Monday, February 3, 2014

The Letter or The Spirit?

Tension. It exists in many areas of our life. Tension can serve two purposes: it can promote fear and dread of impending events, or it can push us to examine and investigate the questions at hand.
The tension many face in their walk with Christ is, how do the laws and grace coexist within the same Kingdom?
In Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch, God chooses to reveal himself to a nation of people who would usher in the birth of a new King and this King would announce the construction of His Kingdom. All that from Deuteronomy? Well not exactly. At least not if we get bogged down in the laws contained there as so many do. God goes deeper than just re-quoting His laws, He goes behind the 10 commandments to address the reason of why He gave these laws. The Spirit of the law.
John Walton a professor of Old Testament Studies at Wheaton College in his article "Deuteronomy: An exposition of the Spirit of the Law" 1987 ( , helps us to understand this book's purpose and relieve some of the tension created as we struggle to reconcile OT laws and see God's grace in them.
There a method at work I've missed for years but becomes somewhat clearer as we begin to understand that, while Deuteronomy (which means second law) was being repeated to a new generation of people (the previous generation had passed away in the wilderness), God wasn't merely saying keep these laws or else! He was revealing His heart of compassion to His people in a way more which more deeply explains the motivation behind the laws. In short He was saying what Jesus would 3000 years latter repeat to others. "Love God and Love People". The letter of the law addresses our actions, the spirit addresses the motivation that prompts these actions. God has Moses repeat the 10 commandments in chapter four, but then in chapters 6-24, expounds in a deeper way the spirit behind the laws. Walton further dissects these chapters in 4 categories;
Authority-that God is due and that He gives us
Dignity-The honor God is due and the honor we bestow upon others because of His gift to us
Commitment-That which we have for God and he has for us, and that which we have for one another.
Rights and Privileges-What God can and will do, and what what is expected of us.

I have placed the letter beside each commandment which correlates with Waltons idea.
A     1       Duet: 6-11              D     6    Duet:  16:18-18:22
D     2     Duet:12                   D       7    Duet: 19-21
C      3     Duet: 13:1-14:21     D        8   Duet: 22:1-23:14
R&P  4  Duet: 14:22-16:17     C        9.  Duet: 24:8-16

A       5    Duet: 16:18-18:22    R&P  10. Duet: 24:17-26:15

I realize this isnt my usual blog, but understanding the OT as best we can, provides the foundation upon which to build any spiritual structure. As you read through these chapters, don't look for concrete comparisons, remember the Spirit of the law was God's concern, not verbatim repetition. Merely repeating the laws and then carrying out these laws robotically, is what Jesus preached against.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Matthew 23:23

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