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Garnett Reid


Under the Rabbi's Microscope, Part Three


INTERSECT (Where the Bible Meets Life) is a regular column of ONE Magazine featuring Dr. Garnett Reid, a member of the Bible faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Email Garnett

Law With a Lemon Créme Center


A rabbi once told me that the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—is to Jewish people what Jesus is to Christians. It is the essence of life itself. Something of that spirit led A. J. Jacobs to try living out literally the some 700 laws he found in the Bible. He tells the story of his attempt in the book, The Year of Living Biblically.


Through a Wide-Angle Lens

At least two huge problems refute the rabbi’s claim and thwart A. J.’s cause, however. First, the law (Torah) is not the essence of life and was never intended as such. God Himself is the center of life. Christ is not equal to the law. Rather, the law leads to and serves Christ. The equation Christ = law is not valid.

Second, A. J.’s quest in his book flattens out all biblical law. That is, it assumes that all the laws in Scripture apply equally to all people at all times. This simply is not the case.

If we take a step back and view the law through a wide-angle lens, the issues sharpen into clearer resolution. Please understand. The subject of biblical law involves nuances and complexities impossible to examine in a column or two. Bible students and scholars have debated over these puzzling passages for centuries. Yet the truths the law offers to teach us must override all the trouble it takes to search for them. So look with me briefly through the viewfinder as we try to bring our subject into focus.


Lemon-Layered Law

Picture the whole of Old Testament law as a layered lemon cake with lemon crème in the middle, since I love lemon desserts! The crème center is the moral core of the law, the Ten Commandments. Surrounding this middle are the cake layers, which represent the applications of the moral core in particular life situations.

Yet just as the layers share a common flavor with the crème center, so the specific case and ceremonial laws reflect in particular detail the essence of the Ten Commandments—namely, the holy character of God Himself.

Admittedly the illustration isn’t perfect, but this point is critical: we must see that these picky, detailed rules in Old Testament law that seem so irrelevant to us linked the lives of the Israelites to the big Ten, the moral core. Their loyalty to all of the law testified that they were the Lord’s people.


No Expiration Date

A closer look at our cake recipe shows us that these 10 words, the crème center, reveal the character of God. Because they do, they never change. They always apply to all people and so are never obsolete. To see this relevance, answer these questions that distill the essence of each commandment. Consider your attitudes and actions in their light.

  • Commandment 1—No Other Gods
    Will what I think or do suggest that I have a god other than the Lord?

  • Commandment 2—No Carved Image
    Will what I think or do detract from God’s glory by suggesting that God is not greater than or is even less than His creation?

  • Commandment 3—Not Taking God’s Name in Vain
    Will what I think or do suggest that God is weak by insulting or reflecting poorly on Him?

  • Commandment 4—Remember the Sabbath
    Will what I think or do deny His creative design and lordship?

  • Commandment 5—Honor Father and Mother
    Will what I think or do disrupt God’s design for order and appropriate submission to authority?

  • Commandment 6—No Murder
    Will what I think or do diminish the value of human life or enhance it?

  • Commandment 7—No Adultery
    Will what I think or do violate faithfulness in pledged relationships?

  • Commandment 8—No Stealing
    Will what I think or do injure another person in any way?

  • Commandment 9—No Lying
    Will what I think or do suggest that what I love is false?

  • Commandment 10—No Coveting
    Will what I think or do suggest a wrong heart motivation or wrong attitudes?


These timeless truths all point to the holiness of God. There is no other like Him. All that we think or do should point to Him. That’s what the layers of the cake are all about. We’ll sample them in our next column.






©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists