Here is today’s large Calendar piece:
December 11th | The Guardian
Bible Background: The Law reveals God’s perfect character and was given in accordance with a covenant with Israel. The Mosaic Covenant, as it is called, was a system of blessing and cursing based on the Law. Yet God’s promise to Abraham—resulting in righteousness through faith—wasn’t removed 430 years later with the Law. The Law was a catalyst, accelerating God’s plan of redemption by emphasizing our need for God’s intervention and describing with patterns how He planned to go about it. God’s plan was always to secure our righteousness through Abraham’s Descendant, Jesus.
Bible Study Question: What choice have all of us made according to Isaiah 53:6? Compare it to Galatians 3:13: Who paid the price?
Today’s Main Idea: The Mosaic Covenant was a system of blessings and curses that was based on obeying or disobeying the Law, respectively. It helped the Israelites to recognize that there is no way we can carry out God’s expectations on our own. The essence of the Law is actually Love, not harshness. If Man could love God with all his resource and faculty and love his fellow man as himself, he would break no laws. But Man, being selfish and sinful, could not love God or his neighbor that much; the Law exposed our tragic flaw so we would have no justifiable, self-reliant excuse to deny God’s gift of forgiveness. In essence, the Law is like a mirror, helping us to see our dirty faces but powerless to clean them. It is like a Guardian that can take us to school but cannot make us learn. The Law cannot fix us: it can only show us that we are broken. The purpose of the Law was not to create a rigid system of self-improvement but to induce a cry for mercy and compassion to a God eager to supply His resource to fix our brokenness.
Application: Paul explains to Timothy that the Law of Moses is still useful if we use it properly: not to create specialized teachings that cause arguments, but to expose sin. In an age of moral relativism, the Law still stands as the living, active Word of God to define what is right and what is wrong. It protects us from outside forces that seek to redefine what is harmful as beneficial and what is enslaving as liberating. Once our idea of right and wrong is perverted, we will even reject God because He will no longer meet our criteria for what we think is good. The Law is essential to keeping our moral compass pointing North and our horizon level: without it we quickly crash-and-burn.
Part of the ministry of Jesus was to explain a correct interpretation and application of the Law of Moses. Over the centuries, religious leaders had come to depend more on the letter of the law than its meaning (just like today with burglars suing the victims of their theft for faulty premises). They abused the language of the law and constrained it to their definitions and interpretations. Jesus came to set the Law free from their well-intentioned, but misguided teachings. The teachers of religious law were always quoting each other, but Jesus, the God Who Is Love, expounded The Law with authority because only He could understand it without twisting it. He didn’t come to abolish the Law–which is what some thought He was doing since He didn’t support their interpretations of it–but to fulfill it prophetically AND to explain its true meaning.
Confusion comes because the Law contains many ordinances and decrees that are specific to Israel’s geography and history. If the Law is still valid, still present with us, are we supposed to keep commands such as not boiling a goat in its mother’s milk (which teaches us compassion and respect) and not wearing fabrics woven of two different types of thread (which teaches us to avoid syncretism at all cost)? When we get caught on these details we prove that we have not graduated beyond the error of the religious teachers in Jesus’ day; we have become hung up on the letter of the law and are no longer to apply its principles to our everyday life. Jesus took the Law of Moses and applied it to the major moral issues of His time: adultery, divorce, greed, and pride. He reinforced honoring the literal legal code but also emphasized the weightier matters of the law like justice and mercy. Yes, stoning was a requirement for adultery, rebellion and blasphemy; Jesus demonstrated that it was not truly just for sinners to deal out retribution for the very sins they were guilty of. Jesus didn’t ignore the Law of Moses; He understood it so perfectly that He “check-mated” others with it. There were paradoxes and anomalies with sinners executing righteous judgments and proper interpretations of Scripture: Jesus, as God, came to sort out our confusion and help us to refocus on what truly matters, what He really expects of us (which is very little: humility and faith).
If we want to get technical, the fact is that many of the Mosaic ordinances are redundant–not invalid–because of what Jesus has accomplished and how times have changed. All the laws regarding atonement, for example, are no longer required to be put into practice because we have already been atoned for by Jesus. The laws regarding separation are redundant because Jesus united Jews and Gentiles together through His redemptive work on the Cross. The nuances of temple worship are no longer effective because there is no Temple and because we have been united with God’s Spirit; He is with us all the time (i.e. not in the Holy of Holies). These “loose-ends of the Law” are not sufficient grounds to negate or ignore it: they still instruct us today if we will look at the Law through eyes of Love, the Royal and Liberating Principle which according to Jesus sums up all the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus instructed His apostles to go into the world to preach the good news and make more disciples, being careful to instruct us in everything He commanded (Matt 28:20). He said we would receive the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth (John 14:17). With the Holy Spirit’s help we are supposed to look at the Law–as interpreted by Jesus, not our own human weirdness (!)–as the Word of God, as Scripture, and allow Him to speak through it to challenge our lovelessness, our selfishness, and our independence from God. What we are not supposed to do when we see our sin is to try to cleanse or change ourselves by our own human effort; we submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance for conviction, direction, and transformation, all of which is entirely dependent on God’s Grace exercised through our faith in Jesus. There is no law against the Holy Spirit’s instruction.
This Christmas rejoice in the fact that Jesus came to be with us, as one born under the legal code (Galatians 4:4-7); He fulfilled it, removed it as an impediment to our relationship with God, and gave us the means to stand apart from the Law (not in opposition to it) by Grace through faith. If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, the Law is no longer our guardian because we have already submitted to its truth in Christ. If we are still trying to live independently of God however, the Law instructs us that our behavior is deserving of the very eventuality that Jesus came at Christmastime to prevent. Make this Christmas season the most blessed yet by submitting to Jesus’ teaching. His truth will bring Love, Joy, and Peace to your life this Holiday Season!
Prayer: Father God, help me to submit to the truth of your Word. Thank you that Jesus took the curse of my disobedience upon Himself and that in Him, mercy triumphs over the judgment your Law says I deserve. If I believe in Jesus, You will declare me to be righteous like Abraham; I am so grateful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Family Activity: Law Mirror. You can buy a small craft mirror or smooth some aluminum foil over a piece of card. Decorate your mirror with a frame of “treasures”; Christmas sequins, beads, etc. Using a permanent marker, write out the verses of James 1:23-24 on your mirror. Place it in the bathroom so you can “dress” your heart as you get ready in the morning.
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