“Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?
“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai, where he told me, ‘Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them. Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live, and they will teach their children to fear me also.’”
Do the laws God gave to the Israelites still apply to Christians today? God’s laws were designed to guide all people toward lifestyles that are healthy, upright, and devoted to God. Their purpose was to point out sin or potential sin and show the proper way to deal with it. The Ten Commandments, the heart of God’s law, are just as applicable today as they were 3,000 years ago because they proclaim a lifestyle endorsed by God. They are a clear expression of who God is and how he wants people to live.
But God gave other laws in addition to the Ten Commandments. Are these just as important? God never issued a law that didn’t have a purpose. Many of the laws we read in Exodus—Deuteronomy, however, were directed specifically to people of that time and culture. Although a specific law may not apply to us, the purpose behind the law does.
For example, Christians do not practice animal sacrifice in worship. Yet the purpose behind the sacrifices—forgiveness for sin and thankfulness to God—still applies to us today. The sacrifices pointed the way toward the ultimate sacrifice made for us by Jesus Christ. The New Testament says that by his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ fulfilled the purpose of the Old Testament laws. This means that while the Old Testament laws help us recognize our sins and correct our wrongdoings, Jesus Christ is who takes our sins away. Jesus is now our primary example to follow, more than the Law, because he alone perfectly fulfilled the Law and modeled its true intent.
Have you struggled to understand what God’s laws mean? As you read each law in the Old Testament, constantly check it against Jesus’ own words and teachings. As you do, you’ll see better the purpose behind the law and how it applies to you.