Basis of Human Law Part 7

We have finally arrived at the place where we first see humans given authority to practice law over one another. It comes just after Noah’s flood and, simple as it is, it is the important beginning of what has blossomed into an overwhelming legal minefield.

To better navigate that minefield I’m helping you think about a bunch of foundational principles which combine to be the basis of human law. That starts with God’s law. That’s why I have started in the Holy Bible. We have already seen a bunch of stuff (to use an American expression) out of just a handful of chapters from the first book in the Bible, Genesis. So, let’s press on.

Man Judging Man

In Genesis 4 we find that Cain was punished by God for murdering his brother, Abel, but was not to be punished by man. A special mark was placed on Cain to make sure people knew not to kill him. In those days people lived for up to 900 years, so there would have been many people who would come across Cain’s path in the centuries of his life. None of them was to prosecute human punishment upon Cain.

Prior to the flood of Noah’s day there was no authority given to men to make judgement of other men. The result of that situation was that everyone did what they wanted and what they wanted to do was evil.

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

It may well be that a form of human court and legal process might have restrained the behaviour of the people. We will never know. But we do know that God gave permission to mankind to punish evil, after Noah’s flood.

Murder Prohibited

Among the various things said by God after the flood are comments about the sanctity of human life. Human blood was not to be shed. People were not to be killed, by animal or by humans.

“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.” Genesis 9:5

Note that God had the right and authority to kill mankind. He had just done so in the global flood which wiped out probably millions of evil people. Death as a result of judgement is legitimate. Death by any other means was forbidden.

Capital Punishment

The very first legal power given to mankind was to exercise capital punishment. Mankind was authorised by God to kill a person who has killed someone else.

Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Genesis 9:6

Now, that might sound like a contradiction, like a policeman breaking the speed limit to chase someone who is breaking the speed limit. But it’s a legitimate process. It is authorised by none other than God, Himself.

Capital punishment is an offence to the minds of some people today. So, it is important to at least pay attention to what God has revealed to us in the Bible. The very first legal power given to man was capital punishment.

Relationship With God Re-established

After the flood all those who had broken fellowship with God were gone. God was now in open relationship with all the people on earth – all eight of them. Once again mankind would be tempted to indulge the sinful inclinations of his heart and come under the power of sin, as Cain and others had done. But now there was a check to man’s behaviour. People had the power to prosecute those who went so far as to kill another person.

God’s Law in Man’s Hands

The only legal authority given to man was to exercise the law set down by God. Man could not make up his own laws. Man could not create whatever law he so chose. Law was only that ‘moral law’ which God established as man’s requirement.

God’s law was placed in the hands of men, in a limited way. And so it is today. Man acts as God’s agent when he prosecutes someone for breaking God’s moral commandments.

The first legal processes passed to man were to uphold Moral Law. Man was not given authority to prosecute another based on commerce, contracts or the like, but only on moral principle.

Law was not originally a social construct. It was a divine reality, based on man’s moral accountability to his holy creator God. When we come to consider the many forms of law which make demands of us today, we need to keep in mind the moral laws of God, as separate and special in our considerations.

Action Not Attitude

Man’s authority to hold other men accountable to God’s law was an ‘after the fact’ authority. Man was given no right to prosecute someone based on the attitudes of their heart. While hatred is a moral evil, which God will judge, man cannot prosecute someone for hatred. If the hatred becomes murder, then man has the right to step into the picture.

We saw previously that the people in Noah’s day were engaged in evil actions and also had evil imaginations in their hearts. That second area was retained by God, as His domain.

Punishment is not Crime

As noted earlier, to punish a person for killing someone, by killing them, seems to be a contradiction. If killing someone is wrong, then how can the killer be killed? The answer to this conundrum is that punishment is not a crime.

When a person is punished, that is a moral process. If the punishment is to kill them, then that action is of a different quality to the act of killing someone other than as punishment.

It is criminal to imprison someone, unless the person is a prisoner under punishment. It is criminal to inflict pain on someone, unless the person is an offender receiving their just punishment. It is criminal to kill someone, unless the person is under death sentence as punishment for their crimes.

Note, however, that we are still talking here about punishment as prescribed by God. Our investigation has not yet moved to that area where men make up their own laws and punishments.

Human Society

We have already seen what happens in a human society where everyone does as they please. Our next exploration is of human society under some regulation. That’s coming up in the next post in this series.

Basis of Human Law Part 6

In previous posts we have seen God’s supremacy, man’s accountability, God’s rights and judgements and the consequences of wrong-doing.

We saw first the actions of an individual and married couple. Then we saw evil invade a family. With the growth of human society we now come to see what happens when individuals live as they please.

Noah and the Ark

The days of Noah reveal some key observations about humanity and God’s dealings with us. Our reference is found in Genesis 6.

The chapter starts with description of two groups of people on the earth. There were the godly, known as the ‘sons of God’. Then there were the rest of humanity, living in their self-will, as Cain had done. The godly men, with God’s grace and destiny on their lives, became distracted with the natural issues of life. They raised children who were powerful and who became people of renown.

However, this whole course of events left very few righteous people on the face of the earth. People were preoccupied with their natural existence, not their place before God. Noah’s family line, however, remained faithful to God.

God decided to destroy the people of the earth and repopulate the earth through the godly man, Noah.

Evil People

God’s description of the evil which prevailed at that time is worth noting. God could see the evil actions of the people, but God could also see what was going on in people’s hearts. The Bible informs us that God looks on the hearts of men.

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

Notice that there was great wickedness in the earth. While we do not know what that wickedness was, we have already seen from Cain, and then again from his descendent, Lamech, that murder was committed. In Genesis 6:13 God uses the term “violence” to describe the actions of the people.

Notice also that the hearts of the people were preoccupied with nothing but evil, continually. Whether those evil imaginations became actions or not is not important. In a moral universe even the imaginations of the heart are moral issues. We saw previously that people are commanded to give honour to their parents and not to covet another man’s goods. These are attitudes of heart, which God will judge people for holding. So it is not only actions which are of consideration to God, but intentions, attitudes and thoughts of the heart.

Corrupted Ground

In Genesis 4 we saw that the ground is impacted by man’s sinful actions. Psalm 106:38 tells us that the ground is polluted by murder. We can reflect back to Genesis 3 as well, where Adam’s sin brought a curse upon the ground (Genesis 3:17,18). So it should not surprise us that the evil of the people in Noah’s day caused the ground to again be affected.

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” Genesis 6:11,12

Man’s actions have direct impact upon the land in which he lives. The physical, geographical space which man occupies is impacted by the morality of the people living there. That is why God could make the promise that if the people repented of their evil God would “heal their land”.

“If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:14

Judgment

God sentenced the people of Noah’s day to capital punishment. They would all drown in a universal flood. Only Noah’s family would be spared.

The whole earth would be judged and punished. Everyone, except Noah’s family, was worthy of death and destruction. Noah’s ancestors all died before the day of the flood, since they were righteous and would not be judged with the wicked.

We see a similar concept of broad-based judgement when Sodom was destroyed many years later. We also see in the Bible the destruction of whole nations, such as Edom, when those nations broke God’s holy standards.

Because of God’s sovereignty and excellent supremacy over mankind, He is able to bring judgement on any scale. He can deal with the individual – as with Cain, the person and their generations – as with Adam and Eve, or the entire planet at one time.

Set Apart

In this chapter we also see that not all people are equal. Due to the invasion of sin into people’s lives and the subversion of people by the power of sin, there are different possibilities open to individuals, families and nations.

Noah found grace in God’s sight (Genesis 6:8). Therefore God blessed him and his family. Noah had three sons and three daughters-in-law. Noah, his wife, his sons and his daughters-in-law were the only 8 people spared from the global flood. Noah’s family was set apart from the rest.

This principle of privilege and blessing resting on people and their descendents based on the actions of the ancestor is one that people have resisted through human history. The French Enlightenment declared its devotion to ‘egality’, trying to throw off the positions of privilege which were enjoyed by some in their society. They despised the reality of inherited privilege. The same occurred in the Marxist revolutions. Yet we see from the early pages of human history that some people are set apart for blessing and others for curse.

Cain became a vagabond because of his murder. Noah became the source of hope for his children, because he found grace in the eyes of God. Today there are families and individuals which experience better or worse possibilities than others, based on their personal or inherited conditions.

This is a matter of divine prescription, outside the jurisdiction of man’s law. When God is on our side, no human law can be successful against us.

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that will rise against you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Let them curse, but you bless: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let your servant rejoice.” Psalm 109:28

Chinese Link to Noah

There is an ancient Chinese account of Noah’s flood. Amazingly the Chinese glyph or character which is written for the word ‘boat’ includes the symbols for eight mouths or people. There were eight people on Noah’s ark, and in the Chinese character for boat (or ark) the idea of eight people is embodied. Interesting. To see one of the many links to this information go to: http://creationwiki.org/Chinese_characters_for_Noah%27s_ark

Human Law

Following the flood of Noah’s day we have the first indication that God is placing the privilege and responsibility of judgement into human hands. Human law has its earliest manifestation at that time. So we will investigate that in the next post.

Nobility by Walking in the Spirit

I have pointed out in earlier posts that Nobility is anchored in our creation. Nobility is attached to things based on their birth or some other special quality. There is no more special origin and quality than to be made in the image of Almighty God. We are Imago Dei – made in the image of God.

Thus we are spirit beings, with profound spiritual significance. Our destiny is to express all that God is by our actions and lifestyle. We are to be like God, who is holy, loving, creative, totally faithful, responsible, forgiving, just, and so on. We must also recognize that we are created by a moral God and placed in a moral universe. We are therefore moral beings, accountable to God for what we do with our lives.

At the same time we are ‘flesh’. This means we are made of natural senses that empower us to engage with the natural world in which we have been placed. Those senses can, of themselves, provide us with delight, in taste, touch, sight, sound and so on. Humans, then, can choose to pursue the delight that human senses provide. When they do that they are now living out of their natural, sensual being, rather than their spiritual qualities.

Since nobility is based on our special-ness, when we live out of our spiritual value we have unparalleled nobility. When we live out of our natural senses we lower ourselves to the level of an animal in pursuit of natural experiences.

So, mankind’s nobility is tested by the fact that he is ‘also flesh’, as God described us in Genesis 6:3. Man is not to look out for opportunities to indulge the flesh but is to live by God’s spiritual destiny on his life.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, “do not use freedom as an opportunity to indulge the flesh, but serve one another out of love”, Galatians 5:13 (author’s paraphrase).

The challenge for humans, however, is that their natural senses can become quite obsessed with gratification. This is especially so if those senses have been awakened and indulged.

When the Israelites were fed supernaturally in the wilderness for 40 years they were fed a substance that sustained their bodies, but which did not indulge their appetites. The miracle ‘manna’ would form on the ground each morning and be collected for their sustenance. They made bread and other food from it. The food was physical but its essential quality was spiritual.

The Bible described the manna as “angels food” (Psalm 78:25). Angelic food would be sufficient to feed a spirit being, since angels are spirit beings. It was able to sustain natural bodies because people can be sustained and kept alive by having their spirit fed. Yet spiritual food would do nothing to pander to human appetite, even though it miraculously sustained human life.

As a consequence the people loathed the food, which they called ‘light bread’, and they lusted for meat, onions and other things their taste buds craved (Numbers 11:4-6,21:5). They said “our soul loathes this light bread”. While their body was sustained by manna, their appetites were unsatisfied with it. It did nothing to appease their natural cravings for strong flavours and tickled taste-buds.

The historical experience is metaphorical of the way humanity despises living for spiritual values. In order to walk in the Spirit and live out of our spiritual realities we have to put our flesh to death, dying to natural appetites.

The issue is not staying alive or sustenance, but the human pleasure derived from the natural senses. And therein is the nobility challenge for all humanity. When we turn our focus from the divine to the natural we are the ones who abuse our own nobility and degrade our own existence, selling out our true potential for such temporary and meaningless experiences as the gratification of our human appetites.

Let me put it another way. We are made in the image of God, imago dei. So we have divinity stamped in our being. This is the basis of our highest nobility. Yet we are made with natural senses that can feed appetites of lust and self-gratification. When we bring out body under control, and die to our fleshly appetites, living to fulfill spiritual destiny, we achieve our highest nobility. When we abandon spiritual focus and seek gratification of our appetites we degrade ourselves and can totally destroy any self-worth within us.

The Bible truth of our special creation by a loving God to whom we are accountable, is a solid basis for appreciating our nobility. The lie of evolution, baseless in science, defying proof or even a workable theoretical base, yet pushed as essential dogma for acceptance into many corners of western society, strips humanity of its nobility.

I call you to rise to your true nobility. I call you out of the trough, where the pigs wallow. You are created for much higher destiny and nobility than the pub brawl, seedy back alleys, hollow halls of human vanity, vain and baseless ambitions of self importance, and so on. You are created for the throne room, where your mentor, the Living God, waits to tutor you in eternal authority and global significance.

Fellow noblemen, please stand. Stand in the presence of God. Stand in your created destiny. Stand in your nobility. Stand against evil. Stand in freedom from human appetites. Stand in the glorious liberty of the children of God. Stand, because He has called you to stand for His glory.