Writing the Bible as a love story set in a cosmic war has given me a new perspective on most things, and law is no exception. Writing Leviticus has been a challenge, but especially so since the point of this series is to show God as They really are–all good with no evil at all.
A few people want God to be hard, fire and brimstone, coming to execute His enemies, kill the bad guys. But most of us want a God of love. We want that love that we long for, the love we don’t feel we deserve but still crave. We desperately try to find it from a person, only to be disappointed yet again. Can God be strong enough to end evil, and still be all love, all good?
Yes! It’s getting clearer to me with every book–even Leviticus. Maybe, especially Leviticus. Here is where mercy and justice come together. But you do have to understand the context. It gives a new view on law.
Something that just happened will serve as an illustration, I think. My 9 yr-old grandson just broke his arm. Somehow that and God as a father segued in my brain. We rush our children to the ER, even at 9 p.m. We depend on them. The pain was intense, both bones had snapped in two. It was traumatic. Thank God for round-the-clock medical services! What would Moses have done? He didn’t have hospitals, not even doctors. He would surely have gone to God and asked What do I do? And God would have told him how to align it and to splint it on three sides. Moses walked with God–he went to God with everything.
So if God came to Moses and said this is how I want you to…eat, worship, plant (whatever it was), it wouldn’t have been surprising. So it shouldn’t be surprising that God would have ideas about how They wanted Their people, Israel, to worship, eat, plant, etc., when they had been living and acting under the direction of Egyptians for 100 years. (The first hundred they were independent.) Is it because God is a micro-manager? No. It’s because God has better ideas. Being their creator, God knows how they work best internally and inter-relatedly. He wanted to bless them with His ways.
Having a whole nation of people in a Moses-type of relationship was splendid for God–He could bless them with knowledge and ideas they couldn’t possibly know. He could literally prosper them; all they had to do was listen and trust that their God knew best.
Of course, Adonai (before He was Jesus) had to deal with boundaries, because that is a huge part of love in a broken world. Limits create security both internally and externally. And whenever limits are set, there is bound to be some rebellion. When the rebellion encourages mutiny, a king has to be ready with consequences, and Adonai was ready. When you look at things from God’s perspective, it shifts them considerably, even laws and death.
I doubt the death penalty was given for first offenses, but if it was as in the case of offering children as burnt offerings to Molech, the pagan god of the Amorites and Canaanites, don’t forget the experience was harder on God then on them. They were all His children, and He is love–the same person we celebrate in redemption and resurrection this weekend–the very same. (1Cor 10:4) Somehow we have come to see God’s laws as negative, but they are like the ER, offering help and hope when we don’t know what to do.
If you believe God is love, and His government is based on love, then His laws are love notes. We may not always completely understand His laws for a different culture, but we can know the king who is the same today as He was then, and have a relationship like Moses had. Moses was no slouch; he was a very bright, accomplished warrior who had learned through suffering to depend on God for everything. Understanding God’s laws in the context given makes God look good.