It’s funny. Often times, well-intentioned people pick up the Bible with the desire to read and learn it cover to cover. They open up to Genesis and enjoy its exciting stories as well as those found in the first half of Exodus.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, come a long, LONG list of laws. These laws continue through Leviticus and Numbers and then are repeated in Deuteronomy. Well, right around the middle of Exodus – at the beginning of these laws – is where people stop reading their Bibles.
So, today, I’m going to offer some perspectives on these laws that will hopefully offer a better understanding of them instead of them causing you to stop reading your Bible.
Firstly, there are three different types of laws for different sections of life; and they are not all of equal importance.
The first – and most important – type of law is the Moral Law, also known as the Ten Commandments. These laws start out by stating that the Lord God is One and is never to be worshipped by making an idol to Him. His Name shall never be spoken in vain and His day, the Sabbath is to be honored and kept holy.
Then the Ten Commandments switch to address aspects of our human behavior. We need to honor our father and mother. We are not allowed to murder, commit adultery, lie, steal or covet our neighbor’s things.
After the Moral Law, the second type of laws listed in the Old Testament are Religious and Cultural Laws. These are laws that pertain to worship and sacrifice for the Israelites. God also included in these Religious and Cultural Laws rules for cleanliness. These laws were not merely to keep God’s people clean, but actually set apart and different than their neighbors.
These laws also pertained to what to do and how to treat people with certain skin diseases, dietary laws and even grooming laws. All of these helped establish the Israelites as being set apart as God’s people as well as set healthy standards for simple preservation of these nomadic people living long, LONG before modern medicine.
Lastly, the Old Testament lists the Israelites Civil Laws. Remember, god was not only the God of Israel, He was also their King.
It’s in these laws that we see consequences for a litany of civil crimes from fighting to theft to adultery.
Now, the burning question in many people’s minds as they read all of these laws is this: Do we have to follow these laws today or not?
The short answer is that the Civil and Religious laws were declared for the Israelites in that era and do not apply to us today. But the Moral law – the Ten Commandments – are written on each of our hearts and must be obeyed by everyone at all times.
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