Old Testament Perspective on the Law

Yesterday, in a post called Old Covenant vs. New Covenant,  I introduced an idea very foreign to Reformed thought: That the laws of the Old Testament are what get written in our hearts as members of the New Covenant.

I know this is contrary to what we have long understood.  It might even seem heretical in some way.

I am very sympathetic to these skeptical thoughts. As a student of the Word, I have long struggled to understand the law.

Is it good or is it bad?

There are conflicting perspectives in Christianity today.  There even seem to be conflicting perspectives in the Word.  Anyone who has ever read Paul can see that.

Wanting to see the law the way God sees it, I went to the Word and took note of what God himself and the pillars of the faith said about it.

This post will be the first in a short series examining Biblical perspectives on the law.

Here’s what I found in the Old Testament. Though there are dozens of passages that say the same thing, for simplicity’s sake, I am highlighting only one example in each section. I encourage you to search it out yourself.

God

After God’s people declared that the LORD was their God, and that they would walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and would obey his voice (Deuteronomy 26:17), God said of them:

Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! (Deuteronomy 5:29)

To God, the law was good.

Moses

After re-proclaiming the law to God’s people before he died, Moses said:

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (Deuteronomy4:5-8)

To Moses, the law was good.

Joshua

After entering the Promised Land, Joshua told the people:

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you,  to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.  (Joshua 22:5)

To Joshua, the law was good.

David

In the longest chapter in the Bible, David pours forth adoration for the law of God.  Here are just the first few verses:

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! (Psalm 119:1-8)

To David, the law was good.

Solomon

Solomon obeyed God’s instruction to diligently teach the law to his son (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  The themes of keeping God’s instruction in our hearts and not swerving to the right or to the left so that we might have health and life are abundant in the books of the law. Solomon echoes them for his son’s benefit here:

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27)

To Solomon, the law was good.

Summary

If all we had to go by was the Old Testament, I don’t think there would be any debate as to whether the law was good.  All of God’s people would want to follow it to display our love for him and to receive all his benefits.

But what about the New Testament?  What did the Word in the flesh teach about the law?  What did his disciples teach? We’ll take a look at that next.

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