In their exuberant joy at the discovery of life in Christ Jesus, the early disciples, who were Jews, seem to have disparaged the Law. This is especially true of the Apostle Paul and the Evangelist John. Paul writes, “I through the Law died to the Law, that I might live to God,” and for Paul, at his time in Jewish history, the Law had become a burden and a mere list of “do’s and don’ts.” The joy of being in covenant with God, the life found in the Covenant with the Law, had been largely lost. Indeed, the evangelist John writes late in the first century: “The Law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Gospel of John, ch 1). Well, properly understood, the Law of Moses is God’s grace and truth to His people who receive it as gift, and who respond with joyful gratitude. Again, the problem the early Church had with the Law was historical: men had overlaid so much tradition on the glorious Law that they no longer could see “the wood for the trees,” but were oppressed under the taskmaster of needless details, rituals, exacting rules that no one could follow and fully obey. The thrill of the Law was gone.
The Law of Moses is essentially different. It is not burdensome, but a gift. God begins with giving Himself to His people, before awaiting a response: “I AM Yahweh (the LORD) your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Therefore: You shall have no other gods…You shall not murder…You shall not lie about your neighbor,” and so on. The Law provides for harmony and peace within a tight and life-giving community. In effect, by giving the Law, God throws a marriage robe over His people. How many Christians focus on the first words God speaks here, and appreciate the gift: “I AM…your God,” who delivered you from Egypt.
You may say, “But I was not in Egypt.” No? You have never experienced oppression and hardship, and bondage to your own desires, whims, addictions, impulses? You have never experienced life apart from the true God? If and only if one experiences liberation through trust in the LORD, will one understand the life-giving power of God’s will and Law. To do God’s will is life and peace.