Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount: Raising the Moral Standard

Jesus fulfilled the law because he lived out his life in the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the Spirit of God dwelling within him, inspired every one of his thoughts,words and deeds. Our Lord perfectly conformed to the will of his Father by means of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah foretold this when he said, “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.” However, prior to the descent of the Holy Spirit at Petecost, the human race, as a rule, was devoid of these divine gifts.. Indeed, man was at the mercy of his own human frailty.

Before God flooded the earth- even after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit -his Spirit had abided with mankind. But when the descendants of Seth (God's faithful) had relations with women who belonged to the tribe of Cain (the unfaithful), known as the “Daughters of Men.” (Gen. 6:4). It was this act of infidelity on the part of Seth's tribe that moved the Lord to punish humanity and baptize the world, as it were, with forty days and forty nights of rain. As the story goes, God's favor fell upon Noah and his family; and the rest is history. But even more important than the flood itself was the withdrawl of his Spirit. He said, “My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh.” Upon the departure of his Spirit, knowledge of God, the spiritual gifts, the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and that mark of civility which characterized Christian civilization centuries later, would scarce in the Old Testament world.

After exiting the ark, the Lord established a covenant with Noah. But the world would not be the same: as when the Lord had walked side by side with Enoch. No. The new rules that were to govern mankind resembled what Charles Darwin coined as “the survival of the fittest.” Indeed, God inaugurated an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” policy; murder would be met with the death penalty; instead of living on plants alone, man would eat animal flesh; and in the post-flood world animals would become ill-disposed towards humans through fear. The main point to keep in mind is that from the flood onward, the standard of morality lowered considerably. For instance, God never approved but nevertheless condoned polygamy and concubinage among his servants such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David. Warfare was brutal, capital punishment merciless, and divine punishment was severe and even dramatic at times. Human beings without God's Spirit were like little children who did not understand a well reason argument as to why certain things were morally good or evil. Like a spoiled and unruly child, they were only able to appreciate the impact of God's heavy hand against their backside.

More on the next blog-