LEGEND OR FACT?

When we visited England, one of the places we enjoyed seeing is the Uffington White Horse, a highly stylized prehistoric white chalk hill figure, measuring 360 feet long.  It has been said that the White Horse has been guarded as “a masterpiece of minimalist art” for over 3,000 years, as it dates from the late Bronze Age, sometime between 1380 and 550 BCE.

white horse from road long cropped
The Uffington White Horse from the road.

 This is a closer picture of the white horse figure. 

white horse close up

When standing on top of the mountain, this is what part of the figure looks like. 

white horse from atop mountain

Nearby are ice-cut terraces known as the “Giant’s Stair”.  Speculation is that these terraces at the bottom of this valley are the result of medieval farming.  The valley below the horse is known as the Manger and legend says that the horse grazes there at night.

White horse farming terraces

(The pictures were taken by us on our visit to England.  Much more information about the White Horse was accessed 10/17/17 and can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffington_White_Horse .)

Numerous legends surround the White Horse and adjacent fields, and that prompted thoughts about legend viz-a-viz fact.  A legend can be generally defined as a story that has come down from the past, especially a story that is regarded as historical although not verifiable.

While there are legends in every culture, there is one story that is worldwide and which is most assuredly fact rather than legend – the story of God’s involvement with people on this earth as found in the text of the Holy Bible.  Indeed, neither the Old or New Testaments are either fiction or legend, rather they are the words of God as they were recorded by real people and as they have been preserved through the millennium by God’s hand.  Indeed, the Biblical text is self-authenticating; for example, the Old Testament is the record of God’s calling His people and of their history, prophets, priests and kings.  The New Testament contains the witness of that which the writers personally saw and heard.  It is a record of eyewitnesses testifying to the truth of their writing. 

I know that some have said that the Ten Commandments are only Ten Suggestions or perhaps Ten Good Ideas.  But, I beg to differ.  The Ten Commandments are, indeed, God’s Law given to Moses for a rule of life for God’s people. 

In fact, Jesus understood that the Ten Commandments were not legend or irrelevant fiction.  He taught about them and even broadened their application.  For example, consider what Jesus said about the Sixth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:13, His words recorded in Matthew 5:21-22:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

The Seventh Commandment as found in Exodus 20:14 was also referenced by Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Legends are fun to hear and the stories are entertaining to read.  But Scripture is not legend or fiction: it is a serious book to be read and studied.  The Holy Bible contains the very words of the Holy God, and they are as true today as when they were written and spoken thousands of years ago.

The real question, then, is what will you do with the Holy Bible? 

If the Holy God has given us His Word as a guide for living our lives, don’t you think we should read it? 

“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

James 4:17 New Living Translation

And if we read it, should we not take its words into our minds and hearts, thereby allowing God’s Spirit to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord?

Father, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14  May I love and read Your, and I ask that Your Holy Spirit would quicken my heart and let those words take root so that my actions conform with Your instructions.

 

ON OBEDIENCE, BOUNDARIES AND PRAISE

On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson prayed for our nation in Washington, D. C., and said:

 

Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

“[O]bedience to Thy law” … It took just a paltry two hundred years for our society to break through the restraint of obedience to God’s law into a society which is fast approaching the description found in the book of Judges in Scripture:

… Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 [ESV]

 

For some reason, our society has apparently equated obedience to God’s Law with an unwarranted and unwanted restraint on our freedom, as setting up boundaries that we do not want to recognize. The problem, of course, is that without any restraint, there is anarchy and license which results in degradation of the individual, the family and the society. Like it or not, adults as well as children need boundaries and, although the lines may be far different for each, they are present nonetheless.

 

A fence is a visible boundary which serves a multitude of beneficial purposes. We accept the freedom of movement within the fenced yard and, at the same time, we recognize that the fence provides a type of security and protection that would not be there without its presence.

 

Indeed, often we forget the fence is there … we just take the benefit from it. I was looking out the window during breakfast one morning and saw something shining back at me.

 

Sunlight on fence
The fence when something was shining, revealing the presence of the fence when it otherwise was camouflaged.

 

Upon closer inspection, the glow was a result of the sun shining off the fence along the lot line. Most of the fence was hidden in the mass of branches, limbs, leaves, and shade so that I had forgotten it was there. But the sunlight revealed its position as it served to protect the back yard and to define where we could run and play without interference.

 

Fence in the sun
The fence up close revealing more clearly the sunlight shining on the fence.

 

That fence shining in the sunlight reminded me of God’s Law. It too is a type of fence that sets boundaries for our lives, precepts that God wants us to implant in our hearts. Because man cannot conform to the conduct that God mandates in His Law, there was put in place a system of burnt offerings and sacrifices that foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Lamb that would fully atone for sin.

 

The Old Testament Prophet Samuel eloquently expressed what God wanted from His people in 1 Samuel 15:

 

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

1 Samuel 15:22

 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses, in easy to understand language, the tenets of the Reformed faith in question and answer format. The very first question and answer pair is:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

Question 39 asks and answers:

Q: What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A:   The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to His revealed will.

Question 40 and 41 then go farther and teach that God requires obedience to the moral law as found in the Ten Commandments.

 

This obedience to God’s will was reiterated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He responded to a question propounded to Him:

 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 [ESV]

 

Obedience – a concept that is passé, that is “old fashioned”, that is “outdated”, that is “inconvenient” – and it is a concept that is based on Scripture.

 

True Christianity is not defined by the culture of this world but is based on Scripture and the culture that is reflected in the Kingdom of God.  Obedience might not be what our culture teaches, but it must be a way of life for the Christian. Not so that we “follow the rules” but so that we give praise to God as we live a life pleasing to Him through His Son and the power of His Spirit. Let us be known as a people who obey our Lord and His commands, even when we are labeled “old fashioned” to do so.

 

Father, I pray that I would honor You by obeying Your commands and the commands of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Forgive me when I have fought against the restraint that you placed on me; open my eyes to see that even the fence of Your Law is based on Your holiness and justice, and love! Thank You for loving me enough to give me boundaries, for my protection and for Your honor and glory.