Overnight we got a tongue-in-cheek comment/question from a friend in the UK. It came in the form of a fairly long note, but raises an important question. So I’m going to copy the comment here, break it after a few lines, and then let you read and respond to the rest of the comment.
The comment begins like this,
I am now retired and spend a bit of time reading the Bible. Also I am an avid reader of your Web site.
Thank you so much for enlightening the people regarding God’s law, however, I need some advice from you, regarding some of God’s law.
1) Lev.l8:12 clearly state “it is an abomination to have homosexual relations,When people bring up the subject, I just don’t answer.
2) I have tried to burn a bull in my back yard, as an offering to God, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord, Lev.l :9. The problem is my neighbors, they claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
3) I know that I am not allowed to have any contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness, Lev. 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, most women took offense.
4) Lev.25:24 States that, I may indeed posses slaves, both males and females, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. Does that includes New Zealand, or it only apply to Indonesia, and New Guinea, only?
5) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7 In this day and age, what is a fair price for her?”
6) Lev. 11:10. Clearly state that eating shell fish is an abomination. Is that to say that if a person is found to eat shell fish, he/she must be slain like the Homosexuals?
OK, I think that is enough to begin responding to… except it’s important to know that the comment ended with, “I know that God’s Law, and commandments are rigid, eternal, and unchangeable.”
The comment reminds me of a book titled “The Year of Living Biblically…. one man’s humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible, by A.J. Jacobs. It’s more humorous than serious, but it reflects, as the above comment does, what happens when you try to apply the laws of the Old Testament to today.
As I understand the comment/question, there are a couple of issues to begin with. One is that the writer is right in pointing out that the Bible does say that God’s law is eternal. The second is that, even though the New Testament shows that what is eternal about the law is its heart and meaning (rather than its form), and although the New Testament makes it clear that followers of Christ are part of a new community called the church– and not bound by the national law of Israel– many of us do reach back into the Old Testament with a “pick and choose” approach to which moral issues we want to support from the Old Covenant. That raises the issue of consistency.
While books could be written on the subject, let me see if I can at least begin to net out a response.
1. The New Testament shows that the form of the law given to national Israel at Mount Sinai was meant to be a temporary tutor that was in force until the coming of Christ/Messiah (Galatians 3:23-25). That law was nationalistic in its civil and ceremonial forms and is not to be a binding factor on the present international body of Christ we call the church.
2. Yet at the same time, the Apostle Paul says that all Scripture is useful to the follower of Christ (2Timothy 3:16). In making this comment, he supports the idea that there is something about the Law of God that is timeless in significance.
3. One thing the New Testament does is show how Jesus the Messiah personally fulfilled the eternal principle of the law (as seen in the heart of the law– which is to love God with all of our heart– and to love others as ourselves), and took it upon himself to make it possible for us to be justified (declared blameless) through our trust in him– rather than by trying to keep the law (in any form).
4. What the New Testament also does is net out the timeless and eternal principle of the law of God (as rooted in God’s own personality and character)– not as a means of salvation, but as a means of loving God and One another through his Spirit. This “netting out of the law”, leaves behind the nationalistic forms and enforcements that were meant to provide a civil, legal, and ceremonial culture to Israel.
5. Today we need to use the Old Testament to see how God has used history to reveal himself until all of that revelation converged and became personified in Jesus, his Son. With that perspective, the challenge of interpretation and application is to find timeless principles, illustrated in the Old Testament, and applied in the freedom of spirit that the New Testament calls us to.
6. Trying to find the timeless principle so that we can apply it appropriately for our own time and situation can be a difficult but worthwhile challenge.
7. What is most important is that we allow all of the history, law, poetry, and prophecies of the Old Testament to bring us to the Messiah himself, so that our focus is on the personified truth, and love, and grace that we find in Jesus. Once we are in him, our effort needs to be to look for timeless principles that enable us to reflect his eternal goodness, and wisdom, and spirit toward God and one another.
Well, this went longer than I hoped, and is only the beginning of my response to one comment– the rest of which you can read below…
What follows is the rest of “A Good Natured Challenge”…
7) Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if, I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that, I wear glasses, my vision is not 20/20. Is there any room for wiggle room here?
Most of my males relatives get their hair trimmed including the hair around their temples, even this is expressly forbidden by Lev.l9:27. How should they die?
9) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of dead pigs is unclean. How should I play Football?
10) My uncle has a farm. He constantly violate the law by planting two different crops Lev.l9:19. He also tend to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it necessary that we get the whole town together to bum him? Or could we just do it in a private family affair like people who sleep with their in-laws? Lev.24:10-16, and Lev.20:14.
11) If a bride is found not to be a virgin, who should stone her to death? her family, or the groom family? Deu.22:13-21.
12) I found my young son masturbating. How should I kill him? Gen.38:9-10
13) Lev. 18:19 State that if a couple have sex while the woman has her period, then both should be killed. How do find out if my son and wife are doing the right thing by the Lord commandment.
14) Mark 10:12 State divorce is forbidden, as remarriage, should I keep friendly with my neighbors, who both were divorced and now remarried ? Or should I regard them as sinners.
15) As a christian, how could I beleive in Jesus, the son of God, Whom himself was a Jew, every second of his life was spent obeying God’s Law, lived and died as a Jew, and yet, Christians do not live their life like Jews and obeying God’s law, as directed in the Bible?
I know that God’s Law, and commandments are rigid, eternal, and unchangeable.
Charles in a dilemma.