My wife and I once saw a secular documentary on Christians whose faith focuses heavily on end time events. The first Christian interviewed said that God was primarily a Judge; one that rewards right and punishes wrong. He went on to mention the coming judgement and did not mention Jesus or the cross once. I almost threw the remote into the TV at that point. My wife can attest that I was getting pretty livid at the thought of people watching this and going away thinking that God was primarily like Santa Claus minus the gifts.
Yes God is a Judge. He loves right and hates wrong. But guess why? Because He loves us! He hates anything that destroys us and the relationship we were created to have with Him. As worship leader and songwriter Misty Edwards wrote, “God is a Lover searching for a lover, so He fashioned me.”
One may say, “But wait, didn’t God give the law? What about all of those commands and do’s and don’t's in the Bible?” Do you know why the law was given? Have you been taught that the poor lil’ Israelites had just been brought out of slavery from Egypt and by golly, they just didn’t know how to govern themselves. So God gave them all of those good laws so that their society could be established and they could be prosperous. This is what I was taught, but look at what the Bible says:
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase… (Rom. 5:20)
I never heard this verse preached growing up. Neither will you find this verse on a nice little plaque hanging on someone’s wall. So the law was given so that sin would increase, really? This means that sin was there all along and the law came in to show it for what it was.
Joseph Prince helped open my eyes to the fact that before the law was given in the wilderness, the Israelites were blessed based on God’s covenant with Abraham. Even though they were still the same bickering bunch, they were blessed apart from their works.
But as soon as the law was given, we see the tit for tat judgments begin. God did not desire this as we are told throughout the Bible. But in His infinite wisdom, the law was given to show us our need for a Savior.
For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6 AMP).
God wanted the people to encounter Him personally in the way Moses did. But they just wanted a list of rules to obey. In fact, they boasted in being well able to do this. It was not a testament of their zeal for God, but of their pride and reliance on self-efforts to achieve godliness that was being displayed. I like to call this episode in the wilderness, “The Two Trees in the Garden Part 2″. Just like Adam and Eve, they chose a system of knowledge of good and evil rather than life-giving relationship with God.
When Moses told the people about the kind of relationship God desired with them…
The people were unanimous in their response: “Everything God says, we will do.” Moses took the people’s answer back to God. (Ex. 19:8)
They basically wanted Moses to be the one with the relationship while they simply followed the rules. This is exactly what they got with the law.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Ex. 20:18-19)
This point is not often made when discussing the implementation of the Old Covenant, but if you read Exodus 19:3-6, God desired that the Israelites be a nation of priests, but as we see when the covenant was given, only the tribe of Levi were priests. But what we see in the New Covenant of grace is that all believers are priests (1 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:5-6). Paul talks about this in Galatians as well.
Obviously this law was not a firsthand encounter with God. It was arranged by angelic messengers through a middleman, Moses. But if there is a middleman as there was at Sinai, then the people are not dealing directly with God, are they? (Gal. 3:20 MSG)
So the giving of the law was not so much a revelation of God’s heart for His people, but rather a response to the people’s unbelief and their own choice for rules. God’s heart has always been for a love relationship with His creation.
I hope this helps shed light on the fact that God has always desired relationship over rules but that it has been we who have rejected His love for rules. It saddens my heart to see how Christians are more associated with rule keeping and enforcing rather than passion and power. When are we going to realize that rules don’t make us righteous and laws can’t make us love?
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Rom. 3:20)