The rules or law in the bible were given to help us better understand what sin was and what it did to our relationship with God. As we know sin is a stepping out of the will of God and stepping into the will of the enemy, Satan. The biggest consequence of this is loss of intimacy with God. Remember in the garden when God asks "Where are you?" after Adam and Eve had sinned. The relationship with God had become compromised.
Now from the time of Adam to the time the actual law was given was about 2000 years. Prior to that God just had covenants with individual people. God and Adam, God and Noah, God and Abraham etc. So if we fast forward to the exodus out of Egypt a tribe of 70 people had "greatly multiplied" to several hundred thousand, maybe even millions of people. We don't know the exact number...but we do know it was WAY more than 70. This tribe was now a nation.
This new nation had no land, no government, no health care, no justice system, no religious system etc. So in order for this nation to survive and thrive there had to be some rules and regulations laid out. Now you must keep in mind a few things. God's desire for intimacy and relationship with us. Therefore the need to deter us from sin which damages intimacy. Also the battle going on in the spirit realm. The battle to disrupt the seed of Jesus coming to past. So you have to trust that any rule or regulation that our loving God laid before us was either to protect our relationship with Him and /or to protect the seed of Jesus so that all nations could be reconciled by His sacrifice. Finally to protect us physically and spiritually.
They are no arbitrary rules in the bible. They are for our protection one way or another. Now the whole book of Deuteronomy is rules. Seems like a ton! But they can all be broken down into 8 categories. Government, economics, science, arts, education, religion, and communication. Sounds the groundwork for a nation huh. A nation that would protect the seed and the line of Jesus and a nation that was to be an example and a witness for other nations.
So all the rules are a written understanding of how God wanted the people to interact in the 8 different aspects of life. Remember by this time there were several other nations doing things their way. Usually meaning in enmity with God. So God had to be sure that this baby nation knew where He stood on all things. He didn't want them following the other poor examples. Remember to first and foremost protect us , not control us.
The rules and regulations regarding the tabernacle and offerings were about relationship. As were the celebration of different holidays like Passover. God teaching His people how to relate to Him and each other. Rules about justice and how to treat each other fairly. Rules about economics and principles of finance. Rules about personal heath and hygiene. Rules about marriage, family and sexual conduct. See everything had to be laid out because up until this point nothing had been. Most of the cultures that this group of people had been exposed to were rooted in pagan and immoral practices. Remember what sin gets us....DEATH either spiritually or physically. That is why so many of the rules seem so exclusive and selective. God had to separate for Himself a nation that was righteous among all of the other garbage that was out there. Remember spiritual warfare in on full force at this point. God had to form a righteous people to protect the seed of Jesus so that ALL nations, even the pagan ones, could have the opportunity to be reconciled.
OK so you can handle that. You sorta understand why some of the rules had to be there. But what about all the crazy cruel punishments? And what about the weird almost vulgar rules? Well again lets get into the mind set that a loving God would not make arbitrary rules. So if there is a rule that says not to have sex with animals, it is not that God is trying to be gross. It is because some idiot went out and had sex with an animal. The rule is simply God saying " You know what that is NOT a good idea!" As far as the hefty punishments go I believe they were meant more as a deterrent than anything else. God's way of say "This is really, really, really not a good idea!" I wonder how many times these harsh punishments were actually carried out. How many times would you do something that you knew you would get stoned to death for doing? Most likely never! ( In part two we will discuss the legalism of the Pharisees in the new testament and how they looked for every chance to carry out these punishments much to Jesus' chagrin.)
So I think that some rules were made in accordance with things that the people were already having trouble with. I don't think God was plunking down a great big rule book and saying "Do this or DIE!" God wasn't even trying to control us. He WAS addressing the hurtful and damaging things we were already doing to ourselves and others. Remember this is all in hopes that we will have closer intimacy with God resulting in purpose and life. Towards the end of Deuteronomy God puts it like this. "See I set before you today life and prosperity; death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase and the Lord your God will bless you..." Deut 30:15-16
Now if we fast forward to the New Testament....continued in click PART TWO...