Recently, I read from a forum page published in the local newspaper from someone who wrote in boldly declaring his faith that he is perfectly happy to live by the traditional “thou-shall-nots”, which he thinks is biblical, among other things. After reading, a complex cocktail of emotions swept pass me; a sense of frustration, disappointment, anger and amusement (the flesh) wondered within my mind and my senses. Feeling overwhelmed, I did the most logical thing; I went for a good nap.

It has been some 2 weeks and there are some writings around regarding this, but I rather keep my writing independent. Looking back, I was still quite shocked as to why someone would so gladly hold on to the relic of “thou-shall-not”, the old covenant through Moses and not the new covenant through Jesus Christ? Reeling myself back, I decided to find out more from the Bible.

Living By The Thou-Shall-Not(s), God is in the house!

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, God revealed Himself at Mount Sinai 2 months later. It is at this time the Ten Commandments of the Convenant was given. This was then followed by the details for making the Tabernacle. However, during that time when Moses was up at the mountain, the infamous golden calf was created by the Israelites (Exodus 19-32).

In chapter 19 even before the Ten Commandments were given, all the people responded that they will keep the Lord’s commands (Exodus 19:8); these were the same people who trembled in fear when they saw God’s presence. It is interesting to note Moses reply to them: “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”  Exodus 20:20

Well, apparently that didn’t work very well because the golden calf was created in chapter 32; not very long a period of time when the Israelites first promised to keep the commandments themselves. With the golden calf, the Israelites also broke the very first and most important “thou-shall-not”: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3.

When the people heard these stern words, they went into mourning and stopped wearing their jewelry and fine clothes. For the Lord had told Moses to tell them, “You are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I were to travel with you for even a moment, I would destroy you. Remove your jewelry and fine clothes while I decide what to do with you.” So from the time they left Mount Sinai, the Israelites wore no more jewelry or fine clothes.  Exodus 33:4-6

When the Israelites came out of the powerful hands of Egypt, they were not only laden with treasures, but they were actually wearing fine clothes and jewelry demanded from the Egyptians. While the ignorant world may think and consider the ex-slaves as fugitives, they were in fact walking out as kings and queens; carried on wings of eagles (Exodus 19:4). However, all these changed when they believed they can keep the Lord’s commandments but failed shortly thereafter. They then not only set judgment upon themselves but also lost the original favor that were on them previously as they took off the fine clothes and jewelry.

On the other hand, during Jesus’ ministry when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him, note what Jesus said: “I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.” John 8:11  In the old “thou-shall-not” covenant law, fear was instilled to prevent any transgression, and judgment was the consequence of failure to comply (very much like present day law of the land/court). But in the new covenant in Christ, grace is given in transgression without condemnation or judgment. The sin of Adam (defined by the law through Moses) and God’s gracious gift of grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ is very well contrasted in Romans 5:12-21. Read it and let the message sink in; let the Holy Spirit teach you as I cannot explain any better.Living By The Thou-Shall-Not(s), Thou Shall Not Park

If one chooses to live by thou-shall-not, although not wrong inherently, but when slapped with failures over and over again, one will realise that thou-shall-not cannot be accomplised by the our sinful flesh. And with that, one will then either have to concede living a life of defeat or to conceal a life of lies.

But there is a better way; to live in the new covenant of Jesus Christ who came so the “thou-shall-not” became the “thou-shall”!

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.   John 4:14 (KJV)

  1. Stanley Wong says:

    Hi king david,

    The response of the Israelites in Exodus 19:8 shows up their own pride and also their lack of understanding of God’s perfect standards.

    Many Christians today are also the same – they think that God’s perfect standards are attainable even though Jesus himself illustrated that impossibility in Matt 5:27-30.

    When Christians say that they would rather live by the “thou shall nots” i.e. the Law, it shows that they don’t know the significance of the Law. They treat the Law as a code of conduct, a guide on how to lead their daily lives after they have received Christ.

    The Law is NOT a code of conduct. It is a system by which one attains righteousness before God if it is followed. Failure to comply results in death.

    Of course God knows man is not able to attain righteousness through this system. This is why He made a way out for man through the institution of animal sacrifices. Blood has to be shed for forgiveness of sins.

    However, the blood of bulls and goats cannot compare to the blood of the Son of God.

    Hebrews 10:1-4
    For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

    Hence, God replaced the system of Law with the system of Christ for man to attain righteousness.

    Hebrews 10:11-14
    11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

    How then shall we live out our Christian walk?

    The Holy Spirit, not the “thou shall nots”, will be our guide:

    Hebrews 10:15-16
    15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
    16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”[c] 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

    v16 says the Lord himself will write His laws (not THE LAW)into our hearts and minds.

    That means the Holy Spirit will plant the Lord’s desires into our hearts, we will WANT to (not HAVE to) do those things that are pleasing to the Lord.

    Isn’t it much better to live by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than the “thou shall nots”?

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