These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 8 ~ Feb. 16-22
Why the Law?
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.
Psalm 119:18, 97,174
When David wrote those words, his Bible consisted mainly of the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy), the majority of which is law. Did you “behold wondrous things out of,” “love,” and “delight in” your reading of Leviticus? Why do you think God gave Israel the Law? Are Christians supposed to be obeying all these laws? If not, why is the book of Leviticus in the Bible today? While Christians are no longer bound by many of the laws of the OT the Law does show us some pretty amazing things.
Primary Reasons for the Law
There are three types of law given in the OT:
Ceremonial (sacrifices, feasts, dietary, “daily living”, etc. laws)
Civil (“eye for an eye”, inheritance, property, etc., laws, similar to our local, state, and federal laws)
Moral (adultery, murder, lying, etc.)
Even though Christians are no longer required to keep the ceremonial and civil laws (we are still to obey the moral laws—we’ll get into the “why?” of that in another lesson), we can learn a great deal from them about the nature and character of God and His desires for His people.
For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy… For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:44a,45
The Law showed Israel they were a distinct people, set apart from other nations. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:9-10)
They were to be separate and different in all their ways. They were not to be like idolatrous nations in any way, and the things they ate, wore, even the way they cut their hair reflected this. As Christians, God’s grace has saved us and made us into completely new creatures in Christ. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;” Do the places we go, the things we say, the things we post on Facebook, the way we act, reflect this?
The Law demonstrates that God is holy. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God is higher than and set apart from His people. God’s ways are not man’s ways, they are higher, which is why they are often confusing to us and hard to understand. God’s laws and His setting apart of Israel to follow His laws reflected His “otherness” and “set apart-ness.”
The Law shows that people must be holy in order to commune with a holy God (Psalm 24:3-4, Hebrews 9:22)
The cleanliness/unclean laws show that no one can have a right relationship with God unless God first makes him clean. If an Israelite became unclean he could only be made clean and restored to God through the sacrifice or offering God provided for him. We cannot make ourselves clean. It can only be done by God through the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.
The Law shows us it can’t save us. (Galatians 3:24, Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:9-20, Hebrews 10:1-18)
Perhaps the greatest thing the Law did for Israel (and for us) was to show them the futility of striving to keep the Law. Not that they should give up on obeying the Law (which is what they often did), but that they needed something greater than the Law to save them since they were utter failures at keeping it. The ease of breaking the laws -even unintentionally- every time they turned around shows the impossibility of keeping the Law perfectly, the extent to which sin taints every move we make, and our desperate need for God’s mercy and forgiveness, which came in the form of a Savior who would make the perfect sacrifice once for all. The Law pointed Israel and us to Jesus.
The Law showed God’s sovereignty over and care for every aspect of life (Matthew 10:29-31 1 Corinthians 10:31)
The laws governed every aspect of life from eating and drinking to illness to “that time of the month,” showing that God was to have dominion over, and be remembered, glorified, and served in, even the smallest parts of an Israelite’s life, just as in the Christian’s life today. We are to do everything His way for His glory. It also shows His attention to detail and that He is concerned about everything about us. Nothing is too small for God, and nothing gets by Him.
The Law provided a way for people to express honor to God. (John 14:15, Colossians 3:16)
While the “do/don’t do this or that” laws honor God by testifying to His holiness, righteousness, and judgment, the feasts testify to God’s provision, benevolence, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, goodness, grace, and rest. The laws allowed the people to show their honor for God through obedience. The feasts gave the people the opportunity to show their honor for God through worship, celebration, and thanksgiving. We have this same opportunity every Sunday!
The Law was a testimony to other nations about God (1 Kings 8:59-61).
God’s ways were not the ways of the false gods of the nations surrounding Israel. His Law was to cleanse and protect the people so they could enjoy fellowship with Him. The worship of false gods was strictly to appease the idols themselves. The intrinsic nature of the laws themselves and Israel’s keeping of them were a testimony to the uniqueness, holiness and glory of God to all the surrounding pagan nations. “This God is different from all the others,” they said, “This is the one true God.” In the same way, our obedience to God shows how different He is from the world’s way of doing things.
Secondary Reasons for the Law
Most of the laws had secondary, practical reasons behind them, showing us that God doesn’t just care about our spiritual state, but our physical well being as well.
Law and Order
Every society has to have a way of maintaining law and order, protecting people and their stuff, and carrying out justice. Property, inheritance, and other civil and criminal laws protected the personal rights of Israelite citizens. God’s laws about restitution and punishment of criminals show His wisdom and that He is just.
Rules about which animals to eat could have served to prevent food-borne diseases, such as trichinosis, which comes from pork. The multiple laws about quarantining those with leprosy helped stop its spread to others. Recently, scientists have discovered health benefits to circumcision. We know God is a healer, and sometimes He does this in the form of prevention.
Care and Safety Net
God made sure that widows, orphans, and the disabled were cared for and not taken advantage of. His laws showed Israel how to care for the poor and make sure no one went without provision.
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.