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Changing the Divine Constitution

Posted by Matt Postiff November 28, 2012 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Dispensationalism 

I'm writing this with my Jewish friends in mind...

In a founding document such as a constitution, it seems prudent to have a mechanism by which the document can be updated to reflect changes in circumstances or conditions previously unforeseen by the authors of the document. Such changes will necessarily reflect modifications in the rule of conduct of the people who are under the sway of the founding document, whether it is an organization, a church, or an entire nation.

A similar amendment mechanism is found in the Bible. Amendments to the code given in the Bible are not required due to the author's lack of foresight (God knows everything past, present, and future). But we can easily imagine a scenario where God has a pre-planned change in mind that would require a change or update to the founding documents.

I am thinking about the Law of Moses as the founding document of the ancient nation of Israel. That Law formalized the organization of the nation in civil, ceremonial, and moral aspects. A Jewish reader of that document has to take seriously the fact that there are provisions within the document itself that allow the founding document to be updated. The point is that the Jewish person should not only not be surprised at such an update (aka the New Testament), but he should expect that an update was pre-planned, and be looking for it.

What texts in the Hebrew Bible indicate a future change? Here are two:

Deuteronomy 18:15 says that there will be another prophet that will arise like Moses, and that this prophet must be obeyed. A prophet like Moses would be expected to bring new revelation from God, thus potentially changing the way in which people live.

Psalm 110:4 says that there will be a new priest in the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20). A new priest would mean that a change in the law would be necessary so that he could operate lawfully within the nation, since no priest was permitted by Moses outside of the tribe of Levi. Such is the argument of Hebrews 7:11-19.

In both of these cases, provision is made in the initial "constitution" of Israel that permit that constitution to be changed. But this is nothing new. In fact, the law itself was a change on the previous status quo, in which there was various revelation and instruction passed down from Adam and Eve, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and others. The Law gave a new body of instructions that required obedience. It was different than the rule of life previously. No one accuses God, on account of His giving of the Law, of changing the rules midway through the game. He used His divine prerogative to change the constitution at a key point in time. He did not give up that prerogative when the Law of Moses was written down.

Undoubtedly some readers may agree that provisions are present in the Law for its own update and even perhaps its own replacement. However, those readers might object that they are still looking for the update, that the update is definitely not the New Testament, and that Jesus is not the updater of the Law of Moses. The answer to that objection will have to wait until a later post.

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