Finger Writing
22 September 2017
Our human need drives divine action. Is God forced to act on our behalf? No, God acts freely on our behalf because His own internal compassion for us compels Him to do so. It is something about Him that drives Him to see to our desperate need, at least that is how God has revealed Himself to us in Christ. God's action in the world serves us. It does not demand service from us (Mt 20:28). He just keeps trying and will never give up on us.
At the time of the patriarchs, God repeated the gospel message about the coming Redeemer to those who led the messianic community like Noah and Shem. But despite God's repeated revelations of the divine Word to these men and their families, the gospel was lost through human garbling of the divine speech. This garbling turned God's gracious acts into human service, as with Cain (Heb 11:4), "What do you mean, God, that you are not satisfied with my offering to You? It is the best I have to offer. That should be satisfactory." Every attempt to turn the grace of God into human action results in the effort to satisfy God on the basis of works; works that are inevitably imperfect and unsatisfactory. How could such works satisfy God when there would be one perfect offering in the Messiah who would make satisfaction for our sins? This do-it-yourself righteousness was a recipe for a corruption of the divine word, turning it from gospel into law.
Why then did He not begin with a more certain transmission of the divine will? Why did He bother to share Himself by living speech with the patriarchs? It is not as though God could not foresee how human tradition would fail to transmit the truth. Yet because of our great need He was moved to reiterate the truth of our salvation in Christ to the patriarchs in living speech, even though humans would largely ignore it and pervert it. While the patriarchs were still benefited by His personal fellowship, He condescended to come among them to preach and give them His living voice. So, while Martin Chemnitz suggested that we not "ask too inquisitively" why He did this, we might find the answer to be His passionate love and desire for restored fellowship with His fallen creation, as though He were saying, "If I just talk to them, they will know my grace" (Jn 10:16).
For the good of His creation, when the patriarchs no longer preserved the deposit of the faith, He also saw to the writing of the divine Word, so that it could be more readily preserved in the church. Human defenders and propagators of the truth had proven themselves none too adept at this task. The written Word of God preserved to God's people an unmistakable record of the divine will, so that the gospel heart of God would always be open to them. Thus, He gave them inspired writings, which He began by penning, as it were, the first ten words of that written revelation with His own finger (Ex 31:18). He transferred His speech to writing with His finger so that His people would always have the truth.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Chemnitz

"It seemed good to God at the time [of the patriarchs] to restore, confirm, propagate, and preserve the purity of His Word through new and special revelations when it had begun to be adulterated through their human traditions. If at that time, He wanted to use this and not some other way, it is not for us to ask too inquisitively, for God is not in duty bound to give us an answer for all that He does.
"But this is worthy of consideration. The purity of the doctrine was not being preserved through the patriarchal traditions and God no longer wanted to use this way, namely, that when corruption arose, he would subsequently repeat, restore, and preserve through new and special revelations the purity of that doctrine which from the beginning of the world had been revealed and transmitted to the patriarchs. I say it is worthy of observation what other way He Himself instituted and showed at the time of Moses, namely that by means of writings, approved and confirmed by divine authority and testimony the purity of the heavenly doctrine should be propagated and preserved, in order that, when questions or controversy should arise about the old, genuine, and pure teaching of the patriarchs, new and special revelations might not always have to be sought and looked for.
"This history must be diligently considered. It will profitably clear up and simplify the present controversy concerning the Holy Scripture by showing how the Scripture itself began. History shows-and I think this must be noted especially-that God not only instituted this way and method of preserving and retaining the purity of the heavenly doctrine by means of the divinely inspired Scriptures but that He also by his own act and example initiated, dedicated, and consecrated that way and method when He Himself first wrote the words of the Decalogue. Therefore, the first beginning of the Holy Scripture must have God Himself as the author." 

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, 1.51-52
Exodus 31:1-18

The LORD said to Moses, "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do."
And the LORD said to Moses, "You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'"
And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.  
Lord Jesus, You are the Word made flesh, write on the tablets of our hearts Your love for us by setting among us preachers who proclaim what You have seen fit to dictate to the prophets and the apostles. Amen.
For Michael Koutsodontis, that he would grow in health and strength as a gift from his Creator
For all those who are ignoring the written Word of God, while waiting for direct illumination, that they would be converted to the faith that hears the Word of God and keeps it
For all those suffering under natural disasters, that they would find the relief they need for both their bodies and souls
For all who do not gather with the church, that those who are neglectful would be called back to the compassion of God in preaching and sacraments
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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