What does God say about the 'big picture story' in the Bible?
Today's question was presented by one of our followers: "how can we reconcile all of the laws and ordinances listed in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, with a loving God?" Initially, this blog was going to answer this specific question; however, it quickly became apparent a much larger question must first be answered, which will also answer this question. The bigger question is, "What is the 'big picture story' God is telling us in the Bible?"
The "big picture story" is God wants a relationship with us. He doesn't want robots worshipping and serving Him, He wants a family. When we understand this story, the Mosaic Laws and Ordinances begin to come into perspective, Col 2:11-14, "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;" From this, we can see that the ordinances were against us and that Jesus came to put an end to them. This same "big picture story" tells us the church leaders who came after Jesus' crucifixion were no different from the Jewish leaders before them, creating rituals and practices that conflicted with the message Jesus brought, 1 Cor 1:13, " Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" When we see these laws, ordinances, rituals, and practices, we do not feel loved, but instead, we feel we are under some impossible burden, intended to show us how worthless we are. Jesus came to prove His burden is light, Matt 11:29-30, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Adam and Eve were given only one law, Gen 2:17a, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it:" God did not have to give them any other laws because they knew no evil, and therefore, they would not lie, they would not steal, they would not murder, etc. And, of course, that meant they couldn't understand why anyone would lie to them.
The "big picture story" is God inviting us to be part of His family, the church He is building. He first invited us in the Garden, then during the 120 years it took Noah to build the Arc, then in the desert for 40 years, then for the three years of Jesus' ministry. And now, for these past two-thousand years, from His Word, which He left us as proof of His invitation. His goal is a family who abides together for all eternity, Jn 15:4-5, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." He is God, the one who created us, doing anything apart from Him would not be in harmony with the way He created everything. It only shows our defiance and leads us away from His good Will. Jesus came to confirm God's Will, and He told us, Jn 4:34, "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." We all have a part to play in the creation of His family. Jesus made it His top priority, should we? Matt 12:50, "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." and Col 3:1-2, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
Jesus demonstrated the horror of the feeling of being separated from the Father while He hung on the cross, Matt 27:46, "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This was the first time Jesus felt separated from the Father; the pain and sorrow were overwhelming. This reflects the lesson learned in the Old Testament when God spoke through the prophet Zechariah to tell the people that they had separated themselves from God, 2 Chron 24:20, "And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you." It is our sins, which Jesus took to the cross for our salvation, that separated Him from the Father. If Jesus felt this much agony, how are we supposed to live with our feelings of separation from God?
God continually tells us He loves all of us and wants all of us to choose to be part of His family, but because He loves us, He is giving us a choice. Otherwise, we would never be capable of returning His love, 1 Jn 4:19, " We love him, because he first loved us." Those who have never been loved and/or have never loved another will not understand this critical point in God's love. We can pick this life only, or this life and eternity, as part of His family. Those who pick this life only will be trying to be their own god, and God will allow them to have their will fulfilled.
God told us He chose Israel, not to be the only ones saved, but rather to be used to protect His Word, which includes the recorded history of their defiance. And, their history is a metaphor for all humanity. We can look into the Old Testament and see them creating laws. Laws they attribute to God. But God has told them that is not His way. The Jewish leaders' used Moses' bill of divorcement, Deut 24:1-4, "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance." in an attempt to trap Jesus and ended up being condemned for perverting His Word, Matt 19:7-8, "They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." The same is true of all the Mosaic Laws created by their hardening hearts. They could have lived by His Ten Commandments, as the early Christians should have lived by Jesus' Two Commandments, Matt 22:37-40, "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." which summarized the original Ten. Why can't we just accept the simple answer that God has called us to love? We would not need all of the laws we create if we would only follow God and His love for all of us.
We have been created to reflect Him, so others might have the opportunity to find Him and to ultimately become members of His family. He has demonstrated His desire to live with us, Gen 3:8, "And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:" and Matt 12:50, "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." and Rev 21:3, "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." He keeps coming to us with an earnest desire to dwell among us.
Jn 10:7, “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” All who choose to become sheep will find their way to His open door, Jn 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” and an eternal life with God the Father, Rev 3:8, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” God sends His servants into this world looking for His lost sheep, even for those who deny His name, Mk 16:15, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” He is always ready to do whatever it takes to save every last one of us, Matt 18:12, “How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” Some of us shut the door to our hearts and never know about the open door to salvation. But, God continues to knock at the door of our hearts; wishing we would open it and let Him tell us about salvation, Rev 3:20-21, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
Let us hear God summarizing the characteristics of a Christian life: His Word, Jam 3:17, "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." and how we are to live, Gal 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." and what we are to think about, Phil 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." If we do these things, we will not need laws, ordinances, rituals, and practices, we will be living in God's love. Bless you!
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