Friday, March 29, 2013

Do We Keep All of the Law LITERALLY?

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, March 29, 2013:  Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32

18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.  Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NKJV)

As we read through the Old Testament, we find a myriad of comandments, statutes, regulations, and laws.  The question is often raised, "How much of these are we required to do today?"  It is obvious that many moral laws still have importance today -- laws about lying, stealing, adultery, and such as that.  Most people would agree that we are called today to LITERALLY keep these commandments.

Then we come across a passage that says, "Write these laws on your hand.  Place them on your forehead.  Take a pen and write them on the doorfacings of your house."  Are we to LITERALLY keep these instructions, or are they figurative?  

Let's look at this a bit closer.  Three times in the Old Testament (Ex. 13:9,16;  Dt. 6:6-9; Dt. 11:18-21) we are told to do exactly the same thing:  1) keep God's Word on your hearts, 2) bind them as a sign upon your hands, 3) place them "as frontlets between your eyes" and 4) write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.  All Scripture is important and should be heeded, but when God repeats Himself it is always for emphasis!  We need to pay close attention to what He says.  

So, once again, are these instructions to be kept LITERALLY.  It is obvious that such an instruction is impossible.  Here's why.  First off, Deuteronomy 6:6 defines WHAT should be bound on the hand and placed as a frontlet.  There we find that God is referring to "these words which I command you today..."  God is referring to the entire Old Testament law!  Most folks agree that this means the first five books of the Bible (commonly called the Torah).  So, is God telling every male in Israel to write the entire Torah on their hands, place them in a small box (frontlet) attached to their forehead, and write them on their door facings?  That is imposible.  Therefore, this must be FIGURATIVE.

With respect to the "frontlets between your eyes", this is actually where the Jewish practice called tefillin comes from.  Tefillin is translated into the Greek word phylacteries, and means "portions of Scripture that are written on long, thin strips of paper to represent the whole law." These tefillin were placed in a small pillbox stapped to the man's forehead. Jesus referred to this practice in Matt. 23:5 in an indictment against the Pharisees.  Because they could not literally fulfil this law, they sought the next best thing.  They established TOKEN OBEDIENCE or REPRESENTATIVE OBEDIENCE.  This is the very essence of RELIGION instead of RELATIONSHIP.

I believe tha these commandments about frontlets and doorposts and signs on your hands point us clearly toward the New Testament (Covenant).  God is not after our outward religious practices as much as He is after our hearts!  This is what Jeremiah meant when he wrote:  "Behold, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel...not according to the covenant I made with their fathers... I will PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE IT ON THEIR HEARTS."  (Jer. 31:31-33)

When Israel was told to "bind them (the law) as a sign on your hands" that was NOT literal.  It as saying, "Let the work of your hands be a reflection of the Word of God."  When Israel is told to place God's law as "frontlets between you eyes" that does not mean where a pillbox on your forehead!  It means, "Let the Word of God form and direct your THINKING."  The same can be said about the doorposts of your house.  There are few things stronger than a household ordered and directed by the Word of God!

So, in closing, the objective of God has always been to INTERNALIZE His Word in our lives.  The temptation is always to resort to outward performances when all along God is after the heart.  In this respect, may we be always obedient from the heart.  The law is now IN MY HEART.  The Sabbath is IN MY HEART.

If we fixate on the LETTER OF THE LAW, far too often we miss the SPIRIT OF THE LAW.  In Christ, summation of it all is Love God with all your heart and Love one another out of a pure heart.

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