The importance of the Promised Land to the Old Testament Law

I chanced upon this piece on this blog and couldn’t help posting it here.

 

God’s covenant with the children of Israel was always tied to the land of promise. When God called Abraham, he was promised that his descendants would inherit a land that flowed with milk and honey. And as part of this promise God instructed that Abraham and all his descendants be circumcised. However, God did tell Abraham that his descendants were going to be in bondage for 400 years because the sins of the Amorites and co were not yet full.

At the appointed time, the children of Israel were set free from the land of Egypt and journeyed to the Promised Land. Whilst they journeyed God gave them the law as rules on how He expected them to live when they got to the land. Everyone living within the land was expected to observe these rules including the foreigners. Strictly obeying these rules would guarantee their continuance existence on the land and they faced being expelled like the previous occupants if they disobeyed these rules and followed the customs of the heathen nations around them.

God made them aware that the land was His and they were only tenants. They were not allowed to cultivate the land when they first arrived but were to first offer the firstfruits. They perpetually had to offer the firstfruits at every harvest of the land. There were even conditions on how they cultivated the land; they were not allowed to plant two types of crops on their farms, they were not allowed to harvest the fringes of their farm lands and they weren’t even allowed to pick harvested sheaves that fell as they transported the harvest. The land could only be cultivated for 6 years and left to rest in the 7th. No one was allowed to sell the land on a permanent basis and every land sold had to be returned to the owners at the year of Jubilee.

The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me. Leviticus 25: 23.

More importantly they were only to give a tithe from the produce of this land i.e. crops and livestock, nothing else was permitted to be tithed. This had nothing to do with the presence or absence of currency but was so that they continue to fear God. He gave the increase, He prospered the land and He owned the land.

One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy. Leviticus 27: 30.

All of the rules given to the children of Israel were intertwined, hence every single one had to be obeyed for it to count as obedience. Observing all but one was meaningless. You couldn’t observe the Passover without being circumcised, you couldn’t tithe without first offering your firstfruits, you had to observe the Sabbath. In short you wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the land if kept only some and not all of the law. The law was binding on anyone who lived on the land.

Further evidence of this seen when the children of Israel were exiled because of their continuous disobedience. They were taken captive to Assyria and the king of Assyria brought his subjects from other nations to live in the Promised Land. These nations had no knowledge of God’s law and their heathen custom was completely contrary to God’s law for the land that He sent lions to kill them.

24 The king of Assyria transported groups of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and resettled them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the people of Israel. They took possession of Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 But since these foreign settlers did not worship the Lord when they first arrived, the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: “The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land. He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped him correctly.” 27 The king of Assyria then commanded, “Send one of the exiled priests back to Samaria. Let him live there and teach the new residents the religious customs of the God of the land.” 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria returned to Bethel and taught the new residents how to worship the Lord. 2 Kings 17.

The New Testament is established on the blood of Jesus Christ and God’s promise is no longer bound to a physical land but a spiritual one. Hence observing the law is no longer required in the new dispensation as the rules have changed. Observing circumcision is no longer required as an outward sign of God’s covenant, we are no longer required to observe the Sabbath, giving of the tithe and firstfruit is no longer required and the list goes on.

The New dispensation is faith based; we are saved by it through grace. And the worship of God is no longer tied to any particular geographic location but true believers are to worship God in Spirit and truth.

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