TODAY’S READING: DEUTERONOMY 33-34
Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. The Torah. Taken together, the scriptures call these books the Law.
Moses is assigned authorship of these five books. Moses is the author of the law. Throughout scripture, Moses stands, and is synonymous with, the law. John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses.”
From Exodus through Deuteronomy, we have read how Moses, the law, was used as a guardian, or school master, on Israel’s journey through the wilderness. But, Moses could not take Israel into the promised land. This teaches us that the law cannot give us life.
Instead of Moses, Joshua leads Israel into the promised land. Joshua, the son of Nun. Or, Joshua, the son of life. Joshua is the Hebrew name that when translated into Greek becomes Jesus. And, God is life. Therefore, Joshua, the son of life, is Jesus, the son of God. Like Joshua led Israel into the promised land, Jesus leads us into eternal life.
I want to examine what we learn about the law and Jesus from Moses’ death. Keep in mind throughout that Moses stands for the law.
Then, I want to ponder what Jesus said about the law. I want to ask questions. But, they are questions I have no answers to yet.
THE LAW SERVED THE LORD
Deuteronomy 34:5 says that Moses was “the servant of the Lord.”
The law was the servant of the Lord.
Galatians 3:23-24 says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”
The law served God by guarding us until Jesus came.
Now, some will argue that the law only served this function for Israel because the law was given to them.
But, Paul says otherwise. Romans 2:14-15 says, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse even excuse them.”
Yes, the Gentiles did not have the law. But, by nature, the Gentiles at times did what the law required. Therefore, the Gentiles were a law to themselves. They were a law even though they did not have the law. As a law to themselves, the Gentiles show that “the work of the law” is within them, or written on their hearts.
We already saw that the law served God as a guardian, training people as a school master until Christ came. This was the law’s work. While the Gentiles were not given the law, the work of the law, guardianship, was still taking place within them until Christ came.
THE LAW DIED IN MOAB
Deuteronomy 34:5 says that Moses “died there in the land of Moab.”
The law died in Moab.
The meaning of Moab basically boils down to two questions. Who is your father? What is your father?
The law is your guardian, school master, teacher, instructor, guide, leading you to the place where you can answer the questions who is my father and what is my father. But, the law can only lead you to the place where these questions are answered. The law cannot answer these questions.
Therefore, the law died in Moab because it cannot answer your questions about who and what God is.
THE LAW DIED ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF THE LORD
Deuteronomy 34:5 says that Moses died in the land of Moab “according to the word of the Lord.”
From John 1:1-2, 14, we know that Jesus is the word of God. But, I don’t think many have recognized how the Old Testament uses the phrase “the word of the Lord.” Studied carefully, I believe that this phrase frequently speaks to the pre-incarnate Jesus. I wrote about this in The Word of the Lord – What, or Who, Is It?
The law died in the questions of who is your father and what is your father, according to the word of the Lord, or because of Jesus.
Galatians 3:25-29 says, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
The law guarded us until Christ came. When Jesus came, he showed us that we are sons of God. In other words, he revealed to us our Father.
Jesus, not the law, answers the questions who is your father and what is your father.
In John 14:9-11, Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
This is just one such statement from Jesus where he says he reveals the Father, that he answers our questions of who and what the Father is, but there are many, many more.
ISRAEL MOURNED THE DEATH OF THE LAW FOR 30 DAYS
Deuteronomy 34:8 says, “And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days.”
Why was the death of the law wept over, mourned over, in the plains?
Mountains are high places. High places were believed to be closer to God. Therefore, mountains were places of worship. Also, mountains are where fruit is produced. The garden of Eden was on a mountain. Ezekiel 28:13-14 says, “You were in Eden, the garden of God…you were on the holy mountain of God.”
Plains are the opposite. In the plain, one is at a distance from God. The Hebrew word for plain is arabah. It literally means a desert, a wasteland. Plains carry the idea of sterility and infertility. No fruit is produced in the plain.
Israel is mourning that they have been under the guardianship of the law for 40 years, but they have produced no fruit. They have been barren. We see evidence of this in the two censuses that Moses took, which I wrote about in Jesus in the Second Census? The population in the second census near the end of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness was less than the population in the first census when Israel left Egypt. It was if Israel produced no fruit in the wilderness.
The mourning of the lack of fruit produced lasted for 30 days. The number 30 speaks to the time of maturity, the time until one is ready to serve the Lord, the time of ripening, the time between barrenness and fruit production.
- Shelah, Peleg, and Serug all fathered children at the age of 30 (Genesis 11:14, 18, 22).
- Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:46)
- The Levites began their service at the age of 30 (Numbers 4).
- David was 30 years old when he began to reign (2 Samuel 5:4).
- Solomon wrote “thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, to make you know what is right and true.” (Proverbs 22:20-21)
- John the baptist likely began his ministry at 30 years of age as he was just six months older than Jesus.
- Jesus began his ministry at about 30 years of age. (Luke 3:23)
That Jesus began his ministry at 30 years of age is interesting because the first mention of the number 30 in the Bible is in Genesis 6:15. Genesis 6:15 says, “This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits.”
When we consider the height of something, we think of its stature. Paul links the ideas of maturity, childhood, manhood, stature, and height in Ephesians 4:11-16.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
At 30, we have matured. We have reached manhood. We are ready to serve. We are ready to bear fruit. So, Israel mourned the death of the law and their barrenness under it for 30 days. They were ready to enter the land of fruitfulness.
JESUS FREES US FROM THE LAW
While under the law, Israel did not produce fruit. The promised land, eternal life, had to be entered before fruit production could begin. Joshua led Israel into its fruitfulness.
Deuteronomy 34:9 says, “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom.”
As I wrote above, Joshua and Jesus are the same name, one Hebrew and the other Greek. They mean the Lord saves.
The son of Nun means the son of life. God is life. Here, we see Joshua the son of Nun as Jesus the son of God.
Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom. Wisdom is equated with life in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 7:12 says, “For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.” Wisdom and money are similar in that they offer protection, but wisdom, not money, preserves life.
In Job 12:12, Job says, “Wisdom is with the aged.” Wisdom is linked with long life.
In a sense, Joshua is full of the Spirit of life.
Moses was the law, the letter, the ministry of death, the ministry of condemnation. Joshua is the son of life, full of wisdom, the ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of life, the ministry of righteousness.
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6 but all of chapters 3 and 4 convey the full meaning)
This is a picture of Jesus freeing us from the law to bear fruit.
Romans 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
Jesus, who became a life-giving Spirit, frees us from the law.
To bear fruit.
Romans 7:4-6 says, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit to God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
Jesus frees us from the law to bear fruit to God. Jesus releases us from the law because we have died to the law which held us captive and was our guardian. Jesus did this so that we could serve God, bear fruit, in the newness of the Spirit instead of in the old way of a written law. This is why Galatians 3:23 says that against the fruit of the spirit “there is no law.”
JESUS FREED US FROM THE LAW TO KNOW THE FATHER
The law died in the land of Moab. The law could not answer our questions of who is our Father and what is our Father.
Jesus freed us from the law so that he could answer those questions for us. Jesus, not the law, not Moses, reveals who the Father is.
John 8 contains the famous scriptures that the truth will set you free and those whom the son sets free are free indeed. But, have you ever noticed that Jesus’ discussion with the Jews about freedom is linked with knowing who their father is?
In John 8:31, Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
But, the Jews answered that they were offspring of Abraham. Right away the Jews say they know who their father is. They are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. Never mind that they had been enslaved to every world empire – the Egyptians, the Assyrian, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans. They ask Jesus how is that he says, “You will become free?”
What’s interesting is that Jesus and the Jews are on different wavelengths.
Jesus is saying that he will release them, he will set them free from blame. Jesus is saying he would set them free from the power and condemnation of sin.
But, the Jews say we know our father. He’s Abraham. We have never been enslaved to anyone. So, Jesus, how are you going to make us a free people? We already are a free people.
But, Jesus wasn’t talking about being free from other people or nations. In John 8:34, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Jesus is telling the Jews they are enslaved, not to other nations, but to sin. He’s telling them he’s here to set them free from that slavery.
So, Jesus says in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus is saying that if I set you free from the power and condemnation of sin, then you will be a free people.
Jesus say he knows that the Jews are biological offspring of Abraham, but they are seeking to kill him because they are not spiritual offspring of Abraham. So, in John 8:38, Jesus says, “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Eventually, Jesus makes it clear that his Father is God and the father of the Jews is the devil. Jesus was trying to set them free from the slavery of sin, the bondage of the law that they were held captive under, even imprisoned under, so that they could truly know who the Father is and what the Father is.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LAW
I’m going to ask some questions based on what I’ve written above and what I’ve observed reading the gospels. I have no answers to these questions yet. I’m still sorting through them.
Why does Jesus never take credit for the law or assign the origin of the law to his Father?
In Matthew, in his sermon on the Mount, Jesus says he did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it. He never says this law was the Father’s.
Then he makes a number of statements where he says, “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you.” Israel told Moses they did not want to hear directly from God. They told Moses to hear from God and then Moses could tell Israel what God said. This is why Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said.” Israel didn’t hear God directly say this. They heard Moses say this. Now, Jesus, as the prophet sent from God who we should listen to, says, “But, I say to you.”
So, Jesus quotes a portion of Moses’ law, but then he says this is what I say to you.
A question I’m asking is which is from God? Why doesn’t Jesus say, “God used to say…but now I say?” Why doesn’t Jesus say, “My Father used to say…but now he told me to tell you?”
When Jesus is asked about the greatest commandments in the law, he doesn’t even mention any of the 10 commandments. Instead he gives two commandments of love for God and neighbor and says all the law actually depends on those.
In Mark, the word law is not used that much, perhaps because it is the gospel of Jesus as the servant. In the few times the word law is used, some are in reference to Jesus and his disciples breaking the law according to the Pharisees.
Another instance is when the Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. When Jesus responds, he doesn’t ask, “What does God’s law say?” No, he asks them, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus says Moses wrote this commandment because their hearts were hard. But, Jesus then talks about creation and how God’s plan from the beginning was different.
In Luke, Jesus gets asked similar questions about why he and the disciples are breaking the law. Jesus is also asked about how to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks back, “What is written in the law?” The individual responds with nothing from the 10 commandments or a specific law from Moses but with the two commandments on which Jesus said all the law hangs. Jesus told the man he answered correctly.
John is where it gets really interesting.
John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses.”
Jesus says in John 7:19, “Has not Moses given you the law?”
In John 7:23, Jesus calls it “the law of Moses.”
In John 8:17 and 10:34, when Jesus is speaking with the Jews, he says “in your Law.”
In John 15:25, Jesus says, “in their Law.”
Why is that Jesus never says the law is from God? Why is it that Jesus never calls it God’s law or his Father’s law? Why does he always say “your” law, “their” law, or the law “of Moses?”
If there was any part of the law that was still important for us, then why didn’t Jesus give credit to some, any, part of it to his Father?
Again, there are just questions I’m pondering.
What I do know is that Jesus has freed us from the law so that we can enter the law of the Spirit of life in order that we can bear fruit for God.