Troublesome Topic: So How Did This Work?

Lesson 1 of 2

We have discussed the fact that the Law was given to instruct, and we have laid out some of the things that people were intended to learn by following the Law’s instructions. But you may still be wondering how it worked. How did it accomplish the goal of teaching these spiritual principles? Some indication has been hinted at already, but here I will strive to answer that question more fully.

There were three primary results of living under the Law of the Former Covenant:

1. One could reject God, despise His laws, and continually grow more calloused against God.

2. One could learn the lessons of heart that God wanted him to learn, such as the issues of faith, holy living, and compassion.

3. One could become proud, thinking he had managed to satisfy God by his own efforts or abilities.

The covenant conditions were designed by God to reveal what was in the heart. If someone followed the entire Torah scroll, but did so with prideful and selfish motives, he would not get closer to God, but rather, become even more full of pride. On the other hand, if someone was striving to follow God’s commands out of a humble and contrite heart, he would learn many valuable lessons about spiritual things and would draw closer to God. His life would then reflect that increased closeness.

Isaiah 55:11


My word that goes out from my mouth shall be thus, it shall not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and it will succeed [in that] for which I sent it.


Any word that I speak will act in this way: it will not bounce back to me like an unfruitful echo, rather it will do what I want it to do and succeed in the purpose for which I sent it.

What is that purpose? If that purpose were to save, then everyone who reads His word would be saved because it is always successful and never returns fruitless. But that is obviously not the case, so what is the purpose? The primary purpose of God’s word is to divide mankind into two groups, those who are interested in getting closer to God and those who couldn’t care less. If someone has a heart full of pride and begins to study the Bible, it is quite possible that he will then begin to feel pride about the new knowledge he is acquiring. Rather than being changed on the inside and getting closer to God, he has gotten further from God seemingly because of reading the Bible. It is actually because of the pride in his heart, not because of reading the Bible. The word of God simply revealed more clearly than ever what the condition of the heart was. And this is precisely what God’s words are intended to do. God does not change people by force, but His words will reveal what is in the heart, and if there is a heart that is seeking after God, His word will help that person get closer to him.

If someone wants nothing to do with God and is moving away from Him, His word simply demonstrates how true that is, and he continues to move in the same direction. However, if someone turns and begins to look for God, His word will reveal that new tendency of the heart and will nourish it. In this way God’s word fulfills its purpose; it reveals the condition of the heart of man and thus divides the seekers from those running away. Then, for those who are hungry for God it provides instruction, encouragement, reproof, and guidance.

The conditions of the Law functioned the same way; they revealed what was in the heart. Following the Former Covenant didn’t change someone, but it revealed what direction someone was headed, and often caused him to travel there more quickly. If a person was interested only in himself, following the Old Testament commands would only cause him to become more self-centered than ever. The converse is also true; if someone loved God, it would speed up his movement in a Godward direction.

Today we often study God’s word in a very theoretical and academic way. But God is very practical and wanted His people to learn in ways that would impact their lives, not just their brain cells. Since God designed us and put us together, He knows how we learn best. Man has finally discovered what God knew all along, that we remember

10%   of what we hear,

30%   of what we hear and see,

50%   of what we hear, see, and repeat,

70%   of what we hear, see, repeat, and do,

90%   of what we hear, see, repeat, do, and teach someone else to do.

If He had only told His people what He wanted them to learn, He would have been a very poor teacher, and could have expected only poor results. But the way God established the Former Covenant, His followers had to function on the level of doing, and the parents were responsible for teaching their children. There were opportunities every day for any given person to come to a fresh understanding of who God is and what He wanted them to be, or to have a concept confirmed within him.

God is an excellent teacher. He used things they had contact with every day to teach them or remind them. Examples are the 7th day, the 7th year, the 50th year, money, first fruits, festivals, sacrifices, food, animals, blood, death carcasses, mold, bodily discharges, our sexuality, grain, olive oil, grape wine, etc. In this way, powerful lessons were taught and reinforced several times every day.


The conditions of the Former Covenant did a very good job of fulfilling the purpose of God’s word. The intent of the heart was demonstrated, and the primary characteristic of a person’s life was clearly depicted, whether that be rebellious pride, or humble obedience.

I trust that you have come to see that God did indeed know what He was doing and that He did a very good job with it. We don’t have to wish we lived in those days to come to a better appreciation of what was involved.

We will soon see how the principles that were taught by the Law carried over to the New Covenant. It was the principles that were important, not the teaching methods. Therefore, we should look for spiritual lessons in the law, put into practice the principles we learn there, and share them in practical ways with our kids or grandkids.

The next lesson in all three series on Covenants is: Examples of God’s Teaching Method