Whenever I have a conversation with someone about keeping the Old Testament commandments, Christians who don’t keep them (and in many cases haven’t even read them) inevitably start talking about the “burden” of the law, how “impossible” it is to keep and how we are no longer under that “oppression.” It’s pretty common knowledge that the Old Testament laws were horrific and unjust, backbreaking and cruel. In fact, from speaking with Christians on the subject, you’d think that keeping the commandments is all but booking yourself a trip to Dante’s Seventh Hell. The thing that I can’t figure out is exactly which commandments they’re talking about being so “burdensome.” Is it the one that admonishes us not to reap the edges of our fields? Or the one that tells the priest what to wear inside the temple? Or maybe it’s the one that governs how we’re to treat our oxen. I don’t know, I just can’t figure it out.
Every day in this country we voluntarily place ourselves under and follow thousands upon thousands of laws, never protesting how “burdensome” and “oppressive” they are. The number of laws that govern traffic alone give us more rules and regulations to follow than the entire Old Testament. We’ll willingly and without protest obey the United States cultural laws not to eat dog or cat, but not the biblical law to abstain from pork. We’ll even place ourselves under unspoken codes of society and wear shoes when we go to the store, dress up when we go to a wedding or use proper table manners at a formal dinner. But do something out of a desire to obey the words of God that happen to come from the first half of the bible instead of the last half and suddenly I’m being burdened and oppressed. This is ridiculous.
Want some examples of real oppression? How about being told what kinds of structures you can build in your own back yard, what kinds of animals you can keep, and what kinds of activities you can participate in according to where you live? Or how about being forced to give the government money to subsidize things you don’t believe in? Or how about debt? That has to be the most oppressive system in our culture today, yet we voluntarily sign up for that yoke of slavery without a second thought.
You know what else is oppressive? Trying to keep the commandments as a vehicle for salvation. That’s why the Jewish leaders were so determined to keep the commandments “exactly right.” Why they had entire books devoted to rules governing the Sabbath, regulating everything from exactly how far you were allowed to walk to (nowadays) whether to tear toilet paper off the roll after a Saturday poo. THAT, folks, is oppression and it’s exactly what Peter meant when He said “why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10… the topic in question: whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be saved.)
You know what’s NOT oppressive? Taking a Saturday off work to be home with your family, eating turkey instead of pork and refraining from s*x with your sibling. Of the 600 or so commandments found in the Old Testament, only a handful of them actually caused Jon and I to change anything about our lives when we started keeping them, and every single one of them was a simple change. The vast majority didn’t even require much thought. Don’t reuse a clay pot after a rodent dies in it? I can handle that. Don’t eat an animal I find dead in a field? No real sacrifice there.
In this country we are required to obey thousands upon thousands of laws, and in the vast majority of cases we keep them without protest of any kind. God gave His people (roughly) 600. This hardly consists of “oppression.” So please, while I respect the opinions of those who choose not to keep the commandments (including the vast majority of my friends and family members,) let’s not have any more irrational talk about what a “burden” it is to keep the commandments.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.…
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day...
Psalm 119… 176 verses about how much David loves keeping the law.