Theology in 3D

Just Because He Says So

Layton Talbert | November 16, 2018
New Testament, Old Testament, Theology

I’m back in Perelandra today, but only for a moment.

Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?

So reasoned Ransom with the Lady in Lewis’s Perelandra, to counter the enemy’s temptation to autonomy.

That line interestingly intersected with some other reading I’ve been doing in Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews (excellent for the most part, except when he wanders into the territory of biblical history). In his last chapter (“Zion”) he writes,

Judaism is a perfectionist religion. . . . They often reflected the form rather than the content of religious truth but it must be stressed again that “ritualistic” is not a term of reproach for Jews. . . . The Jews had survived precisely because they were punctilious about their rituals and had been prepared to die for them.

That, of course, is the human explanation for Jewish survival. God’s explanation is somewhat different. But here’s where it gets interesting. Explaining the OT law of the red heifer, the ashes of which were part of the purification requirement for ascending the Temple Mount (Num 19:2-9), Johnson writes:

After the destruction of the Temple [AD 70] it was impossible to prepare new ashes. A supply remained . . . . Then it ran out and purification was no longer possible until the Messiah came to burn [another] heifer and prepare a new mixture. Because the purity rules . . . were and are so strict, rabbinical opinion agrees that all Jews are now ritually impure.

Now, finally, the point I’ve been driving at:

The Law of the Red Heifer has been cited as an outstanding example of hukkah, a Judaic statute for which there is no rational explanation but which must be strictly observed because divinely commanded in the clearest possible manner.

What was it Ransom said?

Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?

I don’t know whether “the joy of obeying” is the Jews’ center of gravity for such inexplicable statutes. I would imagine it is for at least some Jews. It certainly ought to be the Christian’s center of gravity for both believing and obeying anything in Scripture, whether the logic or rationale is immediately apparent to us or not.

To flip it around, all of us parents know the soaring delight of watching one of our children do exactly as we’ve taught them to do, even when it’s clear they haven’t really grasped the reason for our teaching. I strongly suspect that “the joy of obeying” on our part is an echo from the pleasure God finds in our believing and obeying Him for one reason alone: just because he says so.


4 responses to “Just Because He Says So”

  1. Rose Mary Kelly says:

    So-o-o-o-o, back in the day, I could have just responded to my kids’ “Why?’s” with “Hukkah” instead of “Because I said so,” (Ephesians 6:1) and been totally “legit”! I like that!

  2. Absolutely. Now you can use it on your grandkids.

  3. Dan Olinger says:

    When one of my daughters was about 3, she would stop on the way out of the Dining Common, turn to face the bulletin board, and stare at it thoughtfully for a few seconds.
    Because she knew I did.
    And it wasn’t even a command.
    This also brings to mind the Lord’s commendation of the sons of Rechab (Jer 35).

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