Why do Christians pay attention to some parts of the Old Testament (like the 10 Commandments) but ignore others (like “don’t eat pork” or “don’t wear clothes of wool and linen woven together”)? Find out how to correctly interpret this tricky section of the Bible called “The Old Testament Law.”
Title: “The Bible Says THAT!?” (Exodus 21-23)
(Harvest Series Slide)
Good Morning. My name is David Sorn. I am the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
Well, for much of October and November, we talked about our future as a church….
And how God has allowed us to continue to reach more and more people for Christ.
So much so, that we know that within the next few years, we’re going to run out of space here at Northpoint Elementary.
And thus, we are going to construct a building of our own…on our recently purchased property on Lexington & 125th in Blaine.
However, to start construction on that building…we were hoping to raise 1.1 million dollars…that would come in over the next three years in pledges.
This was not a small amount of money.
Clearly a God-sized goal…especially because it was 1.1 million in ADDITIONAL money to what we are already giving.
I mentioned several times to you all that this was an even bigger God-sized goal than what we raised for our Amplify Project for Land…back in 2014.
Back then, we saw, what was a miraculous $613,000 pledged
And one of the easiest mathematical ways to see where we might end up today is to take our percentage growth as a church and multiply it by that $613,000.
So, we’ve grown by 60% since 2014
So if you take that $613,000 we raised in 2014…and multiply it by 60% growth...
Math would say we should expect to see around $980,000 come in for Harvest.
And what God did at Amplify was miraculous to begin with…so seeing that kind of move of God again…isn’t something that is necessarily “just going to happen”
So you can see how audaciously big of a goal 1.1 million was.
Yet…we worship a big God
A God that has been SO faithful to this church since we started.
And I am telling you today…that God has once again moved in a mighty way…as our total so far for Harvest is 1.3 million dollars!
(Put up total screen immediately after I say the number)
Technically, it’s $1,305,072
More than $200,000 above our goal! Pretty amazing!
Thank you so much for your sacrifice and allowing God to move through you.
God is going to do amazing things through the people of this church!
We are at 1.3 million because, once again, the participation rate for Harvest was off the charts!
Almost every single one of you were a part of this…and that’s amazing!
That number is obviously even higher than our original goal…so we’ll continue to monitor how quickly the funds come in.
In Amplify, we received about 84% of what was pledged…if that holds true again, that puts us right at about 1.1 million.
If it’s closer to 100%, we might be able to move up the timeline some as well.
And again, that number is just where we’re at “so far”
You can pledge to Harvest at any time (Commitment Cards are in the hallway)…or you can give at any time (even if you didn’t pledge)
It’s a fun time to be a part of Renovation Church.
And all of this sacrifice…isn’t about us.
It’s about being a people being changed by God to change the world.
And if you would allow me, before we get into Exodus, I want to talk to you briefly about one more world-changing thing (this is a church w/ a lot of vision!)
About every other year or so, we’ve been able to send a missions team to Africa to share the Gospel.
And we are going to do so again this upcoming summer, in 2018.
(Switch to Rwanda Slide)
Our ministry with Sammy Wanyonyi & Shine in the East African nation of Rwanda the past few years has been very strategic.
The harvest…is VERY, VERY ripe in Rwanda right now.
In fact, let me show you how ripe it is by explaining a little bit about what we do on the trip.
The people in Rwanda are so open to the Gospel right now, that last time we were there…we started to go into public schools to share about Jesus…
And as we started to do that, public school after public school started calling us and begging us to come and share about Jesus.
(Show School Picture #1)
We worked at a lot of elementary schools.
We would play games with the kids, do little dramas for them, and help explain to them who Jesus was.
Others went to middle schools or high schools and shared their testimonies.
Rwandans are absolutely fascinated to hear testimonies from Americans who are Christians.
Because they believe that all of America is like Hollywood and you are all lost to Satan ☺
(Show School Picture #2)
After we give testimonies, we give the kids an invitation to give their lives to Christ!
This is at a public school!
This isn’t going to happen forever in Rwanda…
Many think the window will close in the next 5-10 years…so we want to go…we need to go…NOW!
In the afternoons, we work with local churches.
(Show outreach picture)
They often set up in a park or an open area and their church choirs start singing (think more like a cool African R&B choir)
And because there isn’t a lot to do there…before you know it…400…500 people are hanging out.
And then we get up, share our testimonies…and again, I, or Sammy Wanyonyi will share the Gospel
And you’ll see 40, 50, 75 Rwandans coming forward to give their lives to Jesus.
Seriously one of the most powerful things you could ever witness and be a part of in your life.
We don’t just want you to go…we NEED you to go. Seriously.
The Harvest is SO ripe!
Right now, Rwandan Christian leaders in Kigali are praying that “Renovation Church” in America sends a large team.
The Bible commands us to take the Gospel to ALL nations…and this is an amazing opportunity for us to live out our vision…and change the world.
Will you let God use you in this way??
Just by the fact that you are an American…you will draw a large crowd of curious onlookers.
And we are going to use that to our advantage to share Jesus!
You can pick up an application in the hallway
You’ll get some more details about this in announcements as well.
A DIFFICULT SECTION OF THE BIBLE
(Rescue Series Slide)
All right, this morning, as we continue in our series on Exodus, we have come to, by far, the most difficult section of the book…in fact these are “3 of the hardest chapters to understand” in the entire Bible
We teach in a lot of different styles here at Renovation Church, and today, we’re going to dive deep into theology.
Last week, we read that in chapter 20, God has just spoken the 10 commandments to the people.
And now today, in chapters 21-23, God is going to give, to Moses, a plethora of specific laws on how the Israelites should conduct themselves.
Also, we are going to go through A LOT of Scripture today…and there will be a lot on the screen…so I HIGHLY encourage you to take notes in your app or on your bulletin.
We can’t read through all of this today, but we’ll highlight many parts of it.
These 3 chapters of the Bible, along with a few other sections of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy…comprise a section of the Bible called “The Law”
Many of these laws wouldn’t surprise you, and they seem like they would fit right in with what you read anywhere in the Bible.
Let me show you some examples of this from our 3 chapters in Exodus today:
(Exodus 23:9) – NIV
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
(Exodus 22:22-23) – NIV
“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry
Nothing shocking here.
And there are a ton of other really specific laws that are obviously from long ago, but not surprising in what they dictate:
Laws like…what to do if your bull gores someone, if someone steals your sheep, and if you need to borrow someone’s cloak
However, there are ALSO a number of laws in these 3 chapters where you might raise your eyebrows and say, “The Bible says THAT?!”
(Exodus 21:2) - NIV
2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.
And here, things start to get weird. A servant??? Kind of like a slave? What?!?
Chapter 23 tells you to harvest your crops for 6 years…but not on the 7th year
There are also strange verses like: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk”
And…if we expand this section of “The Law” into some of the passages that can be found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy as well…
You’ll see some even stranger verses.
(Deuteronomy 22:11) – NIV
Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.
Not to mention there are all sorts of interesting laws about not eating pork or shellfish…and what animals you should sacrifice when you worship!
And so, here’s what usually happens…
Either you read this for the first time and go, “Uh, what?? I just don’t understand the Bible!”
Or, what often happens nowadays, is a skeptic or an unbeliever (who has done a little “google research”) will come up to you and say:
“You Christians just pick and choose what you believe! You talk to us about the 10 commandments and even same-sex-relationships…but then from those very same books…you ignore the commandments about fabric, eating pork, and animal sacrifice! Your Bible is a mess!”
And for a lot of us, that leaves us paralyzed…and doubting.
By the way, because I never like to mention it just in passing, we have given two messages in the past, where we’ve talked exhaustively on same sex relationships…
You can find those on our website under the dates of March 6th, 2016 and May 26th, 2013.
So what do you do when someone calls you a “hypocrite” like that?
It sounds like a fair critique.
A lot of us begin to think: “Maybe I am picking and choosing? Maybe I need to give up bacon??? Maybe I should grow a long beard (after all, long bears are IN!)…Maybe the Bible isn’t as incredible as I thought.
But my friend…The Bible is indeed as incredible as you thought!
But like in anything, you can’t figure out the truth of a story by zooming in on 4 words, you have to look at the story from cover to cover.
…And how “The Law” fits in, contextually, to the ENTIRE story of the Bible…REALLY matters in interpretation.
#1: REALIZE WE’RE NOT UNDER THE LAW
So let me give you 3 principles for how to interpret the law…3 principles for how you as a Christian should properly read this section of Scripture.
3 Principles for Interpreting “The Law”
1: Realize We’re Not UNDER “The Law”
We are not, religiously Jewish.
We don’t just have the Old Testament, but the New Testament too.
And the story of the New Testament…is that when Jesus Christ came into the world…he was the FULFILLMENT of the entire Old Testament.
We’re told that HE is the new temple ( so there’s no need for the temple anymore)
HE is the new Passover lamb
HE is the final sacrifice.
HE is the new high priest.
He’s fulfilling all of the Old Testament!
And even “THE LAW” has been fulfilled in Him.
Look at the words of Jesus about concerning our 3 chapters from Exodus today
(Matthew 5:17) – NIV
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Okay, but what does that mean? Fulfill the law??
It means that no we’re not under the old law, but under the “new law” of Christ
(Galatians 6:2) – NIV
2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
And the “Law of Christ” can be found in Jesus’ response to a question about the commandments:
(Matthew 22:36-40) – NIV
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The Old Law has been fulfilled and Christ’s NEW law is what matters now.
In fact, in Ephesians, Paul says that Jesus ended the “Old Testament Law” for Christians.
(Ephesians 2:15) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.
So what was the point of the law then if Jesus was just going to fulfill it?!
Don’t worry, Paul answers this question in the Bible
(Galatians 3:19) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
19 Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.
It served a purpose for a time
(Galatians 3:23-25) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION !!!
23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
Paul says “The Law” was like a guardian.
Guardians were common in those days to watch over rich heirs until they turned of age…and then were free from the watch of the guardian.
Sort of like, I have all sorts of rules for my 4-year old twins:
Like you don’t get to decide what you have for lunch because you’d probably make a Kit Kat sandwich or something
But I hope when they’re 18…that they don’t need that rule anymore.
And in God’s story of history…the law had a very specific purpose…for a time (which we’ll get to)
But it wasn’t meant to be forever binding.
You can see this in American history even.
What year did the U.S. become a country (shout it out)? (1776)
What year did we start living under the authority of the Constitution?
Not until 13 years later…1789.
In the interim, we were governed by a document called the “Articles of Confederation”
A document that was drafted in a time of war so Continental Congress could actually have authority to govern in that critical time.
The “Articles of Confederation” served their purpose…for a time…and then, they were replaced by the constitution.
And if someone from a different country was studying American history, and they came up to you and said, “You hypocrite…you’re not following this law from the Articles of Confederation!”
You’d say… “Friend, you have to understand the whole story of American History here”
#2: UNDERSTAND WHY WE STILL FOLLOW MORAL LAW
Okay, so that maybe answers the question of why we don’t follow large parts of “The Law” anymore…
But it seems like we DO follow some parts of it!
This would all be really easy if we just said… “Yeah, all of the parts of the Old Testament Law don’t matter anymore…just read Jesus’ teachings and follow his great commandments”
But we don’t say that.
So why do we still indeed follow some of the laws from the Old Testament??
Doesn’t that just make Christians hypocrites who pick and choose?
Again, we have to study God’s Word from beginning to end.
Let me give you the 2nd principle for rightly interpreting this difficult section of Scripture:
3 Principles for Interpreting “The Law”
1: Realize We’re Not UNDER “The Law”
2: Understand Why We Still Follow MORAL Law
Biblical scholars will often split up these 3 chapters of Exodus…and their corresponding chapters in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy…into three different categories:
Civil, Ceremonial, and Moral Law
I encourage you to write those three down
Let’s start with CIVIL LAW
Civil laws (sometimes called Judicial laws) are those laws we see in Exodus 21-23 that have specific instructions with corresponding punishments to be carried out by a ruling body.
These are passages like Exodus 22:1 “Whoever steals an ox must pay back 5 head of cattle” ---That’s a law for a gov’t authority to enforce
OR, Exodus 22:18: “Do not allow a sorceress to live.”
Now, you can’t go to the Blaine police and say, “I think my neighbor is a sorceress…why are you allowing her to live?”
These particular laws in Exodus are called “Civil Laws” because they were NATIONAL laws.
Again, context is everything.
The Israelites are coming out of slavery in Egypt…they had never been a nation.
In Ex 21-23, God is giving them “LAWS” for their NATION.
But we’re not the NATION of Israel.
And in the New Testament…when Jesus “fulfills” the law…he redefines how the “children of God” are defined.
They’re no longer defined by one national identity (Israel), but instead the “children of God” are now people who follow Jesus…from ALL nations
And so therefore, all CIVIL LAWS don’t apply to us anymore…because God doesn’t have “one nation” that is enforcing His law.
Many Christians live in countries that are even completely opposed to Christianity.
So when your skeptic friend says, “How come you didn’t stone me when I worked at Old Navy on the Sabbath?”
You can say, “Because the Bible clearly teaches that we’re not the nation of Israel anymore…and so those civil laws don’t apply to us anymore.
The next category of Biblical law is Ceremonial Law
Included in the “Ceremonial Law” of the Bible are:
Laws about being clean and unclean
Laws about how Israel was to distinguish themselves (again, as a nation) from neighboring pagan nations
So, within the category of “ceremonial laws” are all of the laws about beards & tattoos, dietary laws, even, yes, the type of clothing you wore.
These laws were INCREDIBLY critical for the Israelites because they needed to distinguish themselves from the pagan nations surrounding them (even by their clothing)
In history, it was essential that they followed these laws so that the nation of Israel stayed distinct (and in tact!) until Jesus came
But again, that period has passed and we’re not the nation of Israel!
Perhaps the easiest place to understand the temporary nature of ceremonial law is the section of law about animal sacrifice.
So again, you can say to your friend…yes, we don’t follow some of the laws of the Old Testament…because we don’t need to sacrifice a lamb as a symbol of our forgiveness anymore.
That was just a temporary placeholder until Jesus…the final sacrifice came.
And just because we don’t sacrifice animals, doesn’t mean we’re picking and choosing in the Bible…it means we’re correctly applying it.
The third category of Biblical law is Moral Law
These are laws in this section of the Bible that are directly connected to God’s nature and basic teachings of morality
The 10 Commandments are often cited as the perfect example of moral law
If God says, like He does in the 2nd commandment, “Don’t bow down to idols…I’m a jealous God”
Because God’s NATURE is unchanging…my friends…don’t risk bowing down to idols…He’s STILL a jealous God! The law can’t change!
“Moral Laws” are usually laws that are reaffirmed in the New Testament as well.
In fact, 9 of the 10 commandments are directly reaffirmed in the New Testament anyway (while many debate on if the Sabbath is or isn’t reaffirmed)
And Moral Law in Exodus (unlike Civil & Ceremonial) can easily fall under the umbrella of “the Law of Christ” (His 2 great commands about Loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor)
#3: UNDERSTAND GOD’S HEART IN THE LAW
And here is what I believe is the 3rd principle in rightly interpreting this part of the Bible called, “The Law”
3 Principles for Interpreting “The Law”
1: Realize We’re Not UNDER The Law
2: Understand Why We Still Follow MORAL Law
3: Understand God’s HEART in the Law
Christians sometimes hear messages like this and think, “Okay, well, let’s throw away the Old Testament. Or, I don’t ever have to read the Old Testament”
The Old Testament is still the WORD OF GOD, friends!
The historical stories in the Old Testament (like the rest of Exodus) teach us much about God’s character and power
The Psalms teach of his love
The Prophecies of his amazing sovereignty and control!
Well, maybe you think then… “Okay, but in regard to THIS little section called “The Law,” I’ll just skip that parts!
But remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:
He said he has come to fulfill the law…not to abolish it.
He doesn’t want you to forget about it or skip it.
Yes, it’s not all for you to apply anymore, but He still wants you to understand it.
I think there is still a danger in coming through the first 2 principles and stopping there.
If you stop there, I think many Christians…in the back of their minds…still think, “Yeah, but why did God ever say that? Why was that EVER okay? And is He a good God if that’s what He USED to do?”
(back to Title Screen)
That’s a good question.
And this is where I wish I had 60 minutes here…but I don’t.
I’d love to walk through each of these tough laws with you.
The ones that feel, culturally so foreign, so antiquated to us…
Because when you study them (you don’t just let your doubts cause you to ignore them), you CAN see God’s heart behind them.
Let me just give you two fast examples.
In the first 11 verses of Exodus 21, you read that Hebrew servants were “purchased”
And yet, they weren’t slaves.
These were often poor people who were going to die…and they could serve at someone’s home for 6 years…to pay off debt…and they were guaranteed freedom, money, and a new life.
It was God’s way of taking care of the poor.
Or secondly, much of laws about clean & unclean or the sacrificial system or how the priests handled the blood of the sacrifice (basically the whole book of Leviticus) seems SO culturally foreign and crazy to us…it makes us wonder if it’s the same God!
And yet when studied, we realize that all of these things masterfully prepared the Jewish people to understand the Gospel of Jesus’ death…
To understand that human beings were unclean, and could not enter into God’s presence and receive his forgiveness without the proper shedding of blood.
So don’t be afraid to study…get a study Bible…buy a book…ask a friend in house groups!
Don’t be afraid to look for God’s heart in the Law. It’s absolutely there.
The reason that the world looks at the Bible and says, “Nah, you guys just pick and choose”
Is because the unbeliever hasn’t yet understood the storyline of God’s Son coming to earth.
If you don’t yet understand that when Jesus came to earth…everything (NO EVERYTHING) changed…well, then the Bible reads to you as a mishmash of rules
But if you believe…that Jesus Christ is God…who came to redeem and save…then this way of reading the Bible makes perfect sense.
In fact, I would even say, it’s beautiful.
Yes, there were laws for God’s children, the temporary nation of Israel, but now, all over the world…all believers are God’s children…and we follow Christ’s law
Yes, there were sacrifices, but only so people all over the world could would one day understand his sacrifice forgave all our sins.
Keep trusting in God’s Word. It’s an amazing thing! Let me pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source.