May 1, 1987 Issue
Greg DeGough

The god who made the world and every thing in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed any thing, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else." (Acts 17:24,25; NIV) In this manner Paul described the Eternal God to the pantheistic and polytheistic philosophers of Athens. The Apostle wanted to convey a crucial concept about life to the minds of these intellectuals; their life was not the result of an impersonal force, nor were they brought into being by the whim of a conspiracy of gods who stood aloof and were unconcerned about the state of their creation. Life is a gracious gift from a benevolent Creator who seeks the welfare of men through his omnipotent power. "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach Out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. "For in him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:26-28a).

The fact of Gods provision for mans physical existence was appealed to by Paul and Barnabas as they strove to prevent the idolatrous sacrifice of the inhabitants of Lystra. As the sacrificial offering was about to be made to the two of them, they cried out in order to stop this action and asked the worshipers to consider the testimony that God had left for himself. "He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." (Acts 14:17b). It does not take much consideration on mans part for him to realize that he does not have any control over the rains or the seasons. In fact, it takes only one Ethiopian famine to show conclusively that mans physical life is only as sure as this years rains and next years harvest. And since those necessary ingredients are solely under Gods control, then so is mans physical life.

God sought to reveal his life-giving power not only to the minds of depraved men who did not know him, but also to his chosen people. In Deut 8:3 Moses teaches the Israelites the significance of a graphic lesson that God had taught them during their wilderness wanderings. He says, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." lt should have been very obvious to the Israelites that their physical existence depended on God. They did not plant, cultivate or water, yet they harvested manna six mornings a week for forty years. And this manna was a type of food previously unknown so that there would be no question about its origin. Whey they wandered through the "vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and water less land," it was God who brought them "water out of hard rock" to cool their parched throats. (Deut 8:15).

But as Moses stated, it was not Gods purpose to teach them merely that he was the provider and sustainer of their physical existence. He wanted them to understand that "life is more than food", as his Son taught so beautifully several centuries later. He wanted to show the Israelites how futile mere existence is without his influence in the world.

The Israelites were a very sensual people when they came out of Egypt. They had just left the opulence of Egypt for the meager fare of pilgrim life and they were certainly not pleased with what they were experiencing. Since sensual men can still be reached through their senses, God was loving enough to start with the physical necessities of life to teach them the greater truth about his provision of the life that is truly life. He made the blessing of physical necessities conditional, based upon their obedience to his commandments. In this way they would clearly understand that their lives depended upon their strict adherence to his requirements for living and worship. The positive reward of blessing for their continued obedience would also be incentive to continue following him. This is the overriding theme in Deuteronomy as Moses tries to impress upon the people the importance of obeying God. All through this powerful address he continually reminds them that their children, crops, animals, houses, possessions, food, etc. are gifts from God and the continuance of these gifts depends upon the choice of the Israelites to obey him. (Deut 6:1-12; 7:12-15; 8:6-18; 28:1 -14) He also reminds them that the land they are about to enter is cared for by God and his continued care is conditioned upon their obedience. (Deut 11:8-21).

However, God did not promise merely to withdraw his care from them if they were disobedient. He promised to actively pursue their destruction. (Deut 8:19,20; 28:15-68) This placed a very heavy price on disobedience, for these were the people who had seen the mighty works their God had performed in Egypt in order to free them from bondage. As the Song of Moses so picturesquely described him, their God was the One who had blown back the Red Sea by the breath of his nostrils to let them cross on dry ground. (Exod 15:8-10) Asaph expressed the awe that the righteous felt when they saw Gods power; "You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry?" (Psalm 76:7) The Israelites knew that the God they served was not an idol, a powerless invention of mans imagination, but the Creator of heaven and earth. He was, and is, the God of ALL power. To obey him meant life and peace. To disobey him meant certain death.

When we consider Gods purpose we can readily see that giving physical/material blessings to Israel as a result of their obedience was the means to an end, not an end in itself. In keeping Gods commandments his people would learn a valuable lesson about life. They might begin their obedience because they desired the material blessings promised as a reward, but they would soon see that their obedience did not only bring physical survival, it brought a quality to their manner of living that they had not known before. (Deut 4:5-8; 6:25; Lev 19:2; 20:7,8) This raised life, as God promised it, above mere existence and placed it in the realm of righteousness and holiness produced by the obedience of faith. If the children of Israel were obedient they would certainly realize that true life was not obtained by eating, drinking and breathing, but in living by faith in God. That faith was the key to this true life was plainly revealed when the Lord said in Hab 2:4, "...but the righteous will live by his faith..."

So then we may conclude from these scriptures that God taught Israel two very important lessons about life. First, they must be obedient to him in order to receive the physical blessings necessary to life. Second, true life is not composed of what a man has materially, but of how he lives toward God. However, these two lessons are secondary and must be subordinated to the greater fact that is common to both of them; all life, in whatever form, comes from God. For this reason Moses summed up the law of God with this in Deut 30:19,20, "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life,..."

In our next article we will discuss the impact that these facts should have on our lives as Christians. We will examine the teachings of Jesus and his apostles about life and try to discover what life is to be for the follower of Christ in order that he may "keep it for eternal life."--More later. 

Other Related OPA Article Links:

The Lord is Your Life Part II - 6/1/87
Christian Living

Eternal Life

Greg DeGough
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