At East Hills, we have been challenging one another to read through the entire Bible chronologically in one year. This all sounds great until you realize that it takes more than a month to get through the law portion of Scripture. As an encouragement to folks, and for perspective, I offered this post for some perspective on all the gory, sacrificial details of Genesis-Deuteronomy.
"As we continue to wind our way through the first five books of the Bible,
one of the things we can't help but stop and ask is, "why are there so
many laws in these books?" And, "why are they in the Bible?" For most of
us, I think we feel like there is little that we can gain today from
studying them, and we never hear them preached on, if not for more than a
passing reference here and there. This blog is an attempt at helping
all of us to understand the place these laws have in our faith today.
If you think about it, these first five books were the only Bible the
Israelites had for quite some time. In fact, for several thousand years,
when Jews would ask the question, "How do we live in a way that is
pleasing to God?" these books- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and
Deuteronomy- were their answer. Their ONLY answer.
So imagine if you had been alive many, many years ago before the Bible
came to be the Bible. You had no written record of what pleased God and
what didn't. One day, God came along to you and said, "Person, if you
sin, you should bring me a sacrifice!" With no other reference point,
you are going to have many, many questions. Such as, "what is sinful and
what isn't? What kind of sacrifice? Do all sins require the same
sacrifice? When do I bring the sacrifice? Where do I bring it? Do I
sacrifice it myself, or does someone else do that? What does it mean to
sacrifice something to begin with? Burn it? Kill it? Eat it?" All of
these questions and many like them would be logical, and expected
responses to God's command.
In light of this, the length and specificity of all these books starts
to make a lot more sense! I have been told that even in the 1st century
at the time of Jesus, Jewish school boys were still required to memorize
the entirety of these books in school. Crazy as that may sound, it
actually makes a lot of sense when we remember that these rules were
their primary link to pleasing God.
If reading all of these laws and commands does one thing for us, it
ought to make us eternally grateful for the work of Jesus Christ. His
sacrifice has ended the system of sacrifice (Hebrews 10) and made
righteous forever all who trust in His name. So as you read about bulls
and goats one more time, pause and thank Jesus for coming on your
So while Jesus made our approach to God much simpler, he actually made
the requirements infinitely more challenging! When you think about it,
Jesus summarized thousands of laws with two: Love the Lord your God with
all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as
yourself. Very simple, but very, very hard to do. It would actually be
much easier for us to follow the sacrificial system than to live out the
laws of love in every single thing we do.
This is the amazing conundrum of Jesus. He raised the bar of God's
righteous standard even higher than the Old Testament law, but he
lowered the bar of acceptance. In the past, the people had to obey all
the commands in order to be acceptable. Jesus, however, made
everyone acceptable through His blood. Why? Because God knew that when
people understood they were loved and accepted by God already, they
would be empowered to go and live out his law of love.
We can never hope to love God and others perfectly. But thanks to the
amazing love and grace of Jesus Christ, we have the freedom to try,
knowing that our acceptance before God isn't contingent on how well we
obey His law. How cool is that?
So go for it. Go and love God and love others with all that you have.
And when you realize you've come up short, which you always will, fall
back into the amazing grace of Jesus Christ. And then go out and love
May your journey through Scripture give you a deeper love for Jesus than ever before!