Walls, Fences, and Lines
in the Old Testament goes looking for a man who will repair the broken wall of His
laws, who will stand in the gap which has developed from decay perhaps, over
the passing of time, or an assault. Whatever the cause, a weakness has
developed in the defenses, and God needs a man able to take on the task of
††††††††††† Ezekiel chapter 22, verse 30 in the King James translation. ďAnd I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.Ē
††††††††††† An application to our personal situation could easily be envisioned as the garden planted behind the house, a beautiful place, well tilled and properly weeded. The carrots and the cabbages are sprouting, and the spring rains have been just right. There is only one problem, the deer. They come out of the woods at night, and boldly at times during the day. There isnít much left of the sprouting vegetables. The obvious solution is a fence, a high fence, a line between yours and theirs which the deer cannot cross.
††††††††††† After the fall, God began to build these types of walls and lines to prevent bad things from happening, or to stop the spread of evil. To prevent Adam and Eve from reentering the garden and eating from the tree of life, and so living forever in their fallen state, God put an angel at the door with a drawn sword. No one could pass.
When things became exceeding wicked in the time of Noah, God drew a line saying, this is enough. He set a time of grace in which Noah preached, then he shut the door to the ark, and those outside where out, and those inside were in. There was no crossing the line.
††††††††††† At the tower of Babel, God came down to inspect the project and discovered the wickedness of their intent. Evil was spreading again, and there was nothing to hinder it. God forcefully divided the people by confusing their languages. He drove them to the uttermost parts of the earth, with clear lines between the races and languages. This stopped the easy flow of evil from place to place.
††††††††††† Walls donít stop God from working, walls hinder evil. Thatís why the deer would object to the fence built around your garden. It stopped them from eating your vegetables. The fence doesnít hinder you in the least. You are quite able to gain access to the garden when you wish, to tend and to harvest at will.
††††††††††† It is the lion arriving to eat the farmerís lamb who complains about the farmerís wall. Not the farmer or the lamb.
††††††††††† God has put these lines everywhere. Man has also added his because he has been called to join God in building walls.
††††††††††† There are speed limits, the line between 55 and 56, or 25 and 26.
††††††††††† There are lines between the races; black, white, yellow, brown, etc.
††††††††††† There are lines between nations. There is Canada, the United States, and below that, Mexico. You know exactly where you have crossed the border.
††††††††††† Communities have noise ordinances, how loud the firecracker can be, or the volume on the boom box.
††††††††††† There are good parts of town, and bad parts of town. Sometimes you canít see the lines very well, but when night falls, they often become clear.
††††††††††† Clubs have members, and non-members are stopped at the door. There is a line, a difference which cannot be crossed.
††††††††††† A country has citizens, whether natural born or naturalized, there is a line between being one and not being one.
††††††††††† There are men and there are women, and then there are children, also divided into male and female.
††††††††††† In all of creation there are thousands of walls. The chicken isnít the egg, and the egg isnít the chicken. A bird isnít a duck, and a duck isnít a mouse. North isnít south, and south isnít east.
††††††††††† The list is endless.
††††††††††† I donít think its controversial to say that there has developed in our popular culture a strong dislike, and in worse cases an outright assault on walls and those who build them.
††††††††††† The latest speech guide from the Colorado State University directs us not to call residents of this country, American. They say this erases other cultures.
††††††††††† We are directed not to use the words, Eskimo, freshman, or illegal alien.
††††††††††† You guys should be replaced with all folks. Male and female are out.
††††††††††† Since the sixties so much has changed in America. The definition of marriage, of music, of what is normal, and of what is right and wrong.
††††††††††† I also donít think that itís controversial to say that the church has been heavily influenced by this pressure. The assault on walls and boundaries begins by pointing out the defects in existing structures, their imperfections, their distinctive local flavors, and the ignorance and the overall base status of the builders.
††††††††††† Often there are legitimate complaints. Walls do cause problems. The 60 generation had reasons for their dissatisfaction. In the Old Testament, Israel asked for a king. They had their reasons; the utter dysfunction of the Prophet Samuelís sons.
††††††††††† Walls lead to all kinds of difficulties. They create mine and thine. They separate neighbors. They create a better than thou attitude. They create suspicion.
††††††††††† So the repair of walls ceases, and the assault on walls begins.
††††††††††† In the church world there are scriptures which are employed, such as Ephesians 2:14 ďFor he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.Ē
††††††††††† A close cousin is Galatians 3:28 ďThere is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.Ē
††††††††††† Something about tearing down walls appeals to our natures. We see open fields in our mindís eyes, stretching out to the far vista. We see freedom of movement, freedom from fear, and a world dwelling at peace.
††††††††††† In the popular culture people see visions of a day when all races are one color, when all people speak one language, when no one has to work, and when your choice of what is right and wrong is equal to mine. When we are truly the same, and there is no difference between anyone.
††††††††††† In the church world people see visions of unity, where denominations donít exit, where different modes of worship are eliminated, where the old structures of right and wrong give way to the needs of the moment. If we would no longer judge, we are told, if we would no longer built walls, everyone would be free, and no one would be wrong. We throw out the Old Testament and its insistence on wall building with glee and abandonment.
††††††††††† In their reaction to the onslaught, the churches who donít throw up their hands in defeat, but want to keep their walls, often react by clamping down on the presentation of such scriptures. They try to hide such perceived heresies under the church rugs, or they avoid those scriptures by some other method. This produces predictable deadly results, that of ignorance and spiritual stagnation, as other scriptures usually get stuffed away because of their possible associations with the doubtful ones.
††††††††††† No one knows quite what should be done, as a deep suspicion settles over the congregation. People think they are either missing out on the latest move of God, or that someone is hiding something from them.
††††††††††† This scenario though, is not in my opinion, the worse thing which can happen. An even more deadly choice a culture or church can make is to remove wall building from the hands of local workman and place this vital function in the hands of professionals.
††††††††††† There are diseases of the body which manifest themselves in open sores and protruding tumors, but professionalism in a church is a disease of the heart, it clogs the arteries of the soul. One morning the preachers awaken, and the congregation is in cardiac arrest, and no one has the slightest idea why.
††††††††††† The move to professionalism is chosen for all the obvious reasons and seems like a brilliant choice. Why not move wall building to a higher spiritual plane and so escape the unsavory aspects of wall building, hence the criticism of wall building? So wall building is taken out of local hands, and placed with the experts, who are deemed properly educated or innately qualified by some other standard, to decide what is a proper wall, and how that wall should look.
††††††††††† A spiritualization process takes hold. Walls become the bishopís word, the counselorís advice, the conferenceís decision, something out there removed from local contamination. A dehumanization process occurs. Bottom dwellers are considered unworthy of wall building. Common people have nothing to say about the process. They are expected to use whatever template is supplied, and shut up, all to avoid the imperfections. This is what we are promised.
††††††††††† In the popular culture the laws of God are torn down and a transfer of power is made to the government. Governmental oversight becomes the holy grail. The unassailable conclusion of a unknown bureaucrat becomes the law of the land. The government is considered fair, honest, and total capable of solving racial, economical, and every imaginable human problem. This is what we are promised.
††††††††††† In the church world we have our Bill Gotthardís, our professional counseling, which we were taught is like the voice of God. We have young men like Joshua Harris, who by all appearances arrive on the scene with a highly superior wall related to dating and marriage, devoid of defects, and guaranteed to succeed.
††††††††††† The call becomes not to turn out and dig trenches in front of your home, in your own sphere of responsibility, in your own relationship with God, but rather a call to climb a ladder to a spiritual existence others have built for you.
††††††††††† That all these movements with time prove utter and complete failures is usually the reason why most of the followers of those movements high tail it for parts unknown where no one builds walls. This is, I believe, the original purpose of this spiritualization process, to produce a disenchantment with walls and those who build them.
††††††††††† In the popular culture, there is a day coming when government will fail completely. When this meltdown does occur, the resulting chaos will usher in, not a dictator of laws, but a dictator who will personally run your life down to the minutiae. Scripture speaks of the inability of anyone to buy or sell without the mark from the approved source. Each day of technological advancement makes an app or some other electronic attachment to your person, which will walk you through each day more and more conceivable.
going back to the scriptures that were quoted earlier. First, Galatians chapter
three, verse eight. ďThere is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor
free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.Ē
††††††††††† What if there is an interpretation of that scripture which does not require the obliteration of wall building? What if we looked back to the Old Testament for guidance in understanding the New? What if we began with the supposition that the old will not be destroyed by the new?
††††††††††† Would you say this is biased? Prejudicial perhaps? I could ask, do you really think the earlier interpretation of this scripture was not biased? What if using the Old Testament as a guide in the interpretation of the New is like a key. Have you ever tried to start your vehicle without the key? Spend all day perhaps, tried a hundred ways to jump start the thing, and your wife comes along and pulls the key from her handbag. Now is that fair? Is the key biased or prejudicial? I donít think so.
††††††††††† The Old Testament is the shadow of the tree which is Christ. Should not the tree fit the form of the shadow? Does an interpretation of scripture in the New Testament which obligates the Old Testament fit the form of the shadow? Obviously not?
So letís keep the shadow. Letís presuppose that the shadow is the key to understanding the New. And what is the shadow in the verse from Galatians? Where is the wall, the fence, and the line?
††††††††††† The answer would be the Jew, the Greek, the male, and the female. What if we began with the assumption that those forms, the Jews, the Greeks, the male, and female will remain?
††††††††††† With that settled, our next hurdle is the word, ďneitherĒ. Thatís a strong negative word in whatever translation or angle from which it is viewed. It does sound likes itís obliterating something, but what?
††††††††††† Since we have decided that the form would remain, that is removed as an option, so let us move on. Wouldnít this be a better way of interpretation? Rather than jumping to a conclusion when in doubt, we allow for our limited view of things and let the point hang in the hopes of future understanding in the light of scriptures.
††††††††††† The next point up for consideration in the verse from Galatians is the word, ďone.Ē Ignoring the uncertainty in the middle, we can ascertain without doubt that the claim is being made in this scripture that the forms of the Jew, the Greek, the male, and female can be made one. They are not currently one by reason of their forms, or their walls. Would we not say that is impossible, they are simply too different? The task is too impossible? I think we would.
††††††††††† The next obvious question is then, does our uncertainty in the middle resolve that issue? And it in fact does? Actually, perfectly. The strong negative, the obliterating vortex, so to speak, would say that there is absolutely no reason now, in Christ, why they cannot be made one. We have maintained our form, which fitís the shadow, and we have obliterated, not the form, but any reason why they cannot live together in perfect unity and equality.
††††††††††† And I would go further than that. I would say that these forms must remain for a proper present-day functioning and interpretation of this verse. You cannot have oneness without the presence of the different forms.
††††††††††† Do two spoons of the exact same shape, size, weight, and color need oneness. Can you not use one or the other in their sameness without any conflict.
††††††††††† Do two shovels of the exact same shape, size, weight, and color need oneness. Again, the answer is no.
††††††††††† The need for oneness only arises if the forms are different, say a shovel and a fork. Which one is better for which task, and which one is preferred and why? We can argue all day long on that.
††††††††††† Do two John Deere tractors of the exact same shape, size, weight, and color need oneness. Of course not. You can use one or the other without conflict. What needs oneness is a John Deere and a Chase Tractor. Farmers could come to blows over that one. So now we have a logical, scriptural, and experientially sound interpretation of a verse using the Old Testament to guide us in understanding the New. You no longer have to hide the scripture under the proverbial church rug. It in fact, contains an awesome and heart stretching promise.
††††††††††† You can use the same method with Ephesians chapter 2, verse 14. ďFor he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.Ē
††††††††††† If you look at earlier verses, which surround verse 14, you have the form of the Gentiles and the Jews, who at end are brought together into the household of God, because a wall was removed between them. A wall which was not their Gentile or Jewish forms, otherwise what is left to bring into the household of God.
††††††††††† Could the truth be that the work of Christ did not obliterate our walls, our fences, or our lines, but rather contains the potential to make them work properly, activated by our faith in Christ?
††††††††††† What if it were possible to remove all negatively, fear, and short comings from our obedience? Popular teaching claims that freedom in Christ means the removal of all boundaries and restrictions from moral living. What if freedom in Christ is instead the ability to obey with complete and utter abandonment?
††††††††††† What if you dared build your wall without fear?
††††††††††† What if you were totally free to obey God without considering consequences, cost, or casualties.
††††††††††† What if you dared make the most important decisions in your life with the information at hand, and trusted God to supply any lack, insufficiency, or shortfall that you might have, knowingly and unknowingly.
††††††††††† What if we dared believe that there is nothing about our wall which hinders Godís working in our lives? Thereís not one less soul that will be saved. Thereís not one less blessing you will give to others. Thereís not one thing you could have done better without your wall.
††††††††††† What if there is now no hindrance, absolutely none, wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever your capacity and abilities from being taken and used fully in the kingdom of God.
††††††††††† What if we no longer have to climb ladders to reach God? What if we only have to believe that He came down to live where I live, and walk where I walk, that His grace is fully and completely sufficient for me, that I, which is the greatest wall of them all, can be one with Him.