Our villagers have told us that they are good people. Yes, they sometimes beat their kids and their spouses, but besides little things like that, they are pretty decent folks. They say they are at least not as bad as other Iski people. In fact, our villagers left their homes among their clansmen and came to live here because they were sick of the flagrant wrongdoing they were seeing back home.
They’ve told us that when they came here, they washed their hands of the bad thinking and carnal ways of their families and friends back where they had grown up. They wanted to follow God’s way, and so they left their sins at home and built a new village, a village where they would be free from the violence and immorality of their people.
Well, that’s what they thought, anyway. Our villagers heard the story of the law today. They heard how after God freed the Israelites from Egypt, He brought them to Mount Sinai and gave them an absolute standard by which to measure themselves. They also heard that these laws are useful to us now for the same purpose. For a perfect man, these laws would highlight his righteousness. The law would show him to be holy and good. For an imperfect man, however – a man cut off from God, a slave to his sinful nature – different characteristics would be highlighted. The law would show him that he is dirty, selfish, and evil.
As you might have guessed, these lessons on the law are rocking the boat a bit for some of our friends! These people, who have tried for so long to distance themselves from the sins of their clansmen, are being brought face-to face with the reality that they are not so good after all. It turns out, the very same sinful passions of others that they were trying to get away from are actually buried deep within their own hearts. The law is revealing that the problem isn’t with other people, it’s with them.
We’ve also reminded them of God’s perfect justice, and how each sin that is committed has an unavoidable consequence. Everything they have ever said, done, or thought that has been against God’s law will be remembered and be punished. And the punishment is death – physical death (separation from the body), relational death (a broken relationship with God), and eventually, eternal death (separation from God in the lake of fire). If they had been allowing themselves some wiggle-room in the condemnation department before, then it should have been pretty well stamped out this morning.
I was in our office after the teaching getting things ready for a language session, when I noticed one of my friends sitting in a chair in the corner. He had his head down and was looking at the floor. “What did you think of the teaching this morning?” I asked him.
“That was heavy,” he said. “That was really, really heavy. I’ve broken all of those laws. Every one. I haven’t ever killed someone with my hands, but I have in my thinking. Sometimes I can control what I do, but control what I think? There’s no way I can do that. Breaking one law is enough to send me to the place of fire, and I’ve broken all of them! There’s nothing I can do. I have no power to help myself. Only the “saving man” that God has promised can help me.”
Wow. We’re halfway through our chronological teaching, and this guy is tracking perfectly! I only hope that the others in the village have grasped the meaning of our lessons as well as he has!
Please continue to pray for our Iski friends during this time. Pray that they would continue to see the futility of their own efforts as well as the awesome saving power of their loving God!