People Place Promise part 3 notes

People Place Presence 3


Today we’re going to look at the law in the Old Testament.

It’s one of those parts of the Bible that often makes us feel uncomfortable. Culturally it feels alien to where we are. We struggle because we are people who live by grace and therefore wonder what place the law can have now. But even taking into account some factors there are parts of it that just feel hard and harsh.

So we’re going to begin to unpack it today. We’re only going to touch the surface – there’s a lot more to it – but hopefully by looking at it under our lens of people, place and presence we’ll start to open it up just enough to overcome the fear factor.

If you want to spend longer with some of the Bible passages, then I’ve put a link below which you can follow and you’ll find my notes there.


God’s people in the law


One of the things we can see is that God wants to keep his people as a distinct group. The Israelites are a chosen people, and so God sets them apart.

Various laws set out some of the ways they were to do this

Amongst others see:

Numbers 15:37-41 – tassles


Genesis 17:9-14 circumcision Deut 10:16 – circumcise your hearts


Leviticus 19:2 – be holy because I am holy.


To be holy means to be set apart. God wants his people to be set apart from the rest of the world. That doesn’t mean they don’t interact but they are distinctive in the way they look, act and worship. By being holy, they were to be a beacon of the goodness and greatness of God so that other nations and people could see and know God.


Matthew 5:14-16 – `how are you a light of the world?`




God’s place

God was bringing Israel into the promised land but he set out conditions for their remaining in the land.

Deuteronomy 8

It was quite simple. Follow God’s rules – live long in the land and it will provide for you

Don’t follow the rules – don’t live in the land.

Being in God’s place is a blessing – Deuteronomy 7:13-15


God’s presence

AT this point in the Bible, the presence of God is symbolised by a tent – the tabernacle and a box -  the ark of the covenant.


(read about them in Exodus 25-27)


It must on one hand haver been a real boost to have these symbols with the people. This is God’s dwelling place, his meeting place, there in the midst of the Israelites. But on the other hand it would also have been a reminder of the distance there still was between God and his people.

The tent was there but they couldn’t go in to the “holy of holies”, the curtain blocked their access. They had a distant relationship with God.

There was a great long list of sacrificial events to cover all sorts of different occasions and events. This must have served to remind the people of their brokenness.

God’s presence was there. God’s people has been set apart but God was still too holy for them to be too near to them.



It’s an imperfect system and a shadow of what was lost and what was the come. So why do we have this phase in the Bible? Why didn’t God just crack on and fully save his people?

The simple answer is that God needed to teach people that they couldn’t achieve things on their own. No matter how hard they tried with the tabernacle and the sacrifices and the circumcision, they could never be holy enough to be fully reunited with God. These laws and regulations sit there as a reminder to us of the inadequacy of human effort in relation to salvation.


Think: Do I trust God for my salvation or do I try and earn it by what I do?