The Church: it’s God & it’s Law
The Original & Definitive Wilderness Experience of the Exodus Generation
Who is meant by the statement, “their fathers”? Who else but the Exodus Generation? Who, of their fathers in every generation past, could be more relevant than the Exodus Generation? They, foremost of all, were chosen by God and set-forth as an example for every generation to come (“a chosen generation” – Ex. 19:5-6, 1 Pet. 2:9).
Historically speaking, and from the beginning, Holy Scripture uses unprecedented detail to illustrate the genuine conversion of Israel’s seed in the Exodus Generation (Ezek. 20:5-17). In other words, this generation became The Church Defined at the Sinai Experience (“the Church in the Wilderness” – Acts 7:38). How was this a Church, you wonder? There, at Sinai, the doctrine of God’s in-dwelling and among-dwelling presence was unveiled via the Mosaic Covenant (see “The Sinai Experience: The Decent of God’s Immediate Presence”); bearing witness of this profound event around which all the Law found purpose and meaning, the Lord said: “I am the LORD that sanctify them” (Ezek. 20:12). On this wise, on behalf of God’s immediate presence, the Law finds significance (“And I gave them My statutes, and shewed them My judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.” – Ezek. 20:11; see “A Law to Regulate the People, Place, & Environment among which God Dwells”). In other words, there would be no need for a Law (Ezek. 20:11, 13, 16, 21, 24) except that God dwelt within and among His people, the Israelites (“I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – 2 Cor. 6:16).
Hardly abated controversy resulted from this shocking, nigh-impossible, and earth-changing event, when God’s indwelling and among-dwelling presence ingratiated His people, the Church. What’s so controversial? The abominations of the people! Pointing to the ancient beginning of this controversy, the LORD said: “then I said, I will pour out My FURY upon them, to accomplish My ANGER against them…” (Ezek. 20:8, 13, 15, 21, 23, 25-26). What a staggering threat to so privileged an ancient people, the Exodus Generation! …ah, but the Jews of the Tribulation Period lived profoundly irrelevant to this controversy and much more (Isa. 6:9-10)! Even though all of Biblical Church History details the fallout of the controversy that first began with the Exodus Generation, the Last Days people were oblivious (see “Becoming “God’s People”, The Controversy”)! “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not” (Isa. 6:9). Can you believe it? Nevertheless, venturing onward from generation-to-generation from the Exodus Generation, the Wilderness People are set-forth as a divine illustration that cannot be ignored! …that dare not be ignored!
Wherewithal shall the obnoxiously ignorant Tribulation Jews come to understand the abominableness of their abominations? Hear the Prophet Ezekiel! One thing: by knowing the abominations of their fathers, the Exodus Generation (Ezek. 20:5-44). Any generation thereafter that wasn’t reprobated, like as the Exodus Generation was reprobated (Num. 14:34), they learned from the example of their fathers, the Exodus Generation. Without knowing the abominations of their fathers (Ezek. 20:4), they couldn’t possibly understand the implications involved in that Israel became “God’s People” from the Exodus Generation onward (see “Israel as “God’s People”, the Implications”). Therefore, in every generation thereafter they looked back at their fathers, the Exodus Generation, as the Church Defined, and they called to memory the operation of Glory that flourished therein, and thereby they sought for its revival in their present generations (Ezek. 20:35-38; see “The Church Defined, Recalled, & Revived”).
Illustratively, as Ezekiel was made to prophetically detail, the Exodus Generation suffered under the wrath of God because of the frequency of their rebellion despite their genuine conversion (Ezek. 20:8, 13, 15, 21, 23, 25-26). These events are, in other words, “Attempted and Hardly Thwarted Events of Total Annihilation”. Ezekiel was forced to overview these historical instances of near annihilation because of the present circumstance of near annihilation in the Tribulation Period. Most people did die and would die in the fires of Tribulation, and they needed to understand the justice of it all. In Ezekiel 18:1-32, the Lord spoke at length regarding the sinfulness of those who suffered death and the righteousness of those who were allowed to live; however, without a full realization of the people’s near annihilation despite their genuine conversion, the Tribulation Jews of Ezekiel’s time would think that God is slack concerning His promise of death to the wicked. For this reason, and to properly contextualize the content of Ezekiel 18:1-32, the relevance of what Ezekiel is pointing to in Ezekiel 20:8, 13, 15, 21, 23, 25-26 was categorically addressed in the following order: “Attempted and Hardly Thwarted Events of Total Annihilation”, “The Truly Converted Status of the Israelite People in the Wilderness & the Ideals Theretofore”, & “The People’s Proneness to Rebellion Throughout Redemptive History”. Furthermore, and of equal relevance, further explanation was provided in the synchronized prophecy given in Jeremiah 30:1-31:40 (see “The Doctrine of the Wilderness According to Hosea”). Therefore, let the emphasis be noted by the reader: God took the freshly redeemed people He was provoked to destroy “into the Wilderness” (Ezek. 20:10). This is that Wilderness, the one that the Prophet Ezekiel spoke of in reference to the present-tense situation that was befalling the Tribulation Jews, saying, “I will bring you into the Wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face” (Ezek. 20:35), and, again, emphasizing another aspect of the Wilderness experience, the Prophet Hosea said, “behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the Wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (Hos. 2:14). This is that Wilderness, and the people therein: the place, people, and generation that are spoken of in Holy Scripture with more frequency than any other generation of all time (1 Cor. 9:27-10:12, Heb. 3:1-4:11, Jude 1:5).
The Wilderness Experience was a purifying experience because therein, in the Wilderness, the people were given the Moral Law which was a regulator of Church Purity, and even if the people neglected the statutory cause of Church Purity then God did suddenly and gloriously intervene to execute the omission through the appearance of His GLORY and the administering of manslaying plagues (Leviticus 9:23-10:3, Numbers 12:4-10, 14:10-35, 16:19-40, 16:42-50, 20:2-13)! As Ezekiel pointed out, the successful performance of the Law was the only means of survival (“which if a man do, he shall live in them” – Ezek. 20:11), but the Israelite citizens were supposed co-labor with God for the enforcement of the rule of Law (see “The Prerogative for and Performance of Church Purity”).
This means that the Israelites were morally regenerated, morally obedient, and morally accountable, hence the Moral Law was the definitive ingredient of their accountability one with another. Therefore, of course, they were able to do the Law and live thereby (“which if a man do, he shall live in them” – Ezek. 20:11)! Very specifically, the salvation experience of the Church, the lifestyles and relationships of Church Members, and the holy violence whereby all true Israelites were seekers after the LORD, did all exist as a result of the Moral Law in that it was a Tutor Depicting God’s Personality (see Point #1, Point #2, Point #3, & Point #4). With all of these salvific realities active in the Land of Israel, the grounds and enforcement of the Moral Law via “The Death Penalty” became key. Only then would the Moral Law function as a regulator of Church Purity, and only then will we be enabled to comprehend the Old Testament and New Testament Warnings in Perfect Alignment. Therefore, in the context of Ezekiel’s references to the Law (Ezek. 20:11, 13, 16, 21, 24) and the normal and ordinary redemptive relationship that right-standing Israelites had with the Law in Biblical History (Deut. 4:1-4, 8:1), it was commonly understood that redeemed individuals were able to obey and keep the Law so as to accomplished it in full by GRACE through FAITH, not turning aside from any of the commandments of the Lord (“in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live” – Ezek. 18:22, 24, 33:12-13; 1 Kings 15:4-5, Lk. 1:6; Note: this did not mean sinless perfection).
It was James who coined the statement, “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20, 26), and he was very specific about what deeds we should fulfill as true Christians just like God was work-specific in what He expected from the Tribulation Jews in Ezekiel 18:5-9. James knows that upon the condition that men love God and love their neighbor, the whole Law will be fulfilled (not in sinless perfection but by unmerited justification and consequential empowerment). Those two things upon which hangs all the Law (Matt. 22:40), James preached! He does not deny them. Nor did Jesus deny them in reference to the 6 Moral Commandments that He quoted in the longest and most famous sermon that He preached, the Sermon on the Mount. The Moral Law was and is not irrelevant to the saintly standing of Jews or Christians, far from it! According to James and the other inspired writers, this standard was to be fulfilled (Rom. 8:4, 2:13, 6:12, 6:16, 13:8, 15:18, Gal. 5:7, 24, 6:7-9; for more information, see Legalism: Law, Grace, and Works).
Ezekiel’s concept of the Law is largely disputed today (“which if a man do, he shall live in them” – Ezek. 20:11), I know, but the popular misconceptions which argue otherwise are easily disproven by a thorough study of the Law according to the Book of Romans and other Epistles (see “The Law in the Book of Romans” & “The Moral Law is a Tutor Depicting God’s Personality”). It is vital that you understand this, my reader! Namely, that the Moral Law was the darling obsession of the redeemed because it, the Moral Law, was an accurate depiction of God’s Personality, the Moral One! Why else do you think the psalmists would enthusiastically sing, “O how love I Thy Law! it is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97)? To depart from the Moral Law was to depart from the Moral One! Even so, to depart from the Moral Law meant moral degeneration, and this was disallowed in Israel because no willful sinners were allowed in the Church (Num. 15:30-31). In other words, all of-age Israelites were whole-hearted seekers after the Lord… or else! If this weren’t the case, why else do you think the Lord was so infuriated when the Israelites didn’t keep and do the Law (Ezek. 20:8, 13, 15, 21, 23, 25-26)? King’s rule their people by the rule of law, don’t they? Jealously asserting this rule over His wayward people, God said: “I WILL RULE OVER YOU” (Ezek. 20:33). What is meant by this pronouncement is exceedingly profound and shocking!