The Complexity of the Law Revisited

Again, for comparison: let’s not say the difficulty of the law is in its complexity.

Law of Moses:

Number of pages: < 50

Now follow these links and see which is more complex.

United States Legal Code provided by Cornell University

Tennessee Constitution, Bills, Public Acts, and the famous Tennessee Code Annotated from LawSource.com.

(By the way, in Article IX Sections 1-3, it lists disqualification for serving in the state Legislature: Those disqualifications for your reading pleasure:)

Section 1. Whereas ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

Section 2. No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.

Section 3. Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this state, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe.

So much for Hinkle-Hiatt in 2008….

Laws Concerning a King

It’s almost humorous to read today’s introductory paragraphs (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 on page 261) regarding how kings should live.

God predicts that the people…

  • …will enter the land He’s giving them.
  • Ask for a king, “like all the nations around us.”

Of course, he shouldn’t accumulate large amounts of silver and gold or horses…or wives! Why? “…his heart will be led astray.”

It’s almost like God knew what was going to happen with our only three kings of the Israeli United Kingdom (Saul, David, and Solomon).

The formula for a successful reign and initiation of a dynasty is laid out, too. “He is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law…It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life…follow carefully all the words of this law…and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left.”

Now if only I could vote for my next President with these criteria!

Online Book: "The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses"

I haven’t had time to read this…and won’t, for quite some time, but a blog I read occasionally (Theologica) just added a link to Vern Poythress’s book, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses. It’s an attempt to help a modern day Christian see the Old Law as a pointer towards Christ.

As always, read with an open mind and an open Bible — and let me know what you think!

Holy, Holy, Holy

Thanks to OpenBible.info’s visualizations, I thought I’d illustrate the significance of holiness in the Pentateuch.

Notice the heavy concentration in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy followed by relative silence until Psalms of praise, minor prophets calling for a restoration in holiness, and the final epistles and Revelation (recalling songs of praise for the holy Lamb of God!)

 

Setting Values

At Freed-Hardeman, “Values in Human Thought and Action” was a required capstone course of all students prior to graduation, regardless of major. That’s a pretty good idea, in my book, because the class was in many ways designed to make cognizant the students of the fact that we all make value-decisions on a regular basis. The more aware we are of that, the more likely we are to make appropriate value decisions.

The second half of today’s reading (primarily Leviticus 27, and then an assortment from Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 22:9-11) discusses value in great detail. (I’ll come back later to hit the first half — the Nazirite vow and vows in general).

These value passages are frequently cited by critics of those of us who hold the plenary view of the inspiration of scripture: that it is inspired of God, fully, down even to the word, even in passages like Deuteronomy 23:1: “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.” Does God just not like eunuchs? “Stinks to be you!”? Can men who’ve had vasectomies serve as elders? Be Christians? Go to heaven? Are we all destined for eternal damnation for wearing clothes of many fabrics? (These questions were popularized by a West Wing episode, by the way).

Now some of the questions in the above-linked dialogue are easy for a New Testament Christian to dismiss: after all, we don’t claim the law of Moses as our law today. Our critics will still be asking us about them, however. “If your God is so loving and the Bible isn’t from man, then why in the world is this stuff in here?”

Good question.

In Jameison, Fausset, & Brown’s Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible (1871), the commentators bring all of these issues back to a common theme: neighboring nations’ idolatry. Evidently emasculation was a proud rite many of the Moabite and Ammonite parents would perform on their sons to mark them as dedicated to the service of pagan gods. John Wesley agreed that “assembly of the Lord” likely referred to any leadership role in the church-state community of Israel, and that such a practice, whether done in idolatry or not, would grant enemies an opportunity to mock the impotence of such a leader–an opportunity not becoming the leader of the children of Yahweh!

I wonder if it might not be spiritually-related in yet another way; if a man were so emasculated, in some circumstances wouldn’t the state of his circumcision (or uncircumcision) be indiscernible? Now that would be a problem for one of God’s people, leader or not.

It seems that its context in Deuteronomy 23:2-8 indicates that whatever the exact cause, God doesn’t want to invite any wolves, whether or not they’re in sheep’s clothing, into the fold of his children. Seems fair enough to me.

The same logic seems to apply (with a side lesson on modesty and personal values, perhaps?) to those passages about mixing: fabrics in a garment, and seeds in a field. While I don’t think it’s a fair application to insinuate that these passages condemn hybrid crops, I do think the principle of separation and holiness still applies.

Remember that when God said “Be holy, as I am holy” in 1 Peter 1:15-16, it wasn’t the first time those words left his mouth via inspired pen. They should point back to the words of Leviticus 11:45.

Maybe Cleanliness IS Next to Godliness

Today’s reading is almost exclusively about purification, and is usually presented without any moral commentary, indicating that these laws are ceremonial and hygienic in nature. They are instrumentally spiritual rather than inherently spiritual, so to speak.

What is amazing about God’s law is that he can use the instrumental to accomplish his ultimate purpose: his people’s righteous relationship with himself to the fullest realization of his glory.

God’s providential hand in even these laws of ceremonial purification and cleanliness is evident in several ways:

  1. Extra-biblical research has indicated that many of the condemned practices were associated with idol worship in neighboring societies. While nothing is inherently wrong with, say, boiling a baby goat in it’s mother’s milk (it’s still weird to me!), if that’s the common practice of your neighbors in the worship of the Baals or Molech, it could become a stumbling block–an instrumental wrong. Sound familiar to the New Testament discussion of the morality of eating meat sacrificed to idols?
  2. Modern scientific research has confirmed the practical wisdom of these laws. “Unclean pork” is a carrier of bacteria that would have been hard to eliminate with ancient cooking techniques. Vitamin K is at its highest on the 8th day after birth–the day marked for circumcision. While those aren’t the goals of the law, per se, they are certainly more than serendipitous surprises!
  3. The corruption of the law came through the hands of the Pharisees, who emphasized the law over the law-giver. While we’re free today from the law of Moses as it’s covenant has been fulfilled, several New Testament passages refer to the “law of Christ.” We, too, can render the law useless by focusing too much on it (or ignoring it altogether) to the neglect of the ultimate law-giver.

Aside: there was a book by Stern and McMillin that attempt to show God’s providential hand in the law of Moses. It’s called None of these Diseases, and is available at Amazon. I haven’t read it. If you have, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Aside number two: I hope cleanliness really isn’t next to godliness. If it is, I’m in trouble!

Crime and Punishment

I’m weird, I know, but I enjoy reading the law. I know we’re continents and centuries apart, but it’s interesting to see how God’s plan for the people panned out.

Too many people force either/or dilemmas where they aren’t required of issues. Most of our political hot-button issues today are because there’s a notable lack of common sense: candidates are portrayed as either for healthcare (cough universal cough) or against it, at all. We’re told we must pick between building a 9-mile tall, barbed-wire, broken-glass electric “Berlin Wall” fence between us and Mexico, or choose to grant amnesty to anyone who ever came across the border, regardless of intent.

I’m not sure I like either of those options!

Now, don’t get me wrong: there are absolutes. There is still black and white. There is still right; there is still wrong, but oh how we need a dose of simple common sense and moderation!

It amazes me how well God does that in the law, even if we don’t always notice. The same God (who does not lie, by the way) explained that for some crimes, the people should “Show no pity.” (Deut 19:21). Did you hear that? The all-merciful benevolent gracious for-God-so-loved-the-world God said no pity! (It was for those who intentionally and premeditatively deceived to hurt others for their own gain…)

But just pages later in Deuteronomy 25:1-3, he limited the beatings given to a man (who was judged guilty) to what was deserved by his crimes, and “not…more than forty lashes.” Why? Because “If he is flogged more than that, your brother will be degraded in your eyes.”

There is a place for the carrot and the stick. There are places for better carrots and harder sticks, too! God recognized that need in his justice system. How are we doing in ours?

Israel Has Us Beat

As best I can figure, church attendance is up approximately 84937% on our two “holy days”, you know, Christmas and Easter! (Also 4/5 of all stats are made up on the spot…) Even the ancient Hebrews, for all we like to point at their inability to see Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, their propensity towards idolatry, and their ingenuity at repeating the past’s mistakes, at least had 3 special times when everyone went to church (Exodus 23:17, Deuteronomy 16:16). That means they were 50% more spiritual than us, right?

Sigh…

I just read this from the Barna group’s research: 92% of “churched” adults say worship is “very important.” The vast majority of those surveyed indicated that worship was the most important portion of a church gathering.

Yet, in that same study, guess how many people actively prepare for worship on a regular basis? Four of ten. I’ll admit, that’s higher than I expected, but lower than I’d hope.

If there’s one things the children of Israel did right (for a while), it seems to me that they recognized the significance of worship and planned accordingly.

Side random trivia tidbit: the group surveyed most likely to “prepare” for worship in the Barna group’s poll? Northeasterners. Go figure!