More than Just Conservative (11)

He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law (Isa.42:4).

When Moses was preparing the children of Israel to enter the promised land, he made it abundantly clear that the occupation of the land would be conditional on their obedience to God. The fundamental aspect of this would be their obedience to God’s law:

See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do this in the land where you are entering to possess it (Deut.4:5).

From this we must learn this vital fact: God’s law and dominion are inseparable. Christians cannot expect to be powerful and influential in the communities of the world, successfully implementing the Great Commission, if we leave aside our tools of dominion.[1]

When Moses had died, God reiterated this fact. He spoke to Joshua:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall mediate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your ways prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).

The laws of God were not merely for the children of Israel to utilise in the promised land. It is true that there are aspects of the law which were for that land and that time, such as the seed laws and the land laws, so there are in relation to the law, aspects of continuity and discontinuity which we must properly understand today.

One aspect of this is that the Great Commission is not limited to a small piece of land at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean. Jesus made it clear to His listeners that they were to

…make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you… (Mat.28:19-20).

But accepting that there are some aspects of the law that are discontinued, is different to  adopting a smorgasboard, or a “take it or leave it” approach to God’s law. We are not free to accept and reject as we choose, but must apply ourselves as obedient servants of God, working systematically through the law to determine which aspects have continuity today.

Thankfully, there is instruction in the scriptures that enables us to see the way. Think of the food laws. The Old Testament provided a number of restrictions in terms of what the children of Israel could eat, with prohibitions on items such as pork, and some forms of seafood.

Have these changed? Yes, for Jesus declared to the disciples

“Are you so lacking in understanding? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from the outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” Thus He declared all foods clean (Mk.7:18-19).

Paul amplified this teaching, warning of those who

…advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (I Tim.4:3-5).

We can thus deduce that if there are to be changes to God’s requirements for us in the New Testament, we will be informed of these. Consequently, it is utterly inappropriate to glibly conclude concerning the commands from the Mosaic law, “Oh, that’s the Old Testament. We don’t need to concern ourselves with that now.”

Part of the reason God deferred judgment on Judah in Josiah’s day, was Josiah’s humble attitude to God and His law (II Kings 22:8-20).

Will we be like Josiah, or not?


[1] Gary North, “Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus,” 1990.