When we first start in school we learn how to count. Then we learn to add by single digits. Eventually we are doing algebra with letters and are even able measure constant change through calculus. If you present a quadratic equation to a normal first grader you will get that blank stare and all famous, “I don’t get it.” One thought builds upon another and the next cannot be grasped until there is a firm hold on the first.
Anyone who reads Holy Scripture through the big picture lens can easily see that the Old Testament foreshadowed the New. The Old prepared us for what was to come next. There are many who cast off the Old Testament as having little importance and some who believe there to be different Gods between the two books. The God of the Old Testament is so barbaric and cruel. Jesus is so gentle and loving.
Take for example the command in the Old Testament, “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” This seems to advocate violence. This certainly contrasts with, “Turn the other cheek.” It undoubtedly seems barbaric to allow the return of violence for violence received. Why didn’t the gentle and loving God just command them to turn the other cheek from the beginning?
Actually, an eye for an eye was a command to scale down violence from the norm of the day. A typical response to losing an eye through violence would be to kill the other person and probably his family while you were at it.
I want him dead. I want his family dead. I want his house burned to the ground. The command to limit your response to a like punishment was the equivalent of teaching a people who barely knew how to count how to add 1 + 1. If God had skipped to calculus with “turn the other cheek” the people of the time would have looked inquisitively towards God and said, “I don’t get it.”
God is a lot like a school teacher. If you struggle with a command he gives he will give you more to work on it. God started with one command – Do not eat from the tree of knowledge. Man did and fell from Grace. Next came the seven laws of Noah, or the Noahide Laws. These laws were given by God to the children of Noah, or all humanity. These are:
1: Do not deny God.
2: Do not blaspheme God.
3: Do not murder.
4: Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
5: Do not steal.
6: Do not eat from a live animal.
7: Establish a legal system to ensure obedience to said laws.
It wasn’t long after the flood that man started to slip back into his human nature. God took a particular group of people for his own to show the rest of humanity how to live in a right relationship with God. These were the twelve tribes of Israel. To Israel, through Moses, God gave a new set of Laws we know as the Ten Commandments. The numbering of these commandments differs between the Jews, the Catholics, and other Protestant denominations but all groups have all the commandments covered despite of the numbering used. The Catholic numbering of the ten is:
1: I am your God. You will have no other gods before me. The command not to make graven images is included in the long version of this commandment. It was not removed.
2: Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.
3: Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy.
4: Honor your mother and father.
5: Do not murder.
6: Do not commit adultery.
7: Do not steal.
8: Do not bear false witness.
9: Do not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10: Do not covet your neighbor’s property.
As Moses descended from Mount Sinai with these new commandments from God he found that the people had already reverted back to idol worship. Out of anger he destroyed the tablets the commandments were written on and returned to the mountain. When he returned God had added 603 more laws to the list. Moses presented the Torah to the people and they have tried to live by it ever since in as much as human weakness permits.
Everything in the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. The New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus, who Christians believe is the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Jesus is the living Torah. He ushers in the last age of preparation before man is restored to what he was created to be. The New Testament ends with the Book of Revelation. It is the story of the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride, the Church. It gives us a glimpse into heaven.
In much the same manner this life foreshadows the next. This life is a preparatory time for the life to come. The next life will fulfill what we have started in this life. If we love God in this life we will know that love fulfilled and complete in heaven. If we reject God in this life we will know total rejection and isolation in hell to follow. Use the time you have been given here wisely. Do what is right. Hate what is evil. Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, and your whole soul and love your neighbor as yourself.