Summary: God wants His people to follow His rules exactly. The Pharisees expanded the list to 613, Jesus brought it back to two. Check out these thoughts from our Family Minister, Scott Jewell, about following God without adding or subtracting from His commands.
I have always enjoyed math, in fact, I’d say it was my favorite subject all the way up through high school. There was just always something about the simplicity of figuring out the correct steps that no matter how complex the problem, you’d always come to the same conclusion. There is an innate beauty in mathematical formulas that transcends the chaos of this world and reveals an order that has always demonstrated the creative nature of God.
G.H. Hardy, author of A Mathematician’s Apology, once wrote, “Beauty is the first test; there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.”
Bertrand Russell, mathematician turned philosopher says it this way- “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.”
I would like to think that these men and others like them recognize this beauty because they caught a glimpse of the hand of God at work in our universe. Now, Jeff began a series about God’s math on Easter Sunday, exploring God’s accounting one week and His addition the next. Today we’re going to continue with this series on God’s math by seeing where God has placed us in His grand equation for salvation. (read Deuteronomy 4:1-8)
As I mentioned before, math has a very precise set of rules. Follow them exactly and you will arrive at the correct result. Skip a step or two or conversely add extra steps and the results can be disastrous. Our role in God’s math works similarly.
Moses here stands before the people and presents them with God’s equation: Listen+Do=Live. Listen to the statutes and the rules that God gave the nation of Israel through Moses. Follow through on what they command. Live in the land that God is giving them- Israel.
We see this choice offered to the people of Israel time and time again throughout scripture. As Joshua’s time as leader drew to a close, he gathered the people up for one last huddle, one last pep rally, and he challenged them- “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” -Joshua 24:14-15
As King David prepared for his death and handed the kingdom over to his son Solomon, he left him with these instructions- “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” -1 Kings 2:2-4
When Elijah called out 450 prophets of Baal to a sacrificial duel, he told the crowd that had gathered to watch- “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” -1 Kings 18:21
And then in the New Testament, as Jesus taught what became known as the Sermon on the Mount, He spoke these words: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” -Matthew 7:13-14
This choice does, however, comes with a warning- “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” -Deuteronomy 4:2
And then God reminds them what happened to the men who followed the Baal of Peor. The event is described in Numbers 25- Israelite men were being seduced by the women of Moab and following their gods. Even as Moses and the judges are making things right before God, an Israelite man named Zimri brought a Midianite woman back to his tent to make her his own but the priest Phinehas killed them both with a spear. His righteous zeal brought an end to the Lord’s anger, though 24,000 had died of a plague because they had strayed from God’s commands.