What Great Nation
Sometimes humans have a complicated relationship with the law. There are times when we want to rebel against the law because we want more freedom. There are times when other people are exercising freedoms badly and we want the law to be more restrictive. In either case, we see the law as either a means or barrier to reaching a goal.
God provided laws that had a particular goal in mind for His people. When they followed those laws, they were able to attain that goal, and they were blessed. When they failed to follow those laws they hurt themselves and those around them. Sometimes we forget that God's laws to His people were meant for their benefit.
In Deuteronomy 4:5-8, we are able to read of some of the important benefits of the Law that God gave Israel through Moses. Keeping the law was good for Israel because its purpose was to be “your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”
It would set them apart from all other people because it was a demonstration of wisdom, not only on an ethical level, but also spiritual. It would also allow them to have a close relationship with God, “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is YHWH our God whenever we call on Him?” This would be a great benefit, that not all nations would have.
In the New Testament, when Paul talked about those misusing the Law in I Timothy 1:8-11, he also explains an important function of the law. He told Timothy, “that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious” and goes on to list a few examples of obviously wrong behavior. Therefore, all laws exist to curb bad behavior. However, in reference to living sinfully, he says that all those actions are “contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” Thus, the Law and the gospel go hand-in-hand because the gospel teaches us to live in a way that is even more righteous than what the law would forbid.
Another function of God's laws is explained in Romans 13:8-10, where Paul explains that we are not to be in debt to one another, except in making sure we love one another. Making a connection to the Old Testament, Paul says that, “he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled [the] law.” Using a few individual commands, Paul shows that violating the law was violating the command to love one another. Then to put it in positive language, he states, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of [the] law.”
As we continue to live as a spiritual nation amidst a physical world, we are going to have to show God's wisdom, understanding, and presence in our lives. That can be accomplished in a number of ways, but violating God's commands is never going to be one of them. Seeking His will for all people, teaching people the good news of Jesus' rule and demonstrating His love to everyone will give others a chance to take notice His great nation, and want to be a part.