How Authority works in the Old Testament
(Part 3 of 3)
Consequences for Disobedience
There are terrible consequences to the person who does not follow God's laws exactly as He delivered them (Judges Sometimes man partially obeys God yet this divided service is due awful punishment too (1 Samuel 15:3, 13; 1 Kings 18:21; 2 Kings 17:33, 39-40). Those who simply reject God's standard and make up their own way of life Will not go unpunished (Judges 21:25; 2 Samuel 6:6ff; 1 Kings 12:25-33; 2 Kings 5:11). The Lord God Almighty is not only a loving and merciful God but a God of great wrath, fierce anger, and tndtgnat jon against those who trample His divine standard under foot (Isaiah 6624; Lamentations 2:20• 22; 4:13; Ezekiel 7:1-8; 18:4; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 4:12-13; 6:13-16; Zephaniah 1:8). The Lord will "return" all that man has done agatnst authorized standard back upon their own heads (Hosea 12:14; Obadiah 1:15; Micah 3:4; Zechariah 7:13-14). There will be no amount of silver or gold to appease Jehovah's wrath in this great day (Zephaniah 1:18).
Establishing Bible Authority for all that we Practice and Teach
Now that we have the unchanging foundation of God's divinely authorized standards laid it is time to examine how authority is established. Whatever my spiritual question I must take into consideration who God is, who I am as God's created being, and what my responsibilities, attitude, and approach to serving God is to be. Once I establish these founding principles I will look for nothing more or less than God's divine will. The Lord's standard of justice and righteousness is delivered in seven components throughout the Old Testament. Those who desired to be just and righteous were to recognize these and act in obedience.
- First, we find Jehovah delivering direct commands to the people (see Exodus 20•.1ff; Ezra 1.•1-2; 6:14; Nehemiah 12:27; Jonah 1:2; 3:1-2).
- Secondly we find divinely revealed examples in the Old Testament. There were examples of people that ought to be emulated as Able (Genesis 4:1ff / Hebrews 11.•4), Jacob (see Hosea 12:3-6, 12), and many others as listed at Hebrews 11. There are also those we would take note of as having made grave errors such as Adam (Hosea 6:7 / Romans 5:12), the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19 / 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7), Balaam (Numbers 22 and 25 / 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14), Korah (Numbers 16 / Jude 11), and so forth.
- Thirdly, we find authority in inference within the Old Testament. Inference is defined as "to draw a conclusion by evidence, facts, or premises" (AHD 659). One valuable inference used in the Old Testament is found at Genesis 4:1ff. Cain forever goes down in history as being of the "evil one" (1 John 3:12) because he despised the authority of God (Jude 1:11). God set the mark with his law of sacrifice and Cain missed it.. Though not stated it is inferred that Cain and Able were given a specific command to make a sacrifice of their first fruits. Able obeyed and Cain disobeyed God's law of sacrifice (see Hebrews 11:4). When Cain brought the "fruit of the ground" God had no respect for it (i.e., Cain's sacrifice had no value to God). Cain should have respected God's command and brought the first fruits (see also Nehemiah 10:30-31 for another example of inference).
- Fourthly, we find authority through God's commands were at times given in a specific manner (see Genesis 2:16; 6:14; Numbers 7:9 / compared to 2 Samuel 6:6ff; 19:2; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18). Man was not at liberty to add or subtract even a fraction of what the command said.
- Fifthly, we find God's authority through commands at times were given in a general fashion. God specifically commanded Noah to build the ark yet left Noah the liberty of choosing the tools to get the job done (Genesis 6). Noah worked at his own pace and completed the ark in the space of 100 years (Genesis 5:32; 1 Peter 3:20).
- Sixthly, we find authority in God's silence. God delivers a specific command and all other activities are excluded (that is, God does not have to say, "Thou shalt not do this thing other ways..." He said what he wants) (Leviticus 10:1ff; Deuteronomy 4:2, 1216; 12:32; 29:29; 2 Samuel 7:1-7).
- Lastly, we find authority in expediency (things that are helpful or useful in achieving God's will). The fire that Nadab and Abihu put on their censers and brought to the altar of burnt offering was not a helpful or useful thing in achieving God's will. It was thereby identified as "strange fire" (Leviticus 10:1). Secondly, it was not expedient for David to have the Ark of the Covenant transferred from one place to another on a new cart being pulled by oxen (2 Samuel 6:1-11). Though it may have appeared to be helpful God had already commanded how the ark was to be transferred (Numbers 7:9). It would be expedient for Noah to use various handtools and set his work schedule to achieve God's command to build the ark out of gopher wood (Genesis 6).
This study bears out the importance of having authority for all that is practiced. That divine authority is delivered through the seven components mentioned above. Those who do not "live byfaith" of this one divine standard will forever experience the wrath of God (see Habakkuk 2:4). God will receive no excuses for disobedience. Those who do not meet His standard will be due His fierce anger, wrath, and indignation. The Old Testament bears out the fact that both the ignorant (Jeremiah 5:4; Hosea 4:1) and all out rebellious (Genesis 11:4; Exodus 32:1) will be equally measured by the standard of truth. No amount of personal opinion (2 Kings 5:11), personal conscience, sincerity, and honesty (Job 33:1-3; Proverbs 14:12, 16; Ezekiel 5:5-8), and no matter how lovingly, confident, forceful, or firm I speak (Job 36:1-4; Proverbs 14:16) if I do not speak and teach absolute truth as revealed by God's standard I stand condemned. God is no respecter of persons. No man is above the law of God. Neither Moses (Numbers 20:112), David (1 Samuel 21:1-6; Matthew 12:3-6; 2 Samuel 12:10-14), or even Solomon (1 Kings 11:1ff) were excused from meeting Jehovah's standards perfectly. No matter what man's approach and attitude his divinely appointed responsibility remains the same. Man is to know his place in this creation. We are created by God and must humbly and fearfully submit to His every standard. Those who do so have ever been promised a beautiful and peaceful eternity (see Proverbs 8:20-21).
John C. Robertson