The Torah portions the last couple weeks have been taking us again through the middle chapters of Exodus and the giving of the Ten Words from Mt. Sinai. So, two days ago, as my family and I read and discussed chapter 23 in our daily Bible time, (portion #mishpatim) I noted with interest how vss. 1-9 all deal with bearing false witness, thus explaining/expanding the Ninth Commandment. As we flipped back and forth it occurred to me that textually, there is not a break in Yahweh’s giving of the 10 Words and the following expansion.
I said nothing and pondered through the day, several times returning to re-read the larger section and note that the ordinances that begin in 21:1 were given on the heels of the Ten Commandments with no discernible break.
Were they all given at the exact same time? Hmmm.
Then, yesterday morning, we read chapter 24 and the answer that I suspected began to come into focus!
3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the [a]ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” ………. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” Exodus 24:3, 7
Notice several important points.
- The ‘book of the covenant’ is what is read in the hearing of the people.
- The book contains ‘all the words (10 Commandments?) AND all the ordinances.’
- Twice the people agree to do ‘all Yahweh has spoken.’
In fact, this is the moment when they enter into covenant, and this is the covenant that is renewed in Deuteronomy, and renewed for us by Messiah when He pays the penalty for us having broken the covenant and walked in disobedience.
What does this have to do with ‘diminishing God’s Law?’
Pretty simple, actually. Christendom teaches that the Law is divided into three categories: moral, civil and ceremonial. They further, errantly, teach that two of the three parts are done away with and we are only bound to/accountable to the moral law, primarily contained in the Ten Commandments. (I wrote about this in The Error of Dividing the Law.) The underlying presupposition is that the Ten Commandments are a separate part of the covenant, or some how a divisible codicil to the Abrahamic covenant that only applies to certain groups.
Over and over I hear references, and #Christian theology is rife with the idea, that ‘we only have to keep the Ten Commandments.’ By making this claim they assume or seek to define that they do not need to keep parts of the Law, for example, the Feasts of Yahweh. Those, they claim, are ceremonial and not connected to the Ten Words. However, the text indicates exactly the opposite!
Chapters 21-23 all clearly fall into this ‘group’ of instructions given at the same time the Ten Words (Exodus 20) were given, evidenced by the previously quoted verses. Further, these ordinances/instructions clearly articulate a responsibility to the annual Feasts! See Exodus 23:14-18,
14 “Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. 15 You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And [a]none shall appear before Me empty-handed. 16 Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. 17 Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord [b]God.
18 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor is the fat of My [c]feast to remain overnight until morning.
The point that I make is that we ‘subtract’ from, or diminish the Law of God when we say, ‘Oh, I only have to keep the Ten Commandments.’ Why? Because the covenant was more than Ten Commandments; it was everything spoken and that which Israel agreed to. We can’t divide those into artificial categories. They come as a single unit.
I would encourage us. Instead of seeking how we can ‘get out of,’ or ‘get around,’ our Father’s loving instructions, thus diminishing His #Torah, let us seek ways to be obedient and walk by His Ruach!