By Dr. Jason Lisle
It has been suggested that the law of God as it was given in the Old Testament applied only to Israel: that God held Israel to a different standard than the other nations. After all, God gave the law to Israel through Moses. Some people have supposed that since the other nations were not given a written revelation of God’s law, that God had different standards for them. I am convinced that the Bible specifically refutes this claim in a number of ways. But before we turn to some specific verses, let’s consider the general philosophical implications of the notion that God holds different people in different locations or nations to different standards.
Civil laws (those laws established by the local government) do vary from one location to another. The maximum speed limit in Colorado is higher than the speed limit in Ohio. Thus, what is legal in one state can be illegal in another. But are moral laws that way? Can what is right in one state be wrong in another? I suggest that the notion that moral standards can vary from one location to another or from one people-group to another is absurd on the face of it.
Consider a man on trial for murder. There is no doubt of his guilt; several people witnessed the crime, and it was even caught on camera. But then the judge learns an interesting fact. The murder actually happened in the kitchen, not the living room. So he finds the man ‘not guilty’ and explains, “had you murdered the victim in the living room, you would be guilty of course. But since you were in the kitchen at the time, you have done nothing wrong and are therefore free to go. Case dismissed!” Wouldn’t that be an absurd ruling? Likewise, if the judge let the man go simply on account of his ethnic background, wouldn’t that be just as ridiculous? Either a particular action is right in the eyes of God or it isn’t. The location or ethnicity of the person involved is logically irrelevant.
God does not have a double standard (Romans 2:11, Deuteronomy 10:17). He detests a double standard (Proverbs 11:1, Proverbs 20:10, Deuteronomy 25:13–14) and commands us to treat people without partiality (Deuteronomy 1:17, Proverbs 24:23, James 2:9). Therefore, it is fundamentally impossible for God to have one standard for Israel, and another standard for everyone else, for that would violate His Holy character. God holds all people to the same moral standard. Israel was blessed with a written revelation of God’s law, and that is a wonderful gift indeed! But the other nations also knew about God’s law from their own conscience; it was “written in their hearts” (Romans 2:14–15). And God held them accountable to the same standard….
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