I am in my first year of a 4-year commitment to a class called EfM, which stands for Education for Ministry and is sponsored by Sewanee: The University of the South. The first year of the class is dedicated to the books of Genesis through Job. To give you an idea of how painstakingly slow the study is, the class began in late August with Genesis, and here it is the end of January, and we are still in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.
I knew Exodus would be rousing because I had read it before and remembered the drama of the Egyptians enslaving the Hebrew people, Moses being saved by Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses killing an Egyptian and then exiling himself from Egypt so that he too would not be killed.
Then later in Exodus, there is the event of Moses encountering God in the supernatural burning bush. And who can forget the plagues that Egypt was smitten with? Frogs, boils, locusts, killing of the first-born….Good stuff, right? I mean it’s kind of like the best soap opera ever!
Finally, the Hebrew people are set free to wander in the wilderness for forty years. This is referred to as the Exodus/Sinai Event. You would think they would be grateful to Moses for leading them out of such a god-forsaken land as Egypt, but they were not. They committed many evils among themselves and against God. Even so, Moses manages to lead them into relationship with God by introducing them to The Law.
This is the point where I thought I might lose interest. Hundreds and hundreds of laws to wade through, yuck! Seriously, how boring does it seem to sit and read law after law after law; all of the should and should not’s; the do’s and don’ts; the “If you do this, you can expect this to happen” type of thing! Scary stuff!
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how fascinating I found many of these laws to be. We Christians tend to think of The Law as The Ten Commandments, but there are actually seven major codes of Law to be found in Hebrew scripture. You have The Ten Commandments, The Covenant Code The Ritual Decalogue, The Deuteronomic Code, The Holiness Code, The Priestly Code, and The Curses Code. Yes, the Curses code. That one really piqued my curiosity! I thought to myself, “I’m good at curses.”
Within these seven codes you can find laws like:
Exodus 34:19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
Exodus 34:26 “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God. “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” “‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
Lev 19: 19“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. “‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
Lev 19:27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. 28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. 29 “‘Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.
Lev20: 14 “‘If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you
Lev. 20:18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.
Lev 3:12 ‘And if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD. 13 He shall lay his hand on its head and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. 14 Then he shall offer from it his offering, as an offering made by fire to the LORD. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 15 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 16 and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the Lord’s.
Just a handful of Laws from the hundreds of laws that are surely recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. The wonderful thing about these laws is that 3000 years ago they made perfect sense and helped maintain community much the way our laws govern us today. When we outgrow a law or find that we need a new law, our judicial system allows for that. Our Founding Fathers set up a good base from which all law is generated much the same way that the Ten Commandments (base law) generated other laws that were deemed necessary for that culture.
This got me thinking about our own personal laws/rules that are used to govern our daily lives. How many times have you stopped in the middle of some absurd task and asked yourself “why am I doing this?” What about this is important? Maybe it’s not an absurd task at all. Maybe the thought has something to do with your person or the people you interact with.
We each have our own rulebook, and within that rulebook, I bet, are many outdated rules. One of the first examples that come to mind is “Make up your bed every day”. Another, always keep the house clean and free of dust. And still others, be happy and cheerful all of the time, never let other’s see your weakness, set the table with the forks on this side and the knives on the other side, don’t wear white pants in the winter, use only 5 squares of toilet paper with each wipe….
Some of these rules are certainly helpful, but others are simply dated and not needed. Some of us are not aware of all of the rules we have for ourselves and I am wondering if we took stock of what we listen to, might we weed out what is not necessary to uncomplicate our already complicated lives?