Please forgive me for a personal note to start this off. Inspiration has been more scarce since my writing stalled. Once I began…. Well, I was a bit surprised by this little tidbit of inspiration.
I have spent a fair amount of time pondering the idea of ordinances over the last several years (for example, see little post on sacrament :- ). On a recent morning walk, I was praying about how one might come to posses direct knowledge of God, rather than indirect (more on this later). I had been pondering how it is that ordinances become iterative — changing significance with progression. Some inspiration is communicated in a way that is difficult to represent with linear expression. I will attempt to explain, not knowing beforehand how this might be possible.
In the LDS perspective, there are a well-known, very specific, and numerically few ordinances. This tends to narrow our understanding. Let’s look at scripture for a broader perspective of kinds of ordinances:
- Feasts (Exodus 12:14,17)
- Passover (Exodus 12:21-43; all of it!)
- Cleansing waters of Marah (Exodus 15:23–26)
- Proscribed behaviors (Leviticus 18:26–30; Leviticus 22:4–9)
- Israel and strangers both (Numbers 9:14; Numbers 15:15)
- Blowing shofar (Numbers 10:8), and more (Ezra 3:10)
- Anointing (Numbers 18:8)
- Purification (Numbers 31:20–23)
- Covenant (Joshua 24:24–27)
- Dividing spoils of war (1 Samuel 30:21–25)
- Compounds of ordinances (2 Chronicles 2:4)
- Heaven’s ordinances (Job 38:33)
- Sun, moon, stars (Jeremiah 31:35–36)
- Heaven & earth (Jeremiah 33:25)
- Divine service (Hebrews 9:1)
- etc, etc.
The list would be substantially longer if we were to weave into this the simple fact that the Hebrew word חֻקֹּת is frequently translated as ordinance, but also translated as statute, and sometimes as custom, manner, rites, and more. Without further elaboration, the word translated into the English ordinance is much broader in the original Hebrew and Greek than in the LDS tradition, including such concepts as doctrine.
While I can’t help but wonder if anything said or done by God might be an ordinance, for the present purpose, I’d like to focus on these ordinances as seen in the life of Christ:
– Descension (condescension)
In the LDS tradition, we consider a subset of ordinances to be saving ordinances, which unless performed by proxy are intended as single life events. Looking at the above list, most might be thus categorized. Would that be correct? Certainly not for descension and ascension, we see Christ do that several times. We could claim that while there were several descensions and ascensions, there was only one DESCENSION and only one ASCENSION. But, that would be missing the point.
Let’s take a look at instances where we might find the repetition of an ordinance, even if different in form. How are these related?
- Fruit of the tree (Genesis 3:6; 1 Nephi 8:10–18)
- Bread of life (John 6:33–51; Alma 5:34) & living bread/flesh (John 6:51–56)
- Feeding of the 5000
- Feeding of the 4000
- Feeding the disciples (John 21:13)
- Feeding of the “Nephite” survivors, day 1.
- Feeding of the “Nephite” survivors, day 2.
- Manna in the wilderness
- Feeding “angels” (Genesis 18:3–8)
- The last supper
- The wedding feast
- Turning water to wine
- All the Law of Moses feasts/festivals
- The first temptation (Matthew 4:3)
- The prodigal son (Luke 15:16–17)
- Dogs eating crumbs (Matthew 15:27)
- Sharing the sop (John 13:26–30)
Are these simply similar metaphors, or is there a fundamental ordinance that ties them together, an ordinance of which they are types and/or precursors. Of particular note are those in which Christ “participates.”
We could explore and find similarities between the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the resurrection, along with all the healing. We could see similarities between Christ raising Peter from the tempestuous sea and baptism (not to mention baptism and resurrection; Noah; Moses floating in a basket; Moses leading Israel through the Red Sea; Jonas). All ordinances?
Was the first temptation an attempt by Satan to get Christ to perform an ordinance (yes, with all the ties to Talmage et.al.)?
Were some of these ordinances preparatory to other “similar” ordinances for the Savior?
Are Christ’s atonement, resurrection, and ascension “saving ordinances?” How could they not be? What about His election, creation, descension (birth), baptism, anointing…?
If Christ’s life was filled with a wide variety of ordinances, is that an example for us?
How do we interpret the distinction between those ordinances He receives as compared to those He “performs?”