws are different.”
“Is that what it says?” Joshua answered." From what I heard as you read the passage, the same laws given in the first covenant were to be written on the hearts of the people through the new covenant. There is no mention of any different laws being instituted. Have you not read how the mediator of the first covenant twice gave the same law to the people? The first tables of the law were broken, so he went up the mountain to receive the second set of laws, and these were said to be the same as the first.”
“We must again agree to disagree,” the old man said with some agitation.
But Joshua persisted, “Does your book not also tell you that the mediator of the new covenant said even the smallest portion of the law would not pass away until heaven and earth has passed away? And what about the prophets of the new covenant, who confronted this issue afterward. One of them wrote, “Do we nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
“I must again disagree,” said the old man. “The Town Council decided long ago that these words are not to be interpreted as they appear on the surface. We ought not to interpret them in a way that contradicts our right to determine which laws are valid and which have been replaced by faith.”
“I see,” Joshua said. “I am told that faith comes by hearing the word of the Creator, but apparently, you interpret this to mean that faith comes by hearing the decisions of the Town Council. I recall that this was an issue when the Creator instituted the first covenant. The people at that time did not want to hear the word of the Creator. They asked a representative to go up the mountain to hear His law and to return and tell them what the Creator had said. After that, the prophets lamented this decision, sighing, ‘Today if only you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the past.’ It appears that the problem afflicting the people of Kirk has also afflicted the people of Newkirk.”
“It seems,” Joshua concluded, “that we must leave this question unresolved for the moment and move on to other things.”
(To be continued)
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Light From the Crack." To view all parts, click the link below.