As I read through the Old Testament, especially the early books, in which God calls out and forms the nation of Israel, I’m impressed by the number of times that the Lord said to Israel, “I am the LORD.” He might say that just by itself, or He might add something: “I am the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” “I am the LORD who sanctifies you.”
It’s true that the Lord said that obeying Him would bring blessing and that disobeying Him would bring judgment, and that, in freeing them from Egyptian slavery He had already blessed them, yet it seems to me that the Lord is also saying that the main reason to pay attention to what He commands is that He commands it. He didn’t ask for their agreement or their opinion or their thoughts on the subject. He just said, “Here is what I want you to do. I am the LORD.”
There is a message for us in this. We increasingly live in a time when there are no objective standards. It’s all about consensus, or who can make the loudest noise or cause the most destruction. It’s all about “self-identity,” regardless of any objective reality. We’ve become like the society described in the last verse of Judges: In those days, there was no king in Israel, everyone did that which was right in his own eyes, Judges 21:25. It’s true that we’ve never had a king here in this country, but that doesn’t mean the verse isn’t relevant. A king was THE authority in the land, the source of law and order, however those might have been defined. Not every king was a good king. Judges describes a situation in which there was no king, no established, recognized code of conduct. It was up to each individual how he wanted to live.
Because it is increasingly true in our nation that everyone does what he thinks is right. we also see immorality and wickedness in our world similar to that described in the last chapters of Judges. Granted, it isn’t an exact correspondence, so far as I know no one has recently hacked his concubine into pieces, although, now that I think about it, there are unspeakable atrocities against women approved by some cultures, but even without that, there are things which were unthinkable not all that many years ago that are now front page news and people demanding freedom to do them, to say nothing of the crime and violence that has mushroomed over the last few years. There is no fear of God before their eyes, Romans 3:18.
There was a time when the Ten Commandments formed much of the basis of our legal system. This fact is denied or ignored by those who demand the removal of every trace of them from our public lands and buildings: no plaques listing them, no memorials of them in public, no reference to them by lawmakers or officials. The “anti-establishment” clause in the Constitution has been reinvented to mean no religion in government at all, not the denial of civil power to the church. Many of the Founding Fathers had suffered because the church had had such power, and had misused it, as in England and Germany, and even in the very early days of the country, and they wanted no part of that in this new country, no part of an “official” church. At the same time, contrary to some today, they were NOT establishing atheism as the official stance of the government. There is abundant evidence of the influence of Christianity in the formation and early days of America. There were other things, true, like Plato’s Republic, but the Bible was certainly there, and respected.
In the next few posts, Lord willing, I want to look at the Old Testament law and see what there is that might instruct us. By “the Old Testament law,” I don’t mean the Ten Commandments. Psalm 119:96 says that the commandment is exceedingly broad, and there might be some surprising things in it.
We must remember that “the Law,” as seen in the Mosaic documents, was given only to the nation of Israel, cf. Deuteronomy 4:6-8; Psalm 147:19, 20. It was never given to Gentiles or to “the church”. At the same time, there is something called, “the Moral Law.” Paul refers to this in Romans 2:14, 15. When he says that the Gentiles are a law unto themselves, he doesn’t mean that they can decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, though they, and we, do do that. He’s saying that they recognize that there is “right” and “wrong,” though they might differ on what each of those is. The Moral Law is simply the reflection of the righteousness God requires of His creation. The Mosaic Covenant was the application of that Law to a specific historic and geographical place and people. Even though Gentiles are not under the Mosaic Covenant, and never have been, it’s still wrong, for example, to murder or steal, not because of the Ten Commandments themselves, but because the righteousness of God forbids it.
We just want to look at the Mosaic Law to see what God thinks about some things we don’t usually associate with Him, to see if there’s not something we can learn from them.