“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. Deuteronomy 12:32
One of the most challenging things to me about Leviticus-Deuteronomy is how random it is. My Western mind is so conditioned to things being in order and systematic (thanks, Aristotle!).
But the Torah reads like what would happen if a law library blew up. Moral, civil, and ceremonial laws all jumbled together. A prohibition against wearing clothing of mixed fibers adjacent to laws about sexual assault.
My brain wants an index. A grouping. Something I could quickly thumb through so I would know what’s “really” important.
But maybe the point is that I don’t get to decide for myself what’s “really” important. After all, wasn’t that the first temptation in the Garden? Eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then you can decide for yourself, and you won’t need God to tell you what’s right and wrong.
And we have been deciding for ourselves ever since. What a mess we’ve made of the world because of it.
The Torah refuses to be skimmed. It’s not up to me to pick out the “really important” from the arcane and trivial. I am thankful for Jesus, that because of the Cross I am no longer bound by the Law. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
When Paul gives his great argument in Romans 3, that in Jesus there is a righteousness of God apart from the Law (Romans 3:21), he doesn’t end this section by saying, “Therefore, the Law is obsolete.” In fact, he says just the opposite:
“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”
Romans 3:31 ESV
To be sure, we are not bound by the ceremonial law (who’s got two thumbs and loves bacon? THIS GUY!). And much of the civic law that regulated how Israelites were to live with one another in community does not apply.
But all of it matters! It matters because it reveals God’s character. It shows what was required to approach the holy God. And most of all, it reveals our utter inability to keep the law.
So here’s what you do when you read Deuteronomy: instead of rolling your eyes and wishing for an index, bow your head and thank God for His grace.
God, teach me to be careful to obey your law. And thank you for grace when I fail.