Why Does God Expect So Much?

Newly converted Christians (and even many of us who’ve been in the church for years) often struggle with God’s expectations for them, especially when reading the Old Testament. And I’ll admit, the Law can look really daunting. The Jews traditionally say there are 613 commandments, or mitzvot, in the Torah. Because there’s no temple or priesthood anymore, some have estimated only about 270 of these laws are still applicable today.

Why Does God Expect So Much? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Reading the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” might feel overwhelming (“How could I ever keep track of them all?”), or sound unfair (“These don’t make sense; is God setting me up to fail?”), or seem stifling (“Why would He dictate my behavior in this area?”). To get around this, many modern Christians have rejected the Law completely and adopted the mentality that once you accept Jesus Christ as your savior there’s nothing else you need to do in order to be called a Christian.

This belief is mistaken. Jesus told people, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). He also said He did not come “to destroy the Law or the Prophets” (Matt. 5:17) and that those who love Him will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Jesus thought the Law was not only relevant but also vitally important, and if we claim to follow Jesus we have to agree with Him. But how do we reconcile 613 (even “only” 270) commandments with Jesus’s statement that “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”? (Matt. 11:30). Where is the love and grace of our Savior in the strict rules of the Law?

Simplicity In Obedience

I believe that from the beginning God’s laws were very simple. He established the Sabbath and marriage pre-Fall (Gen. 2:3, 18-24), and He probably conveyed to Adam and Eve the two great commandments as well — to love God with all you are and to love your neighbor. We also know there were some other laws in extent before God gave the Law at Sinai. Noah was keeping the clean and unclean meat laws (Gen. 7:1-3) and Abram is described as following “the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19), but I don’t think they knew about all 613 commandments. As just one example, if the patriarchs knew about God’s law that a man may not take two sisters to wife at the same time (Lev. 18:18), Jacob could not have married both Leah and Rachel without it being addressed as a sin.

I think the Law is God clarifying what He expects from righteous people. Such clarification was needed when He saw how inventive people under Satan’s influence were when it came to doing evil. It’s my belief that God first gave guidelines to people for how to live righteously, rather than thinking up different ways people might sin so He could make preventative laws for everything. Of child sacrifice, for example, God said, “I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination” (Jer. 32:35). Paul’s writings seem to agree with this interpretation. He writes, “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). God’s way is simple. We’re the ones who complicated things.

Why Does God Expect So Much? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Salvation From Death

God expects certain things of us because He doesn’t want us to die (by this we’re speaking of permanent death, the fate of the incorrigibly wicked). He knows how the world works and He is a just God who will keep His word regarding the fate of those who persist in wickedness.

Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezk. 33:11)

He’s a God of justice, yes, but also a God of astonishing mercy. For those who have converted, been baptized, and commit to following Jesus Christ, “now we are children of God” (1 John 3:2). The entire creation “eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” For a little while this world has been “subjected to futility,” but a renewal is coming where “creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:18-25). In the mean time, God patiently gives opportunities to repent because He doesn’t desire that anyone choose death and evil over the abundant life He offers (2 Pet. 3:7-9).

Keeping the Law is not how we are saved — you cannot earn something that is a free gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6). However, people can’t expect to be counted among God’s firstfruits if they break His law and despise His authority. Rather, once we turn to God the Law is written on our hearts (Heb. 8:10; 10:16-17). Converted people are internalizing the character of God and learning to walk exactly as Jesus Christ our Lord walked. The Law no longer seems a burden because we’re free from desire to break it.

The Lord’s Right to Rule

God doesn’t ask unreasonable things of us. Rather, He sets before us a very simple choice: to do good and live, or to do evil and die (Deut. 30:15). In many cases, our real problem isn’t that we don’t understand God or that we’re scared of a God who seems angry — it’s rebellion against His right to expect certain things from His creation. We don’t like the idea of an ultimate universal authority, but how we feel about it doesn’t change the fact that God is sovereign and that the Lord Jesus Christ has authority over everything and everyone (Matt. 28:28).

Why Does God Expect So Much? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

When we think about it this way, God’s detailed Law and entire Bible are an enormous blessing. He’s not a hands-off deity who set the world in motion and then left humans alone to figure things out for themselves. As the Creator of all, He’s given us a guide to how He set things up and what we need do to share in His great plan and purpose. The Law is an expression of His love and grace because He was revealing aspects of His character and pointing people toward a future where we can have a relationship with the Lawgiver and keep His commands from the heart as we’re transformed to be like Him.

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12 thoughts on “Why Does God Expect So Much?

  1. Paul touched on this in Romans 6:1, should we go on sinning so that grace can increase…of course not. We are fallen beings, forgiven beings, but we have to walk through the path of santification…becoming like Jesus until we’re perfected. And the laws of the word are our guide. It’s a lot of work too! Signing up to be a follower of Jesus is the biggest thing anyone can do in this world! God bless!

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  2. The Law of Moses came only at around 1480 BC. That is a thousand or two after Abraham. Laws about Sabbath were only given after Abraham, Noah, Melchizedek or Enoch had long since departed. Factor in Acts 15.

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    • My reference for Sabbath institution (sanctifying the 7th day) pre-Fall is Genesis 2:2-3: “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

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      • Sabbath, the seventh creation day, is yet to come. The original Hebrew was wrongly translated into past tense. It was written in present tense. The true Shabbat is Jesus Christ. We rest in him. The literal Sabbath day is just the icon on the desktop.

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        • I just don’t see support for that argument in the Bible as a whole. Yes Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath day and He is our rest, but He didn’t diminish the importance of literal Sabbath keeping. It was a perpetual covenant between God and His people, as He says in Exodus 31(where God also reinforces that it was established at creation):
          “12 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’”

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          • What did He say when people argued that His disciples were sinners because they collected wheat on the Sabbath? What did He say when he was confronted for healing on the Sabbath? You are just under the law and wanting to be there, not having had enough instruction yet to see Truth here. he is Holy, He is our Sabbath. Your life should be holy as well, as you LIVE a Sabbath life. Every moment of your day should be a Sabbath, not a specific day of the week. Really, you need to even read much more of your Bible and not post half-truths, from a very lost and legalistic perspective, on a public forum where your advice can deceive and even discourage others. i can pile a load of Bible verses upon you if I wanted, each proving you wrong, but you will argue till the cos come home because you want to be bound by law, simply because you do not understand what Jesus did, what the gospel really means. Perhaps time for you to retreat and go get wisdom at the feet of Jesus Himself, which I had done for decades, instead of trying to argue like a typical modern day Pharisee about keeping laws not even given to new believers. While we are at the laws of Moses, which of the two sets of not exactly similar ten commandments do you follow, or the third set? Altogether 25, not even ten! And the other 603 laws, do you religiously keep them as well? Do you go outside the city when nature calls, use a stick to bury it and then only return after sunset, as your Bible clearly indicates? Now please go take a very close look at Galatians 4, Colossians 2, Hebrews 4. Acts 15 is what you should have taken to heart before posted on the importance of keeping laws that have already been fulfilled. It is a New Covenant, a new season, a new era, a new way of salvation. You remind me of those who crys “Jesus died for me” but who never see the risen Jesus, blessed beyond recognition, that we read about in John 20:14. Little corny memes of the risen Jesus don’t get circulated on the Internet, as Christianity is still firmly stuck in the laws of Moses and never progressed beyond Golgotha. There never was a placed called Calvary, either. People wtist things the way they want, just as there never was James who wrote a book in the Bible. His name was Yakov, or Jacob. I can start tearing your version of the Bible apart and prove your doctrine so wrong, but of course, you will follow your head as you will not want to hear the Truth. But, if you burden others with law, keeping, I will burden you with Truth.

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          • I do not want this to spiral into a vitriolic argument tearing apart each others’ beliefs (which would be in violation of my comments policy). Clearly, we both have very different ways of interpreting the Bible, which we’ve been studying for many years, and think we have the weight of scripture to back it up. Before signing off, though, I will address (in a general sense) a few of your comments.

            When a rich young ruler asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus did not say, “Nothing! Don’t you understand I’ve come to fulfill all that law stuff?” No, Jesus said, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:13-22). The law certainly won’t save us and the Old Covenant led to death – as stated in the chapters you mentioned. But as Paul says in Romans, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31).

            My post is not calling for a legalistic return to keeping every ceremonial, civil, and purification law. I was addressing the belief that the OT and NT don’t fit together; that God’s Law is incompatible with the NT version of God’s character. My point is that the Law at its heart is an expression of God’s divine character and that when He came to this earth Jesus filled the Law to the fullest extent. That’s what the Greek means in Matt. 5:17. As Thayer’s dictionary says, Jesus caused “God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment.” The New Covenant does what the Old never could, with Jesus washing the death penalty from us and transforming us on a heart level so we can truly keep God’s laws. The closer we walk with Him, the more like Him we become, which means we’re living more in line with His righteous law. It’s no longer an external rule book we need to follow in an effort to live without sin (which is impossible), but a freedom from sin so we can walk as Jesus walked in obedience to our Father’s will.

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      • I explained it in one of my comments here Did Abraham keep the Sabbath? “Did Melchizedech keep the law? Enoch? Noah? 

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        • As stated in my post, I know they didn’t have the entire Law of God written out and codified as it later was on Mount Sinai. But we do know “Enoch walked with God” (Gen. 5:24), “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9), Melchizedek was “the priest of God Most High” (Gen. 14:18), and God said of Abraham “I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice” (Gen 18:19).
          The patriarchs were walking according to a specific way of life that involved keeping the way of the Lord justly and righteously. They are not explicitly said to have kept the Sabbath (nor is it stated that they did not keep the Sabbath), but because I believe Sabbath keeping was instituted at creation and God places such an emphasis on it throughout the Bible, I do believe they would have kept the Sabbath.

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  3. It is seems very common for people to differentiate the God of the old testament from the God of the new testament. He doesn’t change. The same people will usually confirm that they believe that. Then they will , in unguarded conversation, talk about the difference between the eye-for-an-eye OT God, and the forgiving turn-the-other-cheek Jesus.

    The fact is, Jesus will bring vengeance to the world. The blood will flow in the Armageddon Valley up to the horses’ bridles. Judgement is in the hands of the Son. In the OT, God showed grace to Adam and Eve, Noah, David, and massive patience with idolatrous Israel and Judah. The sacrifice of the Jesus was a gift devised by the Father who gave His only begotten Son because of His love.

    The Son does what He sees the Father doing. He and the Father are one. The Lord our God is one. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Let’s not treat or consider Him as if he has a dissociative disorder. He is both just and merciful and is completely wise… that is so complex, but we are foolish to focus on one over the other. His grace is meaningless without justice and judgement.

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    • Yes, this is what I try to get at in several blog posts, not just this one. God doesn’t change. There isn’t a distinction between the OT God and the NT God — they’re the same. Both testaments show the Father and the Word have incredible love for Their people, and both promise justice and judgment on the wicked. Mercy and Justice are both parts of God’s character — we can’t ignore either. Thanks for your comment!

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