I think most Christians don’t know what to do with the Law, by that I mean that we often speak about the regulations given to Abraham by God as if they are defective and somehow not good. The Law is full of things that we don’t get – when do you do this kill this animal this way, don’t mix fabrics, don’t grow a goatee (I’m looking at you youth pastors), don’t even touch your wife during her “special time”.
I’ve been reading a book that we got for free from Advance09 – Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community. Honestly, I didn’t expect that it would be a book that I would underline all that much, but I was underlining within 6 pages. One of the things that I underlined had hit me like a slap in the face:
The Law of Moses is given as the word by which God rules his people as they wait for the coming Savior. It is a liberating law given to bless God’s people. It was the lie of the serpent to portray God’s rule as harsh and tyrannical. The reality is that the rule of God is a rule of life, blessing, peace and justice. God rules through his word, and his rule brings freedom and joy.
The author is right! The thing that I do so often is portray the Law as something that was intended to be a limiting shackle on the people of Israel. Quite the opposite, it gave freedom by giving boundaries. Our Americanized idea of freedom says that where there are any boundaries there is no freedom, but real freedom requires boundaries; how free would we really be if there were no laws to restrain murder and theft? We’d spend all of our days protecting ourselves and our stuff.
The Law did the same thing.
In the nations that surrounded Israel, the polytheistic faiths gave no liberty – no freedom to live life unshackled by guilt and doubt. Think of all of the stories even of the ancient Greeks and Romans, they were always trying to appease some god or making sure they weren’t stepping on some goddess’ toes (I’m looking at you Hera); they were never sure if they were in good standing.
Think about it, you’re following a God that just held back the sea and then drowned the most elite soldiers of one of the most powerful nations on earth at the time, a God who had made a tangible darkness hang over the whole country, that turned the Nile into blood and supernaturally killed hundreds to set you free – and not just random hundreds, but only the firstborn and only in unmarked houses. You want to know whether or not you’re in good standing with that God. So, what does that God do? He gives you guidelines so you can know.
You no longer have to guess whether or not you’re doing things right, you have the Law to make reference to. You can know whether God is pleased with you or wanting a closer walk with you.
One thing to remember – unclean was not sin. You have this trichotomy of holiness. You have things that are clean (this is set apart or holy or able to be in God’s presence), you have things that are sinful (things that God is against and are an affront to him in some personal way) and you have the middle ground of the unclean (which is just common, banal, vulgar). The unclean was not bad (or else undertakers were never able to be in God’s good graces and the dead would just lie where they died), it was just common. The reason that this is talked about so much in the Law – God had called his people to be set apart, to be holy and a light that shined His holiness. They were not better than other people, they were just to imitate God more closely.
I think the lesson that I need to take from this is to understand why those in the Old Testament loved the Law.
Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.