Early on in the story of God and his people, he drops on them a list of commands, rules, and regulations. These were for teaching his people how to interact with him and their neighbors around them. They are known as the “10 Commandments” and the can be found in Exodus 20.
Later God gives a longer list of commands, rules and regulations. They collectively are called “The Law of God.” These can be found in Exodus and Leviticus and are repeated in Deuteronomy (hence its name.)
These were the standard of living for the Israelites. Their lives were about keeping these laws and commands in order to stay in the favor and blessing of God. These rules and guidelines were what linked them to God. He was there God and they were his people if they keep the Law (Deut. 28:9, Jere. 7:23).
These laws and commands were God’s idea. They are his law. The Israelites did not ask for them. God proactively gave them to his people as a way of helping them manage their new found freedom after 400 years of slavery.
So, what do we do when we read verses were God seems to be throwing out his own laws, rules and commands. Where he is discounting them and pushing them aside in favor of something else. Scriptures like:
- Isaiah 1:11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.”
- Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
- Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
These are Old Testament passages, s we are not able to say that since Christ has come to rescue and restore he has fulfilled with the Law (Matt. 5:17). We can’t say they are cultural regulations that no longer apply because these laws and commands created the Old Testament/Israelite culture and always applied.
Jesus even repeats Hosea 6:6 after retelling the story about when King David broke the Levitical Law (1 Sam. 21:6) without repercussion:
- Matthew 12:3–4 “But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, “”how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?”
What are we to do with these verses? Just thank God we live in a post Old Testament time when Jesus has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets? Yes, but that’s not all. Even though the Law of God was given to the Israelites as a blueprint for their relationship with the Creator God, it was intended to do more then just administer and control.
I believe one reason the laws, the rules and the commands were given by God was to teach his people (and ultimately us) a better way of living. It was to teach us the very heart of God. But not about a heart of rule keeping or accounting, but a heart of love.
As a parent I try to teach my boys how to live according to house rules, civic laws and the standards of their heavenly father. This is for their maturity, development and growth. At some point I hope they will grow out of needing me to regulate their behavior. I pray they will instinctively know what is good, true and beautiful. I hope they will regulate themselves once they see my true heart of love in all of my enforcements.
Jesus, before his death and resurrection, confirms this when he answers the question about which is the most important law, rule, command or guideline in all the Old Testament:
- Matthew 22:36–40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.‘”
God’s heart is about love, grace and compassion. It always was. It always is. It always will be.