Summary: How does the Law of Moses compare to the legal codes of mere men? And does it still apply to us today?

OPEN: Commenting on the Bible, Ronald Reagan once said:

“I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.”

History gives a lot of credence to that comment.

Someone has made a list of some of our nation’s more famous documents and they found that:

The Gettysburg address is 286 words.

The Declaration of Independence is 1,300 words.

BUT, the U.S. Government regulations on cabbage sales: 26,911 words.

By contrast:

The Lord’s prayer: 66 words.

The 10 Commandments: 179 words.

If you notice, God is the master of brevity

It doesn’t take Him long to say what He’s got to say.

I believe that’s because He knows we have a very short attention span.

Now there are times when God can get kind of long-winded, as He does for the remainder of what is called the Law of Moses.

The rest of the law actually contains 613 distinct commandments. But most of those (613 separate laws) are explanations of the 10 that we just read.

In fact, someone has called the 10 Commandments “God’s Table Of Contents” because they sum up the bulk of the rest of God’s Law.

God’s Law has always been unique.

There were other laws that were written back in the days of Moses. In fact, one of the most famous was called the Code of “Hammurabi”. This caused quite a stir amongst critical scholars several years ago because those who didn’t believe the Scriptural record said this “code” must have been one of the sources used by Moses as he composed Israel’s laws. However, this legal system, written about 300 years before God gave His law on Mt. Sinai, has some distinct weaknesses when compared with God’s code.

One source said that “in the Hebrew laws a greater value is generally placed on human life”. The article goes on to say that in the Code of Hammurappi, “There is no control of lust, no limitation on selfishness, (an article entitled, “Mosaic and Ancient Near Eastern Laws,” from

Essentially, laws written by man rarely attempted to control what we’d call morality.

“Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts, Vol. “2 tells of another difference:

“Biblical law was public law” it was supposed to be read aloud one or more times a year. (cf. Deut. 31:10-13). BUT pagan laws were created by pagan kings and “in many nations of the ancient Near East, the King carried the laws in his head, as they were his personal possession. He did not publish them until he was ready to give up his throne. Thus a person could be arrested for breaking a law he had never known. The laws were kept secret, even when a person was put on trial for breaking them (there are few instances in which anyone cited royal codes in a court case).

But in Israel, the leaders of government read God’s Law to the people at regular times of the year. Thus every citizen could learn the laws he had to obey…”

Essentially, the 10 commandments were far superior to any legal code ever created by man.

Let’s go back over those 10 Commandments

1. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

5. "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

6. "You shall not murder.

7. "You shall not commit adultery.

8. "You shall not steal.

9. "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10. "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

God had promised that, if His people honored His law, they would be blessed. God’s law blessed His people because it served as a barrier between God’s people and the dangers their sins would bring upon them.

ILLUS: One man said it this way: “The barriers of the Law weren’t there to restrain the rider… but to restrain the bull”. He then described a rodeo scene where you see a cowboy coming out of the chute hanging onto a bull for dear life. The bull would buck and twist and eventually throw the rider from its back. At that point, the cowboy would quickly get to his feet and run for the wall.

Why was the wall there?

The wall wasn’t there to restrain the rider… but protect him from the danger in the ring. The wall isn’t there to restrain the rider… but to restrain the bull.

Likewise God’s law blessed His people because it served as a barrier between them and the dangers their sins would bring upon them. You can see that reflected in the commandment about honoring your father and mother. Why were they to honor their parents? “So that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

That’s the value of having the 10 Commandments posted in our society. Even today… even for people who aren’t of the covenant… God’s law protects all who try to honor them.

Now, it’s intriguing. When Jesus was asked to name the “Greatest commandment” He didn’t name any of the 10 commandments. Do you remember how Jesus answered that question?

He said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

In that answer, Jesus summed the 10 Commandments.

The 1st four commands deal with loving God.

The last 6 deal with loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Once again, God is the master of brevity.

Jesus took the 179 words of the 10 commandments and summed them up in about 40 words.

But Jesus did more than that with the Law of Moses.

Colossians says that God “… forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13b-14

In His death, Jesus cancelled the Law of Moses! It was nailed to cross when Jesus went to Calvary…


But wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense!!!

We’ve just got done describing how perfect the Law of Moses was.

We’ve seen how there has never been anything like it ever written by man.

In fact, the principles of God’s Law under girds the legal system of the US. It’s part of what has made our legal system so dependable and trustworthy!

And there are few in the church would argue that the Law of Moses wasn’t a good thing. I mean… how can you argue with things like:

* You shall not kill.

* You shall not commit adultery.

* You shall not steal.

* You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

But now – here in Colossians – we’re told that one of the major reasons Jesus came was to nail that Law to the cross. What’s going on here???

Well, it helps to understand that there was another reason God gave His Law to the Israelites.

One church once put up this saying on their church sign:

“Think Metric: Observe the Ten Commandments.”

Now, that’s cute and everything… but it fails to understand one basic principle: The ONLY person who has ever kept all the 10 commandments was Jesus. The Bible tells us that the rest of us have never mastered that ability.

“ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” says Romans 3:23. All of us – at one point or another in our lives – has broken one or more of God’s laws.

And what’s the price of our sin?


As Romans 6:23 says: “the wages of sin is death”

If you look real close in the law, you’ll find that the punishment for breaking any of the 10 commandments was… DEATH

If you worked on the Sabbath.. they put you to death

If you murdered someone… they put you to death

If you committed adultery… they put you to death

If you cursed your mother or father… they put you to death

You can begin to sense a pattern here!

You see, the Law not only told us what God’s standards were…

It not only told God’s people the lifestyle that would protect them from - dangers of world…

The Law also carried the sting of death.

It carried the sting of death:

Because by its very nature, the law stressed our sinfulness.

And it stressed the fact that sin’s cost was death.

It stressed that blood was the price of our guilt.

The only way the Law had of dealing with sin was by the shedding of the blood. And year after year, the people of Israel offered up – again and again - the blood of bulls and goats for the forgiveness of their sins.

But Hebrews 10:4 tells us it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming— not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” Hebrews 10:1-2

In other words: If the blood of bulls and goats could actually take away sins you could have made a single offering and taken care of all your sins in one fell swoop. But these folks had to offer their sacrifices over and over again.

So, what purpose did the Law about sacrifices accomplish?

Well, Heb. 10:3 says “those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins”

Or, as Rom. 3:20 says: “through the law we become conscious of sin.”

You See: the Law’s purpose was to expose our moral failures and our personal sins.

ILLUS: The late J. Vernon Magee once said:

“You have a mirror in your bathroom, which is a picture of the law, and there is a basin underneath the mirror. You do not wash yourself with the mirror; it only reveals the dirt.

Just so, the law is the mirror that reveals our sin. And beneath that mirror there is a wash basin.

As the Old Gospel hymn says:

“There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;

And sinners plunged beneath that flood.

Lose all their guilty stains.”

Galatians 3:24-27 says “…the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

So, in our baptism, we put on Christ and we stepped out from underneath the Law.

And since we’re no longer under the law, we can’t presume to be able to rely on observing the Old Testament Law to be acceptable to God. In fact, Galatians warns us

“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse..." Galatians 3:10

Galatians 3:13 tells us that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

So, when we accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, we stepped out from under the Law and stepped under the protection of His blood.

Now that also means that – while we’re not under the curse of the Law - everybody else is.

The Law applies to everybody who is outside of Christ.

That’s because the Law reveals God’s righteousness vs. our sinfulness

And thus it condemns everyone who’s not covered by Christ’s blood.

The only reason we’re different is because we have the blood of Christ covering us.

In the book of Exodus we’re given a word picture of what this means.

In Exodus, we’re told the story of the Israelites in slavery in Egypt. God chose Moses to go bring His people out of slavery and into the land He’d promised to Abraham hundreds of years before. So Moses goes to and commands Pharaoh to let God’s people go… but Pharaoh refused.

So ultimately God decided to do some persuading.

He brings 10 plagues upon Egypt to convince Pharaoh to release His people… and the last of which was the plague of the death of every 1st born son in Egypt.

God had Moses tell the Israelites that this last plague would be visited upon every home in Egypt

The Law of His condemnation would take every first born male in the land… EXCEPT the homes where the inhabitants painted the doorposts and lentels of their houses with the blood of innocent lamb.

God’s law applied to everyone.

Israelite or Egyptian… if the blood was not applied to doorframe of the home, death would visit that family on the night of judgment.

God told His people: “the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:13

The only thing that spared the Israelites from death was the blood of the Lamb.

And the only thing that spares US from the judgment of the Law… is the blood of THE Lamb. The difference is: our Lamb (Jesus Christ) willingly chose to take our place. He willingly gave His blood so that we’d be covered and protected from judgment

ILLUS: I read about a small boy who was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing.

At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed.

The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy and smiled at his son.

When that boy grew to be a man, he said, "All my life I’ve known what Jesus is like by what my father did that night."

Jesus willingly took our punishment so that He could remove the decree of death that the Law decreed. As 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says:

“O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”