The Law


Exodus 20-Numbers 10


For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2



Sometimes I think we misunderstand what law means. We are all familiar with the law of gravity. The law of gravity can be said to forbid people from jumping off of tall buildings. And most people obey that implied command. But forbidding me to jump off of tall buildings is not the law – it is a command. The law comes when the consequences of dishonoring the command are enumerated.


The law of gravity: Do not jump off of tall buildings. But if anyone does jump off a tall building, he will fall perilously onto the ground.


What makes the law a law is the inevitability of its consequence. Gravity does not enforce itself arbitrarily. There is no background check on the violator of the command. There are no exemptions for previous good behavior, or mitigations for this being the first time you violate the command. The entire cause-effect paradigm is completed when the jump is immediately followed by a fall.


In economics, the law of diminishing returns foretells the impossibility of my attempting to sell a dozen Mickey Mantle Rookie cards at full price in a single day. In physics, the second law of thermodynamics warns me that if I mix a red dye with a blue dye, then I’ll never be able to separate them again. And no matter how many times the United States Congress tries to get it repealed, the law of supply and demand stubbornly attracts buyers when prices go down, and attracts sellers when prices go up. It is the law.


“Thou shalt not steal” is the command. “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.” (Exodus 22:1) is a law.


As I ponder on this, it occurs to me: in American jurisprudence, criminals don’t really break the law. They trigger the consequences of the law from time to time. But they don’t break the law. A judge may break the law when - with no apparent authority - he excuses the violator from the consequences that are set forth. But when a crime takes place, the criminal merely breaks a commandment. It is the judge’s responsibility to see that the law is not broken.


When God is Judge, the law will not be broken.


The next 57 chapters are filled with examples of how violation turns into consequence. I think you will find that the consequence is more interesting than the violation.


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