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Perry Paulding

Written in Stone: God’s Purposes in the Law

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Like the Israelites of old, following their liberation from slavery in Egypt, we are about to embark on a long journey. A journey through the Old Testament Law – the Law of Moses – contained in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

To understand God’s law is to understand God himself, for they are a reflection of his nature, values, and character. The Bible says that these are the things to which Christians are presently being conformed! Psalm 111:2 says, “Great are the works of the LORD, they are studied by all who delight in them.” And so we are going to study them!

Also, Proverbs 25:11 speaks of “apples of gold in settings of silver.” A silver setting is meant to accentuate and showcase what is gold. Likewise, one could say that the silver of the old covenant is designed to highlight the “gold” of the new covenant. Like those two precious metals, both are glorious, but the latter is more glorious. 

Hardly a Sunday morning goes by that we don’t reference one or more of God’s laws. God is a moral Being, and his laws are what differentiate good from evil, and what is loving from that which is not loving. So whenever someone claims that, “You can’t legislate morality,” they are grossly mistaken regarding the very nature of law itself. All laws are inherently moral in nature, because they are inextricably bound to moral values. For example, why do we have speed limit laws? Because we deem human life to be valuable and worth protecting.

All of God’s laws are loving, and given for our well-being. Unfortunately, the Law of Moses often gets a bad rap when it is erroneously contrasted with God’s grace. Grace is not the antithesis of law, because both grace and law call for obedience. The contrast that the Bible speaks of, is between obedience that is from faith, versus obedience that is from works (or human, self-righteous effort). Or put more simply, we do not obey God’s laws to become righteous, but because we already are righteous.

Many people today are asking, “What is the role of God’s law in the life of the believer, and what is its role in society and in human government?” To answer those questions, we are going to take 24 weeks to examine both the history and substance of the old covenant, and then follow it up with a series on the new covenant as explained in the book of Galatians. 

It’s going to be intensely practical, getting to the very heart of our struggles, identity, security, and freedom as Christians. And we’re going to get to know our God – the God of the Bible – better.

Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Pray that God will use this series to produce in us: endurance, encouragement, and hope!

How are you feeling these days?

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To be honest, many of the conversations I’ve been in lately have been focused on very practical things impacting our lives. These include gas prices, food prices, looming food shortages, unaffordable housing, unavailable baby formula, job insecurity, border chaos, mass shootings, recession, retirement savings plummeting, political corruption, and a pending Supreme Court decision that could ignite another Civil War. And that’s just domestic. Global instability seems to be at an all time high, and a nuclear World War III is more plausible than ever before.

Most of our time and energy as Christians goes into what our minds are to biblically think about these very real circumstances. But what about our hearts? The amplitude of emotions connected to all these issues is volatile and rising daily. Those emotions span the whole gamut. Youth are experiencing unprecedented hopelessness and despair. The elderly on fixed incomes are anxious. Young family breadwinners are exhausted – taking on 2nd and 3rd part-time jobs. Multitudes of parents are angrily pulling their kids out of the public schools in order to homeschool. Many people feel isolated and lonely after 2+ years of Covid. And many are just apathetic or numb.

The Bible is no stranger to emotion. It is brutally honest regarding the human condition, and its profound impact on our individual and collective feelings. In this fallen world, believers are neither exempt from, nor immune to trauma. In the last week alone, I’ve listened to dear, mature saints describe more heart-wrenching, personal burdens than I would care to relate or describe. 

Spock-like stoicism is not a sign of maturity; but on the other hand, neither is unbridled emotion that ignores biblical truth. God is a deeply emotional Being, and we are created in his image. And in my personal quiet times, I’ve been noticing the frequent intensity of emotion expressed by numerous Bible characters/authors. Here are just a few examples:

Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked, who abandon Your law.

Psalm 119:53

My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep your law.

Psalm 119:136

Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies.

Psalm 139:21-22

Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!

Jeremiah 9:1

And the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and make a mark on the foreheads of the people who groan and sigh over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”

Ezekiel 9:4

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.

Romans 9:1-2

Did you notice the polar opposites of emotions related to these sin-generated circumstances? These biblical authors express both indignation and sadness; anger and grief; hatred and groaning. I’ve experienced these unlikely mixtures of emotion, too, (as well as both hope and despair, faith and fear, vengefulness and compassion, etc.).

Our heavenly Father does not want these emotions to remain stuffed and pent-up inside us. Rather, he earnestly beckons us to pour out our hearts to him on a regular basis – the good, the bad, and the ugly. We see this in Psalm 62:7-8, where David writes, 

“In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” 

God is the only Person we can fully pour our hearts out to. He alone knows our innermost being, and so there is no reason to hide anything from him. God is the only Person who will not judge us if we open our hearts to him. Friends might judge us and slander us, but God will not. He will help us to balance these complex mixtures of emotion, so that we can “be angry, yet not sin” (Ephesians 4:26), and “grieve, yet not as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Secondary to God’s invitation, we are also instructed to both share and bear one another’s burdens:

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 

Galatians 6:2-3

If we refrain from doing this, not only are we failing to fulfill the law of Christ, but this verse says that we’re deceiving ourselves. Our silence is evidence that we don’t truly believe that we need others’ support in this life. John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself…” The Bible agrees. So let us purpose to do these two things more and more, in these tumultuous times. First, to faithfully pour out our hearts to God, and then second, to other believers who will listen to us, empathize with us, support us, correct us, encourage us, and pray for us. And then to do the same for them.

Perhaps we should begin by asking each other more often, “How are you feeling these days?” (And then, don’t accept “fine” for an answer!)