Jesus is asked by a lawyer, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
With this answer Jesus gives to us a framework to understand all of the Law. Why do you do what you do?
We could just dismiss the Old Testament as the history of a people that struggled to live with God’s promises. We could consider the law of God as historically conditioned by the circumstances of trying to keep Israel clean from the idolatry of the foreign nations that surrounded them. We could take all the Law and consider it helpful for the Israelites thousands of years ago but irrelevant to me and my time. We could look at the law as a helpful order for the people that did not yet know the forgiveness of Jesus.
We could do all of that…but of course we live humbly under the power of the Holy Spirit inspiring the writers of the Scripture. We live with trust that God’s Word is true not just for some, but for all. We live today knowing that God has been and continues to be at work through the power of His holy word. We live with trust that God is at work in both the Law and the Gospel.
So how do we read and apply the laws of the Old Testament?
Jesus gives to us the key to understanding the law and the prophets.
Jesus is the key. He is the liberation from sin and the freedom to live in God for our neighbor.
As redeemed children of God we seek to live in the holiness of God.
His holiness is not just because He is God. His holiness is rooted in his mercy and care for the captive. He is the holy God who rescued the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. He is the holy God who sent his only begotten son to be the all sufficient sacrifice to liberate us from sin, death and the devil.
Why does God give His law to the Israelites? So that they can be reflections of his holiness. Be Holy, even as I am holy!
Our love of God and of neighbor is not by command but by nature who we are in Christ. We no longer are trying to live. We are simply living in Christ.
Christ liberates and sets free the captive. We are set free from captivity to sin so we can freely live in his holiness.
When we share the commands of God, we are accused in our sin and guided in our freedom. This both/and will always be uncomfortable reality for us while we are still sinners, even while we are declared saints by the righteousness of Christ.