5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
As Israel prepared to enter into the Promised Land, Moses reminded this younger generation of the significance of the law of God. Notice, in Moses’ words, one purpose of the law that we modern folks tend to ignore. Moses told the people that one reason that he was giving them the law was so that other nations would be able to see the wisdom and justice of God illustrated by the nation that bears his name.
When most Christians think of the Old Testament, they often turn up their noses or look for code words for Jesus. IN fact, it is true that the Old Testament points us toward and prepares us for Christ. But the law is not useless apart from that. When God gave his people the law, he taught them of his justice, his holiness, his power, and his perfection. God was not cruel but incredibly wise when he commanded the Hebrews how to punish crimes, how to order their camp, how to handle their debtors and creditors, how to raise their crops, and how to make their sacrifices. Had the Israelites followed the law of God, there is no doubt that the surrounding nations would have seen the blessing and glory if God in this nation that had a system of law that was far different and far better than anything around it.
Even today, we Christians have the law of God, expanded and applied, in the complete word of God, the Scripture. Some standards, such as the sacrificial system have been perfectly fulfilled by Jesus. Some standards have been lifted by direct command of God, such as the laws about clean and unclean foods (though I still think catfish, fish without scales, might need to be off the list). But the word of God still tells us about how God would have us do justice, how God would have us order our families, how God would set up roles in our households, how God would have us teach our children, how God would have us live for his glory. Why then are we so apt as Christians, little followers of Jesus, to ignore God’s standards for the standards of broader society? Why are we so apt to accept that which God forbids? Why are we so tempted to pretend that the standards of God, Old and New Testament, are guidelines but not mandatory for his followers?
Please do not hear me seeking to call us to a legalism that would destroy us. No person will ever be made right with God by obeying laws, because it is God’s perfect law that makes us conscious of our sinfulness (Romans 3:20). However, the law of God, his set of orders and rules for life, is very good. God did not command anything bad. God did not command anything that we have outgrown. Maybe some of God’s commands will look different in our culture than in older cultures, but there is no doubt that all of God’s commands are still applicable in one form or another.
Christians, God said that the nation who obeys his laws will eventually show itself to be wise and blessed by God. Would this not be true of the household that follows the ways of God? Would this not be true of the church family that obeys and treasures the word of God? IF we do that which God has commanded, will we not demonstrate to the world around us that God is good, God is mighty, and God’s words are true? Christians, let us love and obey the word of God.