Weird Old Testament Rules
You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. Exodus 23:19
I knew that writing through the Old Testament was going to be a challenge as, frankly, it contains a lot of weird commands. What rules do we keep and what rules do we ignore? Are we being hypocritical by dismissing the commands that are inconvenient or old fashioned?
I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining away all the rules, except to say that there were ceremonial, civil and hygienic laws that existed for a specific time and place and thus, do not pertain to us. Still, there were moral laws, which seem to transcend time and culture, like the Ten Commandments. Except, that we do not observe the Sabbath day – the fourth commandment. What is a good Christian to do?
The early church wrestled with this too. Apparently, the hot topic in the book of Acts was whether or not gentile converts needed to be circumcised. Some felt that the Old Testament law should be followed while others did not. Ultimately circumcision was dismissed, while other rules were kept. This is not particularly helpful. I want a detailed list.
For me, Paul offered the best response to my quandary: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, drunkenness . . . (Galatians 5:19-21). Though he did list some destructive behaviors, Paul’s point was not a comprehensive list. It was that I must avoid those pursuits of my flesh nature which obviously distract me from God. Whatever dark behavior that enslaves and seduces attention from my relationship with Him, is wrong.
Though there are some non-arbitrary rules – murder is bad – some behaviors are not wrong for everyone. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike (Romans 14:5).
If I am honest, I know what behaviors are wrong for me. Personally, I have never struggled with boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk. I have struggled with alcohol. It may not be wrong for you to drink, but it is profoundly destructive for me to do so. This is not because of some Old Testament law. This is because it would radically damage my health, my family and ultimately my relationship with God.
If we are honest, those things that distract us from God are obvious. If we truly want to know God, we do not need to worry about following a list of Old Testament laws. We must continually abandon those things that would distract us from God and we must continually pursue Him.