Okay, I'll start with a confession, today's reading rubs me the wrong way. I certainly don't practice or encounter most of these strange rules or restrictions in my own life and I find many of them downright henious, unpalatable, many of them are sexist and abusive.
Then why are they there? How can God be love and issue these teachings?
Well, I suppose we could say, because God said it, that settles it, it doesn't matter how Dan feels about it. If that's where you find yourself I won't judge but I simply don't live there.
Or, we could say perhaps the men who held the reigns of control shaped these commands as they went? I certainly can not rule that out. I understand that it messes with some folks perspective on inspiration and innerency. For the record that argument has never made sense to me. It seems to me that God made everything through the insiration of his Spirit. The Spirit was hovering over the waters of creation. And yet, when God inspired, created, made everything and made it right, even "very good" he still left room for humanity to screw things up. Did he leave that room in every area of creation except the Scriptures?
Or...maybe God did all of this because this is exactly what those people in that time needed? Perhaps part of the reason I don't like it is because for me it seems like a backward step, but was it for them? I have lived my entire life in an estabilished nation, for the most part I have been taught the structure, the norms, the laws, the expectations within my own American culture. But, that wasn't the case for these folks was it? They never had their own set of understandings, they didn't have an order that guided them. They were slaves for hundreds of years. Imagine being set free with zero structure attached to this large (600,000+) group of newly free slaves. They likely needed to get some order established as quickly as possible. That order may seem outdated to me but it may have been a much needed progression for them.
In first grade I learned addition and subtraction. My teacher knew that in order to grasp the concept I needed a rule, so she wrote it on the board:
"You can not subtract a larger number from a smaller number."
In the 3rd or 4th grade we were taught somthing different when we started dealing with negative numbers. Suddenly we were learning that we could indeed subtract larger numbers from smaller numbers. And yet, no one stood up and called the 3rd grade teacher a heretical liar from the pit of hell for adjusting the hard and fast rule our first grade teachers gave us.
The rule was needed when it was needed not to be the only perpetual truth but to be the truth we needed in order to progress to negative numbers at some point.
Imagine an architect sitting down to design a building, now imagine if that same architect decided that she would only use addition and subtraction to complete the task. "My 3rd grade teacher taught me and that settles it!" We all see how silly that would be because today we have understanings of formulas, Algebra, Calculus, etc. But would we ever have gotten there without the 1st grade?
Plus, while the architect knows she needs her advanced math and can do more with it, she never feels as if addition and subtraction suck eggs. She needs them, so she carries addition and subtraction with her as she progresses. Could we be seeing something like that here? We see a backward society, one that looks rudementery, clunky, and odd. But what if it they were just learning how to be a society with little or no previous practice?