Have you ever been slightly (or severely) concerned or amused by some of the things God commanded in the Old Testament? For instance:
Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 11:22, “All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all ours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.” (For more on what animals they were allowed or not allowed to eat see the whole chapter of Leviticus 11; it’s very interesting.)
Deuteronomy 25:11-12, “When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand.”
Deuteronomy 24:5, “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.”
Numbers 31:16-18, “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
There are several more places in Scripture where God’s laws and orders seem extreme, silly, and/or unwarranted according to our understanding. I’m not here to go through each incident and explain it. I’m here to remind us that Christ came to fulfill the Law and obedience to God means living in repentance from sin and submission to the fruits of the Spirit. The New Testament is a New covenant full of grace that
replaced fulfilled the Old covenant and our sins are washed away when we choose Jesus and call Him Lord. If you are a disciple of Christ and you want a tattoo, go for it! If you want to eat a flying insect besides crickets, I guess you can. If a woman touches another man in his private area, please don’t cut off her hand! Obedience to God is different than it was back before Jesus’ sacrifice. Instead of a book of laws we have a promise of redemption. Obey by loving your neighbor, fleeing sexual immorality, respecting authority, and abstaining from greed, theft, murder, or hatred. Follow the New Testament and remember your sins are no longer counted against you as long as Jesus is your Savior.
Is the Old Testament (Genesis through Malachi) still relevant? ABSOLUTELY. We learn so much from it including more about God’s character and purpose for humanity, his love for the poor, his call to obedience, history that shows us not only that He exists but that Jesus was foretold in prophecy, and examples of heroism, answered prayers, people who loved God, and so much more. But a strict adherence to the old law for the sake of obedience to God will only bring certain failure, a misunderstanding of salvation, and a distinct disposition towards guilt and judgement. Obedience to God in the era of grace and salvation through Jesus who took our guilt and judgement upon Himself brings freedom from judgment and freedom from slavery to sin.
Obedience is a produce of an intimate relationship with Christ and it’s obedience to Him and His character that pleases God and places us in a position to resist sinful temptations. Grace is unmerited; it is free and the only requirement is that it is received by free will. Obedience is not something pertaining to laws and requirements; it is a gift and pleasure because grace covers us. In other words, we obey because we love God, not because of a fear of judgement or a guilty conscience. We are righteous in Christ and whether we have tattoos or not and whether we shave our heads or eat pork, grace is ours if we belong to Christ!
Some may say, what about the 10 Commandments? Well, what about them I ask? Of course it’s not Christ’s character to murder, to steal, to lie, to commit adultery or worship idols. But even then, those sins can be forgiven! Is that an excuse to sin? Of course not! If we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus then we are new people; we don’t want to sin, and when we sin instead of feeling guilty which fears judgement, we feel convicted by God’s unconditional love!
I know if you’re a new Believer or still seeking answers this can be confusing. But the sum of this post is to say that you will read and hear strange things in the Old Testament, but because of Jesus Christ we can be free from sin, free from the law, and we become glad to obey His good character because we know He loves us and took the penalty of sin upon Himself for us.
Obedience to the law brings weariness, shame, and failure. Obedience to Jesus brings peace, hope, and joy! Praise God for freedom from the Law!!
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Mt 11:28-30, MSG)