by Bill Nugent
The Bible’s commands are not always austere and forbidding. In fact, surprisingly enough, there are some biblical moral commands that are so liberal that it exceeds the liberality of our own modern age.
Here are several areas where present United States law would have to liberalize if it were to conform to Old Testament biblical law. In the Old Testament, the Bible commanded that a newly married man must get a one year exemption from military service. US law contains no such exemption. Also under biblical law if a soldier was overly fearful of combat he simply had to say so and he was excused (Deuteronomy 20:7-8). US law provides no such exemption and even obtaining conscientious objector status in the US armed forces is a complex process. The minimum age for military service in the US is 18 years (17 year olds can be signed in by a parent). Under the Old Testament law, a man didn’t have to serve in the military until he was 20. In the US it takes only one witness to convict a criminal. The Bible commands that there must be two or more witnesses to convict (Deut. 17:6, 19:15).
Critics of biblical morality often scour the Old Testament to find obscure laws that grate on modern ears. They take, for instance, dietary laws that regulated the food intake of the Jewish people. The critics maintain that the forbiddance of pork would mean that if biblical law were implemented, the NFL would not be allowed to use pigskin balls in its games. (By the way, the NFL uses cattle leather and hasn’t used pigskin in many years.) This is silly. The Old Testament kosher laws applied only to the Jews and only in Old Testament times.
As a New Testament believer I maintain that the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, has come and fulfilled the Old Testament law and has brought in a new order. The Old Testament laws have been fulfilled in Christ and have been superseded. We serve in “newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6 NAS).
If the Old Testament laws have been fulfilled and superseded in Christ, why do I quote liberal Old Testament laws? I am not promoting the actual enactment of Old Testament laws in modern society. I quote these laws to illustrate that the God of the Bible is a compassionate God who provided laws for humankind’s guidance and protection. I’m aware that many Old Testament laws seem antiquated and some sound very severe but if they are understood in their context they are consistent with the will of a loving God.
The command to rest on the Sabbath is a good example of a wise and compassionate command. God invented the weekend! God gave His people a holiday every seventh day. The pagan societies that surrounded ancient Israel worked seven days per week. They worked themselves to death seven days a week. They worked their slaves to death. Over a third of the ancient Roman empire’s population were slaves. Slaves that were involved in construction, agriculture and mining were worked to death under horrendous cruelty. The slaves that were treated well were household slaves who worked in wealthy Roman homes.
I remember when I was in high school my liberal humanities teacher was astonished that the biblical Sabbath laws required that even an animal should be given a day off. The Old Testament Sabbath laws required that animals not be worked on the Sabbath.
First century Roman stoic philosopher, Seneca, wrote that Sabbath observance was a waste of time by which a seventh part of life was lost. However, in the centuries since that time, all of humankind has come around to see the wisdom of the Sabbath rest. All people groups, even Hindu and Buddhist cultures of east Asia, conform to the western calendar and close banks and government offices on at least one day of the week, usually Sunday.
The New Testament concept of Sabbath rest is to maintain that the Sabbath has been fulfilled in Christ and therefore the strict stipulations of work forbiddance don’t apply to New Testament believers. Rest on the Sabbath is voluntary as each person is “persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
I could list many Bible commands in both the Old and New Testaments that command compassion towards the poor and needy. The biblical revelation that humans are created in God’s image is the basis for belief in the sanctity of human life. These are liberal concepts that formed the basis for the Judeo-Christian assertion that the individual has value, dignity, rights and privileges and these must be reflected in civil law. The very concept of the right to vote and our democratic form of government stem from biblical liberalism regarding the importance of the individual. Eastern pagan societies did not produce democratic governments.
This brings us to the politically correct politics of our own postmodern age. Let’s consider the politicians that call themselves “liberal Democrats.” In the classical definition they are not liberal. Their idea of liberalness is to give much more power to the government to tax and regulate every aspect of human life. However, the classical, historical definition of political liberalism was giving “power to the people.” The people are losing power. Modern political “liberalism” really should be called chauvinism. The historic meaning of chauvinism was to give power to the government, whether to the king or to any number of oligarchs.
These so-called liberal politicians are also not democrats. Democracy is the ability of the people to vote for representatives to serve in a legislature to write laws that reflect the will of the people. However, modern liberalism in the US relies on unelected judges at all levels, especially the Supreme Court, to legislate from the bench and impose their political will on the people. This is oligarchy, not democracy. The oligarchs of the courts have imposed abortion and homosexual marriage on all fifty states.
The Bible reveals God’s wisdom and compassion because biblical commands protect the weak from the strong. The founding fathers of the United States regarded the Bible as the ultimate basis for human rights and freedom. Famous evangelist Charles Finney, (1792-1875) as a young law student, studied the Bible in connection with his education in law. He had to study the Bible to make arguments from the scriptures in court in early America. This study of the Bible was instrumental in his conversion to be a committed Christian. So much for ‘secular’ early America!
The Bible also shows us the way of spiritual redemption. God sent His Son Jesus, the promised Messiah of Israel, to come and die for our sins. Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament Bible prophecies. The prophecies foretold that He would suffer and die, taking the penalty of our sins upon Himself and then rise from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins to all who repent and call upon Him. Turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!