Vol. 9, No. 4
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"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect" (Hebrews 10:1). The Old Testament law was not the 'real thing' because it was only "a shadow of good things to come." One cannot pick apples from the shadow that is cast by the tree; rather, one has to pull the fruit from the tree itself. In our understanding of the Bible, it is imperative that we observe the two major divisions of the Bible, namely, the Old and New Testaments. When Paul instructed Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth, he implied that it could be wrongly divided (2 Timothy 2:15) and a part of rightly dividing the Bible is to understand our relationship to the Law of Moses.
The Old Testament is as inspired of God as is the New Testament. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Peter declared, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, the source of these writings is God himself. Paul wrote relative to the events that took place in the Old Testament in the following manner, "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). Again, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4). The fact is one cannot have a proper understanding of the New Testament if there is not a general knowledge of the Old Testament. We can see how God dealt with people in ages past and observe the great scheme of redemption being unfolded that would bring all events leading up to the coming of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should all study the Old Testament for the reasons given by Paul.
However, our relationship to the Law of Moses, contained in the Old Testament, is different from those who lived under it and were subject to it. The illustration can be given relative to this matter as per our relationship to the laws that governed the thirteen original colonies before the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States were written and passed. Today, as citizens of the United States, we are governed by the latter and not the former set of laws. Here are some questions that we shall ask and answer to help us understand better our relationship to the Law of Moses.
1. To whom was it given? "And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep and do them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day" (Deuteronomy 5:1-3). On this occasion, Moses was the speaker. He was addressing the children of Israel. We learn that Jacob's name had been changed by God to Israel in Genesis 32:28. These people to whom Moses was speaking were fleshly descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and they were to become the great Hebrew nation. Moses said that God had made a covenant with the Israelites. A covenant is a pact, an agreement between two parties. In this instance, the two parties involved were God and Israel. The truth of the matter is the Law was never intended for anyone except Israel, through which God would preserve the lineage of his Son Jesus who would be the Savior of the world. The exception would be those Gentiles who became proselytes to the Law.
2. When was the Law of Moses given? We can find the answer to this question by reading Hebrews 8:7-9, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord." Please note the statement regarding 'when' the covenant was made with Israel: "in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt." One can trace the journey of the Israelites after their crossing of the Red Sea and follow them down to Elim, and then as they camped in the wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. They then moved on to Rephidim. From Rephidim the congregation encamped in the wilderness of Sinai some three months after their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. It was then that the Lord God called Moses upon the Mount Sinai to give him the Law (Exodus 19:20).
3. Why was the Law of Moses given? "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgression." (Galatians 3:19). First of all, note that the law "was added." The law had not always existed. The law was "added" to other covenants made previously with men like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul mentioned it was "because of transgression" that the Law came into existence. Suffice it to say that the Law brought forth full realization to the minds of men that they were sinners. Paul declared that this was the case in Romans 7:7, "Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law." The Law of Moses was given by God to Israel to discipline and separate them to be his own chosen nation through which the Savior of the world would eventually come. (To be continued)