So many people just want to know what God requires of us so they can do it. They want the list. “Show me what I should and shouldn’t do and I’ll do it, okay? Is that so hard?”
The same thing happened at Mount Sinai when God spoke directly to His people, Israel. I’m not going to take the time to support all of this with scripture because I already did that and then when I saved it, I was left with nothing but the first paragraph above. I take that as God telling me to get to the point. Another time maybe I’ll come back with all the documentation.
God told the Israelites, “I want to make you a kingdom of priests. That means, essentially, “Each of you will receive your instructions directly from Me. I will speak with you personally and corporately.” But when God tested them by doing just that, they were terrified. They asked that only Moses speak with God and they promised to follow Moses’ instructions. So God said, “Okay, that’s a good thing, too,” but He also said, “If only these people had a heart to obey Me.” Here was the problem. God knew the people didn’t have a heart to obey Him. They wanted to, but their hearts were defiled by sin and they would never be able to obey Him using only their will power. They needed Him, personally guiding and enabling them. But they didn’t want to get that close. They were afraid to die.
This was a legitimate fear. God did say, “No man can see My face and live.” But that’s just the point. It does cost your life to follow Jesus. Looking on the face of God (spiritually speaking) is fatal. You will die to your old self, to the kingdom of darkness, to sin. That’s the only way out of this world’s system. We were slaves to sin. When a slave dies, he can no longer be made to serve his old master. We were crucified in Christ, yet we live because of His resurrection. But the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. The Kingdom of God requires death. Jesus died and in doing so also put to death the entire race of the first Adam. The kingdoms of this world don’t know it yet (though they’ve begun to suspect), but they are doomed; condemned to death by the death of Adam’s race in Christ. We, His people, were condemned to death as well, but because of our faith in Him, we have also been raised to new life in Him.
When we live by our old, natural lives, we find that we are failures. We still cannot live in holiness. When we realize that we (the old we) are dead, and when we choose to live by His life, to allow Him to live through us, then we find that He manifests His holiness in our lives and we can, through Him, live lives holy and acceptable to God.
So we no longer live by the law of Moses, not even by the 10 Commandments. We live by the law of the life of Christ living within us. This is the law of love. The 10 and all the rest of the copious commandments of the law were only an attempt to communicate to fallen man what love looked like. Some of the law we even find disturbing because it falls so far short of love as we’ve come to see it — laws for the treatment of slaves, for example, and laws for punishment of law-breakers, etc. But this was the best God could do for such a fallen people. It was a start. Something for them to aspire to and far more than they could ever hope to accomplish. Just enough to display for them their absolute inability to please God in their own strength.
Even the people surrounding the Hebrews knew many of these things. The law of Moses is not dissimilar to other ancient laws such as the code of Hammurabi. This could mean that Moses’ interpretation of what God wanted was at least somewhat informed by that which he already understood to be wrong or right. It probably does mean that to some extent, but it also means that the law of God has always been written on the hearts of men, however naive, incomplete, and even self-serving our understanding of it has been. Humans know what is right and what is wrong. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not a cheat. We did get the knowledge, but with it we got the nature of Satan and with it we got death. So we knew what to do, but we were not able to do it. We’re still in that boat.
And we still want a list of rules; “How long should a Christian woman wear her sleeves? How high should her neckline be? Will God punish me for using this word or that? Do we sin by gathering to worship on Sunday instead of on Saturday (the Sabbath)?” This is essentially what the Israelites wanted at Mount Sinai. “If God talks to us, we’ll die. Just give us the list of rules and we’ll obey them.”
And God says, “So just die. I did. Dying to the old race of Adam is a good thing, and since you wouldn’t have survived that death on your own, I did it for you so that you could experience it in Me. Now I want you to live by My life and not by the commandment. The commandment is good, but it will kill you because you can’t keep it.”
Bottom line? Jesus is our Good Shepherd and we must follow Him. The law? It’s good, but we can’t keep it. We need Him to keep it in us by living His life through us. If we let go and just follow Him one step at a time, we can forget about the law and trust Him to keep us within the bounds of love.