See the roof fence in this picture? It’s called a parapet. Did you know that God’s heart beats for parapets? Or does it? Does God care about that kind of thing? What does God’s heart beat for?
Do you know God’s heart? What makes God’s heart beat? Even in ancient laws created for the people of Israel over 3000 years ago, laws that might seem bizarre or even wrong upon first reading, we can and should find God’s heart under-girding those laws.
In this series of posts, we’re looking into how Christians can interact with the Old Testament Law. After introducing this topic in part 1, we began applying David Dorsey’s four steps that a Christian can use to interpret and apply every Old Testament Law. Step 1 was to remember that this law is not for us. Step 2 invites the Christian to do an investigation into the historical, cultural situation of the Israelites, so as to understand better what that law meant to them. Once we do the historical work, we arrive at Step 3, and that is to answer the question: What is the theological significance of this law? In other words, what does that law show us about God’s heart? Here we have to do a bit of creative thinking. It can be easy to get way too literal.
We’ve been referring to Deuteronomy 22:5 throughout this series of posts. There God says that it is detestable for women to wear men’s clothing, and for men to wear women’s clothing. Step 1 reminds us that this law is not for us. Step 2 revealed that Canaanite worship including cross-dressing, and God very much wanted Israel to steer clear of anything remotely connected to false worship. Now in Step 3, what does this reveal to us about God’s heart?
We could simply say, it reveals to us that God really wants men to wear only men’s clothing, and women to want only women’s clothing. But as I said before, that misses the heart of what he was hoping to accomplish in the lives of the Israelites. Instead, what he really wanted was for them to remain faithful to him, worshiping him, and not getting mixed up in pagan religious practices. His heart was for their purity and faithfulness to him.
And that heart is something that we can carry over to our lives.
Let’s try this method out with another law. A few verses after the cross-dressing law, in Deuteronomy 22:8, God requires the Israelites to build parapets around their roofs. Step 1 puts us in the right frame of mind: this law is not for us. Step 2, what it meant to them was that most dwellings in ancient Israel were built with flat roofs, and the people often used them as living space. In the evening they would sleep there to get out of the sweltering heat inside. As you can imagine, a flat roof is dangerous, especially for kids, and other accident prone people, because you can easily fall off the roof. So the remedy is to build a fence around the roof, a barrier to keep people from falling off. Was God concerned about fence building? No. He was concerned about their safety. His heart was for the health and life of his people. He didn’t want needless accidents. Now that heart is something that we can carry over too.
See how we can learn God’s heart behind what seem to be strange laws? That brings us to step 4. How can we apply that principle to our lives? Check back in to part 5 of our series for that!