20 December 2010

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--Introduction (part 2)




Whenever I get ready to plan a lesson, I always try to look back on the previous week and ask myself “Is there anything I didn’t explain as well as I should have?” And I really think that last week I didn’t do a good job of explaining just what it means that “Christ fulfilled the Law.” Well, as we saw last week the Law was simply part of a bigger picture of the One who would deliver the world from the power of sin. Think of the OT like this—Pastor Phil gave this illustration once. Suppose I ran into someone I had not seen in years. They ask me if I'm married, and I'm going to pull out this picture and say, “This is my wife Laurie.” Thing is, will they be looking at my wife? Not really. After all, am I married to a picture? No. That piece of paper with ink on it is not my wife—but it is a picture of my wife. And by looking at that little piece of paper, you will see what my wife looks like.

We can apply that same principle to Christ and The Law. If one were to study the Law—and the Psalms and prophets—one would see a picture of the perfect righteousness of God. So that when the perfect righteousness of God were to stand before you—you would know it. Christ was that perfect righteousness of God that the Law and the Psalms and the prophets showed in a picture. Christ “fulfilled the Law” by being the One that the Law—and the Psalms and prophets—were only a picture of. Make sense?

Another thing I want to go over is Romans 7:7I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." I mentioned how we all know, without anyone telling us, that killing is wrong and that stealing is wrong. So how could Paul say that he did not it was wrong to covet? Well, covetousness is an inward sin. We know it’s wrong to harm other people—but we don’t always realize that even our thoughts can bring judgment upon us. Which is why Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:21-28“You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder…' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It’s not simply the outward actions that bring judgment—but even the secret thoughts of the heart. Do we know, are we aware of, every single sin we have ever committed? In fact, we see this in Psalm 103:3If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

The Pharisees—including Paul, who was a Pharisee before he met Christ—the Pharisees were teaching that keeping the Law was simply about rituals and cleansings and burnt offerings. But Jesus rebuked even their thought life in Matthew 23:23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” So the purpose of the Law was not simply for people to go on sinning and then bring a bull or a goat for a burnt offering. It was meant to address the outside—but also the inside as well. This, oddly enough, brings us to today’s text.

Let’s look at the effectiveness of the Law. Psalm 19:7-12The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. This is not simply an OT idea. Listen to what the apostle Paul says in Romans 7:12The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 1st Timothy 1:8-9The law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners. There are many false converts in the American church today. And when I say that, I don’t mean to sit in a seat of judgment and banging the gavel on any individuals. The even bigger problem is, many of those people don’t know they have not been converted. Because many of those who witness to people to bring them to Christ begin their message like this: “God loves you just the way you are and has a wonderful plan for your life.” And many of them end their encounter by telling the person to “Pray this prayer and ask Jesus into your heart.” The person prays the prayer, and the witness declares them saved. The problem is, they get the person saved before they ever get the person lost. Not only that, many times they don’t go on and teach the person about what that means to them now. Can they go on living like they used to, and at the end of the day throw up a prayer, “Please forgive me God!” Because, after all, that preacher said I'm saved, and if I'm saved I can't be lost again!

Well, this was the pattern that the nation of Israel fell into many times in the OT. In Isaiah 1:10-15Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.” These people are doing what was commanded in the Law—all the festivals and Sabbaths and burnt offerings which God said would be a “sweet aroma unto the LORD”—and now He’s saying “These things make Me sick.”

What happened?

What happened was these people are bringing sacrifices and keeping feasts—rather than turning away from their sins. They're thinking “We can go on sinning, just so long as we keep the feasts.” Look at verse 10. “Rulers of Sodom… people of Gomorrah.” The same thing could almost be said of people who swear up and down they're saved—yet if you look at their lives…huh? They're going to Cotton Eyed Joe’s every Saturday and getting drunk; listening to music that glorifies drugs and alcohol and all other sorts of ungodly things—but they're “saved.” I'm not going to say they're not—but…ya know?

Well, when a person—or a nation for that matter—wants to go on living in sin, thinking that if they give enough lip service to God He’ll just give them a wink and a pass, be sure that He will more than likely take away the very symbols of their outward religion to bring about an inward change. Joel 1:9-10The grain offering and the drink offering have been cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests mourn, who minister to the LORD. The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. God had sent a swarm of locusts—as it says, one which had never been seen before nor will be see ever again—and these locusts chewed up the grapevines and the fig trees and the barley and the wheat. Not only did all the vegetation die—the animals that ate it died, too. And if all your bulls and goats are dead, what can y9ou bring for an offering? Well, you can bring yourself. This was God’s way of telling the people “I don’t want your burnt offerings and your goats and your barley cakes—I want your hearts.” In fact, He goes on to say Joel 2:12-13“Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”

So, what does all this mean for us today? After all, we don’t go to the temple with bulls and goats and barley cakes. Well, if we belong to Christ, we will have a heart that wants to obey the Law of God. In fact, God will write that Law upon our hearts. Psalm 37:30-31The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. Jeremiah 31:33-34“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” says the LORD: “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” says the LORD. “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Those of us that God has saved—He has written His Law on our hearts, and we delight in keeping that Law. Because it is not about a list of commandments and rituals and bulls and goats and barley cakes. It’s about loving God. And if we love God, will we want to do anything that may even have a hint that it is displeasing to God? No; we will want to live our lives according to His Law—but not because we are trying to be saved by keeping the Law, but because we have been saved, we show Him we love Him by living our lives by that Law.

And we do so, knowing that we cannot possibly live that Law perfectly. But we don’t use that as an excuse, either. And this is why we love Him—Christ lived a perfectly sinless life because we can't! We try to, but we know we will fall short, and because we will fall short we have been given the full righteousness of Christ—not sort of “Christ fill in the gaps” but we are made perfectly righteous in God’s eyes. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 (NET)God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. If we are saved, we don’t simply have the righteousness of God—we become the righteousness of God. Keil and Delitzsch—
"The demands of the law…cannot be fulfilled by sinful man. Even when he strives most earnestly to keep the commands of the law, he cannot satisfy its requirements. The law, with its rigid demands, can only humble the sinner, and make him plead for God to blot out his sin and create in him a clean heart; it can only awaken him to the perception of sin, but cannot blot it out…the forgiveness of sins is a work of grace which cancels the demand of the law against men. In the old covenant, the law with its requirements is the impelling force; in the new covenant, the grace shown in the forgiveness of sins is the aiding power by which man attains that common life with God which the law sets before him as the great problem of life."

Before Christ, the force of the Law compelled the people to keep it. After Christ, the grace of God in the person of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us gives us a heart that wants to obey His Law. Those who do not accept Christ’s blood as payment for their sins and who do not turn from their sins will need to keep every jot and tittle of that Law to be righteous in God’s eyes. BUT—Christ has completed the Law for those who believe in Him, and if our righteousness is from Christ living in us, He will give us the Holy Spirit we need to love God’s Law and do His will. John 14:15-17“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” 1st Corinthians 6:19Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God. And if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us, our lives will be evidence of this fact. Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Notice again—fruit of the Spirit (singular), not fruits (plural). This is collectively what the new life looks like.

And if we are walking according to the ways of God, then we are the most blessed people on earth. Psalm 1:1-3 (NASB)—How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. If we do not use the commandments of God as our standard for morality, we will, individually and as a nation, wind up following every philosophy of man and every new teaching that comes along. And we see this happening today. People trying to explain away the things contained in the Law of God, concerning things like homosexuality and abortion and adultery and so on. Isaiah 5:20-24Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight…as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Try telling someone today that homosexuality is a sin and that abortion is murder—and I use those two because they are two of the more visible and more widely tolerated sins that we as a nation are guilty of—try telling these things to someone and see if you don’t have to wash out your ears after they're done telling you what a blankety-blank blanking-blanker you are, and how they don’t need your God and they don’t need no Jesus and who are you to judge and so on and so forth. We live in a nation that calls evil good and that calls good evil.

But let me finish with this passage that contrasts this mindset with a picture of the heart of a man who dearly loves the Lord God and who delights in His Law and who has the Law of God written on his heart. Psalm 119:33-40Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain. Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways. Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You. Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good. Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me through Your righteousness. So now that we have a good background concerning the Law, next week we will begin our journey starting with the Ten Commandments.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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