Do not move the ancient boundary Which your fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28
This proverb is understood as one speaking about real estate and how land is treated. At least this is language which is used. The "ancient boundary" referred to markers, usually rather large stone markers that were set in place by the previous generation - by which the boundaries of the land were marked. Those who do surveying today do the same thing - except they use deep metal spikes driven into the ground as the markers. All land surveying is done from these markers to make sure that land that is sold and transferred is done legally. So on the surface level this passage is saying that God is against illegal land transactions where one party tries to cheat another out of land by moving the ancient boundary marker to their advantage. But there is more to this proverb than what we see on the surface - there is a principle that is very important for us grasp - especially in light of our ever-changing culture.
There are physical boundaries - and there are social and spiritual boundaries. There are things which our forefathers gave us as a nation - and things which our spiritual forefathers gave us in the church. The question in an ever-changing society is this. When is it right to change things - altering with the times - and when are we dealing with the ancient boundaries that our fathers set for us? Even more important for us in the church there is the question of when is something an enduring spiritual truth - and when is it something a tradition arising out of denominational preference?
First of all, I am not sure that anyone can know all boundaries perfectly. Nations and especially churches are in conflict about such things on a regular basis. What is tradition that is the ancient boundaries - and what tradition is . . . well, just tradition? When it comes to things like this, we need an authority in the matter - and it needs to be outside ourselves. It even needs to be outside of our fathers and forefathers. Therefore we turn to the Scriptures for guidance. The things that are immovable have to do with theology. We can NEVER change our theology. Things like the Deity of Christ - His virgin birth, death, burial, and resurrection can never be altered. Things like the person and nature of God - the Holy Spirit - the veracity of the Bible as God's self-revelation are all non-negotiables. Then we have the negotiable items. These are driven more by basic principles and preferences. One very controversial area in the church is music and ministry styles. There are basic principles of sharing the gospel. The gospel must remain pure - but the style in which we share it will morph as society changes. Wisdom says that there is merit in modernizing our style of ministry - how we share the gospel - ways we interact with people - but the truth of the gospel itself is never to be changed. Similar things exist in musical worship. The principle that God is worshipped and is the center of our thinking and focus cannot be changed. We sing to Him and He is the One on whom we focus in worship. Instruments in worship may change over time - even styles of music will alter over the years, but there is never to be a change in focus.
Traditions can be tricky things. Those who survey land know that it can be a tricky thing to do it properly. At Calvary Chapel we had a problem with survey work that was not done properly for us in a land transaction. The surveyor did not accurately read the set pin for our land. He just guessed at it - and as a result made what seemed at first a minor miscalculation in drawing a line for our land border. The problem became much more pronounced though as the line went out further. Eventually the line which ran for about 100 yards cut off an ever-increasing pie-shaped part of our land. What started out as a small error - got far worse as it widened out. The final result was a large corner of land and a large error - all because he ignored the set pin put down by the fathers. This can happen to us spiritually as well. It may seem like such a small thing - a small change that we are making. It may seem like we're only ignoring a small principle of the Scriptures at first. The problem is that as time progresses, ignoring the ancient set point of our fathers (which they set according to Scripture) will be far worse in the future. Such things won't happen if all we are doing is seting new traditions for a new generation of people. But ignoring Scripture - ignoring the ultimate Father and the boundaries He has set - will cause great harm in the end - and honestly - even in the meantime.
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1
Who controls world history? That is a question that makes some people squrim in their seats. The reason it does is because it seems easier to say that history is at times in Satan's hands - or at least it is in no one's hands than it does to say that God is sovereign over all history. If God is sovereign over all history - then the questions about evil and about suffering become far more complicated to us. God is sovereign over all human history - and at all times the hearts of all kings and rulers of this world are like channels of water in his hands. This proverb is true - He turns the hearts of these kings wherever He wishes. If then this is true, what are we to do with the Hitlers and others like him in this world - and in the course of history?
What do we do with the Pharaoh's who oppressed and enslaved Israel for hundreds of years? What do we do with the kings who conquered Israel and Judah - and leveled the temple to the ground? If you have a God Who functions according to the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, these things become very difficult to deal with in terms of the sovereignty of God. God is more than just a cosmic sugar daddy who has come to give us everything we want if we just claim it. He is a God Who is working toward His own purposes and plans. He is a God who is concerned with the manifestation of His grace - yet Who does it while maintaining justice and righteousness. These are deep issues that find their only final answer in the end when we gaze at God's beauty, glory, wisdom, and majesty for all eternity. Yet - there are whispers of His workings for us in Scripture while we live here on earth.
The way God moves kings is always in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. It always has been and it always will be. There are times when God moves the hearts of kings to deliver His people - much like He did with Esther and Mordecai. These are glorious times when we see God protecting His covenant people and showing that He is the One with the last word. There are other times when the king acts - and even in the king's wrath God delivers - as with Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. In situations like these God does not move the king's heart until after that king has seen God's power and might. But there are other cases like that of Nebuchadnezzar destroying and carrying away God's people. These are times when a king is used for the purpose of disciplining and correcting God's people. Kings are used for a myriad of purposes by God for His ultimate plan and purpose. Even the ultimate worldly king, the antichrist, will serve God's ultimate purposes of bringing judgment on the earth and saving His covenant people, Israel.
Kings serve God's purposes and plans - even when they themselves do not know it. They serve God even though they may even deny His existance and rebel against Him. We must remember that even the New Testament tells us in Romans 13 that there is no authority except from God. Paul goes on to remind us that all authorities are established by God. Our problems come when we think that these authorities are here for our blessing alone - misonstruing Paul's admonition to Timothy which says, "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Some mistakenly think this admonition is a carte blanche to us to always have kings and rulers who bless us. Yet Paul's own life was taken by an ungodly ruler when he died. Persecution came upon the church again and again in the early days of its existance. We are to pray for such things - and ask God to move the king's heart. But ultimately God's plans and purposes will prevail. Remember here we are told He moves the king's heart - wherever HE wants it to go. That will mean for both blessing and for discipline - for good and for bad - for times of peace and also times of conflict and yes, even persecution and great difficulty.
The one constant for us is not that everything goes well all the time. This is a recipe for spiritual disaster and a severely stunted spiritual growth rate. Our one constant is that God is working all things after the counsel of His will - His good purposes - and His glory. This is a constant becasue we know that He is good and in Him is no darkness, no sin, no evil, and no wrong. Therefore regardless of our current situation - and in light of today's proverb - regardless of our current leader here on earth - God is still sovereign. He is in control and all things are working toward His ultimate end of summing all things up in Christ Jesus. He WILL work whatever we think is good, bad, or anywhere in between toward His ultimate purpose for us as well. That purpose is not for us to be rich or live in perfect health - and to never have problems. His ultimate purpose for us? It is that we are conformed to the image of His Son. It is that our character and lifestyle look more and more like that of Jesus every day we live! To that end He will move kings and rulers, despots and even maniacal dictators to work with Him so that we, and all other believers in all ages and all places, will be to the praise of the glory of His grace!
When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth; Proverbs 8:29
Wisdom tells us that when God made the world, that He did so by making the sea with a boundary that the sea could not go past permanently. In Job 38:8-11 God spoke of this to Job saying, "Or Who shut in the seas with doors when it burst out from the wombn, when I made clouds its garment and a thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall yur proud waves be stayed.'" In Jeremiah 5 we read that God placed the sand as a perpetual barrier that the ocean would not pass - though it's waves toss and they roar.
The scientist might scoff at this, saying that the height of the land mass determines whether it is above or below sea level. That is true - but how does this work on a planet that is spherical - where its flatness is not the measure of all things. Yet, were it not for gravity - the waters of the earth would run to the southern most parts of the earth - and honestly - would run out into space, making this planet utterly uninhabitable. Now, I can hear the scientific types laughing in the background as I state this - yet I have a question for them. Their laughter is because they would view me as a moron - who knew nothing about gravity. Therefore my question to them is this, "How did we get the basic law of gravity - or for that matter - any of the laws upon which our orderly planet functions?
Here is my point. Wisdom tells us that God is the One who set the boundary for the waters. He told us earlier that He is the One who make our earth circular - and made it to where the waters would conform to that circular pattern. He did not use the word gravity - but that is what He is describing. In this same passage where God speaks of setting boundaries for the sea - God also speaks about marking out the "foundations of the earth." The word "mark" used here is the Hebrew word "haqaq" which means to inscribe or engrave something. The word was used of marking and stating decrees - writing them down. The idea here is not that God set up some kind of foundation for the world - like we would build a foundation for a house. For that a different world would need to be used. God says in Job that He hangs the world on nothing - describing gravity wonderfully. Here what God is telling us is that there are inscribed decrees that God has given that makes the world function like it does. This same word is useed to speak of the written decrees of God.
Let us go back to the reality that there are "laws" written into the very fabric of the universe in which we live. Scientists did not write these laws - but their orderly experiments have allowed them to discover these laws. We even call them "laws" - with such names as the law of gravity - the first and second laws of thermodynamics - as well as numerous other laws by which the universe itself functions. In every world except that of the evolutionist, the idea of an orderly universe with remarkably orderly laws coming in a completelly random fashion with no author behimd them, is crazy. For there to be a law - there has to be a law-giver. For their to be a decree - someone has to have made that decree. And for the waters to obey laws of gravity - someone had to command that law - and therefore command that water adhere to such a law.
The statement of wisdom therefore makes far more sense than that of the pseudo-scientist. It makes more sense because wisdom recognizes that behind the inscribed foundational statements of this world (which includes that which establishes gravity and the whole idea of "sea level") is the Master and Commander - who wrote them. He enforces them each and every day - simply by the exercise of His almighty will. What does NOT make sense is to ask someone to believe in an astoundingly ordered universe with laws and structure - that came from no one - using no intelligence - and yet forming a world in which genius level scientists find themselves completely blown away by its glorious wisdom and intelligently ordered ways.