“Bind them… fix them,” Deuteronomy 6:8’s call to a veneration of the actual written word of God was consistent with other common religious practices in the ancient near east. Moreover, the pious act was voluntary.

By contrast, the mark of the beast is a mandatory, state-decreed identifier.

Both emblems are concrete, with real-world implications. Likewise, evangelical piety must not be a pious pretense (i.e., “spiritual”) but the actual working out of the implications of loving God and hating evil. Too often piety is the place where the implications of believing go to die.

The success of the evangelical faith depends on making the abstract concrete. For the Israelites, this took the form of binding God’s word “as a sign on your hand, fix[ing] them as an emblem on your forehead.” For us it is word and sacrament.

But these pieties can become fallacies when we ascribe fixed and unending importance to them, making them a means of mediation, much as the temple had become for the Jews by the time of Jesus. Because they had stopped working out the implications of the temple, they could not recognize God’s true temple when He dwelt among them.

The pious act is not itself the implication of loving God and hating evil, only the representation of it. The finality of Christ’s atonement undermines the claims of any other mediator, be it temple, priesthood, and even church. Other mediators leave people conscious-stricken. Christ leaves our consciences clean.

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