The Law of Life and Death
When Almighty God created the heavens and the earth, He made them to operate in an orderly and predictable way. To assure this order, He made His creation subject to natural and physical laws. He established the law of gravity, the law of day and night, and the law of the seasons. These rules, and many others, are built into the very nature of the universe. Indeed, our world could not operate without them. In everything we do, we acknowledge these laws; we order our work according to their forces.
When God created man, He had a clear purpose. He wanted people to live harmoniously and with good will toward each other. He wanted them to conduct their lives in a way that would bring honor to Him. “For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). He wanted men to understand His goodness and love Him for it. He knew that if men would live selfishly and according to natural passions, chaos and anarchy would soon claim His creation. Thus God made men, also, subject to divine laws. The human race was created to live by them. These laws preceded the Ten Commandments, for they have been in force since the creation. They are so integrated into God’s plan for mankind that they can be ignored or disobeyed only at great loss.
These laws, by which God intends man to order his life, are many and varied. Perhaps it is better to say there is one law which has numerous applications. It is identified in the Word as the law of life and death.
God made Adam and Eve aware of this law soon after they were created. He told them of those things in the garden that would give life and of those that would lead to death. “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16,17).
Many years before the Mosaic Law was given, God called Abraham to become the father of a nation that would fear Him and walk according to His precepts. God said of Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19). Abraham’s adherence to God’s standard of justice and judgment was a principal reason God chose him for this special work.
To Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel, God reiterated this law in these words: “I call heaven and earth to record against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God…and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deut. 30:19,20).
The Apostle Paul summarized this foundational precept for the gospel era by saying, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
While the principles of this law are not defined in any one passage of Scripture, they are spoken of and referred to many times by Jesus and the apostles. The scriptures that follow illuminate some of its aspects.
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God” (Ezek. 18:4,5,9).
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov. 31:26).
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Mic. 6:8).
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:38).
“No man can serve two masters…Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
“A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
These verses give us a glimpse into the mind of God. They reveal both the purposes and the boundaries God has set for the human race. They should not be viewed as warnings but, rather, as simple statements of how things are and how things will always be.
This law of life and death has not been given arbitrarily or haphazardly. Neither was it flung down to the human race to bring it into submission or to prove God’s authority. It has been given for our well-being and safety. God knows that only by heeding this law will men be able to live purposefully and happily. Each individual will prosper or languish as he follows or disregards its truth. “Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee” (Ps. 128:1,2). Nations who live by these precepts will live in peace. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
Since the beginning, man has tried to improve upon God’s plan for humanity. He has tried to devise a way by which he may evade the law of God and live according to his own mandates. He has, indeed, invented many circuitous ways, but each one has only led him into difficulties. Man is designed to live according to God’s law. To do anything else leaves him frustrated and disillusioned. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). He wanted us to understand that in living by God’s law, we find fulfillment, happiness, and meaning in life.
Min. Richard Koehn, Dodge City, Kansas
From Messenger of Truth, Vol. 111, No. 18, September 4, 2013