Exodus is boring after all the Egyptians die. Leviticus is just weird. Numbers is all about, well . . . numbers and is best skipped. Deuteronomy is about as enjoyable as reading orthodontist trade journals. Joshua is kinda cool, because a lot of people start dying. This is what many Christians think about the Torah.
Of course, Christians don’t actually say this aloud. That would be “bad.” But, they think it. They’re wrong.
If Scripture came about because men “carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” (2 Pet 1:21), then we should at least be able to agree that the Torah is important. It’s in your Bible for a reason. It’s “kind of a big deal.” It’s not boring. You just don’t understand it.
You can fix this.
I was reading from the Book of Exodus this morning. Most Christians are familiar with the early portion of this book. They make for good Sunday School lessons. But, many Christians skip the last half of the book. It’s considered “strange.” They don’t know what on earth it has to do with them. It’s all about laws and regulations which don’t seem to have any connection to the contemporary Christian life. It’s boring. It’s weird. It’s all about “law,” and now we have “grace.” Wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong.
The Book of Hebrews, for example, will always be a mystery to you if you don’t read the Torah. Always. You’ll never understand it, and that means you’ll never truly understand what Christ did for you. Oh, sure – you can understand what Christ did, but only on a superficial level. Sort of the way a 10-yr old boy looks at a handcrafted wooden jewelry box and thinks, “Dude, that’s cool!” He knows it’s neat. He knows it took skill. But, he won’t truly appreciate the jewelry box until understands the incredible skill it took to make it. If you’re a Christian, don’t stay a spiritual child (cf. Heb 5:12-6:3). Read the Torah. It’s, like, kind of important.
Consider this bit, from the instructions about building the tabernacle:
Exodus 26:31-33 (NET): You are to make a special curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine twisted linen; it is to be made with cherubim, the work of an artistic designer. You are to hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold, set in four silver bases. You are to hang this curtain under the clasps and bring the ark of the testimony in there behind the curtain. The curtain will make a division for you between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.
All this talk of curtains, fabric, linen, artisans and golden hooks and clasps seems irrelevant. Is God telling Moses to head to Michaels? Why were there two compartments which segregated the Israelites into three different groups of people, each with different levels of access to God?
- The High Priest alone had access to the Holy of Holies, in the innermost compartment of the tabernacle, behind the veil.
- The Levite priests alone could minister inside the first compartment, arranging the Bread of the Presence, trimming the lamps, etc.
- The rest of the congregation had to remain outside the tent of meeting. They could not boldly approach near to God.
Why these elaborate cultic instructions and minutely prescribed rituals? Why did God preserve this and providentially lead the Jewish people and the Christian church to regard them as part of inspired and inerrant Scripture?
These questions evaporate and take on new significance when you read the Book of Hebrews. Behold . . .
Now the first covenant, in fact, had regulations for worship and its earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, which contained the lampstand, the table, and the presentation of the loaves; this is called the holy place. And after the second curtain there was a tent called the holy of holies. It contained the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered entirely with gold. In this ark were the golden urn containing the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Now is not the time to speak of these things in detail.
So with these things prepared like this, the priests enter continually into the outer tent as they perform their duties. But only the high priest enters once a year into the inner tent, and not without blood that he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is making clear that the way into the holy place had not yet appeared as long as the old tabernacle was standing. This was a symbol for the time then present, when gifts and sacrifices were offered that could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper. They served only for matters of food and drink and various washings; they are external regulations imposed until the new order came.
But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
And so he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance he has promised, since he died to set them free from the violations committed under the first covenant. For where there is a will, the death of the one who made it must be proven. For a will takes effect only at death, since it carries no force while the one who made it is alive. So even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. For when Moses had spoken every command to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats with water and scarlet wool and hyssop and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, and said, “[This is the blood of the covenant that God has commanded you to keep].” And both the tabernacle and all the utensils of worship he likewise sprinkled with blood.
Indeed according to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. So it was necessary for the sketches of the things in heaven to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves required better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands – the representation of the true sanctuary – but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world.
But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, so also, after Christ was offered once to [bear the sins of many], to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation (Hebrews, chapter 9).
Read the Book of Hebrews in conjunction with the Torah, particularly Exodus 19-Deuteronomy. It will open your eyes. It will enrich your theology. It will deepen your eternal gratitude to God. It will lead you to a closer daily walk with the Lord. You’ll know Him better, and appreciate all the blessings and future promises of this new and better covenant, which has been established on better promises.