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Dealing with the Law

February 17, 2013

I love reading the Bible.  I’m not saying that to make myself sound pious or righteous, for although I do read the Bible, I do so many other things WRONG. I genuinely enjoy reading the Bible.  Last year when I read just pieces of it in my year with Common Prayer, I missed it.  I’ve always been a bit odd like this.  In fifth and sixth grade I remember one year reading the Old Testament and the other year reading the New Testament as a challenge for Sunday School.  Our teacher told us that he would give whoever read the specific Testament for the year a………wait for it……a dollar coin.  That’s right.  This wasn’t 1960 either when you could buy a coke for five cents.  A coke cost at least 35 to 40 cents at that time.  After that I read through the Bible a couple more times as well in junior high/high school.

I enjoyed reading it then too.  I made genealogical charts for Jesus, going way back to Noah.  When I read Exodus/Leviticus/Numbers I made pictures of what the Tabernacle was supposed to look like–which basin went where and how the table was built.  Seriously.  Didn’t every kid do that?

It’s February now, the middle of February in fact, which means in my year with the Bible, I’ve read through Genesis, suffered and yelled “Why?” with Job, was freed from the brutal captivity of the Egyptians, and now I’m roaming around the desert for forty years with the Israelites.  Moses has been given the ten commandments, the golden calf was made and the ten commandments were given a second time, the instructions for building the tabernacle have been given and completed, and now, we get into the law.

I’m not a fan of the law.  It is long.  It seems impossible to measure up.  There are chapter and chapter of laws.  Laws about not mixing two kinds of fabric (polyester is definitely out).  Laws about what you can and can’t eat.  Laws about what is clean and unclean and what you have to do to get clean again (and there times when both men and women are unclean).  Laws about what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath.  Laws about what happens if you sin (breaking any of the ten commandments) against other people. It gets a bit overwhelming and hard to keep track of.

If you do sin, then you must make an offering.  There are all kinds of different offerings–sin offerings, guilt offerings.  There are directions for how to make the offerings depending on who committed the offense and, even if you didn’t know you sinned at the time, once someone made it known to you, you had to make the offering.  As I read over the offering section today, all I could think of was, “Man, I sure better would have had a lot of ox, sheep, and pigeons to offer.”  Overwhelming again and realizing how poor I’d be for making all of my sin and guilt offerings.

It all made me think of a book I’ve kinda read recently (kinda in that I haven’t finished it and don’t really love it, so I don’t know if I will finish it).  The author of this book is Jewish and relies heavily on Jewish practices to give parenting advice.  As I read it, early on in the book, I marked a section.  Wendy Mogel, PhD stated:  “The sages of the Talmud taught that God said, ‘Better that my people should forsake me but observe my laws, than believe in me but not observe my laws.'”  (Side note–it was not the Judaism that turned me off to the book—it was the support of traditional/but incorrect gender biases such as girls not being good at math/science and the typical parenting book flaw of telling us how our children should act without concrete methods to help us get our children there that turned me off to the book).

I’ve thought of that sentence a lot as I’ve read Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.  I’ve also tried to read it through the lens of knowing that Jesus was the Son of God.   No wonder the laws were so hard to keep and the offerings asked so much.  They were impossible to keep and overwhelming.  If they weren’t we wouldn’t have a need for Jesus.

I read those middle three books of the Torah and am thankful my life isn’t structured like that now.  I am thankful the ultimate sin offering was offered on behalf of me (and everyone!!) almost 2000 years ago in the crucifixion of Jesus.  I am thankful the resurrection of Jesus means I no longer must follow the law.  I am free from dietary and fabric restrictions, nor am I ever unclean.  Instead, I must do only two things.  Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind and love my neighbor as myself.  I do my best at that, failing as I always do, but Jesus makes up the difference.  I’ll take that any day over burning the fat of a bull.

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