Something that Block said that was particularly noteworthy was about the perception and definition of Torah. For most people, we read Torah and think law. ‘Torah’ is a Hebrew word, and Block says that it has unfortunately automatically translated as law. The LXX (Septuagint) can be blamed for that. When translating Jewish scriptures into Greek, they used the word ‘nomos’, which is the common word for ‘law’. And we have carried that over and now think of the Torah as simply law. But that misrepresents the meaning of Torah.
Block would say that this has created a sense that much of the Pentateuch is useless today. We elevate the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, and the rest of the law has been dismissed and deemed unimportant or outdated. This is lived out in our cultural presentation of the Ten Commandments, too. What does Moses look like when he’s holding a false representation of the ten commandments? He always has a stern look on his face! He always looks really mean, ready the thump the law over your heard and condemn you with it.
But the Moses never saw Torah as a condemnation, but as an exercise of God’s grace. When they read the law in Nehemiah 8, it should have lead to joy, not weeping. When Moses is speaking of it in Deuteronomy 6:24, he says it existed for their good always, that he might preserve them alive. When asked what is the meaning of the testimonies and statutes and rules that God has commanded them. Moses replies by recounting God’s exercises of grace towards them. Bringing them out of Egypt, showing signs and wonders against Egypt, bringing them to the Land Promised, and then providing statutes, so that they can fear the Lord.
In Deuteronomy 4 wee see that if they keep the law that they will be wise and have understanding. People will say “Wow! They are so wise and understanding!” They call the statutes and rules righteous and praise God for providing them for the people to follow. People wouldn’t look at Israel and think, “Wow, it must stink to be them! Look at all the rules they have to follow.” No! They saw the grace that God had upon them in letting them know how to please Him.
Block also points at how people misunderstand the Decalogue. It is not a national law, but a personal one. It isn’t meant to be out in front of a courthouse, but kept in the heart of a believer. It’s not even supposed to be ten ‘commandments’, but should be ten words. Block also notes that if you don’t include the preface to the Decalogue, “I am the Lord Your God”, it just boils down to moralism. That’s what Paul was battling in Galatians when he took on the Judaizers. They saw the law as a way to achieve holiness, not a way to please their God. These laws/statutes/rules/teachings are to be followed in order to please the Lord. To make matters worse often times when someone does have a monument, it looks more like a gravestone than art. What does that subconsciously communicate about the perception of the law?
Block really made me want to read through Deuteronomy over again. I don’t know if I’ve ever really wanted to read Deuteronomy specifically. But I’m looking forward to reading through, searching for evidences of grace and what their perception of the law was. I looked forward in my reading plan, and I’m not supposed to be there until May! So I may have to do some editing to my reading plan, here…
Block added that much of it should be read out loud, they are Moses’ final speeches/sermons to his people/sheep. They are his final words of encouragement to passionately pursue God, not just a recitation of law. As Block says, its all grace!