You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you.Deu 6:17
A testimony is just like a prophecy. Prophecy either shows us our future or changes our present. Just look at Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Accepting it as Jesus’ personal work just for you changes your life, drastically – no doubt. The life account of Jesus is brought to us by the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and countless other people. Just think back to the first time you heard about Jesus. Even if it is right now – I’m but giving you a testimony of his goodness and greatness.
Throughout the old testament we read of altars or heaps of stones built to remember what God has done. Abraham had a custom of building those altars, so he and others would know. Or think of Eben Ezer, the altar that Joshua had built. Its name means: God has helped so far. And it denotes: why should he stop now? Because the bible tells us that he does not change – why should he stop doing what he used to do?
That is how testimonies change our present and speak into our future, even show us our future. We derive from God’s dealings in the past that he still is in the wonders and helping business. That builds expectancy. Expectancy gives us another focal point on our present. Circumstances seem so much smaller. Peace in the midst of a storm is possible. Expectancy builds hope and faith. And faith builds our future. Faith lets us speak words full of God, lets us dream big, lets us use these logos as legos, these words as building blocks for our future. The testimonies of our past are the building material of the inroad for God into our present and future.
That is why God commanded Israel several times throughout the old testament to keep not only his commandment and statutes, but also his testimonies. To keep up their believer.
Many translations use different words, even though according to Strong’s it is clear: edut (h5715) means testimony, witness, from ed (h5707), a witness. Most modern bibles use decrees, rules, instructions instead. The Torah, the five books of Moses, are so much more than commandments, rules, instructions, and statutes. True, we know the ten commandments, we know there are many more laws. And there are tons of instructions. But if that were all there is, we’ld miss out on Genesis as much as the story of Israel’s exodus and journey through the desert. Those are testimonies of the dealings and the greatness of God.
Maybe our sole focus on the right and wrong, the commandments, the rules – crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s – our understanding of the bible of a “how to”-guide, how to get brownie points with God is
- why we are not a great testimony for people.
- the reason people believe Christianity to take the fun out of life, because everything is forbidden.
One thing we ought not forget: Jesus fulfilled all commandments. With the new covenant, they are no longer set in stone, but written on our hearts. What does that mean? God gave us the desires of our hearts, especially to have communion with him. It became a desire of our hearts to live a life pleasing to him, or even better:
That you might come to share in God’s nature.2Pet 1:4b
Even the psalmist saw this principle
Thy testimonies are wonderful; Therefore doth my soul keep them.Ps 119:129
He not only gives you the strength to become like him – he has done it all for you on the cross. He now leads you into a process of believing. Believing his finished work, unveiling your true self. The commandment and statute part therefore becomes desire instead of limitation, a want instead of a must. Caused by the Holy Spirit within us, who is the law written on our hearts. And with a prize set before us: the revelation of Christ, including our true self, within and through us.
But what about the testimonies? We saw that testimonies build expectancy and faith. In the old testament we can see what happens when we forget to testify. Just read the book of Judges. A judge was given by God to solve a situation in Israel. He ruled for some time, but then his dealings were forgotten, and within 40 years, within a generation, Israel was back where they were before: in trouble. But God in his grace did it again. Only for them to forget it again. The older generation did not testify to their children, the younger did not honor the testimony of the fathers.
A short formula: the less I talk about the wonders of God, the less I expect him to perform wonders now, the less he has an opportunity to come through in our lives, the less I have to talk about. A vicious circle.
About statutes. One of the areas of discussion in Christendom is what statutes we still have to keep in the new covenant. We can agree that the statutes – that is the way law is put into practice, or short, how things are done – concerning the old priestly order, the order of Levi are passed, as we now live under a new order, the order of Melchizedek, with Jesus as our high priest. What were some of these old statutes? Let’s name a few.
The arc of the covenant had to be behind the curtain in the holy of holies. And only the high priest was to go in there once a year.
But let’s have a look on the Tabernacle of David. Clearly in the old testament, under the law – after Moses and before Christ – it gives us a very different picture. A tent, with rolled up sides, at the highest point of Jerusalem, visible for everybody, it displayed the arc of covenant freely for everybody that looked up. And priests were worshipping 24/7/365 right in front of the arc of covenant. Instead of blood they brought worship.
A wonderful display of new testament statutes at a time Jesus was not even born. David, a man after God’s heart, that had pretty much broken every commandment there is, that had violated many statutes, was allowed to live in the future. Why? The testimony of God he carried in his heart produced an intimate love relationship with his father in heaven and allowed him to draw the future into his present. What a testimony!
David therefore influenced the course of history, God’s overall plan. That does seem to violate God’s sovereignty. But I think we have a very limited view of God’s sovereignty. God is so sovereign that he wrote your influence, your impact into his plan. He not only did that, but he wants you to participate in his plan. Actively. Creatively. He wants you to become like him, to think like him, to be his son, so he can do your will. What kind of a father would he be if it was all about his will. That is more the definition of a puppet master, isn’t it?
Could it be that God gives less about our measuring up concerning his statutes and commands than about a living, intimate relationship with us? I think that is exactly what it is all about.
But I can hear you say: I am quite ashamed of my past. My testimonies are filled with faults and misses. So many times I missed to perform what God wanted me to do, so many times I failed following his commandments and statutes. (The latter by now should have taken care of.) Let me give you a verse to help you:
And thou shalt put the mercy-seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.Ex 26:34
The arc of covenant is called arc of testimony here. It contains the testimonies of God’s great wonders – his provision, his interaction with man, his choosing us. The mercy seat, that was sprinkled with the blood of forgiveness yearly, is put on top of it in the holy of holies. New testament: all your testimonies are in the treasure chest of the new covenant, and they are cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus in the center of your relationship, your holy of holies, your heart, your spirit.
You do not have to hide because you have lived a blameless live. Learn from errors, but do not condemn yourself because of them. You are the only one doing so – at least between you and God.
OK, let’s wrap this up:
The testimonies of God’s dealings in the past and in your life, not depending on your perfection, but on God’s grace and greatness, give you the hunger and thirst, the expectancy and faith to change your present and to draw on your future.
God has done great things in the past. Therefore dream big.