Troublesome Topic: Examples of God’s Teaching Method

Lesson 2 of 2

We should not think that by following these conditions the Israelites would become holy. Holiness always has been, and always will be, a matter of the heart. It is implanted into our hearts when we come to Him in repentance and full commitment. Following God’s directives was simply a way to train the heart and mind, it did not impart holiness. However, if they were willing to learn, following those regulations would teach them holiness principles through practical means.

I believe the ancient Jews understood the spiritual lessons behind the laws at least to some degree. However, even if they could not see everything behind those laws, I am convinced that following the Law would still train them in the spiritual principles God wanted them to learn.

Use your imagination and place yourself in ancient Israel. Now imagine a devout man who did his best to follow the Torah, although he did not understand what was behind all of it. What would happen as he followed the covenant conditions throughout an entire lifetime? What would be the net result of his efforts to live a life of obedience?

This man would follow the various regulations about not mixing things that are different and would become fully committed to that principle. He would teach his children that this principle applies to many aspects of life, such as the influence of other religions, temptations to disobey God, temptations to be selfish, etc. They had to constantly be aware of the nature and qualities of each thing to know when something else did not belong with it. These principles were reinforced every time they obeyed one of the laws about not mixing things that are different.

 The result of years and years of doing compassionate things for the needy in his community would train his heart in compassion. In the end, compassionate acts would be done based on a truly compassionate heart rather than the fact that he was expected to act that way. The point is this, there did not need to be an absolute understanding of the spiritual intent behind each covenant condition in order for the stipulations to achieve their goal of instructing in the things of God. It was a matter of the heart. If the heart was hungry for closeness with God, being obedient would train that heart in the ways of holiness, compassion and faith.

Now imagine a father is leaving home with his sons and he tells them, “We aren’t going to work in the field today, boys. We need to help your Uncle Azzariah rebuild his house. He had to tear his house down because of a mildew that was found on its walls.”

The boys may react by saying, “But his house was nicer than ours. What a waste to have to tear it down.”

The father can walk through that wide-open door to do a little teaching about the nature of sin. “Yes, boys, it does seem like a waste, but this is not about how nice Azzariah’s house was, or whether he wanted to keep it or not. Just as that plague on the wall had a deep-rooted source and must be treated seriously, so sin in our lives is a deep-rooted thing and must be treated seriously. We cannot just cover it up and pretend it has gone away.”

At the same time, his wife is at home working over the open cook fire, when their oldest daughter asks her a question: “Mama, why can the Philistines use cloth of mixed threads to make their clothes, but we can’t? I just saw some pass by, and oh, you should have seen how beautiful their clothes were.”

This was a wonderful opportunity for the mother to teach her daughters a little more about God and spiritual things. She could have responded something like this; “That is a good question, sweetie. God wants us to think about the fact we should not mix things that are different in nature or in their basic characteristics. It’s not about the clothes, it’s about the spiritual lesson. We should not mix ourselves with things or people that are not set apart for God as we have been.”

Likewise every meal gave opportunities to talk to the children about holiness, being His instrument, and what God considers normal.

The Torah afforded wonderfully practical opportunities for people to learn and teach their children about a relationship with God. It was a life-oriented teaching method, not a fact-oriented teaching method.

A close friend of mine asked God to help him learn how to fix his own car. Bad idea. We all know that if you want to learn more about auto mechanics, the way to learn is for you to have opportunity to practice auto mechanics. God did exactly what would be expected in that case, He gave my friend many opportunities to work on his car because his car was constantly breaking down.

The principle should be obvious. If you ask God to teach you patience, what will God send you? Won’t He send you many opportunities to practice patience, i.e. situations that test your patience? If you ask for wisdom, won’t He place you in situations that require wisdom?

Even the complexity of the Law had a purpose. God wanted them to understand that He should be involved in every aspect of their lives. One could not compartmentalize God into a corner of his life and still be obedient to the covenant’s stipulations. Today, too many people compartmentalize God into a very small box, a box the size of Sunday morning.

The covenant was established in such a way that it would indeed teach godly principles if someone wanted to learn and draw close to God. In contrast, the simple fulfillment of the regulations, with no desire to draw close to God, would take someone further from Him and would not be something pleasing in His eyes.

The condition of the heart has always been more important to God than following a set of rituals because it is possible to follow rituals for the wrong reasons.

God is a very effective teacher!

The Law was God’s teaching method for that era; we should view it with utmost respect.

The next lesson in all the series on Covenants is: Passing the Covenant On.