Is God Present in the Old Testament Law?

Last week, we looked at how Jesus’ sacrificed Himself for our sins during the Passover fulfilled the foreshadowed ‘perfect sacrifice’ for sin and the reason behind this annual event.

This week, let’s look at a different category of the law, and one that not many people focus on when talking about ancient Israel’s laws. We will look at some of the ‘miscellaneous’ laws in Deuteronomy, and see if we can identify any themes about God’s character and how He views the world.

1 “If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility.

“If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!

“A woman must not put on men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothing. Anyone who does this is detestable in the sight of the Lord your God.

“If you happen to find a bird’s nest in a tree or on the ground, and there are young ones or eggs in it with the mother sitting in the nest, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but let the mother go, so that you may prosper and enjoy a long life.

“When you build a new house, you must build a railing around the edge of its flat roof. That way you will not be considered guilty of murder if someone falls from the roof.

“You must not plant any other crop between the rows of your vineyard. If you do, you are forbidden to use either the grapes from the vineyard or the other crop.

10 “You must not plow with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.

11 “You must not wear clothing made of wool and linen woven together. (Deuteronomy 22:1–11).

Let’s look at each of these laws a little closer.

The first four verses talk about kindness, personal responsibility, and being a great neighbor. I hope that you would agree with me that if everyone in your neighborhood or city abided by this standard, it would be a great place to live. God seems to love to see us care for each other.

The next verse (v. 5) may seem a little odd in today’s culture, but when I read it, it gives me a picture of how God sees men and women. In historical times, there were clear distinctive lines between how men and women dressed. I see this regulation being a way that God tells us that each of us matter to Him. He likes men to dress, act like, and be men, and women to dress, act like, and be women. He created each gender with specific roles, strengths, and needs, and it’s only when we are in alignment with how He created us that we will be satisfied with life.

Where did I get all this from ‘clothes’? In the New Testament, in at least one of Jesus’ parables, clothing was a metaphor for character.

Verses 6 and 7 should make those who love eggs happy. When I read this regulation, I see a God that values parenting, and He places a great responsibility on parents with how they raise their children. If the regulation read, “you could kill the mother but leave the eggs”, then the babies would have no one left to raise them. If it read, “you can kill them both”, then it would imply that God doesn’t value life. These verses are worded in such a way that life can continue well for everyone, and they also emphasize a strong parental role.

Verse 8 makes perfect sense for someone who is interested in being a good host. When people come over to visit our homes, we should do what we can to keep them save while they are in our house. It is good for both our reputation, and for our guests to have an enjoyable time. Taking reasonable precautions also shows that you care about your family, because you want to keep them safe as well.

Verses 9, 10, and 11 are all interesting and unique, but when looked at together for thematic elements, we see that God values purity. Some might say that these three distinctions that God makes are ‘black and white’ contrasts with no gray area. But aren’t there gray areas in many of our decisions? Yes, however because God is both perfect and He knows all the facts, motives, and details, He can be very conclusive in decision-making. In many places, we read that perfection is standard in His eyes, and anything else is sin. Allowing things to mix like these three regulations prohibit, is a way that God shows us that He has set high standards for purity, and keeping things clearly-defined helps simplify our lives.

We can see God’s character in many of His laws. His laws are able to give us an idea of what He is like. Another thing that is interesting that most people don’t bring up is that there is nothing in any of these laws that could ever be ‘fulfilled’ or ‘accomplished’ definitively. This also tells us that God is more interested in the journey and the destination than simply the destination. He wants the best life for us now and an even better life with us in Heaven.

Even if many of these regulations seem foreign to us, by taking the principle and truth an applying it into our own lives, we are able to gain some of the benefit and blessing that God wants to give us in this life. Obedience to these miscellaneous rules won’t bring salvation for the future, but they have the ability to make today better!

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