Interpreting Scripture is a hot topic today with even churches debating issues like homosexuality and gay marriage. One line of argument poses the question, “How can you say some Old Testament laws are still valid and others are not?”. It’s an important question.
Deuteronomy 21 & 22
Deuteronomy 21 & 22:
I’ll warn you; today’s comments are long. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers and there is certainly much more that could be said, I pray you’ll read and consider these things.
Murder, rape, rebellious children & your neighbor’s ox
What attention to all the details of life we find here in the Old Testament law—everything from the jurisdiction in a murder case (21.1-9) to “Good Samaritan” laws (22.1-4) to rape and adultery (22.22-30). But why would God care about different kinds of seeds being sown together or whether different materials were blended into one fabric. Bible passages like these sometimes raise questions that are challenging to answer.
Interpreting Scripture is a hot topic today with our courts deciding on the constitutionality of “gay marriage” and even some churches debating issues connected with homosexuality. One line of argument poses the question, “How can you say some Old Testament laws are still valid and others are not?”. It’s an important question.
For means of explanation and discussion, some scholars divide the law into three parts. They are: moral law, ceremonial law, and judicial/civil law. (For more discussion on this you can go to http://www.gotquestions.org/search.html.)
The moral law relates to the character of God. It includes the Ten Commandments and laws concerning sexual conduct and love for our neighbor. With the exception of the laws concerning the Sabbath, these laws were reinforced and reiterated in the New Testament (Matt. 22.34-40; Rom. 1.18-32; 1 Cor. 6.9-10; Gal. 5.19-21; 1 Thess. 4.3-8). Some would say that Jesus even raised the bar on many of these laws (Matt. 5.21-48).
The ceremonial law contained regulations that pertained specifically to the nation of Israel as a people set apart from other nations. Many of those regulations pointed to Christ and were fulfilled in Him. Others were meant to protect the Nation of Israel from being diluted or absorbed into the culture around them. While it included some things that predate it, it did not begin as a whole until the time of Moses.
Much of it was fulfilled in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and other parts were no longer necessary to protect the messianic line. Parts of it were specifically mentioned and done away with in the New Testament. For example, He was the final sacrifice (Jn. 1.36; Rev. 5.6) and all foods and animals were declared clean, eliminating dietary and other ceremonial restrictions (Acts 10.9-16).
The third category is civil law. God ordained civil governments and we are commanded to obey and respect that authority and its laws (Rom. 13.1-7). But all authority is subject to God’s authority (Acts 5.29). Christians, just like wives and children, are not bound to obey when they are commanded to sin or when civil laws contradict God’s laws.
How do Jesus, the New Covenant, and the Gospel intersect all this?
Jesus ushered in the New Covenant where the law was to be written on our hearts (Ezek. 11.19; 2 Cor. 3.3). We are to obey and live life God’s way because we love Him (Jn. 14.15) and desire to please Him (2 Cor. 5.9). But to do so, we must know Him—know what He loves, know what He hates. All Scripture, including the Old Testament, was written for our benefit (Rom. 5.4). God does not change (Heb. 13.8); the things He hated then, He hates today. But one important point of the law was to show us that we could never live up to God’s holy standard and to show us our need for a Savior (Rom. 7.7-25).
The Gospel is the Good News that while we all deserve to be stoned or crucified for our sins (Rom. 3.23) and under the law could have been, Jesus Christ died in our place (Jn. 3.16; Rom. 6.23; Eph. 2.8-9). But His substitutionary death for us individually is not automatic. Only those who come to the point of saving faith by recognizing that they are utterly sinful and that their only hope is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
For those who believe the Gospel, salvation is a free gift. But like any gift it must be received before we can benefit from it (Rom. 3.23, Eph. 2.8-9). And we receive it by faith, by confessing our sin and surrendering our lives to Him and His Lordship (Gal. 2.20; Rom. 10.9-13; Eph. 2.8-9).
So if Jesus paid the price for all of our sins, does that mean that we are free to live any way we choose? The simple answer is “no.” Romans 6.1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
How should this affect our interactions with our culture?
How is all of this relevant to the world we live in, including the things happening in our country and on the news on a daily basis? What good can we do? Should we even get involved? How is it relevant to our conversations with the people God places in our lives?
Let’s consider Matthew 22.35-40:
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets! Pretty important stuff, loving God and loving our neighbors!
When is love not loving?
So does that mean that as Christians we’re just to love everyone, no matter what their lifestyle choice or what they believe? Yes and no. Yes, we are to love, even our enemies, according to Jesus. That means showing respect to everyone. It means being kind and compassionate. It means listening thoughtfully. It means common courtesy.
But when is love not really biblical love?
Many people involved in a homosexual lifestyle consider themselves Christians. Yet Jesus Himself said that you will know a tree by its fruit (Lk. 6.43-45) and the Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6.9-10).
If someone believes he or she can live in a sinful lifestyle and still be a believer, they are deceived. The fruit will validate the kind of tree it is. That is true of any sinful lifestyle, but God chose to specifically mention these! How loving is it to allow a person to believe it’s just a choice? We are called to love everyone, but love means speaking the truth in love (Prov. 27.6), especially when their eternity is at stake.
I want to add that simply struggling with temptation in this area is not the same as making a choice to live this way, but that’s a discussion for another day.
And what about the wider issue of “gay marriage” in a free society like ours?
The problem is that marriage is not just a human institution and “gay marriage” is not just another option, any more than adultery is just another option, both are perversions of the God-ordained institution of marriage (Gen. 2.24).
Christians are called to be salt and light in our nation and the world (Matt. 5.13-16). Light exposes things. It exposes truth; it exposes lies; it exposes sin. Salt is a preservative. We cannot change hearts, but we need to be beacons of truth if our nation is to be preserved from the ultimate effects of sin and God’s judgment. But, at the same time, we cannot do it in an unloving or self-righteous way.
Studying and understanding the Old Testament, including the law, is important for every one of us if we are going to have a loving, reasoned discussion of these things in the public arena and in our own homes and families.
But perhaps, most important, we need to understand so we can settle these questions in our own hearts. Otherwise the enemy of our souls can plant seeds of doubt that can bleed over into other areas of our walks and relationships with God.
Turn to the Lord
Here in this passage the Psalmist is discouraged and overwhelmed. He feels abandoned even by friends and loved ones. But he understands that his help comes from the Lord. He ends this Psalm with the declaration, “O Lord, my salvation!”
When we feel overwhelmed with nowhere to turn, we have a faithful God. Let’s purpose to make Him the first One to whom we turn in times of trouble.
Making good use of our resources
Verse 27, “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession.” A lazy man or woman fails to make the most of the resources he or she has, instead he squanders them away.
Are you being a good steward of the resources God has given you? Are you using your time wisely? What about your talents, your spiritual gifts and your finances?
Our sin and His holiness
In verses 1-11 we see Peter still involved in his business of fishing. After Jesus used Peter’s boat, He blessed Peter with a huge catch of fish under circumstances that would not have happened naturally. Peter caught a glimpse of who Jesus really was. When he did he fell to his knees and responded, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'”
Likewise, when we see Jesus as He really is, it should expose our hearts and cause us to see ourselves as we really are—sinners in need of a Savior and then in constant need of His help and forgiveness.
Join the discussion
How do you understand the law and the various aspects of it?
What is the biblical basis for your stand on homosexuality, “gay marriage,” and other hot topics?
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