There are things in Scripture (and obviously, outside) described from both the perspective of man and God. They are not the same. This should serve as a warning. Let’s look at some today.
Man-made Labels Are Suspect
Earlier, I discussed the “Law of Moses” – which actually turned out to be the “Law of Jesus”. In Exodus 24:12 God said, “the law and commandments which I have written.” This makes God the author and Moses the messenger. More specifically, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that it was Jesus, the Messiah and their spiritual Rock, who accompanied them in the desert. Therefore, it is accurate to say the commandments were personally written by Jesus. It was his finger that inscribed the instructions on the stone tablets. The implication that Moses originated the laws (as in the label “Law of Moses”) is false.
The labels “New Testament” and “Old Testament” are also man-made. The Greek Scriptures never once refer to the Tanak (the Hebrew Scriptures) as the “Old Testament.” The Hebrew Scriptures describe 8 major covenants God made with man. The Apostolic Scriptures refer to one of those covenants described in the Tanak (called the “new covenant”). However, there is no “new” covenant that is only described in the Apostolic Scriptures. A more accurate label then, for the Hebrew Scriptures (or Tanak), would be “Book of Covenants”.
The Desert Experience
Let’s return to something I’ve mentioned before, in case you missed it. In Ps 107:4 we read of the Israelites that “They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way” (NKJV). Modern Israelites still reflect on the years their ancestors “wandered in the desert.” This is one perspective. It is man’s perspective.
But what is God’s perspective? We find it in several places. We can start with Deuteronomy 8:2 which says “you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years.” No aimless wandering here. The people were led. What a difference one small word can make! To make sure we get this point, Jesus instructed Moses to record every campsite from which God led them. We find the list in Numbers 33 – 42 places in all.”
Taking this thought even deeper, Jeremiah 31 describes the exodus in God’s own words: “. . when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.” Perhaps, when we reflect on years that felt like aimless wandering, we will discover that we were led from one point to another by the presence and hand of a merciful God – one who had higher objectives in mind.
Religion of Works?
Judaism is often described as a religion of works. The sacrificial system is seen as an attempt to earn salvation through an endless succession of animal sacrifices. The commandments are thought to be temporary regulations to show God’s people that their efforts will always be fruitless. Is this God’s perspective or man’s?
We can start by observing that “the law” was given AFTER the people were saved. Not only did the laws play no role in getting them out of bondage but it would have been impossible for them to keep those commands while still in slavery. It is a simple point, but one that is often overlooked.
So, if God did not design the sacrificial system to take away sins, did this stop people from turning God’s real intent into something else? Sadly not. The apostle Paul reminds us that even some of his own people pursued salvation by works and it failed “because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” Romans 9:30-33 Paul often hammers this point home, that keeping the law never results in justification. Conversely, sanctification REQUIRES the law, in order that we have a working standard of righteousness.
It is the author of Hebrews who makes the point that – “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4 NKJV) From God’s perspective, animal sacrifices could never take away sin.
So, Why Provide a Sacrificial System?
Good question. One thing we can say, is that God was giving His people a way to show their saving faith – just as he did with Abraham (regarding his son Isaac). Their faithful obedience would reflect a heart that trusts God to provide the ultimate sacrifice – one that COULD take away sins. We know that ultimate sacrifice was achieved by the spotless lamb of God when he hung on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem.
The Danger of Man’s Perspective
Relying on man’s perspective clearly comes with a risk. Adopting human labels and perspectives may have a subtle influence on our thinking. We may begin to view the “Old” Testament as something feeble or no longer relevant. We may consider the “law of Moses” as a temporary, human, legal system for an ancient people. We may find ourselves wondering why the Israelites had to “wander” in the desert for 40 years. We may even buy into the false notion that God instituted a religion of works.
One suggestion is to remain on the lookout for God’s perspectives. Another is to avoid relying on man’s labels and perspectives as much as possible. Making a habit of reading through ALL of Scripture, is a powerful way to distinguish between the perspectives of God and man. Dig on, my friends.