Preaching the Law Christianly



Case Laws

Below is an abstract from a sermon that I preached about the trial by ordeal recorded in Numbers 5:11-31.  It illustrates how applicable Old Testament case laws are for us today, not because they always prescribe duties that the Church or State must practice today in a literal way, but because they illustrate underlying principles of fairness and, more importantly, point us to the Lord Jesus Christ and all that we have in him.

How Is the Old Testament Fulfilled?

Unity in marriage is vital. 

Under Old Testament law God provided a remedy to deal with the poison of jealousy.  It was a kind of trial by ordeal.

If a man suspected that his wife had been unfaithful to him, he would bring her to the priest.  Proper offerings would be presented, and then the priest would unbind the woman’s hair and bring her before the Lord.  She would swear an oath concerning her faithfulness, putting herself under a curse if she had committed adultery.  The priest would then write these curses down and then take holy water and some dust from the floor of the Tabernacle and wash the curses “off into the water of bitterness.” (Numbers 5:23.)

If the woman had been guilty of adultery . . .  “And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people.” (Numbers 5:27.)

Think of it!  Imagine yourself in this dreadful situation.  You have had an “affair,” and for some time it seemed that you got away with it.  Nobody knew.  There were no witnesses.  But your husband suspected.  He picked up on those telltale signs of an alienation of your affections.  Now he has brought you before the legal authority, the priest.

The ritual is humiliating and fearful.  You have affirmed the dreadful curse with your solemn “Amens.”  The priest has written the imprecations down and washed the ink off into a cup.  You know that your sin will surely find you out, for now the priest puts the cup to your lips.

What pain will follow? What shame? What a death will be yours!

But someone comes and takes the cup from your lips and drinks it down to the last bitter dregs, taking the curse on himself.

The Lord Jesus Christ bore the guilt and the consequences of your sin.  He took your curse.  He drank down the cup. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13.)

Because the Lord Jesus became a curse for us—‘for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’—we now receive the blessing:  “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.’ (Galatians 3:13, 14.)

Under the Old Testament, the guilty adulteress drank down death; under the New Testament in Christ’s blood, we drink down life.  Because the Lord Jesus drank that cup full of “the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger,” (Revelation 14:10) we can drink from a cup of sweet wine of communion with God in Jesus Christ.

The woman suspected of adultery stood alone before God with her hair unbound.  We stand before God under the covering of our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer.

The innocent woman, falsely charged by her husband, in drinking from the cup of curses, found it to be a cup of blessing.  “But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.” (Numbers 5:28.)  In Christ, all our curses are turned into blessing.  In Christ, no matter your past, no matter what you have done, the curses are all gone, and nothing remains but the blessing.

In the Lord’s Supper, we remember and celebrate the cup that Jesus drank. Even though death is still found in the cup for those who partake of it in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27, 30.), it is for all those who have cast themselves on God’s mercy in Christ, “the cup of blessing that we bless . . . a participation in the blood of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:16.)

Bob Vincent