The Story of Scripture – Genesis to Revelation – Part 4: Law for the Land

Law for the Land

Then we flip the page to the book of Exodus, and it is a different story. There is another Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, and the people have now been enslaved. God miraculously preserves and then calls someone by the name of Moses, who was trained by the enemy and used by God to lead His people out of slavery. So, Moses goes and talks to Pharaoh under the power and authority of Yahweh. Through all the plagues, Pharaoh eventually releases, and they come out. There is the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, and they come out into the desert. These people are going to the land that was promised in Genesis. It is already identified. They know there is a place. God has promised that there is a land that they’re going to go to. So, they come out, but what is unique about that is that you now have an ethnically identifiable people, out in the wilderness, and they have no law.

So, they very first thing established in the book of Exodus is the law for the people when they are in the land. This is given from a conditional covenant that we are introduced to in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. There are strings attached. The strings are not attached early on though. They come later. So, in Exodus in particular, is the establishment of the Law. There are Ten Commandments, but it’s really the Law proper, because there’s a whole string of laws behind it. It was a covenant agreement between the people and Yahweh. They agreed that this would be their Law and they would faithfully keep it in the land of promise, established back in Genesis 12:1-3.

Then there’s Leviticus. It’s written to the Tribe of Levi, which is the priestly tribe. It’s there that we’re introduced to the details of the sacrificial system. And there some things we learn out of this system: God is holy, and man is sinful; God is willing to accept temporarily a substitutionary sacrifice. This continues the theme of where there is sin, there is death.

The book of Numbers has a bunch of numbers. There are two censuses. Census number one is the people who now have a Law that are getting ready to go to the land of promise. They go, send out the spy team. They came back and ten of them said “we can’t.” Two of them said “we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30-31). They voted. God said, “not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”[1] That lap lasted 39 years, until that generation died. Then there’s a second census of the new generation that’s going to go into the land of promise.

Now we get to the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteros means “second”. This is the second place in the Pentateuch or Torah where the Ten Commandments show up. They’re first in Exodus chapter 20, and then here again in Deuteronomy chapter 5. The second time is a reiteration of the Law to the new generation, or second census group. Remember they’re going into the land of promise, so it is a re commitment to the covenant all the way back in Exodus chapters 20-24.

There are some things we also see very, very clearly. The author wants us to see the strings attached. There’s one chapter in particular that you cannot under any circumstances understand the rest of the Old Testament without grasping. It’s Deuteronomy 28, because that’s where the strings are attached. If the people are obedient and faithful to the covenant they are blessed with crops and kids. If the people are unfaithful to the covenant, they are cursed with chaos and calamity. These are the stipulations, the strings that are attached to this conditional covenant.

In the book of Deuteronomy Moses dies and we’re left in suspense asking ourselves “Are they going to be faithful to the covenant when they go into the land of promise?”

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Nu 14:23.

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