“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them.”
Rules can have a negative connotation, especially in our post-modern, post-truth culture. However, if we didn’t have rules, lawlessness would abound and life would be miserable. When the Israelites left Egypt, they left the laws of the Egyptians and rules of Pharaoh and placed themselves under God’s authority and under Moses. They were becoming a new nation, and every nation needs a set of rules to govern the people and dictate justice.
God first gave the Ten Commandments, which were the framework for all the subsequent laws. They were the “why” behind the rules and the simplified version of everything that would follow. However, they did not cover things like punishments or judgment calls for wronging.
So God gave Moses more rules. Lots of rules. They cover everything from what to do when someone injures your goat to the punishment for killing another human being. I find it interesting that after the Ten Commandments, the first rules God gave were concerning slaves. Wouldn’t you think that a formerly enslaved nation wouldn’t take part in slavery? You’d think that the Israelites would not want to put another human being into bondage since they had just spent 400+ years in that state?
But God knows the hearts of men and the bent towards evil and brokenness that’s present in every human being regardless of previous experience. So He knew that there would be slavery among the Israelites. Therefore, He set laws in place to protect and provide for the just treatment of slaves. He didn’t condone slavery. But He made provisions for the slave because He knew that Israel would own slaves.
This is the heart behind all the laws God gave. They were not given to condone or approve some of these actions, but rather to make a way for justice, a way for sin to be dealt with and the wronged party to be vindicated. Therefore, as we read through the laws of the Old Testament, view them in this light. The rules may sound harsh…but they reflect God’s justice. Sin must be dealt with and, actually, many of these laws contain much grace.
Another important aspect of the Law is to show us our need for a savior. Without absolute truth and a code of moral conduct, we would never know how short we fall of perfection. In our own pride and self-importance, we might view ourselves as always right—which is happening in our post-truth culture. However, God set a standard to show us not only how we must live to walk justly before Him but also how sinful our nature is and how desperately we need a savior.
On our best day, we could never meet the standards God has set. God knew that, which is why Jesus’ incarnation was always a part of His plan. So when you read through the Laws of God, remember that they reflect God’s holiness and are the rules of a just God. And before you get discouraged by the impossible feat of keeping them, run to the Savior who faithfully obeyed all of them and then took your place, giving His life for you so that you might receive vindication and holiness through His blood. All because He loves you and wants you in God’s family.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
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