Bible Study with Jairus – Deuteronomy 5
Moses reiterates the significance of the Ten Commandments
In Deuteronomy 5, Moses restates the Ten Commandments. Today, we will discuss several topics related to God’s law:
- The differences between the Ten Commandments recorded in Deuteronomy and in Exodus
- Whether God’s law will punish our children for their parents’ sin to the third and fourth generation
- How Christians understand the role of the law
- The differences between His nature and His guidance.
The original intent of the Law was to provide protection for God’s people, especially the Israelites, and to ultimately introduce them to Christ. The Law is the guardian that protects us. It is like a sheepfold that protects the sheep through the winter. When Christ came, we were set free from the ceremonial laws, just like sheep are let out of the sheepfold when spring comes. We may bravely step out of those protective ceremonial laws and enter His pasture.
Although we live in the age of grace and no longer in the age of law, many Christians act and think as though they are still restricted by the law. Therefore, it’s critically important to understand the spiritual meaning of the Ten Commandments and the Law and to understand the difference between God’s nature and His guidance.
Differences between the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy and in Exodus
The Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20 are repeated in the book of Deuteronomy, but there are slight differences between the two passages. Here are two differences I’ve noticed.
First, Exodus 20:10 says, “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” In Deuteronomy, the passage reads, “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.” Deuteronomy mentions an ox and donkey. Perhaps the Israelites acquired some oxen and donkeys during their journey through the wilderness. In addition to the general mention of livestock, Deuteronomy places special emphasis on the ox and the donkey.
Second, Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife, or his servant, or his handmaid, or his ox, or his donkey, or all that he has.” But Deuteronomy 5:21 reads, “And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” The word “field” appears in Deuteronomy, whereas it does not appear in Exodus. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, so they probably owned no land; while wandering in the wilderness, they also owned no land. But when Moses reiterated the commandments in Deuteronomy, the Israelites were preparing to enter the promised land. They were about to cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Canaan, where they would begin to own land. Perhaps this is the reason “field” is added in Deuteronomy.
Why do these records of the Ten Commandments contain subtle differences? Perhaps the addition of oxen, donkeys, and land would bring more trials to the Israelites, so they needed more specific instructions. Perhaps these subtle differences reflect changes in culture and time period. We know that many of the Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament come from the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament, and there are slight differences between the Greek translations and the original Hebrew texts. God’s original intention does not change much, though. The application of His words is relatively flexible in different situations.
Will the law of God punish the sins of our children to the third and fourth generation?
Perhaps you have heard pastors quote Deuteronomy 5:9 to prove that children will be punished for their ancestors’ sins. Some pastors say, “When a person sins, encounters misfortune, or has bad luck, it is because their parents or ancestors sinned, as the law of God said: ‘You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.’ (Deuteronomy 5:9).” Is this understanding correct?
I believe that in the New Testament, this is not correct. Galatians 3:13 says: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Since Christ became a curse for us, the curse of sin was removed. So how do we respond to the many people who pray to break generational curses during Deliverance and Inner Healing Ministries? Is praying to cut off family ties or generational curses biblical? I think it is. Let’s look at this topic from several angles.
Since we are in Christ, all sin is taken away, but each person still has to repent to be saved. Through our act of repentance, we receive Christ’s work on the cross and apply it to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Likewise, when we pray to break a generational curse, we apply Christ’s curse-removing work to ourselves.
The modern church does not pay attention to the work of Deliverance Ministries or of prayer to cut off generation curses. By and large, the church has not removed Satan’s strongholds in these areas. Satan and evil spirits have established strongholds through human sin. These strongholds may be in the hearts of the sinners themselves or in the hearts of the people who are hurt by them. In other words, it’s not that the family curses are still alive, but that our own sins and the sins of our ancestors have opened the door for evil spirits to attack us. It is not that God continues to punish us for the sins of our ancestors, but that evil spirits continue to attack us by taking advantage of the weaknesses brought about by our sins.
An American prophet, Cindy Jacobs, told a story that provides an excellent example of this concept. She said that she was suffering from depression, so she prayed and asked God to heal her. God then inspired her to forgive one of the board members in the church where her father was serving as a pastor. She resented the board member because of what happened in a board meeting that was discussing whether to increase her father’s salary. The board member not only refused her father’s request, but also said something unpleasant about him. Cindy happened to hear about it and has since hated this man. The Lord revealed to her that her depression was the result of her accumulated hatred toward this person. So, if she wanted to be healed, she would need to forgive this person. In this example, although it was a church board member who hurt her, not her father, the board member can also be counted as one of her elders. His actions or sins hurt her, and her unforgiveness provided the conditions necessary for the evil spirits to build strongholds in her heart, causing her to suffer from depression.
As the Lord instructed her, Cindy apologized and forgive him. And she was healed. The same scenario can take place between us and our parents. Our hatred and unforgiveness give evil spirits an opportunity to attack us. When our parents sin against us and hurt us with their words or actions, our unforgiveness and pain opens the door for spiritual attack. This is not to say that God is punishing us for our parents’ sins, but that we must free ourselves from the effects of those sins through active forgiveness. That’s why the Lord’s Prayer places so much emphasis on the need to forgive others.
Andrew Park, a Korean-American theology teacher at United Theological Seminary, proposed a unique theological theory of “hatred” (or HAN). He said that because the Japanese have hurt many Koreans, many Koreans are full of hatred towards the Japanese, and this hatred has twisted the hearts of many Koreans. He proposed that for sinners, all they have to do is “repent”, which is an aspect of salvation. For those who have been hurt by sin, all they have to do is “forgive,” which is another aspect of experiencing God’s salvation.
Let’s look at the history of the Japanese invasion of Asian countries. The Japanese have not repented, so this unrepentance opens the door for evil spirits to attack their descendants. The suicide rate in Japan is very high. Do Koreans also give evil spirits a chance to twist their hearts because they are unwilling to forgive? The answer is yes. This is not to say that God is punishing the sins of the third or fourth generations in Japan and Korea, but that the enemy has come to destroy and kill (John 10:10).
When David sinned, he repented and God forgave his sin. But God still said that his sin gave Jehovah’s enemies a great opportunity to blaspheme Him, so his child must die (2 Samuel 12:14). It appears that God punished David’s son for his sin. But I believe this is a special case, because Ezekiel 18:20 clearly says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
How Christians Understand the Role of the Law in the New Testament
How should Christians understand the role of Old Testament law in our Christian life today? Is the law completely outdated? Or can we still refer to the Old Testament law as we grow in our New Testament faith? The Bible says Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4), so should we abandon the Old Testament law? The Lord Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18). How do we understand Jesus’ words? Many Christians are confused by these questions.
First, the role of the law is to introduce people to Christ and help them find Him. When a person finds Christ, the law’s role as guardian is fulfilled. After finding Christ, believers should fix their eyes on Jesus Christ Himself rather than on the law. But this is not to say that the law has lost its effect in helping people know Christ. The law is the word of God, and the word of God reveals His unchanging nature and principles. However, God’s leading revealed by His word is always new and fresh. The moral law of God is unchanging, but the ceremonial law can be removed. The so-called ceremonial law mainly refers to the Jewish regulations for keeping the Sabbath. In the New Testament, Jesus demonstrated that he had set aside some of these ceremonial laws. He did not strictly observe the Sabbath; He even healed the sick, saved people, and provided food on the Sabbath.
Second, we must view the law correctly. Although many people have abandoned external laws such as observing the Sabbath, they are still psychologically restricted by the observance of the Old Testament Law. They believe that after they are saved, they must continue to obey God’s external laws: they should not have long hair, wear short skirts, use jewelry, or disobey the traditions of the church. Even though they acknowledge the New Testament, their way of thinking is restricted by the Old Testament. Let me cite a simple example. In the Old Testament, priests were the only ones who were allowed to enter the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. Ordinary Israelites were not allowed to come close to God. However, in the New Testament, all believers have become priests. We all have access to the Holy of Holies through Jesus Christ, and we can all draw near to God. However, Catholics still believe that the members of the clergy are the only ones who can draw near to God, like the Old Testament priests. Only after Martin Luther’s reformation did believers realize that everyone could read the Bible and serve God as priests.
In the same way, in the Old Testament, only prophets prophesied, but in the New Testament, Paul says that we can all prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:31). I have seen Paul’s teaching being practiced in some of the churches in the Pentecostal Movement. But many traditional evangelical churches cannot accept this. Instead, they emphasize that there are no prophets today; therefore, not everyone should prophesy. Their way of thinking has not changed from the Old Testament way of thinking. In the Old Testament, prophets could only prophesy accurately when the Spirit of God came upon them outwardly. But in the New Testament, the Spirit of God lives within us to inspire us. When He inspires us, we speak this inspiration out loud. Sometimes, we mix our own thoughts and emotions with God’s inspiration, so sometimes there may be biases. The mode of the Old Testament Prophecy is “visitational”. Samuel and Saul could prophesy only after being baptized by the Holy Spirit. But the mode of the New Testament Prophecy is “habitational.” After receiving the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we speak his words out loud. If there are mental and emotional obstacles that cause us to make mistakes, we need to get closer to God so that we can be a better outlet for His words.
These examples help us see that although we live in the New Testament era, we often continue to think in an Old Testament way. Similarly, although some Christians live in the New Testament age, their knowledge of God and His law may still be in an Old Testament mode. In the New Testament age, we still need the Old Testament law, but our level of knowledge of God’s law needs to match the level of teaching in the New Testament. The Old Testament Law gives us the spiritual history of the Israelites. It is a rich heritage for us to inherit. But in the New Testament age, when we have the help of the victorious Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, our knowledge of the law and our historical heritage should no longer be blind acceptance.
Third, we must recognize how Christ enables us to keep the law. Metaphorically, the law is the road, Christ is the vehicle, and the Holy Spirit is the GPS. Let’s imagine that we want to get to New York from Washington DC. We have to have a road, such as I-95. But we also need to have a car. Furthermore, we need to know how to get around, so we need a GPS. The law is the road, the limits set by God. We cannot go beyond it, just like we can’t cross the shoulder of the road. But we can’t get to our destination just by having the road. We must have a car, which is Christ. After God has prepared the road (the law), He provides the vehicle (Christ) at the right moment, because the end of the law is Christ (Romans 10:4). When we are born again, we enter this vehicle. Can we walk from Washington to New York? While technically possible, it would be terribly difficult. Similarly, being justified by keeping the law in the Old Testament is theoretically possible, but most people find it difficult. So, God has prepared the vehicle (Christ) to help us reach our destination. After the ascension of Christ, God also sent the Holy Spirit to guide us to our destination. Although I have the vehicle (Christ), I will not be able to reach New York if I don’t know how to get there. So, the Holy Spirit guides us as our GPS.
If someone says that New Testament believers don’t need the law because Christ has come, it’s like saying that once we have the vehicle, we don’t need roads. No, we need roads, vehicles, and also a GPS. God (the Father) is our road, since the law is given by the Father, and the law manifests the Father’s goals and purposes. Christ is our redemption and our vehicle; no one can reach the destination (heaven) without Him. Of course, Christ is also our road, because He and the Father are one. But we still need the Holy Spirit as a Comforter or GPS to guide us throughout our lives and keep us from going astray. On a trip to New York, we need the road, the car, and the GPS every minute of our journey. This is a wonderful picture of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working together in our sanctification.
We must let go of our black-and-white conceptualization of the law. We cannot separate the law of the Old Testament from the reality of the New Testament. We must become partakers of the divine nature (revealed in the law; see 2 Peter 1:4) and be conformed to the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29). We must also be joined to the Lord in One Spirit (the guidance of the Holy Spirit, see 1 Corinthians 6:16).
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.