Summary: Was the Mosaic law good or bad? Why did God give it to Israel, and what part did it play for His people?
OPEN: Why do laws exist? Why do we have them? I thought about that a lot this week…and this was my conclusion: “Laws exist to modify behavior and to help us know what is acceptable and what isn’t.”
Now, if that’s true, why were these laws written?
In Michigan it is illegal to paint sparrows to sell them as parakeets. Why would they write such a law? Well, someone apparently had painted sparrows to sell as parakeets but there was no law that said they couldn’t… so now there is.
In Birmingham, Alabama, it is illegal to drive a car while blindfolded. Seriously? Why make a law like that? Well, apparently someone tried it! Someone drove blindfolded but there was no law against it at the time. Now there is.
But these next two laws were ones I found particularly interesting: 1) It's illegal to ride a camel on a Nevada highway; 2) in Arizona, it is illegal to hunt camels. What? Why would anybody even write a law about Camels in Nevada and Arizona? Well because, at one time there’d been camels out west. Back in the 1850’s the US Calvary experimented with camels in desert and they proved to be useful. But, the Civil War ended the experiment. Ultimately 81 camels were sold at auction, and somebody had to write some laws concerning them.
My point is this: laws are written to modify behavior and help us know what is acceptable. And that brings me to the Law of Moses. A lot of Christian theologians and preachers spend a great deal of time attacking the Mosaic law, implying that the Law of Moses wasn’t a good thing… but that contradicts what Paul said “… the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Romans 7:12
The Mosaic Law was a GOOD THING – it’s just that it had a few drawbacks. But we need to remember that these Laws were from God, and when God created the Mosaic Law He had reasons for why He did that. George Faull (a preacher and founder of Summit Theological Seminary) has written a book that has detailed numerous reasons why God gave the Law. We could spend hours exploring the reasons Mr. Faull gave for the law, but for the sake of getting you home sometime today we’re going to focus on just two of those this morning.
FIRST – God gave His Law to Israel so they could modify their behavior. David wrote: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word (Psalm 119:9); and “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11); and “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:104).
Back in David’s day, they didn’t have as much of the Bible as we do. They had Genesis thru Judges, and maybe Job… and that was it. When David focused on God’s Word, he was talking about the books of the Law. These were the writings he expected Influence my behavior. These books were to help him keep his way pure, make it so he didn’t sin against God, and helped him to gain understanding so that he would learn to hate every false way. That’s why he read it!! That’s why he meditated upon it. That’s why he spent his time thinking on it.”
ILLUS: There was a famous study done back in 2009 entitled “The dishonesty of honest people”– A Theory of Self-concept Maintenance” (researchers Nina Mazer, On Amir, and Dan Ariely). The researchers asked over 200 participants to either recall the 10 Commandments or 10 books they had read at school before. And then they gave these students the opportunity (and the incentive) to cheat on a problem-solving task. What the researchers found was that the participants who focused on the moral reminders of 10 commandments were less likely to cheat than those who received no such reminder.
In other words - for THOSE students - God’s law influenced their behavior.
SECOND – The Law was meant to help Israel know what was right and what wasn’t. Psalm 119:105 says “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” David was saying: “God’s Law SHOWS us what the RIGHT path is.
In fact, God promised: “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.” Exodus 15:26
God was declaring --- LISTEN TO ME… and you will be blessed. LISTEN to MY VOICE; Do what is right in MY EYES; Give ear to MY COMMANDMENTS and STATUTES; If you do that I’ll bless you.