Welcome to another episode exploring how to read biblical law. This is the final part of this discussion before our Q+R episode for this series.
In part one (0:00-25:30), the guys discuss the series so far, and Tim dives into the final two perspectives to keep in mind when reading biblical law. The fifth perspective is that the purpose of the covenant laws is fulfilled in Jesus and the Spirit.
The dual role of the laws––to condemn and to point the way to true life––is fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and in the coming of the Spirit to Jesus’ new covenant people. Jesus was the first obedient human and the faithful Israelite who fulfilled the law yet bore the curse of humanity's punishment so that others could have life and the status of covenant righteousness. Tim references Matthew 5:17-20:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Tim notes that Jesus is the embodiment of the point of the law, the ideal person who doesn’t need the law because they are abiding with Yahweh by nature.
In part two (25:30-35:00), Tim asks who or what is being punished on the cross. Tim references Romans 8:3:
“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Tim notes that Paul doesn’t mean that God hated humanity and punished Jesus instead of punishing humanity. Instead, God loved humanity in its weakness and failure and punished sin and condemned sin through Jesus dying on the cross.
Tim notes that Paul thinks of sin as a cosmic tyrant. It's not just an individual problem, but a problem of essential mode existence for the world. The law, or divine command, was supposed to be an opportunity for humans to realize their true calling of acting in God’s image voluntarily. Instead, we chose and choose to disobey and now live “enslaved” to our decision(s).
In part three (35:00-end), Tim discusses the last perspective: The laws are a source of wisdom for all generations.
The Torah is viewed as a source of wisdom within the Hebrew Bible
The tree of knowing good and evil is the pathway to the tree of life. In Proverbs, learning wisdom is the pathway to the tree of life. Tim uses the following proverbs to illustrate his point.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowing;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 3:13, 18:
"How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who hold her fast."
"The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Watching the evil and the good.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life,
But perversion in it crushes the spirit.
Tim notes that Wisdom is the way to fulfill the Shema."
"My son, keep the commandment of your father
And do not forsake the instruction of your mother;
Bind them continually on your heart;
Tie them around your neck.
When you walk about, they will guide you;
When you sleep, they will watch over you;
And when you awake, they will talk to you."
Time compares the preceding passage with Deuteronomy 6:4-8:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
Tim notes that these two passages mirror each other, as they teach that acting wisely fulfills the law.
Tim then discusses the apostle Paul to show how he continued to use the laws as wisdom literature.
1 Corinthians 9:9-12:
"For it is written in the Law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.' God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ."
Tim quotes Richard B. Hays to understand Paul's continuation of Jewish law.
“This is often cited as an example of arbitrary prooftexting on Paul’s part, but closer observation demonstrates a more complex hermeneutical strategy at play here. First of all, Paul is operating with an explicitly stated hermeneutical principle that God is really concerned about human beings, not oxen, and that the text should be read accordingly (vv. 9–10). Second, a careful look at the context of Deuteronomy 25:4 lends some credence to Paul’s claim about this particular text. The surrounding laws in Deuteronomy 24 and 25 (especially Deut. 24:6–7, 10–22; 25:1–3) almost all serve to promote dignity and justice for human beings; the one verse about the threshing ox sits oddly in this context. It is not surprising that Paul would have read this verse also as suggesting something about justice in human economic affairs.” -- Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997), 151.
So to summarize our series on reading biblical law:
Read each law (1) within its immediate literary context, and (2) within the larger narrative strategy of Torah and Prophets.
Read the laws in their ancient cultural context in conversation with their law codes.
Study related laws as expressions of a larger symbolic worldview.
Discern the “wisdom principle” underneath the laws that can be applied in other contexts.
Refract every law through Jesus’ summary of God’s will: love God and love people.
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Defender Instrumental, Tents
Psalm Trees x Guillaume Muschalle, Clocks Forward. Chillhop.com. Used with permission.
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Show produced by:
Dan Gummel, Jon Collins