In Western churches, and in Western-influenced churches, it is not rare that Christians are aghast at laws whose punishments, and underlying system of morality, resemble those of the Old Testament. They think such laws too harsh. Sometimes they compare them to sharia law. Would they also be aghast at the morality of the Mosaic Law? If so, are they aghast at the God ‘with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’?
It is one thing to desire some patient tolerance for those who do not know God; it is another to judge that the God of the Old Testament was unjust, and to feel relieved that the God of the New Testament is not like that. But God is one. People must live with that truth. Perhaps they want their own commonwealths to be ruled by something other than the justice of God, another principle, someone else’s principle. If so, perhaps they desire another gospel than the one that declares that God, the one God, maker of heavan and earth, has inaugurated his kingdom on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. The gospel declares that God, the God of Abraham, both has saved and is saving the world by his own righteousness, in the person of Jesus Christ, whom he has raised from the dead and set as judge over all. In politics, some demand a different political god’s moral law over the moral law of God; in substance, by refusing the rule of Christ, they deny the gospel.
There are, then, some fundamental public principles a Christian must hold. If we turn and consider the reasons for which God destroys the nations, we see some basic things that a state must do if it is to avoid perishing like Sodom. The state must forbid and punish certain sins, or God will destroy the people.
In Leviticus 18, God forbids various sins of incest, adultery, child sacrifice to Molech, homosexuality, and bestiality, saying that for these sins he is expelling the Canaanites:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD. The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness. The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness. Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (for all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) that the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
In Deuteronomy 18, Moses declares to all Israel:
When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.
Thus, witchcraft and divination are also forbidden to even the nations, and for these abominations God is driving the Canaanites out as Israel advances into Canaan.
God has not changed. The sins for which he drove out the Canaanites and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah are the same sins for which he will destroy whole peoples now, and the same sins that a governor now must suppress if he cares for the lives of his people.
These are the truths Christians ought to hold, even though they cannot compel others to hold them. A key test is to have an observer compare the Mosaic Law and the kind of legal system that Christian citizens desire for their nation: in the two systems, does he see the moral principles of the same God, or does he see that Christians are hypocrites? If we say that God is one, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is about this one God who in the person of Christ reigns over heaven and earth, and that this is at the heart of the gospel, then must take care that we take this as good news indeed.