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The Tree of Life

What is the Law of Moses and what is its purpose?

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The Tree of Life

Introduction

Have you ever been reading the Bible and wondered about the purpose of what it is that you're reading? There are certain passages that we read that feel really applicable to us: passages about love or about Mercy or Grace. Those are passages that we can read, and we can say, "Oh, yeah, I see how that relates to my life." But one of the passages that's really difficult in this regard (and maybe you've never even read it because of this) is the whole section of the Law. 


What is the Law?

The Law is often called the Torah. That's the Hebrew term for it, and that covers the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books have some stories in them, and the stories are easy to relate to. But you also get passages that are a lot more obscure. And so these passages often tend to be ones that we just skip, and we don't think about.


Let me give you an example. Leviticus 1: 5-6 says, "And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord. And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into his pieces."


Now, what's that all about? You know you read through the Bible, and you know the Bible's supposed to change your life, but what do you do when you're reading a section that's all about a bull and how the priest is supposed to kill the bull? What does that mean? What kind of impact does that have? As you read through the Law and many of the different commandments given to the Israelites, it's easy to feel like, what does this mean? What's the point of it? Especially today, as Christians, trying to understand how commands that we don't follow how they relate to us. So what's the purpose of the Law?


The Purpose of the Law

Well, in Deuteronomy chapter 1, we have an explanation. Deuteronomy 1 tells us this: "On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying..." Now, the word declare is a Hebrew word, and it doesn't really mean to declare. It means something a little deeper. It means "to explain." In other words, Moses had given all these laws in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and when we get to Deuteronomy, he stops and says to the people, "Now I'm going to explain to you what these all mean." So this is our chance! If we want to understand the purpose of the Law, we need to take a look at Deuteronomy.


So, what do we see when we go through the book of Deuteronomy? Well, in that book, there appear to be two main themes, and it might be a little bit surprising. Because, in fact, those are the themes that are easy for us to relate to. Consider this: the first theme is actually love. Listen to these words. Here's what Deuteronomy 4 says to us about love: "Out of Heaven he made thee (that's the Israelites) to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee; and upon earth, he showed thee his great fire, and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt; to drive out Nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day." 


So Deuteronomy emphasizes that God did all these things and he gave all these laws to the Israelites to show them that he loved them! Now I think for a lot of people, when they read through like what we read in Leviticus about slaughtering the bull ando ffering the offerings, they don't think about love. And yet God says, when you read these laws, remember my love for you.


In fact, he says again, in Deuteronomy 6: 4-5: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might." So what you get when you come to the book of Deuteronomy is not only God expressing his love to the Israelites, but him then saying that the Law they were given was a law to love him.


So, the Law revolves around this idea of love. But it's not just love. It's not only that. That love then prompts another emotion, and that emotion is Joy. I just think that that's fantastic. This is what God is attempting to teach his people through all these laws. These things seem so obscure, yet he's actually teaching them to be loving and joyful. Therefore, if you were to go to Deuteronomy 12, you would see him giving the laws about the offerings, and yet what he says over and over and over in Deuteronomy 12 is when you offer that offering, do it in Joy. He says it three times in the chapter.


Then, at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, you get What's called the blessings and the cursings. Half of Israel stands on one mountain and talks about what will happen if they follow the Law -- all the blessings. The other half of Israel stands on another mountain and talks about what will happen if they don't follow the Law -- all the curses. And God caps off this whole discussion, this back and forth between these two sides of Israel reminding each other about the blessings and the cursings, by saying all these curses will come upon you because you didn't serve the Lord your God with joy. In other words, the idea behind the Law was to teach love and to teach Joy.


Conclusion

What God was doing is what God has always been doing. God has always, from the beginning of time, sought to create a family that had characteristics and that showed the family resemblance. He wants to make a family that lives and thinks as he does; that shows that love, that shows that joy. And so we even see that in the Law! Even though the Law might feel obscure, as you read it, just recognize that's the idea. Now, there's a little more to it, but that comes later. Because, in fact, as we'll see, the Law was also intended not just to teach love and not just to teach Joy but also to bring us to the Lord Jesus.

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The Purpose of the Law

What is the Law of Moses and what is its purpose?

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