Egypt held to a pagan narrative of creation. In this, humanity was made as slaves for the ease of the gods. Creation was formed in the process of war, the victorious god emerging over the new world order. To maintain this war machine, the pagan state (the priestly image bearers of the gods) ran an economy of oppression, which even further escalated the cycle of conflict. The Exodus stamped on the world again the biblical creation narrative of Sabbath. God would give his creation rest through justice, Jubilee, the release of the slave, the forgiveness of debt, care for the poor, and care for the stranger.
To achieve this justice, the centralisation of government and its war machine would be broken down, to allow resources to be used for the wellbeing of humanity in general. Instead of monopoly, there would be sharing. The Wilderness wanderings were initial lessons in this new world. The old world ran on an “anxiety of lack,” where empires grew by hoarding resources. The new world would run instead on trust in the God who creates ex-nihilo, who provides for us as we care for each other, like Jesus did with the loaves and fish. This throws the technocrats, who insist on their own reasoning. In the Wilderness, those who hoarded manna grew maggots, not just in their riches, but in their souls, in their relationships, producing again an economy of war. This was Israel’s history. Jesus personified these teachings in his own life and ministry. Sabbath (community care), not an individualised economy of bigger barns.
The tabernacle was established in the Wilderness, God’s rule re-entering the creation. The tabernacle was a united heaven/ earth cosmos, like the Garden of Eden. It is the entry point of heaven into earth. Heaven, in Hebrew text, more exactly refers to the rule of God, not focusing on a place you go to when you die. The latter is a Greek concept, where we push heaven away, while we rule earth without calling on God’s government of peace. In the Wilderness, the tabernacle was where the two parts of one creation came together for wholeness. And the spirit of the Torah, later fully seen in the person of Christ, was Israel’s wisdom, showing what happens when God’s kingdom comes. “Your kingdom come, your will (a rule of Sabbath/ Jubilee restoration) be done on earth, as in heaven.”
Throughout the scripture, this is the eschatological vision: one God, meaning one rule between heaven and the whole of his creation. As Isaiah said, “The glory of the Lord shall fill the earth.” This glory is God’s neighbourly care (his weakness), suffering for the other, even for the enemy, as in his cross. This glory will fill his creation, through his temple, which is his church. It displaces the rule of Rome, and today’s inhumane dictatorships, with voluntary, from the heart, caring, restoring and community wholeness. The problem with economic elites today, trying to mimic “community” with draconian measures, is their hypocrisy. Their real purpose is exploitation. God’s rule does not come by compulsion, or social coercion. His community is voluntary, nonpartisan, from a renewed heart. Genuine community is built out of real restoration, which comes by removing injustice. It comes by divesting monopoly power into free local government. This is how God rules. Sharing this justice with each other heals the soul of the person and of the society. This is the vision of the Old Testament Prophets.
The tabernacle was set up in the Wilderness with God’s people encamped around it in their tents, according to their tribes. Here is a beautiful image of global government. There were the local tribes, and their wider relationships together. This is partly what Jesus was referring to, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places.” This was taken from Israel’s temple imagery: free communities sharing love across their borders. This is the “Father’s house.” Today, we have conflict between the ideas of “globalism” and “nationalism,” because of the lack of balance. Globalism exploits, centralises, and controls. Nationalism scapegoats and casts out those different, as non-humans. The depiction of Israel’s tribes around the tabernacle shows a decentralised local democracy, but a family connection of care between the global communities. It depicts a new creation, a new world, a decentralised global community.
This local autonomy with global caring relationships is the “good globalism” God’s kingdom brings, rather than a dictatorial globalism, as is emerging today. In the current world order, nations that don’t agree are brought down and decimated, and millions of helpless people are made refugees. Other nations are raped of resources, again bringing war and human displacement on massive scales. The current world order resembles the Roman Empire in this way. In God’s rule, Sabbath care is localised, producing genuine democracy. Free societies then reach out across their borders and serve each other. Being free, we then use that freedom to serve, recognising our solidarity with others in one creation, and in the church’s case, a common redemption we seek to draw others into. This is the church’s witness and call, rather than joining with the leading political power of the day.
We know that the tabernacle images this wider picture of the cosmos, the whole world, because this is the Spirit’s witness in John’s Revelation: creation fulfilled. There is no particular social or economic theory that can achieve this, and no elected government with their promises. Only justice, which we must learn to give each other as our priority in relationships. This justice, which the Holy Spirit brings into our hearts, not the promises of technocracy, is “our hope of glory,” of local and global renewal, which Paul said we wait for by faith. There is so much more we could say here, like Paul’s view of a creation in corruption being set free. Paul spoke of creation in bondage to corrupted powers, and a church suffering as God’s true image bearers, revealing his redeeming, and serving love.
So we aim for the right form of globalism. When globalism is centralised in governmental or economic power it becomes corrupted and dehumanises the world. One reaction is local populism, pinning its hope to nationalist movements. But right-wing nationalists aren’t famous for democracy. They tend to bring nations into the grip of their power, “to protect us against outside enemies.” The issue is the corruption of the global 1%. These 1% dress as left wing “philanthropists.” But their rising global control reveals a right-wing fanaticism, impinging on free speech, with an overbearing influence on “local democracies.” Populism was mocked by the right wing in the days of Rockefeller’s oil monopoly. “Deplorables” was a term used by the right-wing and technocratic elite to dehumanise common folk. Instead of hitching its wagon to nationalism, a populism is needed that respects local regions and nations everywhere, with the goal of growing mutual support, without central control. It’s like the farming example above. Diverse integration builds the ecosystem for us all, but the system belongs to God, to no one else.
Institutions like the United Nations have served us well since WWII. They have kept the extreme right wing from disintegrating Europe and the globe. But in recent years they have been more infiltrated by commercial interests, by the huge cash reserves of the private sector. The extreme right wing is taking over in philanthropic disguise, especially using environmentalism and pandemics to “Reset” the global economy even more. The UN has roots in Isaiah’s new creation imagery, in Jesus’ call to reconciliating relationships, and in the “no Jew, no Greek” ethic of the gospel. Institutions like this need to be returned to their true global service. The UN, the European Union, and an African Union, are good for cooperation, but not to enforce compliance. Nations should operate true federalism, allowing local democracies to govern within. Local communities should not even be compelled to go to war for the nation. The “deep state” must be reversed.
The “deep state” means power is taken away from local communities and concentrated in a nation’s capital. We may favour central control – an overreach of the national constitution into local affairs, sometimes to maintain justice in local regions – but the risks this poses to an abuse of power far outweighs the benefits. This is the risk the founders of modern democracies sought to avert. Using local despotism as an excuse for central power is highly dubious. NATO’s overthrow of Gadhafi (as an act of international corruption), did immeasurably more harm than Gadhafi ever could have. Millions of people are still paying today for this global abuse of power.
Central government also makes it much easier for money to influence global policy. How does a company like Microsoft keep growing? If it could bring a digital revolution to global agriculture, education, banking, cash, health, food, vaccine certificates (and to every other sector), then Microsoft’s profit would be unlimited. How can Microsoft get access to mould these new markets in its favour, ahead of the competition? Through having access to public institutions of policy making. How can it have access to these? Through “philanthropy,” by claiming that its new initiates are public services. As monopolies grow in this manner, their influence in the government sector grows. It is a government takeover, neo-aristocracy, plutocracy, neo-feudalism. All the good work of Evangelicals of old undone, who fought to limit and balance power. Thank God, it can be corrected.
The building of the tabernacle in the Wilderness was meant to be instructive for government. It is one aspect of the Torah that has relevance for how the kingdom of God eventually comes in the world, bringing its transformation to our lives. This theme flows through the whole of scripture, to Isaiah’s “They shall beat their swords into ploughs,” and “The fruit of justice shall be peace.” It’s a movement from the military state of Pharaoh to the Jubilee state of God. It’s the right kind of theocracy. This Jubilee is what it means to have God as our king: the king Israel rejected, wanting instead a military general, just as we do today.
Pharaoh centralised power and one purpose of the Exodus was to overthrow this. Though Joseph saved Israel, the seven-year drought brought the whole land into slavery, through “legitimate commerce.” Jubilee was unknown to this economy but was central to revealing God. God warned Israel about the commerce that recentralises power. If they made a king, he would build armed forces, take many wives, and raise taxes (not for welfare, but for his royal house and defence). This “deep state” would impoverish the nation, bringing injustice, initiating the violence that government is supposed to protect a nation from. Recentralisation would establish tribalism because local justice would fail. By the time of Solomon, Pharaonic centralism was complete, with slavery, exploitation of rural centres and paganism, from which this warped view of leadership arises. Solomon’s temple warped the vision of the Wilderness tabernacle. God decentralised wealth and power through Jubilee, Solomon gathered both to himself.
The tabernacle should be seen in this context of deliverance from Pharaoh, a new economy, nation and politic. In ancient cults, blood sacrifice and priestly clothing and services pointed to the repairing of relationships, not only with the gods, but also within society. This gave cohesion to the community. The tabernacle symbolises the reconciling principles at the heart of community, principles the Sermon on the Mount brought to life. When the god at our centre takes up his own cross and incarnates these principles in his own suffering for our Jubilee, they become even more instructive. We have gone for technology as our hope, our scientists dressed in white coats like the priests. Science can’t restore cohesion in society, when it is infected by the contagion of offence, which is far more destructive than Covid-19. Monopoly estranges humanity with injustice and cannot provide the means of reconciliation. The religious symbols of the tabernacle are important on a social and political level. In separating religion from these, we have lost its meaning and filled the social, economic, and political landscapes with individualism and estrangement, which builds hostility. The tabernacle shows that keeping justice and freedom at our centre gives us wholeness.
With Israel’s tribes camped around the tabernacle, God replaced Pharaoh at their centre. They would each be tribes, with their local portions and judges, but also live in relation to each other, for each other’s wellbeing. Their federation was based on the character of God who alone stood at their centre. No other power took this central place, only the power of the one who takes up his cross to serve his neighbour and enemy. This power of weakness is to be the kind of government that brings stability, cohesion, and peace. It is this power that holds the world together as one global people. Every other form of power divides and splinters, just as monopoly splintered the community at the Tower of Babel. Only the suffering servant brings cohesion to our global relationships and this is the power of true global government. This global government belongs only to the Christ (to no other man), who we are to follow by taking up our cross, leading by giving our lives.
As we travel through Isaiah, we see the same history and solution. One ravaging empire after another attempts to take control, for the “common good” of course, but causing destruction of humanity and the environment. The pagan kings depicted themselves as saviours of the world, delivering it from anarchy through a monopoly of power. They took titles such as “Son of God,” which meant they considered themselves to have a mandate to renew the creation. Today, empires, and now global capitalism (and its partner philanthropy), speak the same. The former uses their army to “save,” while monopoly seeking philanthropists employ new technologies that set aside natural processes in agriculture and health. For health, instead of building local rejuvenation, which is the source of nutrition, we are given vaccines and abortion, and pharmaceutical corporations that spend more of their inordinate profits on enriching themselves than on developing genuinely helpful medicines. It’s the same ancient empire in disguise. In the midst of this ancient greed, Isaiah foresaw a new king emerging, humbly in contrast, and with the mission to bring new creation by restoring the weak: not by building for himself new patents, to push others out of markets. When patents are built, locals go out of business. Local economies everywhere die.
“A king and his leaders will rule with justice. They will be a place of safety from stormy winds, a stream in the desert, and a rock that gives shade from the heat of the sun.” This is allegorical of care for the weak, but also literal in restoring local environment, building the local economic systems that enable freedom and flourishment. Monopolies cut off choice and enslave people in narrow paths of life, solutions, and opportunity. Jesus frees us into diversity, to prosper from our work together at a local level. And from this flows the rest of the prophecies of Isaiah, about restored natural environment, forests, and farms flourishing. And from this, peace builds in interethnic relationships. “Neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Large empires aren’t the cause of all our woes. Caesar claimed he was saving the world from local crime and anarchy. The USA claims to be the world’s police. We often invest our lot with such powers to prevent persecution against the church. Jesus knew how politically messy this could become and his answer for persecution was to use it as the light of God’s kingdom, through forgiving and loving our enemies. Especially with the advent of modern science and the security it can bring, we have become more adverse to risk and suffering. Take the recent Covid-19 outbreak for example and the way fear of sickness so quickly overcomes and rules the world. This is bondage of another kind. When the Boko Haram terrorists were taking large parts of Nigeria, America offered to intervene with drone attacks. For our own part, we had to say no. The answer was to build relationships at community level. This is our security, not a global police force splintering community. It is often the same with disease. Separating socially in fear increases our immune dysfunctions. Drawing together and overcoming the disease with caring treatment defeats it. Building community relationship ecosystems, and nutritional ecosystems, are investments against fear. They are not quick or cost-free solutions. They require we take up our cross. But they give us greater immunity against contagions, be they social or disease-causing microbes.
Monopoly isn’t the totality of corruption. We will still have corruption in businesses without monopolies. But monopoly does extend corruption’s capacity to bring large sectors of the world under its economic, social, and political control. In the recent Covid-19 event, philanthropists have controlled the World Health Organisation and its policies in many nations. Philanthropists fly into poor nations with large amounts of money, securing government policy and markets. They control the media to ensure the right story is being told. The poor in these nations have no voice. The Covid-19 event has brought millions more people under the poverty line, while increasing the stocks of the richest people by trillions, with few deaths in many of these nations from Covod-19. Experts who protest are silenced and dismissed from their positions. Expensive ineffective drugs are being pushed, while effective cheap drugs are campaigned against. This permits a story line that claims that a series of vaccines is the only hope. These vaccines are already generating billions in presales revenue. This whole event is a monopolist takeover spurred on by fear and intimidation. While monopolies aren’t the only source of corruption, they can “sanitise” it through influence in “research” and the press. We can witness by refusing fear and intimidation, speaking the truth in love.
An appeal was made to the “common good” to get people to stay at home, social distance, or wear masks. The data from the pandemic across nations, for any of these measures, did not show this had any positive impact. People questioned whether this was an overcontrol by governments, or whether encouraged by monopolists for market purposes. With the rise of new digital markets, especially with the advent of the 5G digital network, the private sector has a lot to gain from a “new normal.” It’s difficult to be certain about motives in any event, but there is no doubt here about the financial incentives we are dealing with. 5G will usher us into an entirely new world, with everyone connected into an online existence. There is good reason to be concerned about this and to ensure that such technology is properly regulated by transparent and democratic systems. The way things are going now, there will be no democratic control over this global business network. Social controls often appeal to the “common good” to give people a sense of needing to comply. All dictatorships adopt this claim. If people refuse corona vaccines, they will be called selfish for not helping with herd immunity. But the answer is simple: fix the rampant corruption, establish transparency and accountability, get rid of the conflicts of interests, establish true science. When Israelites collected more mana than they should have, it was greed that drove them. The “common good” for Moses was true justice, all truly being “in it together,” not difference for the elite.
We already live in a world where many things are controlled by a few corporations. The top ten companies in the world not only control a massive portion of the global financial value, but their connections into other corporations increases their financial control beyond that of any government. They can bring down governments almost anywhere by capital movements in and out of nations. The day when a government could control its own economic policies has long gone for most nations. Five companies, which work together in their social and political values, control most of our communication. They can say how and when we communicate. They can sensor at will. While there may be merit in this technology, the way in which it is being controlled is not in our interests. These companies need to be broken up. This technology must be controlled by the people, by governments who are elected by the people, so this technology doesn’t control us. When the financial incentives are so massive, the democratic regulations must be rigorous. Like many commentators in the industry have said, “We are sleep walking into a future we know nothing about.”
The prophet Ezekiel gave a beautiful description of the new creation, through a transformed Israel renewing the world. Many in ancient times, as well as today, have mistaken this for a political Israel, like David or Solomon’s Israel, which God would again exalt above the other nations. They thought this is how they would overcome the kind of paganism we have been speaking about here, the greed destroying lives and environment globally. But instead, God’s plan was to overcome this greed in Israel’s own heart. This is where the paganism would at first be transformed, by a non-political Messiah, by his death and resurrection. He would teach Israel to love and bless their enemies, just as God had done for them. This is the transformation.
Ezekiel was written in apocalyptic language, meaning it is symbolic. Ezekiel saw a vision of a new temple, which depicted Israel’s renewed fellowship, their new hearts, out of which would flow blessing to the entire world. And he spoke of their return from captivity in Babylon into their land, and also adding the promise that God would return to his temple in the earth. This he did on the Day of Pentecost. The wind and flames were temple imagery of the return of God’s presence to the centre of their lives and renewed political relationships. He was making all tribes, not just the tribes of Israel, but the tribes of all creation to be his tabernacle, for God’s love to inhabit the centre of our new one-table relationships.
This apocalyptic text continues, showing that after God had brought Israel to peace, their enemies would come down upon them to take their properties. This is the peace Paul described in Ephesians, between themselves and God and between themselves and their gentile neighbours. It isn’t peace in natural circumstances, but the peace of love, of being God’s people together. The apocalyptic nature of the Ezekiel text symbolises these new relationships, which eventually do transform the creation. Like Paul said in Romans 8, the children of God (the peacemakers) bring deliverance to all creation, even through times of persecution. Those who come against the renewed people of God in Ezekiel are called Gog and Magog. These were mercenary tribes at Ezekiel’s time, who joined ruling powers to plunder vulnerable people. This was what the elite of Jeruslem did: they rode upon the back of the beast of Rome to kill and plunder the early church.
The final vision of Ezekiel is of the renewed tabernacle of God. The tribes of Israel were encamped around the temple, like they were in the Wilderness. This is symbolic of the whole of creation, where people live in harmony with local democracy and fulfilment, but also in loving relationships with all the others. There is no coercion nor taking away of the properties of others. There is no empire and no monopoly. I have never seen a more beautiful depiction of the new creation, or the environment and community being revitalized by people first being given a new heart. We see this same vision at the end of John’s Revelation: God inhabits the earth at the centre of a new global community of life, with no more oppression.
The politics of God is neither dictatorship nor is his economy a monopoly. When we say “democracy,” we don’t necessarily mean what we call democracy today. We mean local respect for life, for creation, without the external rule of a centralising power. And then local communities, being free, reach out in respect and service towards other local communities. And this is how communities in the global world relate, share, and mix together. It’s a world of freedom, because the lust for self that came in the fall in the Garden of Eden has been swallowed up by new life.
Some say this is idealistic, that this pertains to life after the resurrection, and that today we must intertwine ourselves with earthly powers to make the best of things. This has been the view generally since the days of Constantine. Before that, the church saw themselves as Isaiah’s people of peace, ambassadors, bringing into the world the culture of the resurrection, as those for whom this new culture had already dawned in our hearts. The church was the witness of the world to come, living that today, which kingdom is from above, and is coming now through our lives into this world of darkness. Of course, this requires a difference. Fence sitting won’t do. Giving this witness to corruption will ensure persecution: being carried out of the camp like Jesus, mocked and often illtreated. But again, this is the church Paul described in Romans 8: the world puts off its bondage to corruption, as the children of God are overcoming persecution through the faithful love of God.
A politics of democracy! It’s not so much the details by how things are done, the bylaws and methods we follow, but the outcome. Is it building local freedom and restoration into community lives, or is it taking away their humanity and economic ability to flourish? Moses was a transition between the dictatorship of Pharaoh and the local oversight of judges, in local community. Moses set up a free state, where people live in local autonomy, in relationship to other communities as sisters and brothers. This is the kind of government and community we are seeking to build, not the passing on of an aristocracy, a royal lineage of succeeding rule, that holds the common folk in bondage. God’s leaders allow God to rule his people from their hearts.