The source of all wisdom, "the only wise God" (Rom.
16:27), put two kinds of laws in his Bible, "for our good
always" (Deut.. 6:24). Laws relating to that which is "good
or right in conduct or character are called "moral"
(Webster). Laws that have no connection with moral standards,
being neither "moral nor immoral" are called "amoral"
Adam and Eve
Good morals are not enough to open heaven's door. Morally, nothing
was wrong in our first parents eating from all he trees of the
garden of Eden:
From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the
day that you eat from it you shall surely die (Gen. 2:1617).
The only wrong in our parents eating of the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil was because God had prohibited it. The effects
of the amoral sin of our first parents are still with us, and
will be to the end of the world: extra pain in child birth, thorns
and thistles, and death (Gen. 2:1617; 3:1619; Rom.
5:12; 1 Cor. 15:26).
Cain and Abel
As the commandment to Adam and Eve was amoral, neither moral nor
immoral, so Cain and Abel received an amoral commandment: they
were to offer an animal sacrifice (Gen. 4:4). By faith Abel offered
to God what he had specified, but Cain substituted "the fruit
of the ground" (Gen. 4:3).
Since it is sinful for a human to change any of God's commands,
either moral or amoral, Cain and his offerings were rejected (Gen.
4:5). Cain had not done what was right, and so his worship was
evil (Gen. 4:7; 1 John 3:12).
Had God not given a command to Cain and Abel what was required
in worship? If he had given no command, it is impossible that
a fair and loving God would accept what Abel decided to offer
and to reject Cain for what he decided to offer.
On the other hand, if God only told Abel what to offer, not Cain,
and yet he expected Cain to offer the same thing, it is impossible
to say that God was fair and loving to Cain.
It follows, therefore, if God is love, a God of truth and without
iniquity, that he gave one and the same command for an animal
offering both to Cain and to Abel. Cain did not have enough faith
to obey God, to take God at his word, to do what God said simply
because God said it. On the other hand, Abel offered to God a
more excellent sacrifice than did Cain, God bearing witness about
his gifts, and through it he yet speaks, though he is dead (Heb.
Very likely Abel did not know why God asked for a bloody animal
offering, but he asked no questions. No morality was involved.
An offering from a "flock" or from "the fruit of
the ground" were both amoral.
Later on, God required of the Israelites that the "first
of the firstfruits" be given to him (Ex. 23:19), which
shows that nothing in itself was sinful in Cain's offering. The
sin was that he was making his own rules.
Even though Cain willfully sinned, God still loved him, and tried
to get him to repent and do what was right (Gen. 4:7). Divine
love brought God to a one on one meeting with the sinful backslider,
with a loving exhortation: "Sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Gen. 4:7).
God thought that Cain could repent, and begged him to do so. Sadly,
Cain's disposition turned from bad to worse, even murdering Abel
The Sprinkling of the Blood
On a certain night God gave an amoral command to the Israelites
in Egypt to sprinkle lamb's blood on the top and on both sides
of the doorframe of each house, and he promised that "when
I see the blood, I will pass over the house," with the result
that the first born child would not die (Ex. 12:13, 22).
"By faith" Moses instituted the Passover, and the sprinkling
of the blood, so that "the destroyer of the firstborn might
not touch them" (Heb. 11:28). There was "not a house
without someone dead" except those houses with blood on their
doorframes (Ex. 12:30).
Lamb's blood has no power to prevent death, and no one thought
that it would. But heaven's wisdom often calls for people to demonstrate
their faith in God by their obedience to an amoral command.
Nadab and Abihu
If God failed to instruct Nadab and Abihu about the fire that
he wanted them to put in their censers, leaving them on their
own, and then burned them alive for their selection, he is not
a fair and loving God (Lev. 10:12). Since, however, "God
is love" (1 John 4:8) and without iniquity (Deut.32:4), we
know that God told Nadab and Abihu what particular fire he wanted
them to use, and that, on their own, they decided to make a substitute.
Very likely the instruction that God gave to Nadab and Abihu,
about the fire he wanted them to put in their censers, was the
same instruction that he gave to their father Aaron about the
everburning "fire on the altar: take a censer full
of coals of fire from the altar" (Lev. 6:12; 16:12).
Consequently, "fire" not "from the altar"
was unauthorized. Moses called it "strange fire" (Lev.
10:1), which was "unlawful or profane fire, as opposed to
the holy fire" (Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon,
Nadab and Abihu. like Cain. on their own, had dared to change
God's command. Like Cain, they had violated one of God's amoral
commandments. Both the "fruit of the ground" on Cain's
altar, and the "strange fire" in the censers of Nadab
and Abihu, were nonmoral, but sinful. We need to learn,
even from the Old Testament (Rom. 15:4), that not only must God's
moral commands be respected and obeyed (1 Cor. 10:8), but also
his amoral laws.
The Sabbath Breaker
The word Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word meaning "rest."
After the first six days of God's creative work, "He rested
on the seventh day," blessing and sanctifying that day (Gen.
The first human beings commanded to abstain from Saturday work,
in observance of a "holy sabbath" were the Israelites,
after they left Egypt (Ex. 16:23). The Lord "came down on
Mt. Sinai" and "made known to" the Israelites his
"holy sabbath" (Neh. 9;1314). This was done in
remembrance of God's resting on the first seventh day, and in
remembrance of God's delivering the Israelites from Egyptian bondage
(Ex. 20:11; Deut. 5:15).
The only reason why the Israelites were to abstain from Saturday
work was because God had so commanded them. The command was a
positive, an arbitrary, an amoral law. No morality was involved,
but respect and reverence for God demanded obedience.
When a person sinned "unintentionally," a "sin
offering" would "make atonement for him" and he
would "be forgiven" (Num. 15:2728). But for "the
person who" did anything "presumptuously" (beyad
ramah, "with a high hand"), there was no forgiveness
The highhanded sin, whether moral or amoral, was the "great
transgression" (Psa. 19:13). David prayed that God would
keep him back "from presumptuous" sins (zedim, insolent,
proud, haughty [Psa. 19:13]).
But an Israelite man, instead of resting, went out and gathered
wood on a sabbath day (Num. 15:32). No morality was involved in
what day of the week he was to abstain from work, just as no morality
was involved in what place Nadab and Abihu obtained fire for their
But the man's death penalty, like that of Nadab and Abihu, shows
that God demands respect for his amoral laws (Num. 15:36; Lev.
10:12). Indeed, God has preserved a written record of the
transgressions of these three men so that New Testament people
might be warned (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4).
God revealed himself to Old Testament prophets "in visions"
and spoke to them "in dreams" (Num. 12:6). On the other
hand, to Moses, the mediator, God spoke face to face, and Moses
saw the "form of the LORD" (Num. 12:8).
However, whether a man was the leader of the people or a follower,
he was expected "to do what the LORD your God" commanded
with no deviation: "do not turn aside to the right or to
the left" (Deut. 5:32). The mandate requiring exact obedience
applied both to the laws governing moral conduct and to the laws
governing amoral statutes ("all these decrees," Deut.
Alas! Moses and his brother Aaron were guilty of an amoral violation.
On one occasion, to produce water miraculously from a dry rock,
God commanded Moses and Aaron "to speak to that rock,"
and aft will pour out its water" (Num. 20:8). This would
be a dramatic demonstration of something that only God could do,
and would inspire the people with deeper faith in the Lord.
However, Moses injected himself and Aaron in a situation where
only God was to be honored. Moses spoke to The assembly gathered
together in front of the rock, saying, "Listen, you rebels,
must we bring you water out of this rock?" (Num. 20:10).
Moses failed to "speak to that rock," but on his own
he "raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff"
(Num. 20:11). God did not withhold the needed water from the people
(the "water gushed out," Num. 20:11), but, as Moses
later wrote, "the LORD became angry with me" (Deut.
Apparently, while the water was still flowing, God announced both
the penalty on Moses and the reason for it:
Because you have not trusted in me, to sanctify me before the
eyes of the sons of Israel, therefore you will not bring this
assembly into the land which I have given to them (Num. 20:12).
What a blow! For forty years, from age 80 to 120 (Acts 7:23,30;
Deut. 34:7), Moses had carried millions of complaining people
in his "bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child" (Num.
11:12), and now he himself had fallen short!
He would be allowed to climb a mountain and "see the land,"
but only to see it! (Num. 27:12). "When you have seen it,"
said the angry Lord, "You shall be gathered to your people,
because you rebelled against my word" (Num. 27:1314;
Moses begged the Lord to change his mind: "Let me cross over
to see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country
and the Lebanon" (Deut. 3:25). But the Lord would not listen,
Enough from you! Never speak to me of this matter again! Go up
to the top of Pisgah and look around you to the west, to the north,
to the south, and to the east. Look well, for you shall not cross
over this Jordan (Deut. 3 :2627).
In itself, nothing was wrong in Moses striking the rock. On a
previous occasion God commanded him, "strike the rock, and
water will come out" (Ex. 17:6), and Moses did so. Why was
what was right once sinful later? God had given a different command,
and a human being is presumptuous, "highhanded" (Num.
15:30), who dares to do his own thing when God has spoken.
Neither striking the rock nor speaking to it was an immoral act.
Both commands were amoral, and were tests of faith. The Lord has
kept the Old Testament in existence that we might not be guilty
both of moral and nonmoral sins (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:612).
A Cure for Snake Bite
In the wilderness wandering, the Israelites complained against
Moses and against God, causing the Lord to send "fiery serpents"
(Num. 21:6), "so called from" their "inflamed bite"
(Gesenius), "venomous" from the "burning effect
of poison." The deaths of many Israelites caused those alive
to beg Moses to pray to the Lord to "take away the serpents
from us" (Num. 21:67).
In response to Moses' prayer, the Lord told Moses to make a "brass
snake," put it on a pole, and announce that anyone who had
been bitten, if he looked at the brass snake, he would live (Num.
Some thought the brass snake was a god, and for about 700 years
they burned incense to it (2 Kings 18:4). Finally, Hezekiah, a
sensible king, called it a nehushtan, "a piece of
brass," and had it broken in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).
No healing power was in looking at a piece of brass. The healing
power was in God, but he decided to require an amoral "looking"
at the brass snake before he healed the people.
The brass snake on a pole was a type of Christ on his cross:
As Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, even so must the
Son of man be lifted up, in order that everyone who believes may
have eternal life in him John 3:1415).
Both the looking at the snake and the believing in Christ are
amoral commands of God, with no power in either the looking or
the believing. In parallel, death resulted without the looking,
and eternal life is forfeited without the believing (John 14:6;
Acts 4:12). Biblical believing includes obedience, for Jesus is
"the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him"
The Walls of Jericho
Thirteen trips around the walls of Jericho, accompanied with trumpet
blasts and a shout, did not make the walls fall. But God's power
to make them fall was not displayed until the Israelites had obeyed
God's amoral commands (Josh. 6:1220).
God gave a negative amoral command to Adam: "Of the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat"
(Gen. 2:17). He may even have prohibited touching that tree (Gen.
3:3). Similarly, God gave a negative amoral command in regard
to "all the vessels of the sanctuary that they were untouchable"
One of those vessels was a wooden chest called "the ark of
testimony" (Num. 4:15). One day, when the oxen shook that
holy ark, being carried by a cart, Uzzah, a driver of the cart,
"reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of
it" (2 Sam. 6:6). Since the chest was not to be touched,
God had to kill Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:7), for God demands that all of
his laws be respected, even his amoral ones.
Naaman's immersing himself seven times in the Jordan River did
not cure his leprosy. But God's power to heal was not displayed
until he obeyed God's amoral command (2 Kings 5:14).
A Blind Man
A blind man's washing mud from his eyes did not give him sight.
But God's power to give sight was not displayed until the man
had obeyed Jesus' amoral command (John 9:7).
The water in which Paul was baptized did not wash away his sins.
But God's power to wash sins away was not displayed until he had
obeyed the amoral command "to be baptized and wash away your
sins" (Acts 22:16).
Feature Book: The Second Incarnation A Pattern for Apostasy
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