Searching but not Perceiving!
Has this happened to you?
The Kimberly Diamond today.
Dr. Russell Herman Conwell tells about an African farmer who longed for release from his poverty and hard life. Stories of large diamond finds spread like wildfire. The farmer liquidated his farm and set out to search for diamonds. The farmer crisscrossed the African continent hoping to find diamonds. After years of unsuccessful searching, he stood broke. In desperation, the farmer threw himself into a river and drowned.
On the other hand, the new farm owner picked up a strange looking stone about the size of a country egg. He placed it on his mantle. A visitor saw the large rock and told the new owner that the rock on his mantle had to be the largest diamond he had ever seen. The new owner of the farm said, “Heck, the whole farm is covered with them.” And sure enough – it was – it turned out to be the Kimberly Diamond Mine – the richest diamond mine the world has known. Can you imagine? The original owner stood on “Acres of Diamonds.”*
What is our take away?
We need to look and see! Located in the Law of God are diamonds that we can discover should we decide to look and see. The Law of God contains “acres of diamonds” for the dedicated student of the Word
Where are the Diamonds of the Law found?
The Books of Genesis through Deuteronomy contain much of the “Law.” Some passages refer to the entire Old Testament as “Law” (John 10:34; 12:34; 15:25; 1 Cor 14:21). The Law exists mostly in Exodus 20-Deuteronomy 33 and other materials can be found in these chapters.
Many of the Laws presented in this section sounds weird to our ears.*
“Do not cook a young goat in his mother’s milk (Exodus 34:26)
“A man who has lost his hair and is bald is clean (Leviticus 13:40)
“Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear (Deuteronomy 22:12)
Have you broken any of these laws?*
“A woman mus not wear men’s cloting, nor a man wear woman’s clothing (Deuteronomy 22:5)
“Stand up in the aged of the presence of the aged” (Leviticus 19:32)
“Do not … put tattoo marks on yourselves (Leviticus 19:28).
Imagine the Jewish Rabbi’s claim that there are 613 commandments or laws contained in these chapters which are often referred to as “Law.” Genesis is included in the Law section because it introduces Exodus to Deuteronomy as well as the tradition that Moses authored these first five books, called the Pentateuch.
What Kind of “Law” Diamonds may be found?
The first kind of Law reads, “If A happens, then B is the consequence.” This is called a caustic law. These laws normally involve civil or secular law.
The second kind of Law states, “You shall not murder.” These are called apodictic laws. They appear as commands, imperatives, instructions or prohibitions. Often these reflect Divine Law which are declared. The apodictic law lends itself to being more ‘religious.”
A third kind of Law is a legal series. Here several laws occur in a group and can almost appear to be poetic in form. Of course, the best example is the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 2-17/Deut 5:6-21). These tend to fall under the apodictic law form.
Finally, the Law contains two instruction genres: priestly and ritual. The priestly instruction constitutes laws designed to aid the priest in duties. These may be found in Leviticus 6-7 (about offerings) and 21 (priestly purity). The ritual laws directs laymen in their performance of worship tasks – Leviticus 1-5 (how to bring offering and what to offer).
General principles to keep in mind as you search for the diamonds of the Law:
The Law of the Old Testament does not represent a full legal system with crimes and punishments spelled out. Often, there is no stated penalty for failure to keep the Law and no one is especially tasked to enforce the Law. The Old Testament Law appears to promote a self-enforcement on the Israelites.
The purpose of the Law exists to educate the Israelites into how to live life in the presence of God – not to provide them a “How to do Law” handbook. The aim is never judicial, but educational.
Interpret the Law as guidelines that govern Israel’s ongoing life with their God, that is, how to maintain their relationship with God. Remember that the Law intends to create a distinctive people dedicated to living for their God.
God intends the Law to provide a model of timeless ethical and theological principle so His people develop or strengthen their relationship with God.
Specific Principles to Aid the Interpreter Hoping to Grasp the Diamonds of the Law of the Old Testament.
Always study the preceding and following literary context of any type or collection in which the “Law” code is found. Spot and study surrounding laws and see them as clues to interpretation.
Always strive to grasp the “Law” under study in its cultural context. Recommended tools include Bible Dictionaries, Bible Encyclopedias, commentaries and other background resources.
Always apply laws to the New Testament parallel of the original audience. If a Law speaks to the nation of Israel as a group, this can be applied to Christians in general.
Always keep in mind the genre of the Law as you interpret. Each section of the Law requires a different approach. For instance, poetic sections, like Deuteronomy 32-33, require an interpretation approach appropriate to poetry. In like manner, the application ought to follow the guidelines for poetry.
Always, and this is assumed, but we must always depend on the Holy Spirit to illumine our minds to the truths of God’s Word. Ask for His help as we begin.
Steps to Mining for the Diamonds of the Law of the Old Testament
- Ask, “What did the text mean to the biblical audience? “
Remember that much of the Law is set in a narrative context. Reviewing the principles of narrative interpretation might prove helpful. What are the literary and historical/ cultural contexts? What is going on with God’s people?
2. Ask, “How are the people in that Old Testament world where our passage is happening, like us or different from us?” How does the old covenant and the new covenant differ in application, purpose and impact on their lives and our lives?
3. Ask, “That theological principles are being taught in the passage?”
Seek to state the universal, gnomic truth of the passage in such a way that it would be true in the Old Testament period and in our present time. What principle stands taught in other places in the Bible?
4. Ask, “How should individual believers use this timeless and universal principle sin their lives?”
What specific situations can the truth be applied in the life of believers? What kinds of things should a believer do, think, say, or be?
What do you find the most difficult part of interpreting the Old Testament Law? What other suggestions do you have to help students correctly interpret the Old Testament Law? Post them and let’s discuss how to mine the diamonds from the Old Testament Law.
*The full story of the “Acres of Diamonds” can be found: http://www.agiftofinspiration.com.au/stories/achievement/Acres%20of%20Diamonds.shtml
*J. Scott Duvall and J.Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 2012. page 255.