We’ve already discussed the importance of theocracy, something that is once again in focus as we consider Israel’s occupation of the land. At this point, however, it is also worth giving special consideration to the way that this theocratic theme traces throughout the biblical story. In that vein, we have already mentioned some of the notable similarities between Eden and Canaan. In both of these geo-dimensioned period’s of God’s rule, there are a few distinct and overlapping features. Among the first of these is that there is no obvious distinction between kingdom and culture. Strictly speaking, of course, there is always a measure of distinction between these spheres. During a theocracy, however, there is always a distinct and complete overlap. Put simply, everything from worship to garden-keeping is properly considered kingdom business.
This is all fundamentally different to kingdom business in our own day. As the church (on mission) we know, on the one hand, that we must engage with culture. On the other hand, we know also that the culture is not the kingdom. At best, we interact with a culture of common grace, neither holy nor profane. At worst, we encounter elements within culture that are unbelieving and God-opposing.
Of course, there is much more to be said about contemporary culture and it’s preservation under common grace. For the moment, however, as we come to this part of the Biblical story (Israel in Canaan), we simply want to draw our attention to a simple truth: As Israel moved into the land, they operated under a different rubric to that which they had done before–no longer was there to be a distinction between the sacred and the secular.
In the next post we will talk about why this is directly significant to our mission and cultural engagement. But for now, allow me to summarize this vital moment in redemptive history through the means of a quote by Jason Stellman;
“The distinctiveness and particularity that the Abrahamic covenant had provided for God’s people in the cultic realm now was extended to the cultural realm as well. God’s people were a holy theocracy once again, and because of their all-encompassing distinctiveness, they were forbidden from engaging in cultural, common-grace activities. …Thus, under the Mosaic economy, the people of Israel found themselves in a situation similar to that of Adam in the garden— God’s kingdom, of which they were subjects, now had an earthly realm and a geopolitical dimension, within which no divergence from Yahweh’s kingdom ethic was tolerated. Like Adam but unlike the patriarchs, the people of Israel under the Mosaic covenant were both culturally and religiously distinct from all other nations on the earth.”
- Stellman, Jason J. Dual Citizens: Worship and Life between the Already and the Not Yet. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Pub., 2009. Print.