Summary: Number 4 in a series looking at the imagery in the modern Hymn These are the days of Elijah, looking at Moses restoring rigtheousness and what it means for revival today.
I want to start this morning by using a quote from a Methodist.
When you work around the church a while it comes quite naturally, the laughter of cynical disbelief. In 1986 the United Methodist General Conference, on the last day of two weeks of meetings, passed a resolution that said we were going to make 9 million new United Methodists by about 1994--this in a denomination that had been losing about 65,000 members every year since the early seventies. Nine million new United Methodists! Well, I laughed. I thought, Isn’t this typical! We don’t want to do the systemic changes in our church that would enable us to reach out and get new people. This is just window dressing, sloganeering, platitudes. We aren’t serious about it; it’s just more guilt to lay on pastors’ backs!
I went home and wrote an article, "My Dog the Methodist." In it I argued that there was no way in heaven we were going to make 9 million new Methodists unless we started baptizing dogs. And I offered as a fit recipient for the sacrament of baptism my mixed-breed terrier sleeping in my garage.
I said, "This dog, as far as I know, has shown no interest in biblical studies. Therefore, it would make a perfect Methodist." I also said, "This dog has the sexual ethics of some members of my former congregations."
I laughed. When the article came out in The Christian Century, not everybody laughed. The magazine lost about four subscriptions, and two Methodist bishops have not spoken to me since. But I was serious. The cynicism behind that move! We don’t intend to really change the way we would have to change to be that kind of church. I laughed.
At the last district assembly, we heard from one of our General Superintendants who wanted to set a goal of doubling in size in the next 10 years. Our district adopted this goal. Our church has adopted this goal. But how are we to do this. In an effort to avoid having to make our dogs into Nazarenes we’ve been looking at the song “These are the days of Elijah” and at some of the imagery that makes up that song to see ways of bringing about this revival. This morning / evening its the turn of the lines “And these are the days of Your servant Moses, Righteousness being restored.” In one sense this is a very important line in the song, because its one of those lines that kind of sums up what the whole song is about. The song is all about this being the time of God’s restoration. The time when God moves as he does in the past, to effect his purposes in the world. In this songs lie some of the Biblical clues to revival. We have already looked at the days of Elijah speaking about our boldness in asserting Biblical truth but holding out the hope of repentance and forgiveness. We have looked at John the Baptist who very much speaks about the true nature of repentance, not merely saying sorry, but who also holds out the great promise of acceptance and forgiveness from God when this done. Now we look at Moses and righteousness being restored. It is not only about God moving to save people but about God moving to restore righteousness amongst his people. We will discover that the two go hand in hand. There is no revival of salvation amongst the lost until there is a revival of righteousness amongst the people of God.
However, this is not only a key section for song it is also a highly problematic one that makes me wonder if Robin Mark, the song writer, really knew what he was doing when he was writing this hymn. There is something to be said for having theologians write hymns, like Charles Wesley. However, there are a few theologians I know who should definitely not write hymns, its hard enough trying to make sense of their writing when its prose never mind if they tried to write poetry. Anyway there are at least two problems with this little part of the song.
Problem number 1: what was Moses restoring? Well the song says it is righteousness. But how can this be. He was the one God gave the law to. He was the one who introduced the idea of righteousness to the Israelites. It was true that God spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and these stories must have been passed down to the people of Israel, even while they were in slavery in Egypt. How do we know this, well because God is introduced as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Also we have stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob these stories must have come from somewhere. However, if you look at the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob you will see that there is not a lot of ethical teaching there. OK, so there’s one or two points here and there, but for the most part, God just told them to follow him, go here or there, to worship him alone and to trust in his promises.