Friday, October 1, 2010

The Law Makes an Impression

In Deuteronomy, after briefly recounting some of the history of the Israelites' trek through the desert, during which we discover the age of culpability and what God considers as the condition of not lacking anything, Moses begins to review the various commandments of God, but not without an appropriate preamble about the Law...

The Law Makes an Impression
Christianity has a lot to say about God's Law, such as the reason for it (Romans 5:20-21, Galatians 3:19, Hebrews 10:1), as well as arguments about why (Matthew 5:19, James 1:22-25, James 2:10, 1 John 3:4-6) or why not (Romans 3:27-28, Romans 7:1-6, Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 7:18-19) to continue obeying every commandment in the Law. Modern theology often presents the opinion that the Law was so stringent that nobody could follow it, and to that effect it illustrated the need for God's mercy through Jesus. Yet that is not at all how we see the Law presented in the Old Testament.

For God's opinion on the Law, a good place to start is Deuteronomy 4. Let us dive right in with Deuteronomy 4:1-2, where Moses tells the Israelites of God's Law:
“Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” NIV
Do not add or subtract from it? That is a fine principle under laboratory conditions, but in the real world civilizations change. Advancements in technology and process mandate updated laws. Just think of all of the laws which had to be created for the internet. Or perhaps even more significant, think of the huge advancement which was made in establishing copyright and patent laws. Yet the person, or deity, who created these laws had no concept of the changes which would occur and no ways to protect intellectual property. God thought that this was a complete set of laws, and all you would ever need.

Deuteronomy 4:3-4 reminds the Israelites how God killed all of those Israelites who worshiped Baal at Baal Peor, even though we learned that God stopped killing the guilty people because He was so impressed by Phinehas's vigilante-extremist actions.

After another pleading to obey the law (Deuteronomy 4:5), in Deuteronomy 4:6-8 Moses reveals the purpose of the Law.
“Observe [the laws] carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” NIV
From this viewpoint, the Law, as practiced by the Israelites, was to showcase God on earth. It was to demonstrate that, unlike man-made idols, the God of the Israelites is a real and wise God. It was to make other nations realize that their gods were fake, and that they should seek the wisdom, guidance, and providence that only the one true living God could provide. It is no surprise that this same sentiment is echoed in the prophesies of a reunited Israelite nation, such as in Isaiah 2:3, Isaiah 51:4, and Micah 4:2; an inconvenient truth for Christianity.

To the charge that the Law was too stringent to obey, this claim can only be made by ignoring parts of the Bible. After all, why would God plead so often for His people to obey the Law if He knew that was impossible to do, such as in Joshua 1:8, 2 Kings 17:13, and Ezekiel 20:19? Also, there are major people which would have to be ignored, such as King Josiah from 2 Kings 22-23. So such a claim simply falls apart when considering the entire Bible.

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