Continuing with the theme of the Book of Life, kicked off by a consideration of the Doomsday Book, consider with me the Book of Life in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament and the Book of Life.
Many major doctrines find mention in all portions of the Bible. You will find them in the Old Testament – Books of History, Poetry and Prophecy. You will find them mentioned in the New Testament – The Gospels, Church History and Epistles..
The Book of Life is one of those major doctrines mentioned all through the Bible..
The “Book of life” is a Jewish term and refers to the ancient and continued practice of listing the names of those living in the army or as a part of a population. When an individual died their name is removed from the Book of the Living, the Book of Life..
The Book of Life brings out several Scriptural themes:.
- Assurance of Salvation
- Deliverance from Judgment
- Sanctification from Sin
- Association with God.
Our first passage to consider is Exodus 32:22. I believe it is the first mention of the Book of Life in the Scriptures.
Exodus 32:22 – Moses and the Book of Life
This section of Exodus records a dark day in Israel’s history, but it is also indicative of the way Israel would often behave. Moses went up the mount to receive the Ten Commandments and in his absence the people demand that Aaron make them a god, like the ones they had in Egypt. So, the golden calf is made out of the gold they were given in Egypt. As a side note, it is amazing how we can often take what God has blessed us with to use for good but instead use it to hurt Him and others..
Once Moses is aware of the people’s sin he repents, he recognises the sin of society. His repentance is admirable. Like many of the old prophets he does not disassociate himself from the people, but rather his love for them compels him to stand among them and plead for forgiveness. His life, though ultimately surrendered to God, was bound up in the people God had sent him to..
Such was Moses’ love for the people that he offered to give them his place in the book of Life:
31 Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
No doubt Moses’ love for the people, amongst other characteristics, is what gave him such power with God and with the people. Love will go further and cause more lasting change than anger or coercion ever could..
Other prophets loved Israel, such as Jeremiah, but I think the closest example I could draw to Moses’ love is from the New Testament. In Romans 9:3 Paul cries out,
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
So what can we learn of the Book of Life from this passage?.
First of all, its antiquity. Later we will see how ancient this book is, but Moses spoke of it being written before his time. In fact, Moses says it has already been written, it was complete before Moses’ day. The fact that the Book of Life is already complete is an important truth to which we will return..
It also speaks to us of assurance. There are names written in the Book, according to God’s foreknowledge, and so in a sense there is assurance and confidence of our standing before God. If we come to God for salvation He will forgive us for Christ’s sake. And once He saves us He will keep us..
There is also the element of personal responsibility and accountability. Moses offered to surrender his place in the Book, but God declared that the sinner himself would be blotted out. We are all accountable for our own actions AND reactions. Other people may help or hinder us, but ultimately we must make our own choices and it is for those that God will judge us..
It is a beautiful imagery to me that Christ would take His righteousness and place it in our account so that we could be saved if we repent and put our trust in Him. He took our sins and He bore our shame. I could put it no better than by quoting 2 Corinthians 5:21,
For he [God the Father] hath made him [God the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [God the Son].
Only the Sinless Son of God could take the place of sinners and secure a place for them in the Book of Life..
So in closing consider these questions depending on your standing before God..
Is your name in the Book? Have you taken responsibility for your actions and admitted to God you are a sinner in need of salvation?.
If your name is in the Book then what is your love like for the lost? Do you have an enduring, continual burden for those outside of Christ? A missionary is often one called to love a different people in a different place to the people with whom he grew up and the place he used to call home. But every Christian is planted somewhere. Do you love the people around you? Is it such a love that almost hurts because you see so many going out into a Christless eternity? If so, what are you doing about it?