“The living presence of God in the heart of authentic Israelite culture, that is, in Israel’s laws and ordinances, explains why the Psalmist so loved the law and ordinances of God. They were sweet to him, a joy to keep and a light to ones path, because the Lord God of Israel was present in them. His presence gave to them their sweetness, their joy, and their light; to keep the law accordingly was to enter into the presence of the living God Himself. The life that one lived by keeping the law was the life of the Lord God Himself, and the character of that life was the character of the Lord God Himself. Biblical theology is therefore not produced but received from the God of Abraham Himself. Accordingly, authentic biblical theology is of a particular character, for it is a description of the particular Lord God who stands at the heart of biblical worship, who has brought Israel into being and given to him his distinctive character and identity.”
Kenneth Paul Wesche
Pastor — St. Herman’s Orthodox Church
Essay – Keeping The Faith
Let us posit that Wesche’s observations are correct just for the sake of argument. Let us agree that the living presence of God was in the heart of authentic Israelite culture, that is, in Israel’s laws and ordinances. Now as Reformed people we all confess that those who lived in the anticipatory covenant were living in an age front loaded with the eschatological ‘not yet.’ Now certainly there were adumbrations and lineaments of the eschatological ‘now’ but overall the age of the anticipatory covenant was weighted with the eschatological ‘not yet.’ Now, if even in the eschatological age that was weighted with the ‘not yet’ God’s living presence was in the heart of authentic Israelite culture how is it that so many Reformed people deny that in this age that is weighted with the eschatological ‘now’ — weighted so since the ‘age to come’ arrived in the advent of Christ — God could be be in the heart of authentic Christian culture?
Here we are living in the new and better covenant — new and better because the Kingdom has drawn near in the resurrected and ascended Lord Christ — and yet we are told by some that though the Israelites knew the living presence of God in the heart of authentic Israelite culture, those who comprise the new Israel must realize that the living presence of God cannot be possibly known in culture since there is no approximation of a such a thing called Christian culture.
Secondly, note the high estimation of God’s law that Wesche records about the members in the anticipatory covenant. Their delight was in God’s law and on it did they meditate both day and night. Now, quite obviously they did not love God’s law because they could use it as a ladder to acquire acceptability with God, but rather they loved God’s law because they were a Redeemed people, who being acceptable with God because of God’s provision in the sacrificial system, knew that life, shalom and vitality was found in a due respect for God’s law. Again, we should be reminded that this love for the law was found in the people who only dwelt in the anticipatory covenant. As Christians we are living in the ‘age to come.’ In light of that how much more should we find God’s law sweet to us? How much more should we as Christians, who will never increase our acceptability with God by loving the law, find God’s law a joy to keep and to be a light to our path? How much more should we testify that we love the law because the Lord God of Israel is present in them? Do we believe that God’s presence gives to the law its sweetness, its joy, and its light? Do we believe that to pursue the keeping of the law accordingly is to know the presence of the living God as Father?
Third, allow me to suggest that this quote gives hints that the supernatural comes to us in a way that is far different then the way we typically look for the supernatural. We look for the supernatural in the spectacular and the astounding. Perhaps though we should find the supernatural nearest to us when we participate in a community that is breathing with the presence of God as seen in its collective attention to and individual incarnation of God’s law. Is not the supernatural demonstrated and close to a people, who possessed by the Spirit of the Word of God, get that word of God into everything they touch and build? Is not the supernatural seen in families living out Christ? Is not the supernatural seen in Churches exalting Christ in Word and Sacrament? Is not the supernatural seen in communities that build their civil social institutional structures rooted in the Word of God? The Pentecostals have it wrong. The supernatural doesn’t normatively come to us in flashes of brilliance or demonstrations of strangeness but rather the supernatural comes to us in the rhythms of living in a community devoted to Christ the great Priest King. The living presence of God remains in the heart of authentic Christian culture.