The Old Testament Law has kind of gotten a bad reputation. “It’s long! It’s boring! It doesn’t have anything to do with me!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard those words from Christians. I’ll admit, I myself trudge through books like Leviticus very rarely because it’s lots of work and slooow going. I’ve taken up the task again though recently, and God has been using it to teach me. After all, the Holy Spirit included the Old Testament Laws in the modern Bible even though He knew that we would still be reading them long after its original need was gone. God wouldn’t have allowed that without a reason.
So what is there to learn from those books?
1. God has a plan. The Laws listed in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (and referred to all throughout the Old Testament) were designed for a purpose that we, living after the days of Christ, can see even more clearly than the original hearers could. First, it was designed to keep the people of Israel separate from everyone else around them. When we see verses reminding them to “not eat anything with the blood in it” or all the chapters concerning how to care for and prevent the spread of leprosy, we have to remember that the nations around them weren’t doing anything of the sort. Many were just reveling in their filth. Laws also kept the Israelites from immorality and from worshipping other gods. Some realized these people were different and asked why. The answer? They followed God. Talk about a testimony! Second, when Jesus was born, He was born into this nation that was primed for His arrival. You know all of those sacrifices the people had to make? Lambs, birds, etc.? They were a picture of when Jesus would come to die! God already knew! Thousands of years before Jesus walked the Earth, God was already telling His people about His plan for the world’s salvation and giving them the chance to be part of it. Think of what that means for us! We worship a God who sees and plans for everything we will ever need.
2. God is holy. The Law is full of minute details, and that’s what often leaves its modern readers feeling a bit bogged down. For example, there are some very specific lists laid out of what the priests must wear and when, and how exactly the people must cleanse themselves before entering the temple. There are verses upon verses on this stuff. In those verses, though, we are reminded of the reverence we should have coming before our most holy Lord. He is not someone to be treated lightly. God is so far above anything we could even begin to imagine, and as we read through the Law, we have the opportunity to compare our own hearts to the awe of Him found in its pages.
3. God is involved in our world. Look back at number one. God had a plan for our lives and wanted to remind His followers of it daily. What loving encouragement! God also wanted to guide the people through life as He intended it for them at that time. The Law saved the people from many missteps that without direction, they probably would have suffered from time and again. Some people believe that God has kind of taken a step back from the world since creation, but I think the Old Testament is one of many things that says exactly the opposite.
Besides teaching the history of the world, the Old Testament reveals to us the nature of God. Though the rules themselves may not apply nowadays because of the “new covenant” in Jesus (Hebrews 8), our God never changes. His holiness, His plans, and His involvement in our world are the same as they have ever been and ever will be.
What has the Lord taught you as you study through some long and difficult passages of His Word?