The Mosaic Law was given specifically to the Jewish people (Israel) at Mt. Sinai during the Exodus from Egypt. [Ex.19, Lev.26:46, Rom.9:4]. The Jews were set-apart to God in a covenant relationship. Through the law their worship, justice, diet, dress, culture and customs would be distinct from all other people. There are 613 commandments, 245 positive and 365 negative.
Followers of Jesus are not under the law [Gal. 5:18]. Since Jesus took the penalty on the cross that you deserve, you can be freed from the curse of the law. Jesus ushered in a new covenant [Lu.22:20, Jer. 31:31-34]. The gospel makes clear that we are right with God because of faith in what Jesus has done not our performance. It is God’s gracious gift to us through His Son. That doesn’t mean that we are free to live however we please, sin and be lawless [antinomianism, Rom.6:1]. Believers are not bound by the Mosaic Law, but are bound by the New Covenant [Rom. 7]. Nevertheless, here are five reasons why you should know the Law of Moses:
1. Reveals God’s glory, perfection and holiness:
The Law reveals that God is moral, holy, and righteous. The so-called gods of the ancient world were inconsistent, and flawed with the tendencies of humanity. In contrast, the Mosaic Law reveals the morality and perfection of God. “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” [Rom.7:12].
2. Reveals what is acceptable worship of God:
Cain and Abel were brothers who lived before the law. Cain was oldest and a farmer. Abel was a shepherd. God accepted Abel’s offering, but did not accept Cain’s. Was the problem Cain’s offering, or his attitude, or both? The law helps us to understand that not all worship is acceptable to God, and shows what God requires and desires. The law reveals the principle that God defines in a strict and limited way how He will be worshiped. Furthermore, the law reveals family and community worship through the Sabbath and annual feasts [Lev. 23]. The law reveals that God is worshiped by individuals in community with God and one another.
3. Reveals man’s sin:
The law reveals what attitudes, actions and inactions are a sin against God. Performance of the law is not the way to be saved, because no mere human can perfectly perform the law. The law reveals that we can’t measure up to God’s perfect standard and thus need a Savior. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” [Rom. 3:20]. Without the law, we wouldn’t know what is and is not sin [Rom. 7:7]. As Paul explained to the Romans, he wouldn’t have known that coveting is sin had the law not expressly revealed this attitude as sin [Ex.20:17, Rom. 7:7]. I find it interesting that Paul used coveting as an example, because it is primarily an attitude issue rather than an action. Thus, we realize that our attitudes, actions, and inaction are measured against a standard of perfection.
I can’t begin to appreciate the good news of Jesus’ gospel until I begin to understand God’s perfect holiness, and the extent of my sin. By analogy, most people I know tend to think of themselves as a good driver. Yet most of us are not scholars in the fine points of the Motor Vehicle Code, or even the Department of Motor Vehicles’ [DMV] handbook given to drivers to prepare for a license exam. Imagine that you received a citation for every violation of the vehicle code. Every time that you failed to come to a complete stop, or exceeded the speed limit by one MPH, or failed to use a turn indicator for an adequate distance, you received a ticket. You would likely quickly discover that you are not as good a driver as you believe. Nevertheless, most people would rationalize that they are a good drive compared to others, or that their violations were nominal compared to others. In the driving analogy, we tend to be lulled into thinking that we don’t violate the code, because we don’t get caught. On the other hand, God observes all of our violations of His perfect standard. Although His justice is delayed it is not forsaken, because He is a perfectly just God. Understanding my sin better helps me to appreciate His grace and gospel all the more.
4. Reveals the need for the shedding of blood to forgive sin:
Sin against God is not forgiven by time, good works, morality, or death. The Mosaic Law shows the importance of a substitute sacrifice. The principle is the blood of an innocent sacrifice is shed to atone for the sins of the guilty [Lev.1-7]. “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” [Heb. 9:22].
5. Reveals the need for an intercessor between God and man:
Only the priests could enter the tabernacle, and only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year with the blood of a sacrifice. There were special requirements placed on the priests concerning their behavior, physical appearance, clothing, and ceremonial cleansing. The principal is that God is holy, and may only be approached based on terms that He decides. God chose the sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses to be the only ones who would serve as high Priests [Num. 3:3]. In the New Covenant the Intercessor is the Son of God [1 Tim.2:5]