Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Curse of the Law

I have been reading through the "Daily Bible" which is organized in chronological order. It has been a rich time in the Word for me as I read through the events of scripture in the order they occurred. I realize how much I miss by reading only excerpts or even single books without following the complete flow of the biblical narrative.

I recently finished the section on "The Law of Moses". Chapter after chapter of law. Religious and ceremonial law that insure allegiance to the one true and living God. Laws which instruct His people to give both the first and the best to God and to priests and Levites who are called to serve the people. Laws regarding Feasts which were designed to worship God, renew devotion and be reminded of His faithful provision for those who obey Him. The Feasts in and of themselves present an incredibly beautiful image of the atonement of Jesus Christ. In addition to the feasts, the sacrifices and offerings from burnt offerings to cereal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. Laws for purification. Laws for government and civil affairs. Laws for marriage, divorce, and sexual relations. Laws regarding diet. Laws of warfare. A simple comment of blessing for His people who keep the Law. A long warning and list of curses for those who disobey the Law. For 3 weeks now I read about the Law of Moses and its instruction for the people. The most comprehensive, radically different, and morally demanding law that any nation has seen to this time. WHEW!!!!!!

To be honest, as I read chapter after chapter, my first thought was, "This is oppressive!" Not to mention the fact that no one had a copy of this law for future reference so that they could make sure they were doing as it was instructed. In fact, it was read aloud to the people in it's entirety only once a year. As I put myself in their shoes, the only reasonable conclusion I could come to is that the only way I could survive the judgment of God in a system such as this is to constantly be on my knees in repentance and offering sacrifices of my very best in life to cover the guilt of my sin. It would seem to me that this would be a daily mindset. Something that would be routine for me to go before God, recognizing my sinfulness, offering sacrifice and seeking His forgiveness. I could not see anyone being able to set out to do as the Law commanded without regard to a routine posture of repentance before God. That seems to be the point!

The Law was important for it was a picture of the holiness of a people of God. The sacrifices were essential because it covered the inadequacy of any one person's ability to keep the Law without failure. In other words, the Law of Moses was designed to instruct God's people to live with a posture of repentance before a Holy God. The Law came so that transgressions would increase (Rom 5:20). But yet the Law is good (Rom 7:16) because where sin increases, grace increases all the more. Those who live under the Law, live under a curse (Gal 3:10). I believe Paul writes this under the inspiration of God knowing that no one can keep the law so anyone who tries will inevitably live under its prescribed curse for those who fail. The Law is good because it leads of to faith and dependence on Christ.

But now we live under grace. And so the Law no longer applies...so we think. But perhaps the Law was never intended to shape our behaviour but was designed instead to change our heart. And if this is true (and I believe it is) the purpose of the Law remains to this day. How comfortable we become in grace and how easy it is to forget the need to assume a posture of repentance and humility before God. How negligent and lax we are about giving God our best. Second or Third best will often suffice. Our worship is obligatory and does not flow out of a thankful heart. We have lost the appreciation of how His love has covered our sin and protected us from His judgment. If this was better understood, the people of God would worry less about the style of worship and would be content to give a shout of praise that would spring from a heart of thankful praise. Whatever that might sound like when it leaves our lips is much less important.

Believe me, I would never wish it on anyone. I personally do not want to live under the Law. Yet I am saddened by my own complacency under the rule of grace. I need to assume the posture of people who lived under the Law while giving praise to God for His indescribable gift of grace. Forgive me Father for not considering this more often.

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