Deuteronomy 17:18 instructs kings to handwrite a copy of the Torah for themselves, showing they are subject to the instruction of God. In one sense, even potentates and captains of industry do not rule over others as subjects, but rather are co-subjects as described by the Hebrew Scriptures. They are under God’s instruction, the same instruction given to every man and woman. Everybody sits under God’s instruction because He is the kind of God who does not hide in the heavens but dwells with His people and teaches them. That creates the conditions for what we now call the rule of law.
When you look at the Torah, most of it is not law. The Torah is story, poetry, and legal codes. When we hear the word “law,” we bring a modern idea of European law to the table. We see it as a list of rules—you either keep them or you break them. But this statutory approach to law is fairly new.
For example, I have four teenagers, and if you had written down everything I said to them in a day when they were younger, it would give you a very distorted perspective of my view of fatherhood. You would think I see it as a bunch of “dos” and “do nots.” That is the statutory view. But the truth is I was trying to keep them from killing themselves, or each other, or burning down our house. It was out of a deep and profound love that I was willing to patiently guide them over the years.
That is the rule of law in the Hebrew Bible. God was trying to keep Israel from burning the house down. The roots of western civilization are probably less traceable to the Greco-Roman culture and more traceable to the Hebrew Bible than we suspected. If you appreciate living in a country ruled by law and not by the whims of a human king, then thank the Jewish people and God Himself who gave us the Hebrew Scriptures. These expressions of God’s character and purposes for mankind stand the test of time
Viewing the Hebrew Bible in its context safeguards civil society. Do not reduce it to commands, or to cute poems—inner spirituality, me and Jesus, me and God—but actually think about the kind of people God was creating and the way He wanted them to see reality. It is a difficult task, but it begins with understanding what Scripture says, why it says it, and how it might speak to our context today. I do not think there is a single thing we are facing today—from transhumanism, to smart phones, to sexuality, to end-of-life decisions—that the Jewish Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, do not speak to powerfully.
The teachings of Jesus in the New Testament are consistent with the Torah, the Writings, and Prophets, and even magnify them. The four categories that are mentioned above illustrate not only how we are to relate to one another, but also how we are to relate to God. To say that the greatest commandments are related to love, as Jesus did, is to make the Torah, the entire Old Testament, Jesus, the entire New Testament, and God, personal.
Through the Bible, God reaches into this world of His own design and shows us how to love each other and love Him. And through this love, the rest of the world will be drawn to God. And the greatest evidence of God’s love for us is the sacrifice that He made when He sent His Son to repair the torn relationship between Creator and creation. Ψ