Saturday, February 28, 2009

Would You Judge People Guilty for Breaking Unknown Laws...If You Were God?

You would? Moses did, and he blamed it on God’s orders. His “guilt offering”. Look closely:

‘The LORD said to Moses: "When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally…he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver….He must make restitution…and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven.’
"If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram… the priest will make atonement for him...and he will be forgiven. “

So, if you sin unintentionally, or do what’s forbidden without knowing what’s forbidden, you’re guilty and held responsible. In Moses’ day though you simply bought your forgiveness, paying a priest with one of your male sheep.

Bummer for those unintentional violators and ignorant scofflaws who accidentally wove two kinds of thread together or who - in their hunger - ate some shrimp. Off to the Priest; but what if they were too poor or too old or too crippled or too mentally deficient to have a ram to pay with? And just for instance, wouldn’t it be impossible for a blind and deaf man to a)understand the laws and b) pay restitution?

Since Moses decreed over 600 laws, and since books didn’t exist in his time, were all Israelites – and Christians and Jews today – supposed to memorize every law? Or rely on what the priests told them? How could one not be unaware, not do something forbidden? Try this: Open your word processor and try to list 600 laws that apply to you. I’m kidding. Try to list 50, and their punishments. I’m not kidding.

Ignorance of God’s laws is no excuse, The Bible warns us. As if life weren’t hard enough, with us puny humans barely able to abide by laws we’re aware of and can understand.

Now true believers will scramble to point out, “Moses’ laws were way back then. God’s not nearly so strict now.”

Ah yes, The New Covenant they call it. (Saul-Paul of Tarsus expounded upon this, said you can skip the ol’ timey sacrificial, ceremonial and dietary laws now that Jesus was here). Whew, that’s a relief. I’m in my cotton/polyester blend, eating shrimp as I type, and I’ve broken some of The Ten Commandments in my time. And I’m all out of prime rams to sacrifice.

But wanna bet with Paul against God that the Old Testament laws have changed? Rationalize these as you look ‘em up:

“…all your righteous laws are eternal…” - Psalms

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” - Jesus

“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” – God

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