Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses is a little on the difficult side. Nevertheless, it is a good read and well worth your time. In the seventh chapter, The Law and Its Order, Prefiguring Christ, the author has a great section discussing the clean and unclean portions of the ceremonial aspects of the Law.

Have you ever wondered why eating certain kinds of foods were wrong for Israelites and not for Gentiles? Here are a couple of paragraphs I thought might be worth citing here. Keep in mind that there is much food for thought that is foundational to these paragraphs.

The laws concerning clean and unclean also embody the themes of life and death, often on an indirect, symbolic plane. Contact with the dead body of a human being is of course direct contact with human death, the primary curse of the fall. It creates maximum defilement, requiring seven days for cleansing (Numbers 19:11-19). An animal that has died by itself is a more distant mirror of the curse of death; accordingly, it requires only part of one day to become clean again (Leviticus 11:24-40). Creatures that crawl on the ground are indirectly associated with the curse on the ground and the curse on the serpent. Hence, they are unclean and unsuitable for food (Lev 11:41-45).

All the things described in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are unclean for Israel. But Deuteronomy 14:21 explicitly allows Israelites to sell carcasses to aliens and foreigners. What is prohibited to Israel is not prohibited to others. Rather, the prohibition rests on the fact that "you [Israelites] are a holy people to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 14:21). The world has been contaminated with curse and uncleaness originating in the fall. The Gentile nations participate in this uncleaness through their contact with unclean animals. But such uncleaness is not in itself sin. It is merely symbolic of sin. And separation from uncleaness accompanies symbolic holiness. Israel alone is required to observe a special ceremonial cleaness, because they are the holy people. Their special access to God makes it necessary for them to maintain special distance from the fall and its curse. At the same time, all these special observances serve to reinforce their consciousness of being a unique nation. They are thereby reminded not to participate in the idolatry and moral corruption of the surrounding nations.
At the end of the chapter Poythress writes,

Thus Jesus Christ perfectly kept the law, perfectly embodied it, and perfectly exemplified it. The mystery and wonder of His work is even greater than what we can express. Christ's work does not come as an afterthought appended to an already self-existing, self-sufficient law. The law of the Old Testament is not a mere datum or a mere code book, but the personal word of the great King of the universe. And who is this King? From eternity to eternity the Word was with God and was God (John 1:1). The King is the trinitarian God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Son was always at work from the beginning. The law of Moses is a reflection and foreshadowing of the absolute perfection and righteousness of Christ, rather than Christ being a reflection of the law. This conclusion confirms what we have already seen through the tabernacle. Both tabernacle and law express in complementary ways the communion with God that achieves full expression only through the coming of Christ and His uniting Himself to us by faith.
I am only a fourth of the way through this book, but it offers insights into the Old Testament showing that all of God's Word demonstrates the Glory of Christ and the wonders of His perfect work.

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