Author: Larry Richards of Satan Exposed: Defeating The Power of Darkness (2015)
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Chapter 7: The Gift of The Law: Relationship with God in Law:
The first question of the freed slaves needed to answer was, What kind of a person is this God, who has called us into relationship? The enduring answer to that question was revealed to them in the Ten Commandments. Here we see a powerful reflection of God’s nature and character.
The first Four Commandments told Israel that God is unique. There is no other God, and He alone is to be worshipped. The next Six Commandments unveiled for them the moral character of God and His values. God has, and He values, respect for individuals, for their rights and property.
God has, and He values, loyalty and commitment in relationships. God guards, and He values, the lives and even the reputations of each individual. While God in His essential nature is far beyond our capacity to understand, He is also a person like us. And we learn about the kind of person He is through the Ten Commandments He gave to Israel.
The second question Israel needed to answer was, How do we live in intimate relationship with this person who has delivered us and has revealed Himself to us? The answer was that they were to be as much like Him as possible, again adopting and living by His values as expressed in the Ten Commandments.
After giving His people the Ten Commandments, God gave detailed instructions for a special way of life to Moses, who, in turn, taught the Israelites God’s rules and ordinances. Moses’ teachings, which were developed in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, laid down a blueprint that God’s Old Testament people were to follow in order to live in close relationship with God.
Perhaps the most striking and least understood aspect of Old Testament Law is that it laid out in detail the kind of society God yearned for His people to experience. In a society shaped by obedience to the Law, individuals would be secure and blessed. There would be no sexual abuse (see Leviticus 18).
The rights and property of all would be protected (See Exodus 22). The poor would find help and at the same time maintain self-respect (See Leviticus 19:10;23:22;25:35-37; Deuteronomy 15:7-11). Anyone who committed a crime against a fellow Israelite would make restitution and be restored to a right relationship with God and his fellow citizens (see Exodus 22). Children would grow to adulthood in a healthy society, free from the fears and tensions that mar the lives of those in every other society.
Satans’s Strategy Exposed:
Throughout sacred history, the Israelites had varying degrees of success in forming a society that embodied the lifestyle outlined in Moses’ Law. And just as the Israelites’ understanding of Law grew less relational and more pharisaical, so our own approach to Old Testament Law has become misguided.
We have missed its true intent. Satan has a field day misleading us in relation to God’s Law and thus, overcoming good with evil. The first tactic is to distort our concept of God. God gave the Law to reveal His moral character. Satan has convinced most of humankind that biblical Law casts God as a tyrant, eager to punish anyone who dares to violate one of His demands. One result of this is that many fear God and are driven away from Him.
In a sense it is unfortunate that Bible translators chose to render the Hebrew torah as “law.” The essential meaning of torah is “teaching or instruction.” In its biblical context, the Law was divine instruction on how Israel was to live close to the Lord, and experience His blessings.
Law not only provided Israel with a clear revelation of God’s moral character, but also guided Israel to fashion a society in which all would be blessed. In our culture, “law” states what we must do, and is enforced by the coercive power of the state. It is not surprising, then, that when reading Old Testament “law”, we assume that God demands our performance, and backs up His demand with His power to punish.
With this distorted notion of biblical Law we humans might view God as a fearsome being, and when we fall short of the guidance provided in Scripture, we let guilt and shame drive us away from our Creator and Savior. The second tactic, which follows closely, is to distort our concept of how we are made righteous before God. By promoting Old Testament Law as demand rather than guidance, Satan has led most people to assume that keeping the Law wins God’s approval, and thus, is the path to salvation.
No one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of “sin.”
Look once more at the apostle Paul’s admonition: “No one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of “sin.” Every person who has ever lived is aware that in some respect he or she falls short of the way of life the Law describes. The intent of this knowledge that we cannot “perform” our way into salvation is that the sinner might turn away from self-effort, and trust entirely in God’s love and forgiveness.
The Law helps us to understand that salvation is not found in a business transaction between a human and God. Salvation is found in a personal relationship with God entered into by faith in Jesus.
As we fall for Satan’s scheme that promotes Law as a way of salvation, it follows that we also become blind to the Gospel. Some struggle to be “good enough,” tormented by their failures and fears. Others simply abandon the struggle and substitute their own morality for the true morality God has revealed.
By distorting the concept of biblical Laws, Satan has effectively overcome good with evil in far too many lives. He has distorted humankind’s concept of God, producing fear of the One who loves each individual deeply. By casting Law as coercive demand rather than as guidance, Satan has induced guilt and shame, and has launched many on a quest for salvation rooted in self-effort rather than faith.
While this strategy has been most effective with nonbelievers, it has also had an impact on Christians. Far too many of us read the Bible from the perspective of Law rather than of grace. Far too many of us, when we fall short, doubt God’s love rather than realizing that God, like any loving father whose two-year-old stumbles and falls, stoops to lift us up and set us on our feet again.
Rather than feel uncertain about God’s continuing love, we are to “approach the throne of face with confidence, so that we may receive mercy [when we fall short] and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).