I often joke that the Pentateuch should be at the back of the Bible so those who wanted to read the Bible through could save the hardest section till the end! The legal passages of the Pentateuch contain the various laws given by God to the Israelites. These can be some of the most difficult passages to interpret. All of the Law is profitable for us to read and draw applications from (2 Tim. 3:16), but much of the Law contains civil and ceremonial laws that only pertained literally to Israel. These are the laws fulfilled by Jesus (Matt. 5:17). We should interpret the Law in light of NT teaching.
Leviticus 19:18 is easily applicable to the modern Christian life: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD”. Jesus repeated this as the second of the two great commandments in Matthew 22:39. Love is the rule of the New Testament Christian and the applications of this verse are endless. Another applicable law is Leviticus 19:31: “’Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God”. We live in a day when people are fascinated by the occult. People need to understand that these practices are pagan and condemned by a holy God.
Some laws have little practical application today such as Leviticus 19:19: “‘You shall keep My statutes. You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you”. This verse gives three different commandments concerning the breeding of livestock, the sowing of seed, and garments made of blended material. This verse has no immediate application today. Another verse that has little practical application today is Deuteronomy 22:12 “You shall make tassels on the four corners of the clothing with which you cover yourself”. I think we would look rather strange if we observed this commandment in today’s society!
The law is valuable for Christians today for several reasons. It shows us that God is a holy God and that He requires His people to be holy as well. While we may not observe some of the minutia of these laws like Israel did, we are to bear the spirit of holiness in all areas of our lives. It also shows us the terrible burden that the law placed on us as a sinful people. God gave all these commandments but we were not able to keep them. Christ fulfilled the law for us in His sinless life and sacrificial death. Many laws do have New Testament applications and these are good for us to know and observe. The moral laws reveal God’s eternal moral standards that He expects of all people. Most of all, the law has a great deal to teach us about the nature and the heart of God. We see God’s holiness and His persistence in having a relationship with fallen humanity in His meticulous revelation of the law to His people.