Did Jesus Abolish the Old Testament Law? (Y1.T1.D32) - Extra
Updated: May 31
Unsplash; "Michael Dziedzic"
No. Jesus said, “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets” (Matthew 5:17), adding, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall” (Luke 6:17).
Most laws are written to provide safety within a community.
At the height of the pandemic, I adventured in a dozen national parks across the United States.
One evening at dusk, I started to hike a quiet trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Since I was there in the off season, no other visitors were visible. I wasn’t frightened by the isolation until about three-quarters of a mile in. I rounded a bend and found myself about 100 yards from a Bison herd.
Thanks to the federal regulations (it is against the law to approach within 100 yards of bears or within 25 yards of other wildlife) I knew I’d be in trouble if I startled one of these powerful beasts.
Cautiously, I retraced my steps and decided to enter the path from a different angle. After climbing a small rise, I reached the plateau only to discover the same heard from a different angle. And this time I was within 50 yards of a mother nursing a calf.
Time to go.
Of course, I could have ignored the law by trying to shoo them off a path I wanted to take, or taken out my phone and filmed until I got tired or hurt. People do it all the time. According to the Human-Wildlife Interactions study from fall 2019:
Bison injure more people than any other wildlife species in Yellowstone National Park (Oliff and Caslick 2003) . . . Victims were an average of 3.4 m (range 0.3 to 6.1 m) away from the bison when attacked, despite park regulations requiring people not to approach within 23 m of a bison. Eighty percent of victims were approaching the bison when attacked and half were trying to take a photograph.
National park rangers are passionate about the rules for a reason. They know the consequences to not only the lives of the people who encounter the animals but the health and safety of the animals themselves.
If we find kindness embedded in federal laws about wildlife, we can apply the same understanding to God’s instructions. Instead of thinking of God shaking his finger at us when he says, “You must obey all my decrees” (Leviticus 19:19), remember his passion comes from his deep desire to protect us. He has only ever had our best interest at heart. His laws seek to provide safe guidelines (Deuteronomy 30:15, Psalm 119:117) in this life and guidance to the next (Romans 7:7).
God’s laws were written not only for individual protection but also for the entire community. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:19–20:
Therefore, whoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Therefore, Jesus didn’t need to abolish the Old Testament law since he fulfilled it for us. And while we still live on this planet, obeying righteous laws is a sign of love (Romans 13:8–10)—not only from him to us, but from us to him (John 14:15).
Help Me Embrace Your Laws
16 The law and the prophets were until John. From that time the Good News of God’s Kingdom is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. (Luke 16:16)
17 “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)
8 My son, listen to your father’s instruction, and don’t forsake your mother’s teaching: 9 for they will be a garland to grace your head, and chains around your neck. 10 My son, if sinners entice you, don’t consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us. Let’s lie in wait for blood. Let’s lurk secretly for the innocent without cause. 12 Let’s swallow them up alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down into the pit. 13 We’ll find all valuable wealth. We’ll fill our houses with plunder. 14 You shall cast your lot among us. We’ll all have one purse.” 15 My son, don’t walk on the path with them. Keep your foot from their path, 16 for their feet run to evil. They hurry to shed blood. 17 For the net is spread in vain in the sight of any bird;
18 but these lay in wait for their own blood. They lurk secretly for their own lives. 19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain. It takes away the life of its owners. (Proverbs 1:8–19)
19 “You must obey all my decrees.
“Do not mate two different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.
20 “If a man has sex with a slave girl whose freedom has never been purchased but who is committed to become another man’s wife, he must pay full compensation to her master. But since she is not a free woman, neither the man nor the woman will be put to death. 21 The man, however, must bring a ram as a guilt offering and present it to the Lord at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 22 The priest will then purify him before the Lord with the ram of the guilt offering, and the man’s sin will be forgiven.
23 “When you enter the land and plant fruit trees, leave the fruit unharvested for the first three years and consider it forbidden. Do not eat it. 24 In the fourth year the entire crop must be consecrated to the Lord as a celebration of praise. 25 Finally, in the fifth year you may eat the fruit. If you follow this pattern, your harvest will increase. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:19–25)
6 “You shall not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.
7 “Keep far from a false charge, and don’t kill the innocent and righteous; for I will not justify the wicked.
8 “You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds those who have sight and perverts the words of the righteous.
9 “You shall not oppress an alien, for you know the heart of an alien, since you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:6–9)
13 “If the entire Israelite community sins by violating one of the Lord’s commands, but the people don’t realize it, they are still guilty. 14 When they become aware of their sin, the people must bring a young bull as an offering for their sin and present it before the Tabernacle. 15 The elders of the community must then lay their hands on the bull’s head and slaughter it before the Lord. 16 The high priest will then take some of the bull’s blood into the Tabernacle, 17 dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord in front of the inner curtain. 18 He will then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar for fragrant incense that stands in the Lord’s presence inside the Tabernacle. He will pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar for burnt offerings at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 19 Then the priest must remove all the animal’s fat and burn it on the altar, 20 just as he does with the bull offered as a sin offering for the high priest. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. 21 Then the priest must take what is left of the bull and carry it outside the camp and burn it there, just as is done with the sin offering for the high priest. This offering is for the sin of the entire congregation of Israel. (Leviticus 4:13–21)
19 Therefore, whoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:19–20)
Teach me how to obey You better. The law has taught me what sin is; I wouldn’t have known coveting, unless the law had said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7). Your law is perfect, restoring the soul. Your covenant is sure, making wise the simple. Your precepts are right, rejoicing the heart. Your commandment is pure, enlightening the eyes. Help me understand that respecting You endures forever because Your ordinances are true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19:7–9). Thank You for the passionate protection You give me through the law.
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