In reading Old Testament laws, I’m thinking most of them make sense for modern life. For instance, God commanded that every fifty years the people cancel all debts and obligations; everything goes back to zero. Imagine doing that on a global scale? With many of the countries of the world in debt, starting over could be a good thing.
Here is another one; the Lord told Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him. And every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his.” (Numbers 5:5–9)
Confession is a command . . . as is restitution. Confession is agreeing with God about your sin. What if everyone did that? In our world where the buck is passed to the point of ridiculousness, it would be refreshing if people took responsibility for what they were doing, even telling God they agree that it is sin.
Restitution goes farther. It means giving back in some way to your victim to make up for the wrong done. If thieves and robbers had to own up to their crimes and pay back more than they stole, what might happen to that branch of criminal activity? I know, it won’t happen, but it seems to me God has good ideas.
In the New Testament, Jesus had another good idea. He took His disciples to a room, got a towel, poured water and washed their feet. “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’” (John 13:12–17)
Jesus commanded them to follow His example. I’m not sure this is strictly about foot washing, but if you have ever had this done or done it for someone else, then you know how humbling this is, and you know what Jesus is talking about. Serving others or being served with that same attitude does something to pride and to how we think of others. Imagine if Christians had that attitude all the time? Imagine if everyone saw their example and followed it. This would change the world, I’m certain.
As for those who know the sorrow and guilt of disobedience, the psalmist wrote his experience and his prayer. When I fail to obey, hurt others, fail to make restitution, ignore dirty feet and other needs, then finally come to my senses, I identify with this prayer . . .
“O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord — how long? Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love . . . . Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.” (Psalm 6:1-4, 8–10)
We have an enemy that the Bible calls “the accuser of the brethren” but his actual name is Satan. As the psalmist indicates, even after sin is confessed and commands are obeyed, the voice of my enemies continues to nag me with accusations. He says that I’ve not done enough, or didn’t do it right, or blah, blah, blah. However, God accepts my prayer and delivers me.
Put all this together and know that our God wants the very best for His people, even this world. He is full of good ideas.