Did you ever stop to think about why God gave the Torah to the Israelites? Or contemplate when He gave it? I don’t mean when, as to a date, but in what circumstances?
I’ve often heard it said, “The law was given so we can know how sinful we are.” Thinking about the ‘when’ of Torah, I am not so sure that was the main purpose. You see, I never really thought about the ‘when’ of the Torah, until one day I heard a teaching comparing the Israelites in the wilderness to believers on earth. Well that got me thinking in comparisons. When, in the scheme of things, did God give the Torah and what does that have to do with Gentile believers?
The more I look into the word of God, the more I realize it has everything to do with us.
First, Paul tells us in Romans 11 that we are grafted into Abraham’s family by faith. So if we are part of Abraham’s family, there must be some rules about how to live as part of that family.
Turning to God’s Word for direction, we find the Torah – the first five books of the Bible. There we discover 613 rules. While that might seem like a lot, we should know a couple of things – out of 613 laws there are 248 positive (do this) laws and 365 negative (don’t do that) laws. And of these, many have to do with the temple, government and living in the Promised Land. That leaves about 271 laws (or rules) that can be kept outside the land of Israel. That seems a little more doable, don’t you think?
Next let’s look at when God gave the Torah. So many people seem to have the wrong impression of the Torah. Many think that God gave this set of rules to the Israelites to help them earn salvation. However, when we look at the timing, we realize that concept is way off base.
So when did God give the Torah? First God rescued Abraham’s family from slavery in Egypt – not because they were good, or followed a set of rules – but because God kept His promise to Abraham. And after He rescued them, He gave them a set of rules to live by.
This speaks more to the ‘why’ of the Torah. These rules taught the Israelites all about relationship: relationship with God, relationship with each other, and relationship with the rest of the world. They were called to be set apart, to live differently, so that they would be a shining light. As believers in Messiah, aren’t we called to do the same thing?
So here’s the comparison: God saves us from slavery to sin and writes His set of rules on our heart so we can follow them. Isn’t that, after all, what it says in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36?