Israel’s laws were meant to form them into people of wisdom who lived differently than the nations around them. But what wisdom can Christians gain from the law? In this episode, listen in as Tim and Jon discuss the wisdom the apostles gleaned from the law.
When God gives the gifts of Eden, they’re given in a way that is both for you and for your neighbor … Paul’s mind is on these themes of God’s Eden provision when he writes to the Corinthians. So even though he doesn’t quote Deuteronomy 15, he would meditate on it and conclude that if Israel was obedient to the laws, they would get Eden blessings so that there would be no poor among them. And even though that’s not the world we live in now, we could approximate it. We could taste it.
In part one (00:00-13:40), Tim and Jon review our last conversation where we discussed the law as wisdom. The goal of the law was not to create perfect people but wise people. Because our modern context is far removed from the ancient context in which the laws were written, it takes time and careful study to glean wisdom from the law. When we live by the wisdom of the Torah, we create glimpses of Eden in present reality.
The second movement of Deuteronomy contains two collections of laws. The laws in Deuteronomy 12-18 focus on maintaining a right relationship between Israel and God, while Deuteronomy 19-25 focuses on interpersonal relationships within Israel.
In Deuteronomy 12, Yahweh commands Israel to destroy all shrines dedicated to Canaanite gods. After the people destroyed the shrines, Yahweh would choose a central place of worship for himself, the end goal being that Canaan would resemble the garden of Eden.
In part two (13:40-29:00), Tim and Jon discuss this commandment to destroy other places of worship. If the law is wisdom literature, what wisdom should we glean from commandments like this one?
One principle we can learn is that anything devoted to the worship of another spiritual being should have no place among God’s people. Yahweh intended for Canaan to become like Eden with his dwelling place at the center.
So why didn’t the apostles tell the first churches to destroy neighboring idol shrines? It seems that the New Testament authors didn’t see this as a priority for followers of Jesus. However, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to use discernment when choosing whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols, and he does indicate that there should at least be one zone completely free of anything having to do with other deities. This left space for people to be in different places in their journeys with Jesus and still be able to work together.
Paul doesn’t seem to view commandments for conquest as justification for tearing down idol shrines. However, he does exercise protectiveness over the local church, even advocating for the removal of a man committing incest in 1 Corinthians 5 (with the hope that he will repent of his sin and eventually rejoin the congregation).
In a modern context, Deuteronomy 12 affords us an opportunity to examine our own allegiances to other spiritual powers including idolatry of money, power, sex, sexuality, and so on.
In part three (29:00-43:30), Tim and Jon jump ahead to Deuteronomy 15, where Yahweh commands Israel to cancel all debts every seven years. The seventh year was called the Year of Release, and after seven of those, the Year of Jubilee would occur.
This was another way Israel was meant to live differently than the surrounding nations. The Israelites’ way of loaning money would be totally different. They were commanded not to charge interest on loans because, over time, this would create severe disadvantages and societal imbalances. If they could follow these financial principles, there would be no reason for anyone to be significantly poorer than anyone else (Deut. 15:4).
Even though that’s not the world we live in (nor did the Israelites actually live this out in a way that created an Edenic reality), we see examples of this kind of generous, shared living in the accounts of the early Church in Acts. If we were to live by these principles, we’d get at least a taste of Eden in our present reality.
In part four (43:30-53:55), the guys discuss how the apostles incorporated principles from the Torah into their governance of the first churches.
As we’ve seen on numerous occasions through our study of the Torah, there will always be situations not anticipated by the law, which God’s people will need wisdom to navigate. However, when we meditate on the law, our relationship with the world will change. For instance, while we may not celebrate the Year of Release and the Year of Jubilee, we should be detached enough from our possessions to be willing to part with them for the good of another. When we see it as wisdom literature, the law will reshape how we see the world and the way we are to live within it.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz with Associate Producer Lindsey Ponder. Edited by Dan Gummel, Tyler Bailey, and Frank Garza. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by Hannah Woo.
Powered and distributed by Simplecast.