So, we are back to the Mosaic Law today. Having finished the landmark legislation of Moses (The Ten Commandments) we now move on to a variety of other commands. We need to add some more theological observations to our tool box as we head into this new section. Because the Law of Moses is both so important and also so expansive, theologians have spent a great deal of energy reflecting on this body of law and categorizing the various parts of it. When we look at the entire body of legislation we see three different areas of focus. This might seem a little too academic at first, but unless you have this theological map to guide you, the Mosaic Law will become an imposing wilderness of confusing commandments. We could fall into the error of either dismissing them altogether or using the Law in the wrong way. Historically, these two tendencies of “legalism” or “antinomianism” (lawlessness) have long plagued the church.
Reflect: The Mosaic Law can challenge our self-made notions of how we approach God and what serving God looks like. While none of the laws in this section are directly applied to Christians, understood properly can help us to think through what it means to live a faithful Christian life. Can you see any places where the principles revealed here can guide you to greater faithfulness?
Connect: Paul says that the Mosaic Law, in its entirety, was meant to be a training tool for God’s people as they grew in maturity and were prepared to receive Christ.
Galatians 3:23-24 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Special note: Slavery in the Bible. It can be troubling for people to read regulations about slavery in the Bible, because we imagine historically recent modes of “chattel slavery” when we read Exodus 21. However, it is important to note the specific limitations in place on the practice of slavery within Israel. “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh he shall go free” (Ex. 21:1) Furthermore, there were essentially rights and protections for people who were in the classification of “slave” (Ex. 21:2-11,20,26). Slavery was a common practice in the ancient world. The Mosaic Law does not create it, but it brings regulations and protections to an existing practice. Finally, we see that the entire practice is governed under the precept that Israel knew what it meant to live in slavery in Egypt and that God had delivered them from this (Ex. 20:1). This is clearly a very different system that what was practiced in American plantation systems. But why would God have allowed even this highly regulated practice of slavery to exist within the nation of Israel? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that it provided a means of survival for people who were living in poverty and in danger of starvation. That is, you could sell yourself in a time of absolute desperation but, there was a limit on how long you could be held. Like modern day bankruptcy, there was a process that could allow for the restoration of absolutely desperate people.
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This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.