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The Giving of the Law, Part II

Principles From the Law

Introduction

In our previous lesson of this series, The Evangelistic Purpose of the Law, we saw that the Law cannot make a man righteous in the eyes of God – that one of the most critical functions of the Law in the plan of God was to cast the light of God’s holy character on man’s unholiness and unrighteousness so that all men would be without excuse before Him. Until God has closed your mouth and shown you your helpless condition – your desperate need for a means of forgiveness and righteousness that can come only from Him – you are not ready to receive the gift of forgiveness, righteousness, and eternal life that the shed blood of Jesus Christ has purchased for you.

Paul was speaking of this evangelistic purpose of the Law in Galatians 3:24, when he wrote, “… the Law has become our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.”124

But what is the role of the Law in the lives of those of us who have already trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior? Paul writes in Galatians 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Christ declared Himself to be the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17). So, what value is there for Christians in studying the Law?

Let’s look at what a couple of the Psalmists said about the Law and consider whether these things still apply:

The Law is our Delight!

Psalm 19:7-14 and Psalm 119:97-104

In Psalm 19, David declares that the Law in all its parts is perfect, sure, right and pure, true and righteous altogether. It is more desirable than much fine gold and sweeter than honey.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.

10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

13 Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer
(Psalm 19:7-14).

Look at the things that David says the Law does for the one who makes it his delight: it restores the soul; it makes wise the simple; it rejoices the heart; it enlightens the eyes. By the Law of God His servant is warned and in keeping it he finds great reward.

Are these things still desirable for us who are no longer under the Law? Let’s look at Psalm 119:97-104:

97 Oh how I love Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.

98 Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
For they are ever mine.

99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
For Thy testimonies are my meditation.

100 I understand more than the aged,
Because I have observed Thy precepts.

101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Thy word.

102 I have not turned aside from Thine ordinances,
For Thou Thyself hast taught me.

103 How sweet are Thy words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

104 From Thy precepts I get understanding;
Therefore, I hate every false way.

The Psalmist declares, “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (verse 97).

And again in these verses, look at the benefit he declares that he has derived from making the Law his meditation and observing its instruction:

Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, …,
I have more insight than all my teachers, …
I understand more than the aged, …
From Thy precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

Like David, he says in verse 103, “How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Wisdom, insight, understanding, hatred of every false way … rejoicing, restoration. Are these things that belong only in the Old Testament system? No, these are blessings and benefits of the Scriptures that are precious to every believer. And all of these blessings and benefits come from the Law of Moses.

Why is it so hard for us to derive that sort of benefit from meditating on the Law? I think that in large measure it is because we don’t meditate on the Law in the first place!

The reality is that nobody ever got to hidden treasure by standing around waiting for it to fall on their head! To get to the good stuff, you have to do a lot of digging and sifting and searching.

Proverbs 2 tells us the way to get godly wisdom, where we read:

If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord,
And discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:4-6).

We who are in Christ have been assigned a marvelous treasure hunt – a lifelong treasure hunt – and it is to include the whole of God’s revelation, not just the parts we find easiest to understand.

For us who have been forgiven and sealed for the day of redemption, the Law still has a grand
purpose – because the Law was always a reflection of the character of God. If we are beholding God through the Law as through all of Scripture, we will be transformed through that beholding.

So, what does the Law tell us about the character of God that should affect our worship, our relationship with God, and our relationship with our fellow man? The answer is, “A lot!” There is much more than we can address in one lesson. It is up to you individually to consider the additional aspects of the Law that we can’t cover in this lesson – and that leaves a lot to consider.

For the remainder of this lesson, we will look at only a couple of the major categories of the Law to drive home the point that there are many profound and timeless principles in the Law. My hope is that this will stir up our interest in pursuing this further in our individual study.

Commandments and Ordinances

Exodus 20-23

We should first note the difference between the general commandments and the detailed ordinances, statutes, and precepts of the Law.

The Ten Commandments are really the summary declarations of God’s Law which encompass all the detailed ordinances and statutes that follow. There are many other declarations in the Law that take the form of direct commandments, but the Ten Commandments are the overriding principles of law, which the ordinances and statutes flesh out.

1 Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath of in the water under the earth. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16”You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:1-17).

The Ten Commandments, as many of you know, address two essential aspects of man’s experience. The first four commandments focus directly on man’s relationship with God, and the remaining six focus on man’s relationships with man. This is parallel to Jesus’ own statement about the essence of the Law in Mark 12:28-31, in which one of the Jewish scribes asked Jesus,

“What commandment is the foremost of all?”

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord; And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

“The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Ultimately, all of the commandments and ordinances are found to be outworkings of these two overriding commandments. Genuinely loving God and our fellow man is the fulfillment of the Law, and this godly love is the goal of God’s work of sanctification in the life of the believer.

The Ordinances

Exodus 21-23

In Exodus 21-23, many of the Laws are worded in the form of “if, … then” statements. For example, in 22:1:

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.”

These and many of the other laws address fairly specific scenarios that might arise in the lives of Israelites. These laws, or ordinances, are not to be taken as comprehensive, but rather are to been seen as examples to guide the Israelites in the application of the Law to their daily lives. One of the great errors of Israel was to treat the Law as a set of rules that addressed every area of their lives, like a big box they could live in to be sure they were pleasing to God. But in God’s design, the Law was always a matter of the heart. There is no difference here between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Wisdom is Greater Than Knowledge

In the Old Testament, the key Hebrew term for wisdom is chokmah. It is a very common word throughout the Old Testament. It means moral skill, or put another way, the wisdom to make godly decisions. It is not the same as knowledge. People love to have knowledge – we want to know exactly what is expected of us and to know when we’ve achieved it. We want things to be predictable and easy. God, on the other hand, wants to teach us wisdom. Knowledge is simply a stepping stone to wisdom. God has already told us all we need to know (in His Word), but we’re not familiar enough with what He has already revealed to have a good sensibility about how to deal with the things He has not specifically addressed. A knowledge of God’s Word, combined with faith, produces wisdom to live well – to live with a clarity that comes from truly knowing God as He intends for us to know Him. I like the phrase popular with our youth – WWJD – “What would Jesus do?” When you know the answer to that question in a given situation, with no further revelation than that which God has already supplied, and you do what God would have you to do, then you have discovered chokmah – godly wisdom.

In our congregation, younger children also hear the messages as they are delivered, so I shall address them here. Children, when you are young, sometimes you find it very hard to understand why your parents make you do certain things. Sometimes when they can’t explain something to you, they just say, “Do it because I said to do it!” But as you grow up, you begin to understand that there is a reason for the rule. There is a principle behind the rule that starts to make sense, and pretty soon, you obey the rule because you believe in the reason for it.

How many of you children have been to the library? Has your mommy or daddy ever said to you when you walk into the library, “Be very quiet – people are trying to read!” Well, when you’re little, and you can’t read, your parents get books and they go home and read them to you. But then you learn how to read for yourself. Let’s say, one day, you are sitting in the library with a good book, and you are trying to read while your mother is looking for another book. Some little child comes in being very noisy, and his mother says to him, “Don’t be noisy in the library – people are trying to read!” Then, you understand!

You see, the rules your parents make you follow have a good reason, a principle behind them. When you are young, you may not understand the principle. All you have is the rule, and you have to follow it because your parents tell you to. It was the same way with your parents when they were little. As time goes by and you learn more, the reason becomes clearer. Hopefully, your parents are making every effort to explain the reasons for the rules, even when you’re still too young to fully understand them. It’s that way with God’s rules, too. Every law that God set before Israel had a reason, a principle behind it. The more we know about God, the more we learn about His eternal way of looking at things, and the more His law becomes written on our hearts, so we don’t have to think about the rule any more in order to act in keeping with God’s character. That’s the spirit of the Law. That’s wisdom.

We have now seen the two big categories of law in the Old Testament – the fundamental Law in the Ten Commandments, and then lots of examples to instruct God’s people about how the spirit of the Law plays out in their day-to-day experience.

In the remainder of this message, let’s look at just a couple of major areas addressed in the Law of Moses and talk about the timeless principles we can glean from them.

The Distinction Between Clean and Unclean

One of the areas in the Law of Moses that Christians find hardest to understand is the distinction between that which is ceremonially clean and that which is ceremonially unclean. I will touch just the tip of that particular iceberg, hopefully enough to communicate the big principle behind those statutes.

Dietary Restrictions
Leviticus 11

First, the dietary restrictions in Leviticus 11. There were certain foods that were forbidden for an Israelite to eat. If an Israelite even touched any of these forbidden animals when it was dead, he became unclean until the evening of that day, and according to chapter 5, he was required to bring a sin offering for atonement.

There have been numerous interpretations of the reasons or principles behind these dietary restrictions. Some say they have to do with respecting the distinction in kinds and that animals that don’t fit well into their categories are to be avoided, like sea creatures without scales. But there are many cases that don’t fit this approach.

Others have made a lot out of the health considerations of these restrictions, saying the animals that were clean are more healthful to eat than those that were not. While there may be something to this on a pragmatic level, there is a lot of disagreement about which animals are more healthful to eat. After all, eating a bunch of beef is not considered a wise thing to do based on medical knowledge we now have. There is nothing in the text itself to support this view.

The one interpretation of the dietary laws that I believe makes the most sense, and that I am convinced is best supported by the whole context of Scripture, is that these restrictions were given to separate Israel from the other nations and to make anyone who wanted to dwell in the camp of God separate from those who didn’t. In ancient times, as in some cultures today, dining was fellowship. You couldn’t have fellowship with someone if you couldn’t eat with them. God used these distinctions as one of many instruments for preserving the national identity of Israel. But more to the point, He used them to set apart His people from all others with the design of preserving the purity of their worship.

44 For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.
45 For I am the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44-45).

While we are no longer under the Law, and God has declared all things to be clean, there is a sense in which the principle of these restrictions still applies.

Paul exhorts Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 to separate from unbelievers in certain ways. This passage is directly pertinent to our discussion because it touches on the idea of avoiding that which is unclean and on the idea of separateness:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God and they shall be My people.

Therefore come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – emphasis mine).

Unclean Conditions of People and Things
Leviticus 12-15

The rest of the clean/unclean distinctions are found in Leviticus 12-15. The basic categories of clean/unclean distinctions are these:

Uncleanness related to Childbearing

Uncleanness due to Skin Disorders

Uncleanness due to Mildews

Uncleanness due to Bodily Discharges.

There were certain things that might happen to an Israelite that would render him or her ceremonially unclean. What it meant for the person to be ceremonially unclean is that the person was temporarily barred from drawing near to the Presence of the LORD at the tabernacle (or later at the temple) to worship with the congregation. Typically, the unclean condition required that the person wait for a period of purification to pass; then he was to bring a sin offering to the tabernacle to make atonement so that he could be restored to a condition of fellowship. After that, he could regularly draw near to the Lord to worship at the tabernacle. In the case of leprosies or skin diseases, the person was in an unclean condition until the illness was cured. In the case of mildews, the house or fabric that was affected, if not “cured” after a period of time, was to be destroyed.

At first glance, it is hard to see the point of these restrictions. But if we look a little harder, it starts to make very good sense. What common element is involved in conditions associated with childbearing, skin disorders, mildews, and bodily discharges? With what are all of these things associated? The simplest answer is: They are all associated with the fall of Adam and Eve. The curse of the Fall was death – spiritual death and physical death (Genesis 2:16-17). Illness, disease, decay, corruption, pain and death were all part of the curse (Genesis 3). It was not only man who was affected in the curse. All of creation was affected.

Romans 8:19-22 says,

For the anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God, For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

The whole of God’s creation was subjected to an inevitable movement toward corruption and decay once sin entered into the world.

Mildew and rot and decay are part of the curse just as are the infirmities of man.

But what about childbirth? Childbirth isn’t a bad thing, is it? Certainly not! Psalm 127:3-5 declares that children are a blessed heritage from God. But childbirth was a part of mankind’s earthly experience that was explicitly affected by the curse. In Genesis 3:16, God told the woman, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall bring forth children.” Childbirth involves pain and the shedding of blood. It is a marvelous blessing, but it is also a vivid reminder of man’s cursed and mortal condition – just ask any woman who has been through it. I think it was Carol Burnett who used to say that childbearing is about as much fun as grabbing your lower lip and pulling it up over the top of your head.

So the conditions that constituted ceremonial uncleanness were all associated with the curse of the Fall. Which brings us to the next question:

With what are these th ings NOT associated?

Let’s look at Revelation 21:3-4:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,

And He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

The conditions that constituted uncleanness are conditions that will not be a part of our experience before the presence of God in heaven. All the effects of the Fall will be left behind when we receive our resurrection bodies and we enter fully into His glorious Presence!

The Tabernacle worship presented an earthly picture of the heavenly reality of drawing near to the Presence of God. And the distinctions between clean and unclean served as a memorial, a vivid reminder for Israel of the fact that God is holy and completely unaffected by the fall of man. Drawing near to His Presence is not a common thing. It is not like the other things that surround us in our day-to-day, mortal experience. The Presence of God is holy, set apart from all the things that constitute man’s cursed condition – sin, illness, decay, impurity, corruption, death. His presence is associated with health, wholeness, purity, integrity, well-being – in a word, with life.

The clean/unclean distinction in the Law of Moses is not just mindless minutiae. These detailed requirements are memorials to cause God’s people in every age to appreciate the transcendent experience of drawing near to a holy God. These laws remind us, as they were to remind Israel, that the worship of God is a most sacred privilege; indeed, it is the most sacred privilege of all.

I believe there is a strong forward-looking aspect to these ordinances as well. They point to the hope of glory which belongs to those who are rightly related to God through faith – the promise of the restoration of all things to the blessed condition that existed before man sinned and was cursed.

It is exceedingly valuable for us to study these things and to meditate on the principle inherent in them. Next time you get out the X-14 mildew remover or you feel arthritis pain in your wrist, remember that our mortal condition is not the end of the story – Jesus Christ has overcome the curse. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows [infirmities] He carried” (Isaiah 53:4). He has overcome illness, decay, corruption, and death itself. One day, if we have believed in His Son, He will take these mortal bodies and transform them into immortal (1 Corinthians 15) – He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and He will make us to dwell forever in His glorious Presence.125

The Sabbath Principle

The second major area of the Law I would like to consider is the sabbaths, and the principle behind the sabbaths.

The word “sabbath” means “to cease” or “to rest.” The first idea that pops into our minds when we hear the word “sabbath” is “worship.” But the word means “to cease.”

The commandment related to the sabbath day (the last day of the week) is the fourth of the Ten Commandments. God said in the fourth commandment,

Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy, But on the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy {set apart} (Exodus 20:8-11).

So the pattern of resting on the seventh day is based on the fact that God ceased from His creative labor on the seventh day. Keeping the sabbath day holy meant setting it apart from the other days of the week. It was set apart as a day of worship, but it was also set apart as a day of rest from labor, and it is the ceasing from labor, and not the worship, that is the explicit focus of virtually every passage that talks about the sabbath.

It is important to note that the term “sabbath” is not limited to the observance of the last day of each week. There were other sabbath days as well, including sabbaths associated with nearly all of the festivals. There were also Sabbatical Years and Jubilee Years. Each of these observances involved the idea of Sabbath, or cessation from work.

The Manna in the Wilderness

Exodus 16

In addition to the pattern of God’s creation, there is another crucial historical event that serves as a basis for all the sabbaths. That event was the giving of the manna in Exodus 16. Even before the Ten Commandments were given, Israel had already been taught by God to treat the last day of the week as set apart from the other six days.

God promised to provide the manna, the bread that miraculously appeared each morning like dew on the ground. Each family of Israel was to arise every morning except on the seventh day of the week, and they were to gather just enough manna for that day’s needs – not more, not less. If they gathered more than was needed for that day and attempted to keep some for the next day, it would spoil and be useless. If they came out to gather any on the seventh day, there would be none to gather.

To understand the spirit, or principle of the sabbath, we must consider what action and what attitude constituted violation of the sabbath. What tendency in man nudges man to violate this law? I would submit that it is NOT that we love to work and hate to rest. How many of you dread the thought of having some time away from work? Instead, I would say that it is that we love to be in control over provision for our own
well-being.
We obsessively seek to control the means of provision for our needs and to store up provision for the future. In a word, we look to ourselves as our providers. The sabbaths required God’s people to deliberately and regularly set aside their efforts to provide for their own needs so that they would deliberately and regularly acknowledge their ultimate dependence upon God alone for every good thing.

Let’s carry this to the next level. In addition to the weekly sabbath, there were the festivals, the holy days. Three times a year, Israel was to gather together at the central sanctuary and they were to bring their sacrifices before the Lord.

The Festivals and Holy Days

Leviticus 23

Time does not permit us to examine each of the festivals, but a study of the calendar for the Jewish year reveals that if the people had observed all of the festivals, those who had to travel to get to the temple would have to leave their land and their flocks and herds behind and come before the Lord for nearly THREE MONTHS of every year!

And what might happen to their land and their herds while they were gone? Well, you may have heard of the Midianites. They were big believers in forced redistribution of wealth. The Midianites were one of several nomadic peoples who loved to benefit from other people’s labors. They excelled in wandering around taking possession of the crops and the herds of other nations, and then moving on to find other easy pickings. For Israel to leave their land unattended to observe the festivals at the central sanctuary would be like us putting a big sign at the entrance to our subdivision saying, “We’re all out of town for Christmas.” There was no question that this required Israel to leave their prized possessions vulnerable to any who might want to take them. To observe these memorials, Israel had to trust solely in God to protect their possessions.

God promised to do just that. In Exodus 34, when Moses went up the mountain to receive the tablets for the second time, God told him,

Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God (Exodus 34:23-24 emphasis mine).

The festivals required God’s people to very deliberately LET GO of their dependence on their own efforts to provide for themselves and protect what they had, and to trust God to be their faithful Provider and Protector.

This same principle – of relinquishing to God the whole issue of provision – applied in all of the sabbath observances under the Law.

The Sabbatical Years and the Jubilee Year

Leviticus 25

The Sabbatical Years scaled this principle up yet another level. In one year out of every seven, the people were not to sow their seed. They were not to do any work to produce crops in that year. Whatever sprang up on its own during the seventh year was available for anyone to glean (the poor, the servants, aliens, landowners – everyone), but there was to be no systematic harvest or selling of the produce from that year. God promised that if they would observe this law, He would provide enough harvest in the sixth year to get them through the eighth.

The Jubilee ratcheted this principle up yet another notch. After every seventh sabbatical year came the Jubilee year, and again in that year, Israel was to cease from all agricultural activity. That meant when the Jubilee came around, there would be two years in a row – the forty-ninth year as a sabbatical year and the fiftieth year as a Jubilee year – in which they were to cease from all effort to systematically cultivate the land.

Their crops were not the only thing they had to let go of in those special years. Every Sabbatical year, they had to release all their Hebrew slaves to go back to their families, and they had to forgive any debt owed to them by a fellow Hebrew. Furthermore, in the Jubilee year, any land that had been sold by one Israelite to another was to revert back to its original owner.

The reason God gave for these provisions in Leviticus 25:23 and 25:55 is that the land and the people belong to God Himself! God is the owner and the Source of every good thing, and He defines the terms on which He gives us stewardship over those things.

There is no evidence that Israel ever kept the Sabbatical or Jubilee Years after they got into the land. Indeed, the duration of the exile of Judah in Babylon was based on the number of sabbaths that Israel had denied the land.126

Now, let’s recap what we’ve seen in the sabbath observances: The sabbaths were to be a continual memorial to these fundamental principles:

God’s people are not to rely on their own efforts to provide for themselves or to protect themselves because:

God is the possessor of all things.

God is the sole provider of every good thing.

God’s provision must be received on His terms, not ours.

By deliberately setting aside their efforts at the times appointed by Yahweh, the Israelites were to acknowledge and demonstrate their utter dependence on Him for every good thing.

Are these time-bound principles that applied only to ancient Israel, or are they timeless principles? The answer should be obvious. As with ALL of the Law, the principles we find in it are principles that derive from the very character of God, and His character never changes.

We need to think hard about ways that these principles can and should be worked out in our own lives. With regard to the principles contained in the sabbath observances, it is exceedingly valuable for us to deliberately set aside times to cease from our efforts to provide for our own needs, especially in the culture in which we find ourselves today. We need that spiritual exercise to keep our priorities straight and to focus our attention on the call to trust God for all things!

The relevance of these principles is pervasive. Whom we trust for provision and security directly affects what we do with our money; it affects the relative time priority we give to work versus family and ministry to one another; it directly affects the level of anxiety we associate with lack of control over our finances or over our job security – and it affects a myriad of other aspects of our daily lives.

We have talked about the purpose of the commandments and the ordinances to those who have been justified before God by grace through faith – that purpose being to impart godly wisdom. We’ve talked about some of the lessons to be learned from the Sabbaths, the Festivals, the Sabbatical Years, and the Jubilee. We have talked about the principle found in the distinction between clean and unclean. There is so much more that can be said about the principles that we should find in the Law of Moses.

The more we dig into the Scriptures, the more we come to know God’s whole plan of redemption, and the more we come to know God Himself. The personal knowledge of God is that which produces wisdom and makes our sojourn on this earth a blessed opportunity to live as vessels of honor in the hands of our marvelous God.

In Romans 7:12, Paul wrote that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” My exhortation to you and to me is that we do not neglect to study and meditate on the perfect Law of God, and that we faithfully put into practice the marvelous principles found in it. Then we will say with the Psalmist,

O how I love Thy law!

It is my meditation all the day.

Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies,

For they are ever mine (Psalm 119:97-98 emphasis mine).


123 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Tom Wright, teacher at Community Bible Chapel, on January 14, 2001.

124 All Scripture references are cited from the New American Standard Bible.

125 In His High Priestly Prayer that Jesus presented to God on the night before He was crucified, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Life is relationship to God!

126 C. Leviticus 26:34; 2 Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 29:10. Based on 2 Chronicles 36:21, some understand the 70 years of exile to mean that Israel denied the land 70 sabbatical years, in which case they failed to observe the sabbatical years for 490 years of their history. It is also possible that this number, 70 times 7, is simply a figurative way to present the idea that Israel NEVER kept the sabbatical years. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:21-22 seem to support the idea that “seventy times seven” is a figure of speech denoting an absolute number; i.e., surely Jesus didn’t mean that we should stop forgiving someone the 491st time he sins against us!

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word)