Some time ago, in pondering the apparent inconsistencies between the way God operates in the Old and New Testaments, I began wondering whether the covenant with Moses might be a case of God operating on human terms in order to demonstrate the futility of a solution intuitive to humanity. As a parallel case, consider the appointment of Saul as Israel’s king: The people wanted a king “like the other nations,” so God gave them Saul, a physically impressive man who was, at first glance, superficially humble; what they ultimately got, however, was an egotistical coward with poor leadership abilities and poor spiritual discipline. Yet in the midst of this failure, God prepared David, the kind of king Israel actually needed (courageous, passionate for God, and able to receive correction), to succeed his failed predecessor. (David was far from perfect, of course, but leaps and bounds better than Saul, and he established the royal line from which Christ ultimately came.)
Turning back to the old covenant of Moses, I can’t help but notice that it has many characteristics which appear basically desirable to humanity, even if we take issue with specific laws: Salvation is earned on the basis of works (obedience and sacrifice), the primary focus is on life in this world, righteousness is defined by a comprehensive list of simple “dos” and “do nots,” and the religious system is supported by a social system in which the faith is universally accepted by society and passed across generations. By contrast, fundamental to the Christian faith is acknowledging mankind’s inability to deliver itself from sin, while life in the intangible hereafter takes precedence over the here-and-now, righteousness is defined by principles (ex. love God, love your neighbor as yourself) that are often difficult to translate into practical action, and the faithful are taught to expect rejection from society and family members.
A major reason why I’ve come to think that the system of the old covenant might show God catering to human intuition is my observations of Christians in the modern day and throughout history. Despite Christ’s emphasis that His kingdom is not of this world, Christians throughout history have tried to shape societies into systems in which they can live comfortably while the system does much of the hard work of instruction and outreach for them. Rather than have our faith challenged and strengthened by opposition, we often default to establishing or migrating to societies in which everyone accepts our beliefs (or at least respects them as the social norm). We are eager to establish rules and methods in how we should conduct ourselves (just look at how people responded to books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye), pursue material prosperity under the banner of “enjoying God’s blessings,” and easily fall into the trap of measuring righteousness by our deeds and accomplishments. This kind of behaviors strikes me as antithetical to the teachings of Christ and more in line with a worldly way of thinking.
Am I on the right track, or am I missing something here?