The Law, Foundations

For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship.

The Law – that is, the Mosaic Law contained in the first 5 books of Moses – is filled with dense, theologically combustible material for understanding Christianity at present. When I first became a Christian as a Southern Baptist, I noticed that (in my circles, at least) everyone mostly stuck to the basic plain sense of the New Testament. But even then I started to recognize that the real power was in understanding the parallels between Old and New. It provided historical continuity that went back so much farther.

God laid a foundation of principles based in the context of ancient Israel and the inclinations of men of that era; they saw bloodied corpses of cattle as something extraordinarily valuable, given up as an offering of value to a divine being. It seems barbaric to us, but it would seem decadent and wasteful to them to see the amount of time moderners spend binge-watching netflix or the amount of food we throw away (or the amount with which we stuff our faces and love handles).

Human civilization has had an evolution where the best concepts survive and create other concepts, and that has affected technological progress and even at times spurred it directly. Truth is truth across time, but we do not give enough place to understand how long it takes to build the cluster of ideas that the religion of ancient Israel represents, or the time it took to get from that to Christianity, or the relevant reasons a religion like Islam was so successful in Arabia. Ideas build and arguments occur across generations and notable figures arrive and take hold of available power structures and direct them in ways that have affected us profoundly.

The law was designed to have echoes throughout history, whereby that past would inform our present and future. This is why history and the scriptures must be studied as a whole; yes, we break it in pieces for the purpose of digestibility, but we are constantly zooming in and then back out to see how the pieces fit the larger mosaic. A machine works because of a certain correct alignment and set of conditions. If any of those conditions are amiss, chronic or critical errors emerge and the machine fails or requires some replaced part or correction.

So, if you are a Christian, and you’ve never read the entire Old Testament: why not? It’s absurd that you’d ignore the condition of the roof or plumbing of your house, or the health of the most important organs of your body. If your belief is based in ignorance of the very first things God did, how can you possibly feel you are in alignment with God’s ways?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

It is a much greater thing to know the ways of God – his principles, his fundamentals, his nature and character – than it is to simply know that he has done what he has done because he wished to save men. The only way we can anticipate God is by knowing his ways.

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