If you’ve ever read through the Old Testament, you’ve probably noticed that there are lots of laws and rules. And I’m not just talking about the Ten Commandments. I’m talking about rules on how to handle murder, accidents and theft. Rules about lying, property damage, and observing holidays. Rules on how to care for and treat widows, orphans and your enemies. The list could just keep going.
For the last few years I’ve been involved in Bible Study Fellowship and we are currently studying the Life of Moses. As I was studying my lesson this week from Exodus 21-24 I couldn’t help but notice the reoccurring theme of rules, rules, rules and more rules. So I asked myself, “Why all the rules?” Is it because God is legalistic and requires for His people to live strictly by the rules? Or is it because He wants to strip away every ounce of their freedom? Of course not. The answer is quite the opposite and is simply stated in both the Old and New Testaments.
God’s people are given and called to obey His commandments and laws because…
1. We are chosen as His possession.
2. We are to be a holy nation
Exodus 19:5-6 “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Deuteronomy 7:5 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
1 Peter 1: 9-10 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16 “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
But why is it so important today for Christians to be holy? For the same reasons the Israelites needed to be holy…so the world may see that we are chosen, set apart and belong to God. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world.
Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
Now of course not all of the laws stated in the Old Testament are relevant to us today since most of us don’t own oxen and sheep or observe holidays such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So how then are we to live holy lives that show the world we are God’s people? Take a look at the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Philippians.
Galatians 5: 22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
These are the ways in which we should be seeking to live holy lives, my friend. If we allow God to manifest these qualities within us, there’s no doubt the world will recognize that we are different.
Now look at the promise God gives when we choose to obey and pursues holiness.
Deuteronomy 7:9, 11 “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments…Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.”
2 Timothy 2:21 “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [ungodliness, wickedness], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
But for those who choose to reject God’s commandments and love…
Deuteronomy 7:10 “but [He] repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.”
Again, why all the rules? This two-fold answer is perfectly woven together. If you know you have been chosen as a possession of God Almighty, the Creator, the Most High God, the Alpha and the Omega, should that alone not compel you to seek holiness? To know that God himself calls us His own and desires for us to be holy should stir within us a continuous longing to seek the holiness of God. Once these truths are both grasped you cannot separate the two.
From now on don’t look at God’s commandments as just a list of strict rules to follow. Rather, realize that they were given so that through our obedience to Him we may reflect more of His holiness to the world around us.