Excerpt of my email to the (quite venerable) leader of a Bible study I’ve been attending weekly – I’m not sure if my concerns are at all valid but I’m really interested in the answers if any of you sagely ‘uns have any!
Just wanted to clarify with you some of the things I’ve been wondering about, regarding your recent lessons and my own Scriptural readings.
You’ve been talking about how the law principle was no longer in effect, having been superseded by the grace of Jesus. In fact, grace is now being preached almost excessively, with many pastors and teachers referring to the laws of the OT only negatively or as a prelude to their messages about grace. Hence this led me to wonder why God would choose to erect a detailed set of laws (primarily in Exodus-Deuteronomy which I’ve been reading recently) that He would later only undermine by introducing the human incarnation of His son Jesus.
Also, I understand that Jesus’ death redeemed all of humanity past, present and future – after all, to put it simply, God transcends time. But what does this mean for the people who did in fact live under the rule of law? The Law was extremely harsh: Aaron’s sons were killed for offering a sacrifice with unauthorised fire. Moses himself was denied access to the Promised Land for his disobedience in one specific instance (Numbers 20). For the many people who died before Jesus’ redemption, many if not all died as people who weren’t ‘right’ with God in the sense that they were unable to obey His many commands and laws. So wouldn’t they all be sent to Hell since at that point in time Jesus had not finished the work He was set out to do?
Since Jesus’ death brings redemption to all peoples living in all places and ages, what does this mean for people in the Bible that God specifically labels his “enemies” (eg. the Amorites)? Does this mean that there are people in the world are in fact beyond redemption, merely by nature of their ethnicity/race?
On another issue: why is it that in several parts of the OT, God appears almost human in nature? In the sense that His anger seems almost insatiable and He threatens on many occasions to wipe out the entire human race before He is talked out of it by the men with whom He walks closely (eg. Abraham, Moses). I find it quite ironic that even though the OT is where the Lord most explicitly asserts His sovereignty and his superiority over mankind, it is also where He is most portrayed as manlike. He needs to be talked out of destroying His people countless times (especially by Moses who seems to do it on a regular basis in Numbers), and He needs physical reminders as well (eg. the rainbow as a reminder of His covenant with Noah). This detailed portrayal of His wrath is extremely striking when you compare Him to how He is portrayed in the NT – primarily loving, gracious and forgiving. Why is this difference so pronounced when He is in fact the same God throughout all time?
Sorry for the many questions (probably bordering on irrelevance); they are really mostly related to my difficulty in trying to reconcile God’s Law in the OT and His new covenant in the NT, because I’m under the impression that we shouldn’t look at this from a strictly temporal perspective because God is transcendent and immutable. Surely the mere fact that there has been a new covenant shouldn’t undermine His intention in creating the laws in the first place, because God never changes in nature or attitude.