There is a great deal of confusion for many people today, regarding the strange laws of Moses that are described in the Old Testament. This difficulty is due to a misunderstanding of who these laws were intended and what their purpose was.
When a person reads the Laws of Moses, they sometimes get the idea that God has instituted these rules for the whole world and we are required to follow them today. Many critics of the Bible scorn those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Old Testament, because of these dubious laws. Some people stumble over obscure Old Testament laws because they believe that God intends that we keep them today.
As we study the text of these chapters in the Old Testament, we find that only the Children of Israel were given these laws. God was calling a distinct group of people out of the world to be His very own. He wanted to teach these people about who He is and what He requires. In order for the Children of Israel to belong to the Lord, they would have to live holy and separate lives from everyone else in the world. We discover in the New Testament that when Christ came into the world, He fulfilled and completed all these law—fully satisfying the demands of God’s law.
The Three Parts Of God’s Law To The Israelites:
ONE: The Ceremonial Law was specifically given to Israel for worship (Leviticus). These laws were instituted for the purpose of preparing the Israelites for the time when their Messiah would arrive, and ended with the appearance of Jesus as the Messiah. These law described and regulated the procedure for sacrifices and the requirement that were necessary because of sin. The believer in Christ today, no longer must keep the ceremonial laws of Moses because Christ has fulfilled all of these for us.
TWO: The Civil Law was applicable to the Children of Israel for their daily living (Deuteronomy 24). The body of these laws are the primary source of misunderstanding for many people today. These civil laws were only for the Israelites and are not applicable to the believer in Christ today. While the principles behind these laws still have an enduring benefit for everyone today, their actual strict observance is not required. Many of the principles of these laws are highlighted in the text of the New Testament as proper behavior for those who trust in Christ.
THREE: The Moral Law is illustrated by the Ten Commandments. They are the direct commandments of God, and demand obedience (Exodus 20:13). These laws are applicable for every generation and will never end.
The question for us today is whether God expects us to also keep the Ceremonial and Civil laws described by Leviticus and Deuteronomy. This question came up not long after the Christian church began in the first century. The Jews who observed Gentiles coming to Christ, insisted that they also keep the laws of Moses.
Acts 15:1 While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Acts 15:5-6 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue.
The question of whether the Christian church was required to keep all the laws of Moses as they believed upon Jesus, was address in the Book of Acts, chapter 15. A determination was made by all the Apostles that under the New Covenant of Salvation that was made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Laws of Moses were no longer applicable to those who believe in Jesus, with the exception of four:
- Do not eat meat sacrificed to idols.
- Do not commit sexual sin
- Do not eat meat where the blood has not been bled out.
- Do not drink blood.
Acts 15:11-21 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus… And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to 1. abstain from eating food offered to idols, 2. from sexual immorality, 3. from eating the meat of strangled animals, and 4. from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.
These strange Old Testament laws of mixing fabrics, stoning people to death for sins, daughters sold into slavery, and laws regulating menstruation, genital emission, and many others, were only applicable for the Children of Israel, before Messiah arrived. The purpose of these strict laws were to establish the holiness of God in the minds of the people. Anyone who wanted to approach the God of the Hebrews, must also be holy and separate from the practices of the pagan nations that surrounded them.
The purpose of God’s laws for the Children of Israel was intended as an example to the world that those who will know and worship the God of the Bible must be separate from the traditions of this world. This is the basis of the word “Holy.”
Some of the Pharisees accused Jesus of seeking to do away with the Laws of Moses, but Jesus said just the opposite:
Matthew 5:17-20 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said that all of the laws of Moses were still in effect, but they are fulfilled by His death and resurrection. Every person who seeks to be redeemed from their sins by the death and resurrection of Jesus, He fulfilled these laws for us. By Jesus’ perfect life in keeping all these Old Testament laws faultlessly, we also fulfill all of these laws. As Jesus’ death takes our sins away, His righteousness imparts perfection to us. Jesus came and lived a perfect life and kept all the Laws of Moses for us, because we are not capable of this perfection ourselves. Everyone who places all their trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, and receives the salvation He offers the world, is seen by God as also perfectly keeping all the laws of God.
Jesus clarified this issue by saying that not even the “jot or tittle,” the smallest marks on the Hebrew words, will be done away with. Jesus said that anyone who breaks or teaches others to not obey these laws will be held accountable by God. Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, if we will enter heaven. It is by placing our salvation in the hands of Jesus that we fulfill even the Jot and Tittle of the Law and are fully qualified for heaven.
Righteousness That Exceeds The External
The scribes and Pharisees were the most righteous men in Israel, externally. If you looked at these men, from the outside you saw that they kept even the smallest parts of Moses Law. Jesus said that we must go beyond the external keeping of God’s laws and also keep the heart of the Law. Jesus gave examples of what this means by saying: “you have heard that it was said, ‘a man shall not commit adultery.’ I say to you that if a man even looks at a woman to lust after her, he has committed adultery.”
The perfection that God requires in keeping His law is not just religious, and external, but also internal, by a changed heart. No person can ever achieve this kind of righteousness by trying to keep the laws of Moses. This is why Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life for us, fulfilling all of the laws of Moses. Then He offered His perfect life for all of our imperfect lives, and made our salvation possible. The Bible says that anyone who trusts in Jesus for their salvation—all their sins are removed and they become perfect in righteousness—keeping all the laws that God requires.
The Purpose Of The Laws Of Moses Were To Teach Us That We Can’t Keep These Laws
James wrote that anyone who attempts at being righteous before God by keeping the laws of God, must keep them all—perfectly. If we are guilty of breaking even one of these laws (lying), we are guilty of breaking them all.
James 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
God’s standard is perfection and He accepts nothing less. Everyone who seeks to be acceptable to God by trying to keep the law, always fails because none of us are capable of perfection. Everyone who has tried to keep the laws of God has failed. James said if we have failed in just one part of the law, we are guilty of breaking the whole law of God.
God did not lower His standards, He sent His Son to die for us and complete all the laws perfectly. God determined that anyone who places themselves in Christ—receives the same moral perfection that Jesus possessed. When God looks at those who have placed their trust in Jesus, He see them without a single sin—perfect in every way. Jesus righteousness is imputed to us the moment we trust in Him.
The True Purpose Of The Old Testament Law
Later in the New Testament, Paul defined why the Laws of Moses were given; as “examples” to us that we can never be made righteous by trying to keep the Laws of Moses, because no person can fully achieve this. Paul defines the purpose of these law as a “teacher” that would bring us to Christ. We look at the Laws that God required in the Old Testament and see that we will never be able to keep these laws. We can either give up and stop believing in God, or we can continue our search in the New Testament and learn that Jesus perfectly kept all of these laws for us. When we place our trust in Christ, God imputes His righteousness to our account and we also become righteous—keeping every law that God requires.
In Romans 6, Paul asks the question: “since we are saved by grace and not by keeping the law, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” We cannot use the grace of God as a license to sin, because we have been forgiven by Jesus. Anyone who would continue to sin, while understanding that Jesus died for those sins, does not understand what Jesus endured to make our salvation possible. Once we realize what Jesus has done for us and that our sins are the reason He had to go to the cross, we do not want to sin any more.
In the Book of 1 John, the Apostle describes what we do when we do sin, after we have come to Jesus for our salvation: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Everyone who is saved by Jesus still struggles with sin as long as we are alive in our earthly bodies. There will aways be a struggle between doing right and sin. When we make a mistake, God will forgive us, if we are sincere and come to Him with the desire to be forgiven and not sin again.
This process is repeated over and over again throughout the entire life of those who come to Jesus for salvation. Christians are not perfect, but they have a perfect Savior who forgives them every time they ask, and He keeps them in fellowship with God. Only when we die and our spirit leaves our body for heaven, will we finally be free of sin forever.
For a complete understanding of how God saves by grace and uses the laws of the Old Testament to lead us to Christ, see the books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition.
Galatians 3:11-13 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.” But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:23-25 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our teacher until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
Hebrews 10:1 The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves.
Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
If the reader will pay attention to the context of each chapter of the Books of Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, they will consistently notice who these texts are addressed to: “The Children of Israel.”
Leviticus 1:1-2 Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:
Deuteronomy 1:1-3 These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel …Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him as commandments to them...
Deuteronomy 4:44-45 Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel. These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt...
These are the laws that God gave to the Children of Israel. He did not give all of these laws to the whole world. Why was God giving strict and difficult laws to the Children of Israel? The Lord tells us why these laws were instituted:
God Was Setting Apart A Holy People For Himself
Exodus 19:6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation. This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.
Deuteronomy 4:20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.
Deuteronomy 6:1 Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess…
The Children of Israel had been slaves in the land of Egypt. As a result, many of the Hebrews had seen the pagan practices of the Egyptians and how they worshipped thousands of gods and participated in gross religious rituals. Later in the New Testament we learn that the gods of these pagan nations, were not really gods, but demons masquerading as gods, leading people into lies, perversion, and destruction.
1 Corinthians 10:20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God.
God Was Bringing The Children Of Israel Into A Land Occupied By Evil People
When God led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, He was bringing them into the land that had been occupied by many pagan nations who worshipped demon gods, killed their children as acts of worship to these gods, and practiced sexual perversion and participated in many vile and horrible practices.
Deuteronomy 4:1 “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you.
Deuteronomy 7:1-4 When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.
Deuteronomy 12:29-31 When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
The Canaanites, Amalekites, and other pagan nations, worshipped the gods of Baal and Molech. These vicious gods demanded the sacrifice of babies upon the altar of the fiery hot arms of their god. These nations practiced sexual perversion and used their bodies as instruments of evil.
God Told The Israelites, “Do Not Imitate The Pagan Nations Around You”
Because of Egypt and their gods, and the practices of the Canaanites, and Amalekites, the Children of Israel were well acquainted with pagan worship. God, wanting to establish a new and holy people for Himself, enacted strict rules for of conduct for His people so that they could worship God properly and as He deserves. We must remember that the God of the Bible said that He is the One True God, and all others are really demons acting as gods to gain the worship of human beings. The God who created the universe, earth, and human life, deserves exclusive and perfect worship, because He is perfect and Holy. It is natural that God is angry when people worship demons and things He created instead of Him who made all these things.
Deuteronomy 14:1-3 You are the children of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Because God had led the Children of Israel out of slavery and pagan worship in Egypt, He didn’t want His people to get enslaved again to these new pagan gods. For this reason, God instituted strict laws for His people to discipline their worship and prepare their hearts and mind for the coming of their Messiah.
God was setting apart a holy and special people for Himself that would be the line of descendants from where the Messiah would be born. He wanted these people to be holy and separate from the pagan world, as examples of the beauty and perfection of our true life that would begin after our earthly life is finished.
Laws Of Separation: Mixing Crops, Animals, Clothing
“You must not plant any other crop between the rows of your vineyard. If you do, you are forbidden to use either the grapes from the vineyard or the other crop. “You must not plow with an ox and a donkey harnessed together. “You must not wear clothing made of wool and linen woven together. “You must put four tassels on the hem of the cloak with which you cover yourself—on the front, back, and sides. ~Deuteronomy 22:9-12 (NLT)
These laws from Deuteronomy 22:9-11, are known as laws regarding the principle of separation. God was calling a people from out of the world to be His own. God created the world and nature with an order. This same order exists between men and women, and how we live our lives. Order helps us avoid confusion and distinguishes the roles of men and women as different, although both are equal before God and loved the same. This order and distinct differences between the two sexes, allows people to know how to conduct themselves in life and honor God with their bodies by how they live.
Although these laws from Deuteronomy 11 may not apply to us today, they are still useful in understanding God’s order in nature and usefulness in their application.
The laws regarding the mixing of crops, fabrics, and animals, were instituted for the Hebrew people because of the pagan nations that surrounded them. It was the practice of these pagan people to mix their crops together as a part of their fertility rites in worship of their gods. Mixing of fabrics was similarly a religious practice by these pagan nations as a part of their worship system to their gods.
The God of Israel did not want His people to imitate these nations because to do so would eventually cause them to be like them and abandon the One True God. Imitation is a short step away from adaptation. Once we begin to act like people who don’t know God, it will not be long before we abandon God ourselves.
Regarding the mixing of animals that plow fields, this is a practical law that distinguishes between the temperaments of an ox and a donkey. These two animals are completely different from each other in how they think and act. Mixing these two different animals with conflicting personalities would cause trouble for the farmer as he tried to plow his fields. The God of the Bible is very practical and He knows that mixing animals of different personalities will cause problems for the farmer.
The Jews were God’s people now and He wanted better things for them than the pagan nations had chosen for themselves. If they chose to honor God and listen to Him, they would also be honored by God as He would bless them above all the nations of the earth. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31, that whether we eat or drink, or in whatever we do, we should do it all for the glory (honor) of God.
“Remember You Were Slaves”
Deuteronomy 15:12-15 (NLT) If a fellow Hebrew sells himself or herself to be your servant and serves you for six years, in the seventh year you must set that servant free. “When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.
It was because the Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt that God wanted to ensure that they did not also enslave each other in the new land they were coming into. We notice that Moses instructs the people on how they are to treat a fellow Hebrew who “sell themselves” to be a servant of another Hebrew because of their debt or poverty. These servants were not treated in the same way that the Egyptians treated the Hebrews, as property, but instead as members of their family. The term of their service was only seven years. After seven years, every servant was to be released and they owed no further debt.
In many of these cases, the servants did not want to leave their master’s home because they were treated so well. In these cases the master would bring the servant to the front of the house, place the earlobe upon the wooden post of the house and pierce it through with an awl. A ring would be placed in the ear, signifying that this was now a willing servant who served their master because of love, as a “doulos.” This later became an illustration in the New Testament of those who place their complete trust in Jesus for their salvation. Because of their love for Jesus, they make themselves willing servants who love their Master and serve Him forever. They choose to remain in the Lord’s house because they love Him, and He loves them.
Are There Two Different Gods In The Bible?
In both the Old and New Testaments, we see a very harsh, speedy, and distinct judgement of God for certain people who violated the laws of God.
Some people see an angry and vindictive God in the Old Testament, in contrast to a kind, loving, and graceful God in the New Testament. What many seldom understand is that the Old Testament allows us to see one aspect of God; His Holiness, perfection, and hatred of sin because of what it does to human life. In the New Testament we see the equal side of God: His love, grace, mercy, and kindness in sending His Son to die for the sins of the world. There are not two different Gods in the Bible, but One God who shows us both parts of His Nature by both the Old and New Testament scriptures: Holy, and Just as well as, Loving, Merciful, and Full of Grace.
The people who interacted with God in the Old Testament are presented with a Being God who has no tolerance for sin and demands perfection. When God created the universe and place human beings upon earth, everything was perfect. Sin did not exist, there was no evil, sickness, suffering or death. It was only when satan sinned, and Adam sinned against God that sin entered the world.
Where Evil Originated
Some people blame God for the evil and suffering that is present in the world, but fail to assign blame where it is due. God did not sin when He created us like Himself—with the privilege of self determination. He gave us the most precious and beautiful gift imaginable; the privilege of choosing how we want to live.
I have two sons who are living their own lives. Although I want them to live for Jesus and love Him because I understand that this kind of life will ensure them a beautiful and meaningful existence, I cannot make them live for Jesus. It’s not that I have no power to change the way they are living, I certainly do. I can try to force them to live right, but would this really work? People do not respond to force—they do respond to kindness and love.
Romans 2:4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Can you see that it is his kindness that is intended to turn you from your sin?
We must each choose to love people and God, because we want to, not because God or anyone else forces us. You will not find any place in the New Testament where Jesus ever tried to force a person to do what is right. He told them the truth and then let the individual make up their own mind.
When we do what is right for God or another person, this shows that we truly love them. Only by each one of us having an opportunity to choose whether we will love God and obey Him—can we, and God—know if we really do love Him. Obedience is always the most visible evidence of true love.
All the sin, suffering, and death that is in the world today, is because of sin—not because God created sin, or permits it to exist. The entire purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth and dying on the cross, was to end evil, suffering and death. From the time of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, He possessed victory over this world. He did not end the present world of evil and sin at that time, because He wanted to give all of us time to decide which side of salvation we are on; with Jesus, or against Him.
God Does Not Approve Or Condone Sin—He Gives Grace
Since the cross, God has withheld final judgement in order to give the world time to decide whether they want to be a part of God’s perfect world that He has promised, or to be excluded.
Not long from now, Jesus will come to earth a second time, for judgement. When Jesus comes again, He will judge all evil and sin, end it, and establish His righteous kingdom on the earth for 1,000 years. At that time no one will hurt or kill anyone ever again. All sickness, suffering and death will end. Everyone who wants to live in this perfect new world, will be allowed to enter and will never see suffering or evil again.
People Whom God Killed In The Bible
There is a strange phenomenon that we find in the Bible, where certain people are killed by God. By investigating these events, we learn a great deal about the true nature of God. In the previous portion of this article, I described for you the Holiness of God and the fact that He has no tolerance for sin. The only place in the universe where we see that sin is tolerated is here on earth, and only for a short duration of time. God dwells in a light that is unapproachable by mortal man (1 Tim. 6:16). Only creatures who are morally perfect, can survive the light of His glorious presence. Moses wanted to see God as He is, but God told him that “no man can see me and live.” In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote “it is because of the Lord’s compassion that we are not consumed.” In our present state as sinners, if we were taken to heaven in these sinful bodies, we would be vaporized. God must make us into perfect creatures, without sin, if we will survive in heaven.
God bears with fallen human beings during this time of grace, when salvation is offered to the world and God bears with us while we decide.
In the case of those who are representing God, we see that these individuals fall under a much more severe form of judgement. Paul warned those who would seek to become leaders in the Christian church that we will be judged more closely than the rest of the world. God expects men and women who represent Him to be exemplary in their behavior. If we fail to properly represent God, He will often remove us from leadership and place us on the shelf for a time until we learn to represent Him properly.
James 3:1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Moses Loses His Life
Moses learned this lesson when he improperly represented God. On the first occasion when the Children of Israel were thirsting in the desert, God instructed Moses to take his staff and “strike the rock once.” From this, the rock began to pour out water for the people. In the New Testament, Paul said that this “rock” was really Christ. The rock in the desert was intended by God as a look into the future when Jesus, the Rock of our salvation, would be struck once for our sins. Jesus also said that those who come to Him, “springs of living water will flow out of their innermost being.”
1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
John 7:38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
The second time that the people were thirsty, God told Moses to go to the rock and just speak to to it and water would come out to satisfy the people. Moses was tired of hearing the complaining of these people by this time. He went to the rock in anger and began to beat it with his staff. Water still came out, but Moses had made a grave error. God told Moses to speak to the rock, not beat it. In doing this, Moses had misrepresented God to the people. Because Moses was angry, the people thought that God was angry with them. God was not angry. He is very patient and kind. The people were tired, discouraged and thirsty. God loved these people and He wanted to meet their needs. All that Moses had to do was speak to the rock and water would come flowing out.
The rock, once again, represented Christ. After Jesus, our Rock, was struck once for us, all our sins were taken away. Now, all we must do is speak to Him and He will give us His Living Water and it will flow into our lives, and out again to everyone we meet.
Moses misrepresented the Lord; he distorted the salvation that God intended by striking the rock twice, when Jesus, the rock, would be struck only once for our sins.
The Lord told Moses that He would not be allowed to enter the land God promised. He would see it from a distance, but not enter. God Killed Moses on that mountain and took him to heaven (Deut. 32:48-50). This was a judgement that came because Moses incorrectly represented God and failed to demonstrate His Holiness to the people.
God takes it serious—how we represent Him.
Nadab And Abihu Lose Their Lives
In the Book of Leviticus, we see Nadab and Abihu, son’s of Aaron, killed suddenly by God for their behavior. In 2 Samuel 6:1-7. In the Old Testament, the priests taught the people the difference between what was holy and what was not holy, so that they understood how to live their lives before the Lord.
When we examine the behavior of Nadab and Abihu, we see that everything they did was wrong, and they knew it was wrong. These two brothers brought incense and presented it to the Lord, which they were not allowed. Only their father, the high priest, was permitted by the Laws of God to do this (Exodus. 30:7-10).
Nadab and Abihu also used the wrong instruments to bring the incense. They used their own incense holders, not those required by the high priest that had been set apart by anointing for the Lord (40:9).
These two son’s of Aaron came at the wrong time, because only on the Day of Atonement could the high priest come with incense into the Holy of Holies, and only then, through a special ceremony prescribed by God. (Leviticus 16:1).
Nadab and Abihu also did not come with the proper authority of God. They came on their own, independent of Moses or their father Aaron. These brothers did not seek to understand how they should come as instructed by the Lord.
These two brought incense from their own fire, not as required; from coals that came from the brazen altar (16:12).
Nadab and Abihu had the wrong motives for why they were coming before God. They came from pride, and not humility, seeking to promote themselves and not recognizing that God was Holy (10:3).
Finally, Nadab and Abihu came while intoxicated and under the influence of alcohol, disrespecting the Lord. It was because these two brothers wanted to replace the power of God’s Spirit with their own physical power, that led to their deaths. God is not mocked. We must respect who He is and how we come to Him. God is Holy and He must be approached by humility and reverence.
It is a sad truth that today, most of what is being done in Christian churches around the world, is by the power of the leaders, and not by the power of God’s Spirit. If God were to withdraw His Spirit from the church today, it is likely that not many would even notice. We no longer operate by God’ Spirit but by our own power and will.
Uzzah Touches The Ark And Dies
In 2 Samuel, chapter 6, we see Uzzah who was killed by God for touching the Ark of the Covenant when it slipped. The ark of the covenant was to be kept in the Holy of Holies at the tabernacle because it represented the glorious throne of God (Psalms 80:1; 99:1).
David wanted the ark to be returned to Jerusalem be cause he wanted to honor the Lord. It is clear that David also had a self motivation to be the one who built God a sanctuary at Jerusalem.
The problems began when David failed to seek the Lord before He moved the ark. It seemed wise to David, and all the people agreed, the ark should be moved by cart to Jerusalem. David had always asked the Lord before he had done anything in the past. This time he assumed that he knew what God wanted. David was wrong. He did not follow the instructions from the Lord that He gave to Moses for how the tabernacle should be erected, dismantled, and transported in Numbers 4. All of the pieces of furniture were to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites, the descendants of Kohath (4:9-20).
When David used a new cart drawn by oxen, he was following the pattern of the pagan Philistines from 1 Samuel 6, not the correct procedure given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.
From this error of David we learn that whatever we endeavor to do for the Lord, it must be done His way if we will have His blessing. God is Holy and He requires that all our work for Him is done properly, not our way or according to our wisdom. We must seek the Lord first before we do the work, not after, when the work is already done and then ask God to bless it.
As the ark became unsteady on the cart, Uzzah reached out to stop it from falling and God killed him immediately. God had already warned Moses and all of the Israelite people about touching the ark in Numbers 1:51, and 4:15, 20
Abinadab was not Levite, nor his son Uzzah who touched the ark. He was not qualified to handle the ark, or ever touch it. This error happened because David did not properly consider the Lord in the work he was seeking to do for Him. David was a leader and he should have known better to consider the Lord Holy and respect Him. It was because of David’s poor decision in not seeking the Lord beforehand that caused the death of Uzzah. We who serve the Lord today in leadership must realize that we can cause terrible harm to the people we are seeking to minister to if we do not seek the Lord beforehand and consider God Holy in all we try to do for Him.
For the unbeliever, this example of David serves as a valuable lesson that the God of the Bible claims to be the Only God that exists. He is perfect and all those who will approach Him must first believe that He is God, and then come to Him with deep reverence and honor.
Respect for spiritual leadership that God has ordained is not a subject that we see the Lord taking lightly. Whether it was during the times of the Old Testament or today, under those who serve in Jesus’ church; God hates division and attack brought upon church leadership.
When Korah determined to come against Moses, whom God had chosen to lead His people, he came against God Himself. We should understand that those who are leaders in the church are placed there by God. If there is a problem in the Lord’s church, He will deal with those who need correction—Himself. When anyone takes the role of an adversary against a man who is sincerely seeking to serve the Lord and bless the people, they should understand that the Lord will not take it lightly when His church is hurt or destroyed by those who cause the destruction.
Numbers 16:8-32 Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi. Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD.” Then Moses was very angry, and said to the LORD, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.” And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation. And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?” So the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ ” Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods.
Sometimes the people who attend the church forget that it is not their church or the pastor’s church, it is Jesus’ church. Jesus said “I will build My church...” We all attend the church that Jesus has created for us. We do not determine who the leaders are, nor do we come against these men if we feel they are not fulfilling their proper role. This is not to say that certain leaders are corrupt, abusive, or committing crimes. We are speaking about men who are trying to be good leaders, teaching the word of God, loving the people and remain humble servants. Many times these men are attacked simply because they are not liked by some members of the church body. Perhaps some don’t like the teaching style or mannerisms of a particular leader. These are not reasons to seek the removal of these leaders.
In cases where a person finds that they have a personal reason or conflict with the leader, they can either accept these men or leave the church. No one should ever come against a man sincerely seeking to serve the Lord as a leader and have them removed or make their ministry difficult. Those who do these things are committing sin and the Lord will take steps to discipline these individuals.
If a person finds a leader who is abusive, a thief, committing immoral actions, or committing crimes, of course these persons should be removed from the church. These actions are made by the elders of the church, not individuals from within the church.
In most of the cases I have seen over the past 44 years, people come against a pastor or leader simply because they don’t like them, not for any crime or immorality.
In the case of Korah against Moses, Korah was envious of Moses and rebellious against his authority. Korah thought that he was just as qualified to be the leader of God’s people and for this reason, he opposed Moses. Korah’s mistake was forgetting who had place Moses in this position of authority. We must never forget that the God we serve is Lord over His church, not us. We submit ourselves to the men who lead these churches and support them, or we remain silent and leave.
The Lord demands unity within the body of Jesus Christ. This is not a suggestion. When discord is spread and the members suffer and are broken over it, the Lord will not permit those who tear the body into pieces to remain innocent. We see examples of this throughout the Bible. Two important examples of those who cause disunity and the consequences of their actions are Korah, in Numbers 16; and Ananias and Sapphira, in Acts 5.
Ananias And Sapphira’s Misrepresentation:
Acts 5:1-10 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband…
Ananias and Sapphira owned a piece of property that they sold. The proceeds from this property was theirs to do with as they choose. They apparently gave, as an offering, all but a portion of the total money they received from this sale to the church. Their sin appears to be that of falsely representing to the leaders of the church, that they had given the entire amount to the Lord instead of telling the truth that they had kept some for themselves. It would have been completely appropriate for Ananias and Sapphira to retain part of the money from the sale of their property. They really did not have to say anything about the matter at all. They could have simply given their offering to the Lord and left it at that. Where the grievous sin occurred was in the pretense of making themselves appear worthy of greater honor than they were actually due. Their actions caused a fracture of unity in the church, and therefore became a very serious matter.
The serious nature of this error is seen in the comments of Peter, who defined their actions as inspired by satan: “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Apparently, the Lord agreed with Peter; for immediately, the Lord struck dead both Ananias and Sapphira in His judgement.
This verse is also important in defining for us who the Holy Spirit is. “You have not lied to men but to God…” Peter clarifies that they lied to the Holy Spirit, and He is God. From this, we understand that the Holy Spirit is not an active force but a person, as the Father and the Son are also persons of the Godhead.
God’s judgement in both of these examples allows us to see the seriousness of causing division within the body of Christ. God holds guilty those who cause such divisions. Both Korah and his entire household, as well as Ananias and Sapphira, perished for their error.
Disunity In The Church Of Corinth Caused Sickness And Death:
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church over their serious acts of disunity that had apparently caused sickness and death amongst some of the members.
During their love feasts, when the church provided a meal for the poorer members, the rich would often come in early and drink too much wine, eat too much food, and leave little provision remaining for the poorer members of the church who arrived later.
1 Corinthians 11:18-22 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
After the love feasts were concluded and the members of the church took communion together, those who had caused this division and carelessly harmed the poorer members, became sick, and some even died after having taken communion. Apparently, by their total disregard for the other members of the church, as they took the elements of communion, they did so in “an unworthy manner.”
The did not regard the body of Christ, the poorer members of the church. Paul described this in his letter to the Corinthians where he said that those who take communion in an unworthy manner, not respecting the poorer members of the church, eats and drinks judgement to himself.
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (have died). For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
In the simple act of communion, members of the church died because of their disregard for unity and the welfare of others in the church. By their selfishness, they harmed the entire fellowship of believers.
It is important to note that the “unworthy manner,” in which these careless members of the church conducted themselves, had nothing to do with being unworthy to receive communion. It was because they disregarded the Lord’s body—His church—that they became sick, and died.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
James speaks of these individuals who had become sick and some had died. He speaks of their actions that had caused disunity in the church as “sin.” They could be forgiven and restored, if they would confess their sins and cease their actions that harmed the church.
James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.
James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
The members of Jesus’ church are to imitate Him in their lives. We are not allowed to argue, disagree, backbite, gossip, spread rumors, and cause division. Those who do so, and thereby cause harm to the church, will suffer the wrath of the Lord for destroying the unity that is so vital and important to God.
We may not understand the harshness of God’s judgement in killing these people who caused division, but we don’t need to understand. What is important is we comprehend that this principle of respect and unity amongst the church is of great importance to the Lord. For God to take such serious action, tells us how important unity within the members of Jesus’ church is. Jesus requires the same unity in His church that we see demonstrated in the prayer of Jesus, in John Chapter 17, between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
As God is one, Jesus will make His church one also. No one who works to make Jesus’ church fractured or broken can be a part of His church. I have seen the results of what happens when people from the church cause divisions and disunity, and it has broken my heart.
The basis for the Trinity is that God is one in mind, will, purpose, and work. These three never disagree or suffer differences. This is what makes these three—One God. This same principle is the power behind Jesus’ church. In these last days, we see the opposite occurring in many Christian churches all over the world. If Jesus’ church could come together in one mind and for one purpose, and stop the gossiping and disunity from within the church, there is nothing that would be impossible for us. As the Lord’s church, we could drastically affect and change this world, and see millions more come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
This brief study helps us understand the serious nature of our respect and honor for God. He is Holy and He demands that those who will worship Him and be a part of His family, also respect and honor each other. We are going to live together forever and it is of extreme importance that we understand what God was illustrating by these strict laws of the Old Testament: God is Holy and those who approach Him and have a relationship with Him, must regard Him as Holy and live lives that are Holy.
If anyone places themselves in Christ Jesus and lives their life to love and please Him, they are holy and fully ready to live with God right now. This is a great comfort and encouragement to everyone who loves Jesus—that not only are all of our sins forgiven and we are right with God, but He also sees us a Holy and complete because of our trust in what Jesus has done for us.
Categories: Causing Division in Jesus Church, Disregard for the Bible, Do not imitate evil, Following Jesus, Forgiveness of Sin, God is perfect, Going to Church but unsaved, How Salvation Occurs, Justification, Living For Jesus, Not understanding salvation, Participating in pagan traditions, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, Sexual Immorality, The Authority of God, The Importance of the Bible, True Repentance, We must repent