Deuteronomy 4:1-14 (Part 2) – Screws Screw On To the Right and Off To the Left…Always Have, Always Will!

Posted: December 6, 2016 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 4:1-14 (Part 2 of 3)

Moses Urges Israel to Obey

There are certain immutable laws of the universe as expressed to us by our fathers. Regardless of time and place and level of maturity or age, there are things that our dads teach us that never change. One such immutable law of the universe that my dad taught me was that screws screw on to the right and off to the left. This is a law that never changes. It is a law that is passed down from fathers to sons through the generations. It is necessary knowledge of how the world works. Otherwise, we would be busting our butts putting our kids toys together at Christmas time, “some assembly required” would never get assembled, decks would not be built, houses would not be built, cars would not be assembled or repaired, space travel would be impossible without screws screwing on to the right and off to the left. It is necessary knowledge whether you are a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, military or civilian, a woman or a man, grown-up or child, American or Russian, French or Kuwaiti, Tiger or Gamecock. Screws screw on to the right and screw off to the left (or righty tighty; lefty loosey). There are immutable laws of the universe that we cannot ignore. We all must observe the law of the screw regardless of who we are, what our affiliations are, where we live, how old we are, what we do for a living, or what team we pull for.

 

The universe itself operates on the premise of cause and effect. That is an immutable law of the universe that we see in effect every day. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, cause and effect. The earth is a continuing action of actions and reactions in how our planet operates. Its formation was the result of cause and effect. Therefore, if the entire universe has operated from its creation on the immutable law of cause and effect, then, it stands to reason that there was a cause for creation. It did not just spontaneously create itself. There was a cause that created the effect. One of my friends last night spoke a quote from someone else, “I believe in the big bang theory, God spoke and bang the universe was created.” He was the cause of the universe. Why would there be a suspension of the most basic law of the universe, cause and effect, when it was created. For the law to have been put in motion, there must have been an originating cause. The cause that caused all the causes and all the effects. It was the causes’ cause that caused all the effects. For me, it is impossible to believe that there was not a cause for the big bang that started the universe. It did not just happen. God has ordered logical laws the rule who our universe physically operates and those laws are unchangeable and have not changed and will not change until the end of all things. We cannot change God’s rules of how the universe operates. He set them in motion and if he changed those laws then it would be that God was wrong and was correcting Himself. However, God is truth and thus cannot be wrong or false. Therefore, that which God set in motion that we observe now has always been true and will forever be true. Thus, creation was caused by God’s original cause. He spoke it into motion. He caused it. God caused the big bang and everything in the universe since that beginning cause is cause and effect from the original cause. Whoa! Dude! Your getting soooo existential on me! It’s like…blowing my mind!

 

The illustrations of the immutable and unchanging laws of nature were what I thought of this morning when I thought about this passage, Deuteronomy 4:1-14, this morning as I read through it a second time. That is what I thought of when reading about “The Law” in this passage. God’s commands for His people, Israel, in the Old Testament’s first five books is called “The Law” collectively. Today, we act as if the law no longer applies to us. We say that the law is no longer valid because some of the laws don’t make sense for us in the 21st century. They say these quirky things invalidates all the law. Even we as Christians have a tendency to buy in to the premise that “The Law” is no longer applicable to us because we have a tendency to twist Paul’s words in his letters to the churches. Let’s think about that as we read:

 

4 Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

 

3 You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4 but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today.

 

5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

 

9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the Lord directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

 

As we read through this passage, we Christians (and non-believers alike) often say that the laws of the Old Testament do not apply to us and thus invalidate the necessity of the Old Testament. We sometimes go as far as to say that we are New Testament Christians or New Testament churches, as if we want to disassociate ourselves from the Old Testament and its law. The question is, “Do the laws God gave Israel still apply to Christians today?” and to extend that further, are the laws as expounded in the Bible still applicable to all humanity, whether believer or not?

 

God’s laws are designed to guide all people toward lifestyles that are healthy, upright and devoted to God and family. The purpose of the law is to point out sin (or potential sin) and show the proper way to deal with that sin. The Ten Commandments (or the Decalogue, the expensive word used by academic theologians), the heart of God’s laws are just as applicable today as they were 3,000 years ago because they proclaim a lifestyle ordained by God. They proclaim a lifestyle that leads to a healthy society whether you believe in God or not – these universal laws are ordained by God and reflect his character of truth, morality and goodness whether you believe in Him or not. The Decalogue is a perfect expression of who God is and how He wants people to live in relation to Him and in relation to each other.

 

However, where people (including Christians) get hung up are usually about the regulations and laws that God expounds in the Old Testament. Are these just as important? Are they still applicable to us today? Let’s look at it this way first. God has a purpose in everything that He does. Whatever He does is timeless and is always true. God never issued a law or a regulation that did not serve some eternal purpose. However, many of the laws we read in the first five books of the Bible were directed specifically to the Israelites at that time or era in human history (when things we take for granted in the modern era were rare in those days) and for that specific culture of the Israelites. These are called the ceremonial laws by the academics. Even though these ceremonial laws, the specific acts required by them, might not apply to us today, the timeless truth and principles behind them still do – because, as we said, God has an eternal purpose behind everything He does or says.

 

For example, Christians do not practice animal sacrifices anymore, but the principle behind the sacrifices – forgiveness of sin and thankfulness to God – still apply. The sacrificial system was never invalidated as wrong or God changed His mind about it. It was not invalidated but rather completed in Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for sin on the cross. The New Testament tells us that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but rather complete it and give its full meaning. This means that the Law is still valid. The Law points us to our desperate need for Jesus Christ as the once and final sacrifice for our sins as it is only through His imputed perfection and sinlessness that our penalty of judgment under the law is compensated and the penalty paid. Thus, the law is still our measuring stick. Even the ceremonial laws, though we do not practice them specifically, have a higher eternal purpose that points us toward our need for holiness and our need for Jesus. Paul tells us that we are not under the law anymore and sometimes we take that to mean that the Old Testament and its law is no longer binding. It is still binding whether it be specifically in the moral aspects of the law or in the spirit behind the ceremonial laws. We still have the law and we are still measured by it. What Paul was expressing what that we no longer are under the penalty of judgment under the law when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. He takes away our penalty of not keeping the law. Without the law, we do not know that we need Jesus. With the law, we see our desperately we need Him.

 

Thus, just as screws will always screw on to the right and off to the left, Old Testament law is still valid in specifics (the moral laws) or in spirit (the ceremonial laws) because they are from God. God does not change nor does anything that has proceeded forth from His mouth. What He says is eternal always. What He proclaimed as true and valid and right 3,000 years ago is still valid in spirit and/or in specificity. We cannot pick and choose what laws are still valid and which are not any more than we can make screws screw on to the left and off to the right, or any more than we can invalidate the natural laws of cause and effect in the universe.

 

Amen and Amen.

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