The Beginning of Freedom

In my late teens, I worked as the program director of a private summer camp in Ontario. I was known as a Christian in an environment that saw God as an appendage, at best. The owner, although a good friend, and a serving deacon in his church, had long since abandoned the story of Scripture, in part, because of the stark contrast between the God of the Old and New Testaments. 

At times he sought to enlighten me by asking questions. “So if God is such a loving God, how could he, in the Old Testament, command the slaughter of innocent babies and women and every living thing?” And with that, his laughter was more of a closing statement. “I’ve got you and you know I’m right.”

Worse yet, I felt he did have me, even though I was convinced he was wrong. The contrast between the two covenants has always been a place of contradiction for me. Yet less so today. ~ I’ve discovered that playful banter often masks hidden questions.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth (came to be) through Jesus Christ.”  John 1:17 (NASB)

Clearly, something new was introduced by God through Jesus. 

Prior to an experience in the desert, on a mountain called Sinai, people everywhere acted according to their own versions of justice, worship, and communal living. Prior to the giving of the Old Testament Law, it would not be accurate to say that people lived harmoniously throughout the land. It would be more accurate to describe life as a commodity that could be owned or extinguished, based on rudimentary beliefs. People understood the power and authority that came with the ability to grant or take life. Infant sacrifice was common. So too was the right to own what you could take and hold. Law was not based upon a moral code. It was based upon power brokering. Thus the strongest god ruled for his season. 

Insert into that worldview, a law whose basis was built upon a definition of a moral right and wrong. It was built upon the character of the God of all gods, who was stronger than the others. This Law was a bridging of one season of human history to the another, still to come. The nations of the world understood the demands of the Law given on Sinai. They paralleled their own laws with the addition of a moral high road that valued purity, holiness, honour and honesty. Those were the additions that entered history on Sinai. The world was not yet ready for grace. 

Many look at the Old Testament and see contradiction while failing to grasp the condition of humanity. Slavery; the devaluing of human life; the lack of connection between a moral code and righteous living; appeasement based on fear and power. 

With the introduction of Sinai’s commandments, a season of human effort was introduced that demanded righteousness through human effort. An elaborate, legalistic appendage was developed in addition to the Law that forced a moral, arduous lifestyle upon the Jewish nation. It assumed that righteousness was attained by conformity to religious practice. It proved that even the recipients of the Law failed to grasp its meaning and significance. 

Prior to Sinai, righteousness was never the objective. Appeasement of the gods had been the goal. With the introduction of a righteous requirement, people strove to conform to a lifestyle they believed would replicate those expectations. They did not understand that behavioural conformity was not the desired end product. The purity of motive and a compelling love for their Creator was the intent of the Law. Israel failed and lived in a new form of bondage.

Into that context, at the right moment, an incision was made in time, and the Creator of time was transplanted into history. With him came clarity regarding the road to being restored to our original purpose and glory. It was not something to strive after. Rather it was something to receive. It was the surrender of effort and the receiving of grace. It was the abandonment of fear and the acceptance of love. It was all that history past had failed to attain, yet had attempted to achieve: right standing with God.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth (came to be) through Jesus Christ.”  John 1:17 (NASB)