Session 15: The Law
The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. "Do not go about spreading slander among your people. 'Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the Lord . 'Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord . 'Keep my decrees..." Leviticus 19:1-2, 16-19
Main passages, Exodus 19-24; Leviticus 19; 24-25. Key verses: 19:1-2, 16-19 (also the theme of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
Timeline, about 1500 BC . During the time of the early Israelites, the areas were ruled by Egypt and the Pharaohs, the great ancient cities are built, and the Iron Age is.
Key personalities: Moses, Aaron and two million Israelites
God is calling the Israelites to be a Kingdom of priests and a Holy Nation--His people in a healthy effectual community, to be reverent to His Holiness to know God, His plan and precepts. Now, after The Ten Commandments, God's gives His personal 'apodictic' law as the foundation, and we have an expanded content of Who God is, His moral law (or said as 'case law" as in the applications). These point to His Supremacy, will, how He is to be worshiped, and the response of duty of what is necessary for life and effective living. These are not suggestions or in the abstract. They are firm rules to lead a healthy and vibrant life that glorifies God and shows Him to the world. When the Israelites followed them, they prospered; when they did not, they fell to sin and occupations and war. In the Middle Ages, it protected them from the plague and kept them together as a people group that honors God for over 3,500 years. No other people have come close.
This is the Law that contains the instructions and precepts of Moses, such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Law is "God's law" and is the expression of His sovereign will and character, how we are to know and approach Him and then live for Him. Do not lie, do not deceive, slander, hate, hold grudges, take revenge; do not sleep around. Instead, we are to love--help each other out--and have better relationships and point others to God. The writings of Moses contain a lot of Law. God provided the Jews with many laws (619 or so). These laws defined the proper relationship with God, to one another, and with the world (the alien), as well as for worshipping God, governing the people, priestly duties, what to eat and not eat, how to build the temple, proper behavior, manners, and social interaction. The Ten Commandments are often known as "The Law;" so are Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In the New Testament, the "Sermon on the Mount" is considered law and the fulfillment of the law, and Paul's later text in the New Testament calls to the Church are law in their literature form (Ex. 19; Rom. 7).
Key Happenings: We are to Honor our LORD God!
Is this important? Yes. Yet, most Christians have a distorted view of the Law and think it does not apply to us. Yet, Jesus repeated and affirmed the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses. The Law points to our depravity and need for a Savior. Without the Law, there would be no realizing our sinful nature and our relationship to God or need for Christ to save us. Christ fulfills the Law. We are not bound to its curse, but we must acknowledge its role in our lives as the pointer to the Cross and the mirror to our soul (Matt. 5:17-18; Luke. 24: 44; John. 8: 29, 55; Gal. 3:10-13; 5:3).
What does the Law do for the non-Christian? It shows God's Holiness and their need from Him. The Law helps us understand sin and our need for a Redeemer.
Moses gives them the Law, to educate the people of God on the essentials of His Holiness and precepts. The Law shows us how to come before God with humbleness, know Him and make Him known. They are shown how to live a great life of health and wealth, if they just follow His commands, from living right, healthy eating, wise relationships, and prosperity and all from a call to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and strength.
What does the law do for the Christian? We realize Who and what we have in Christ! We need to understand God's Righteousness, as in He is absolutely Pure and Holy while we are full of heinous sin, no matter how good we try to be. God is also a God of judgment. He has the right, authority and power to judge us as His creation. And we have no excuse because God has placed this knowledge we are to have within our conscience. Thus, when we reject God and follow our own needs and ideas we are in fact inviting His wrath and judgment upon us. We cannot think or say, "Hey, I did not know," because we do know!
The Reformation and the Protestant church were founded on grace, and a lot of Christians think the law has been voided. However, this is not the teaching of Scripture (Psalm 19; 119: 9-16; Rom. 7:7-25; 8:3-4; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 3:24).
The law has three purposes according to John Calvin.
1. To be a mirror, to show us our depravity and need for a Savior while, at the same, to show us His holiness (Matt. 5:20).
2. The law is the restraint to protect good people from evil by the "dread of punishment", "to be the schoolmaster", and show God's justice to people.
3. To show us what pleases God, and what is offensive. So we know how to worship and respond to Him.
We as Christians are to love, obey, and serve Him, and the law reveals the way (John 14:15). Our freedom is redemption, which means we do not have to fear the curse or God's wrath and punishment from our mistakes so that through our justification through the blood of Our Lord and Savior we can obey Him, and His moral law (Duet. 5:1-22; 10:1214; 11:1).
Why the Bible bans those foods and has weird laws?
The bans were in place to prevent illness and contamination of others. This is what is now called Kosher, as in what is 'clean'. The laws tell how to prepare food, not have the blood in it and so forth, that will harm you and dishonor God and your family, listed primarily in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 (Exodus 21:7; Leviticus 11:6-10; 15: 19-24; 19:19-27; 20:14; 24:10-16; 25:44).
Let's take a look. Mixing different fibers creates a nasty mold that kills, and can wipe out and entire village; we do not have this problem today because we have Tide and bleach. In the 3rd world, where I work, they still have these problems. As in ancient times, bacteria forms and can cause mass epidemics that would wipe out an entire clan or people group or contaminate fields. If you boil goat milk and goat meat together without proper refrigeration, a bacteria is formed. Also, this is how the Canaanites made to honor their pagan gods. Those who are healthy do not eat what the Bible forbids, even today, why Orthodox Jews live longer and are healthier that other people groups. Thus we are not to eat rabbit (ask any bunny and they will say no), lizards, birds of prey, rats, bats, most insects, anything that is a scavenger, what most of us would agree not to eat. Even shellfish, because they are scavengers and are full of toxins and in certain times of the year are deadly. Consider, how many people get sick and die because of pork? According to USDA, over 128,000 people have to go to the emergency room and 3,000 people die a year in the USA. With our modern 'safe' pigs available here, and without modern medicine, the majority of those would have died. Many others get nasty neurological diseases. (USDA "Your Safe Food Handling" handbook, 2012), so cook your bacon extra crispy.
Basically many of the Leviticual laws were for health and safety and to prevent the people from engaging other religions and to protect the family from dysfunction and hurt. The death penalty is how important and serious this is--that what is forbidden is deadly. This is one of the reasons why the Jews are the only ancient people group still with us--because of the Law. They were not affected by plagues, because they tossed out their garbage and burned their feces away from their fresh water sources. Europeans did not, it, and it attracted rats that had diseased fleas that had disease; they killed cats because they thought they were witches, and millions of people died horrible deaths. Christians are no longer obligated to keep them, but we still must do our best due diligence to be healthy (Mark 7:19; Acts 10).
The slave laws were meant as a protection so people were not abused. All the people around them had slaves from battle plunder and indebtedness. The Israelites treated people better than any other group when they obeyed God. And most slaves when their time was done had their ear "awl" pierced as a symbol to willingly stay (Ex. 21:1-7).
Jesus summarizes the Law for the Christian under Grace.
Love for our Lord and then for our neighbor. Love always seeks the best "in" and "for" others. Love cannot exist when the opposite traits are ruling us. If we are envious, we cannot love. When we operate in love, in genuine love and not just out of obligation, we are fulfilling the law. If we operate out of duty while harboring malice in our heart and mind, all we are fulfilling is our un-repentant and un-redemptive sinful nature (Mark 12:28-31; 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 4: 7-21).
Jewish rabbis counted 613 to 619 individual laws in the Law, and endeavored to distinguish between "great" and "light" commands. Thus, Jesus was confronted with the question, which is the greatest? Jesus responds with,
Love . The Greek agapao which means a deep commitment and devotion that comes from our willingness and our realization that it is a duty (1 Cor. 13). It is also a response of our gratitude for the love God gave us (1 John 4:19-21)! Heart, soul, mind and strength, are the imperative commands that form the heart of the Law (Lev. 19:18; Duet. 6:5). The purpose is to encompass; we are to love with all we are--our entire personhood. It is not just a part, but the whole--our thoughts, behaviors, and goals, all,--referring to the entire person. This comes to us from Deuteronomy and is called the "Shema;" Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deut. 6:4). This is the Jewish "confession of faith," and sets the theme for the Jewish life and faith. This passage was memorized and recited frequently at worship services.
And the second greatest is.. . Jewish teachers often combined various commands, summarizing them into one. Jewish teachers often taught that love is paramount and covers all we are and all that we should do in life, in service to God and others. Love is who we are and who we are to be. Because God loves us, we should have the motivation to love others (Rom. 8:1-4; 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 4)!
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? The Law points to our depravity and need for a Savior. Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets; He does not dissolve them, but makes them deeper, and takes our place in obeying them.
Key Takeaway: Beware of false mindsets and misaligned agendas. Such things are contrary to God; they are not from Him, but rather from our sinful nature and evil desires! What does the Law point to? The wealth of our relationships to God and our relationships to family supersedes the world's wealth, and who we are in Christ supersedes it all. We have to realize our position and our blessings so we can have it all by getting rid of sin and what hurts our relationship with God and destroys our relationships with others.
Questions to Ponder
1. How does the Law give you hope and a sense of the reality and presence of God's Holiness working in your church and life?
2. How is our love for our neighbor a response of our gratitude for the love God gives us? Does this motivate you? Why, or why not?
3. How and why are the Ten Commandants not suggestions or abstract thought?
4. How does Jesus fulfill the Law and the Prophets? Do you need to follow these laws? Why or why not?
5. Read Mark 12:28-31, what does this say, mean and apply to your life?
6. How does the Law point to our depravity (sinful nature) and need for a Savior?
7. How is the Law a call to know God, obey His principles, and grow in Him?
8. What do you think about the 'weird' laws? How can they be used to show God's love and care to His people?
9. What can you learn about the proper relationship with God, to one another, and with the world from the Law?
10. What can you take and apply to be better at understanding God's Holiness, as well as worshipping God?
11. When the Israelites followed the Law, they prospered; when they did not, they fell to sin and occupations and war. How does this make you feel about rules and regulations?
12. What does it mean to you that God wants you to lead a healthy and vibrant life that glorifies God and shows Him to the world? What can you do with this?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org