Have you ever heard someone ridicule the Bible based on strange laws from the Old Testament? How should you respond?
The mocker who does this belittles those who look to Scripture by pointing to such “obviously ridiculous requirements” found in it. But the mocker also discredits the Bible to avoid what it says against a way of life or particular behavior he or she desires.
Consistent with the way mockers are described it the book of Proverbs, these people speak and act as if they know better than others and as if they are superior.
Mockers typically belittle laws from Old Testament books like Leviticus or Deuteronomy. They wrongly suggest that those who follow the God of Scripture today are obligated to obey these laws along with everything else in Scripture.
Leviticus 19 is a common portion mockers use. Since they are looking at Scripture with an agenda, they overlook the many laws in this chapter that could make any community of sinful people a better and safer place. For example, before getting to the “ridiculous” laws, we find this list from Leviticus 19:
- 11 “Do not steal. “Do not deceive or cheat one another.
- 12 “Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the Lord.
- 13 “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.
- 14 “Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.
- 15 “Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.
- 16 “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. “Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the Lord.
- 17 “Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin.
- 18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (NLT)
Would you prefer to live among people who followed these laws or rejected them? Please don’t overlook the sad but honest fact about humans that we need lists of “don’ts.” Without laws like this we tend to sabotage ourselves and ruin all good and safe community. Every orderly and civil society must have such rules.
Most societies also have laws that seem unnecessary or pointless. This is how many feel about some of the laws in the rest of Leviticus 19. For example,
- 19 “Do not mate two different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.
- 27 “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.
- 28 “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord. (NLT)
Seven things should be understood by those who follow Scripture and those who mock it.
- The laws in the Old Testament were not originally given for us to follow as God’s will for our lives. They were required of God’s people during Old Testament history to distinguish them as they lived in very dangerous and bizarre ancient near eastern cultures (see: Misreading the Bible).
- We don’t understand all of the reasons why God gave some of the laws but we know that those times were exceptionally evil and bizarre and the laws served a larger purpose of distinguishing God’s people from the nations around them. And God (as the law giver) was not subject to the questions or disagreements from sinful creatures about His law.
- The Old Testament was never intended to be a complete or perfect expression of God’s will. It was provisionally set for a specific purpose at a set time. It pointed to and anticipated a new covenant that would be superior to and replacement of the old covenant (see: A truth we must accept).
- Those who follow the Bible should not quote laws directed to Israel as God’s will for people today. We should not look to detailed legislation in Leviticus to guide us as we follow Christ.
- We only apply Old Testament Scripture to our lives if it is affirmed and taught by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament (Matthew 5:18-20). (see: Christ is the end of the Law )
- Mockers speak with a degree of hypocrisy because they hold to standards (even the one they’re using to discredit Scripture) and expect everyone else to accept the reasonableness of their ethical code.
- The primary thing that the Old Testament law teaches us is how sinful we are and how much we need God’s grace through Christ to be forgiven and accepted by God.
Consider the strong emphasis in the book of Galatians on the inadequacy of the law for being made right with God
- Galatians 2:16 – “For we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” (NLT)
- Galatians 2:21 – “For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (NLT)
- Galatians 3:10-11 – “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. (NLT)
- Galatians 3:13-14 – “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.” (NLT)
- Galatians 3:23-26 – “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. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
- Galatians 4:1-7 – “Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (NLT)