Jesus came as light to a world in darkness to reveal God. Not a new God – the same God of love, mercy and kindness He was from the beginning.
The teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount were how the Law should always have been interpreted by the Jews. Jesus explicitly says He was living under the Law and not one tittle would pass until all was accomplished – meaning His death when the veil was ripped in two and animal sacrifices were replaced with His own life of sacrifice. Jesus showed how wrongly people had handled God’s word. An ‘eye for an eye’ should have always been overridden by the greater commandment “Love your neighbour as yourself” – thus Jesus could say ‘do not resist an evil person’ rather than practice ‘an eye for an eye’. These were the teachings He was advocating whilst still under the Law.
Jesus showed the hierarchy of the commandments. All the Law and Prophets hung on the two greatest commandments –
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:37-40
Jesus expected Nicodemus to interpret the Law as He did – by being born again – not born a Jew.
If God commanded Moses to exterminate everyone without mercy, then why was this law broken (with approval) before they even conquered the land? On the surface, Deuteronomy 7 said to show no mercy, destroy totally and make no covenants or marriages with the inhabitants of the land.
“You must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons” Deut. 7:2-3
Yet the 2 spies made a covenant with Rahab, showed her mercy and she married into Israel and became the ancestor of Jesus. The unusual inclusion of foreign women in the genealogy of Joseph (Jesus legal guardian) is for us to ponder. A point is made by including Rahab and Ruth in the Matt. 1 genealogy of Jesus, and also Uriah the Hittite – none of these people would be there if all the inhabitants of the land had been destroyed – not even Jesus.
Jesus advocated showing mercy, and it’s only by God’s mercy we will be saved. Consider events in the table below which seem to contradict the surface teachings of THE LAW
|Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy Matt 5:7||NO MERCY OR COVENANTS
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them. Deut 7:2
|Covenant to Rahab: Swear to me by the Lord (covenant) that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Josh 2:12 (Mercy/kindness)|
|When Christ came into the world, he said:“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Heb 10:5|| RULES FOR SACRIFICES
The first seven chapters of Leviticus describe the various offerings and how they are to be carried out (burnt, grain, peace, sin, trespass) it doesn’t say they weren’t required.
|For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hos 6:6
On the surface, The Law demanded sacrifices – God said he didn’t desire them.
|It has also been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, brings adultery upon her.
Ezra 10:2.. “Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these (foreign) women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law
|Mal 3:16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife, ” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.”
These are God’s words condemning divorce (via His prophet) – contemporary with those insisting on it – under the pretence of following the Law
|You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. Matt 5:38
Here, Jesus quoted the Law but set it aside for a greater one.
|EYE FOR EYE
If there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise Exodus 21:24
|Saul said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you. 1 Sam 24:17
David did not carry out ‘eye for eye’ but chose compassion
|Neither do I (condemn you). Go and sin no more. John 8:11
David received mercy from God, not death, after adultery with Bathsheba
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51
|DEATH FOR ADULTERY
This woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. John 8:4
“‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbour-both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Lev 20:10 (no ifs or buts – the Law said to kill adulterers)
|Mary was also assumed to have committed adultery outside her engagement vow (as binding as marriage) yet Joseph was called righteous for breaking The Law of stoning concerning adultery:
“Joseph her husband, being righteous and not willing to shame her publicly, resolved to divorce her quietly.”Matt 1:19
|He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10||Rebellious Son to be Stoned:
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother … all the men of his town are to stone him to death. Deut 21:18
|Absalom rebelled against David
“More and more people were joining Absalom and supporting his plot. … “When you hear the sound of the trumpets, you must shout, ‘Absalom now rules as king in Hebron!’” 2 Sam 15:10 David did not kill his rebellious son – he loved him – he broke the law for dealing with rebellious sons.
|God always wanted foreigners. Jesus equated the words of Isaiah 56:7 with the temple of His time – not just a future kingdom
“My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Mark 11:17
The first occasion the Jews tried to kill Jesus (Luke 4:27) was when he said the Gospel had gone to Syria and Lebanon
|Destruction and Rejection of FOREIGNERS
Thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: Deut 20:17
No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation. Deut 23:3
See: Last Events of Old Testament – Right or Wrong ?
|Ruth the Moabitess was accepted and the ancestor of Jesus.
Rahab was a Canaanite
Uriah was a Hittite and Godly man
The Jews themselves were descended from Hittites and Amorites – This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. Ezek. 16:3
|No HEIRACHY among believers: “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:13||Roman Law of Man as the Head: “Women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” 1 Cor 14:34
There is no law in the Old Testament silencing women
|“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal 3:26-9
This equality in Christ broke all the social norms.
The beatitudes of Matthew 5 show how Jesus interpreted the Law of Moses as it should always have been applied – mercy over judgement. “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy”. Matt 5:7
Mercy and truth didn’t begin with Jesus – they began with God:
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
You will perform the truth to Jacob,
and the mercy to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago. Micah 7:18-20
The God of the Old Testament was the same as the God of the New. Jesus came as light in the days of darkness to declare God as people should have always understood Him –
No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. John 1:18
As ‘Beloved Disciples’ we should also declare God and Jesus if we are ‘in the bosom’ of Jesus as the Beloved Disciple was
There was at table one of His disciples in the bosom of Jesus, whom Jesus loved John 13:23…17:20 I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (Beloved Disciples reveal Jesus)
We need to understand how to declare God.
HEIRACHY OF THE LAW
Jesus didn’t set out ‘Doctrines to Follow’ in a list – that is what man does, and falls into disputes over. Jesus declared God by showing us principles based on the two most important commandments and the ‘weightier matters of the Law’ – justice, mercy and truth – these are spiritual commands.
Sacrifice was part of the Law, but Jesus showed that mercy took precedence –
If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. Matt 12:7
David understood what God required –
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire – but my ears you have opened Ps 40:6
Paul also saw past the letter of the Law to its greater and spiritual meaning –
“But he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom 2:29
The Law was righteous if applied in the right way, by the Spirit –
That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Rom 8:4
The ministry of Elijah is to turn the heart of a man to his neighbour. This was the problem when the prophecy of Malachi was written – the Jews were casting out foreigners, even sending away their own children, they were not loving their neighbour, only fellow Jews. Justification for this perhaps came from a poor interpretation of Lev. 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself”. Some Jews thought that a neighbour only applied to ‘the sons of your people’ – thus the question to Jesus “who is my neighbour”. Jesus showed that even despised Samaritans were good neighbours. He showed by example that He had fellowship with those others despised. He sat at table with ‘sinners’ – He shared the Passover with a known thief and those who would betray Him and desert Him. He undoubtedly shared it with His mother and all the women left out of the records. It was to be ‘one of the 12’ who betrayed Him as opposed to the many others present in the large upper room at the Passover event which was for all to attend.
John the Baptist declared that God didn’t care about literal Jewish lineage and could raise children to Abraham from the stones. The same message needs to go out now – to love our neighbour and not despise others.
Mal 4:5-6 Septuagint version: Behold, I will send to you Elijah the Tishbite, before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes; who will turn again the heart of the father to the son, and the heart of a man to his neighbour, lest I come and smite the earth grievously.
The message of Elijah and Jesus is to be inclusive, not exclusive – to love your neighbour as yourself. The Law needs to be understood through the lens of Jesus to gain a fuller understanding of God, who Jesus declared. The New Covenant was not about doing away with the Law of Moses – but fulfilling it. Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
The God of the entire Bible and creator of all is so far above our understanding we can’t fathom it – yet He is kind and merciful even though we aren’t deserving of it.