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"The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

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  • "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

    My rabbi gave a sermon this Saturday which referenced 1 Samuel 15.

    1. And Samuel said to Saul, "The Lord sent me to anoint you to be king over His people, over Israel; and now hearken to the voice of the words of the Lord. 2. So said the Lord of Hosts, 'I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid (wait) for him on the way, when he came up out of Egypt.
    3. Now, go, and you shall smite Amalek, and you shall utterly destroy all that is his, and you shall not have pity on him: and you shall slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.' " .
    4. And Saul called the people together, and he counted them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand, the men of Judah. .
    5. And Saul came as far as the city of Amalek, and he fought in the valley. .
    6. And Saul said to the Kenite, "Turn away and go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them, and you did kindness with all the children of Israel, when they went up out of Egypt." And the Kenites turned away from amidst Amalek. .
    7. And Saul smote Amalek, from Havilah until you come to Shur, which is in front of Egypt.
    8. And he seized Agag, the king of Amalek, alive; and he completely destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. .
    9. And Saul and the people had pity on Agag, and on the best of the sheep and the cattle, and the fatlings, and on the fattened sheep, and on all that was good; and they did not want to destroy them; but everything which was vile and feeble, that they utterly destroyed. .
    10. And the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying,
    11. "I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and he has not fulfilled My words." And it distressed Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.
    12. And Samuel arose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told to Samuel, saying, "Saul has come to Carmel, and behold, he is setting up a place for himself, and he passed and went down to Gilgal."
    13. And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, "May you be blessed of the Lord; I have fulfilled the word of the Lord."
    14. And Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears? And the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"
    15. And Saul said, "They brought them from the Amalekites, for the people had pity on the best of the sheep, and the oxen, in order to sacrifice to the Lord your God: and the rest we have utterly destroyed." .
    16. And Samuel said to Saul, "Desist, and I shall tell you what the Lord spoke to me last night." And he said to him, "Speak." .
    17. And Samuel said, "Even if you are small in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you as king over Israel. .
    18. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, and you shall utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and you shall wage war against them until they destroy them.'
    19. Now, why did you not hearken to the voice of the Lord, but you flew upon the spoil, and you did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord?" .
    20. And Saul said to Samuel, "Yes, I did hearken to the voice of the Lord. I did go on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and I brought Agag, the king of Amalek alive, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. .
    21. And the people took from the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the ban, to sacrifice to your God in Gilgal." .
    22. And Samuel said, "Has the Lord (as much) desire in burnt offerings and peace-offerings, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than a peace-offering; to hearken (is better) than the fat of rams.
    23. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Since you rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you from being a king."
    24. And Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I transgressed the Lord's command, and your words, for I feared the people, and I hearkened to their voice.
    25. And now, forgive now my sin, and return with me, and I shall prostrate myself to the Lord." .
    26. And Samuel said to Saul, "I shall not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being a king over Israel." .
    27. And Samuel turned to go, and he seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore.
    28. And Samuel said to him, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you, today; and has given it to your fellow who is better than you. .
    29. And also, the Strength of Israel will neither lie nor repent, for He is not a man to repent." .
    30. And he said, "I have sinned. Now, honor me now in the presence of the elders of my people, and in the presence of Israel, and return with me, and I shall prostrate myself to the Lord your God." .
    31. And Samuel returned after Saul, and Saul prostrated himself to the Lord. .
    32. And Samuel said, "Bring Agag, the king of Amalek, near to me." And Agag went to him delicately. And Agag said, "Surely, the bitterness of death has turned." .
    33. And Samuel said, "As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women." And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.
    34. And Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. .
    35. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death, for Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord was repentant that He had made Saul reign over Israel.
    The point of the sermon was to stop trying to second-guess what God wants. He already told us what He wants, and that's what we should do. Saul tried to reason that "Since God likes sacrifice, I will spare the animals so that I can sacrifice them". But that isn't what God asked for. And I see the same thing with the whole "spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law" debate. There's nothing wrong with the spirit of the law- but follow the letter of the law too.

    Doubtless few if any here will agree. Still, I felt like sharing it.

  • #2
    Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

    Originally posted by Fenris View Post
    My rabbi gave a sermon this Saturday which referenced 1 Samuel 15.



    The point of the sermon was to stop trying to second-guess what God wants. He already told us what He wants, and that's what we should do. Saul tried to reason that "Since God likes sacrifice, I will spare the animals so that I can sacrifice them". But that isn't what God asked for. And I see the same thing with the whole "spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law" debate. There's nothing wrong with the spirit of the law- but follow the letter of the law too.

    Doubtless few if any here will agree. Still, I felt like sharing it.
    There is nothing wrong with the spirit of the law and we should follow the letter of the law as a guideline, yes. But sometimes to fulfill the spirit of the law, people have to break the letter of the law.

    Shalom

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

      Originally posted by Fenris
      The point of the sermon was to stop trying to second-guess what God wants. He already told us what He wants, and that's what we should do. Saul tried to reason that "Since God likes sacrifice, I will spare the animals so that I can sacrifice them". But that isn't what God asked for. And I see the same thing with the whole "spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law" debate. There's nothing wrong with the spirit of the law- but follow the letter of the law too.

      Doubtless few if any here will agree. Still, I felt like sharing it.
      I agree with you. It's a good point to make. I would say, one should follow the letter of the law through their following the spirit of the law... because if you disregard the law itself, how can you follow the spirit of it?
      To This Day

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

        Originally posted by Servant89 View Post
        But sometimes to fulfill the spirit of the law, people have to break the letter of the law.
        How and when? In this example, that's what king Saul did, how did that work out for him?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

          Originally posted by markedward View Post
          I agree with you. It's a good point to make. I would say, one should follow the letter of the law through their following the spirit of the law... because if you disregard the law itself, how can you follow the spirit of it?
          An excellent way to put it.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

            What does it mean to follow the spirit with regards to these scriptures?

            Rom 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

            Gal 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

            Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

            Rom 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

            Firstfruits

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            • #7
              Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

              Originally posted by Fenris View Post
              My rabbi gave a sermon this Saturday which referenced 1 Samuel 15.

              The point of the sermon was to stop trying to second-guess what God wants. He already told us what He wants, and that's what we should do. Saul tried to reason that "Since God likes sacrifice, I will spare the animals so that I can sacrifice them". But that isn't what God asked for. And I see the same thing with the whole "spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law" debate. There's nothing wrong with the spirit of the law- but follow the letter of the law too.

              Doubtless few if any here will agree. Still, I felt like sharing it.

              I think the concept of "the letter of the law" and "the spirit of the law" is to look at what the law was intended. When Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around the idea was that man needs a day off. But if you are a shepherd and your sheep falls into a pit, you get the sheep out even though technically that is working on the Sabbath.

              There's a huge difference between someone who works seven days a week to earn extra money, someone who works seven days a week because their boss demands it, and someone who spends a short time working on the Sabbath to deal with an emergency, then rests once the emergency has passed.

              If we know what the law was intended to accomplish we can act as it was intended to instruct us. If all we know is "Thou shalt not..." then all we can do is slavishly follow. When Jesus summed up the Law with "love God, love each other" he made it very clear what the law was intended to accomplish.
              24 August 2013 - I've decided to take a break from a number of internet forums, including this one, for my own reasons.
              I expect to be back at some time in the future, although at present don't know when that will be.
              I've been here just a few days shy of six years, and those six years have been greatly blessed.

              ---

              1Jn 4:1 NKJV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
              1Th 5:21-22 NKJV Test all things; hold fast what is good. (22) Abstain from every form of evil.



              Comment


              • #8
                Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                Originally posted by tango View Post
                I think the concept of "the letter of the law" and "the spirit of the law" is to look at what the law was intended.
                How do we know what the law intended? Saul tried to presume God's motives and lost the kingship.


                When Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around the idea was that man needs a day off. But if you are a shepherd and your sheep falls into a pit, you get the sheep out even though technically that is working on the Sabbath.
                And rationale is...what?

                There's a huge difference between someone who works seven days a week to earn extra money, someone who works seven days a week because their boss demands it
                What is the difference? Does the bible say "don't work on saturday unless...."
                and someone who spends a short time working on the Sabbath to deal with an emergency, then rests once the emergency has passed.
                But what if an emergency is not a violation of the sabbath?
                If we know what the law was intended to accomplish we can act as it was intended to instruct us. If all we know is "Thou shalt not..." then all we can do is slavishly follow.
                If it's following God's word, what is the problem?

                When Jesus summed up the Law with "love God, love each other" he made it very clear what the law was intended to accomplish.
                Right. But how does one express that love? Perhaps, by following the law?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                  If your ox falls into a ditch on the sabbath, will you leave it in the ditch until after the sabbath?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                    Originally posted by Fenris View Post
                    My rabbi gave a sermon this Saturday which referenced 1 Samuel 15.



                    The point of the sermon was to stop trying to second-guess what God wants. He already told us what He wants, and that's what we should do. Saul tried to reason that "Since God likes sacrifice, I will spare the animals so that I can sacrifice them". But that isn't what God asked for. And I see the same thing with the whole "spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law" debate. There's nothing wrong with the spirit of the law- but follow the letter of the law too.

                    Doubtless few if any here will agree. Still, I felt like sharing it.
                    Sounds like Jesus agreed with you. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                      Originally posted by WSGAC View Post
                      If your ox falls into a ditch on the sabbath, will you leave it in the ditch until after the sabbath?
                      Yup....................

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                        Originally posted by LookingUp View Post
                        Sounds like Jesus agreed with you. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
                        So Jesus was all for observance of the law...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                          Originally posted by Fenris View Post
                          So Jesus was all for observance of the law...
                          Yes, according to Scripture.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                            If your ox falls into a ditch on the sabbath, will you leave it in the ditch until after the sabbath?

                            Originally posted by Fenris View Post
                            Yup....................
                            If your child fell into a ditch on the sabbath, would you leave him/her in the ditch until after the sabbath?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: "The spirit of the law" vs "the letter of the law"

                              It was permissable to do good on a sabbath day. If your ox fell into a ditch you could show mercy to the animal and extract it from the ditch. David gleaned grain on the sabbath day as did Jesus and His disciples. How foolish to think that it is a transgression to save a life on the sabbath. The height of hypocrasy.

                              For the cause of Christ
                              Roger

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