Do we have to have the law of Moses – i.e., the five Mosaic books including the 10 Commandments – in order to live holy? The question is rhetorical, and the reader probably understands that the answer is a loud and clear ”NO”!
The Old Testament shows us that the people of Israel could not live a life in obedience to God after that the law had been given on Mount Sinai. On the contrary, there are numerous examples of how Israel repeatedly abandoned God and worshipped other gods. The law could thus not stop idolatry. To stop sin, a deep work had to take place in the hearts of the Israelites, which could only become a reality in and through the New Covenant.
Joseph, however, was a person in the Old Testament that lived relatively holy compared to others, although he should not have talked so openly about his dreams, which made his brothers so jealous that they sold him as slave to Egypt. He should have kept his dreams to himself. (Likewise, there are moments when you and I should not talk to others about what God has shown us. There is a right and wrong timing when it comes to when and how we should share our God-given visions with others.)
You probably know the story. After arriving in Egypt, Joseph was bought by Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard, and served him so successfully that he eventually became the overseer of his house. After a while, Potiphar’s wife lusted for Joseph and daily tried to seduce him. Humanly spoken, Joseph had every reason to be angry with God. How could he – Abraham’s great grandchild and Jacob’s favorite son – end up as a slave in Egypt? How could God allow all the suffering he had gone through? Most people, if put in the same situation as Joseph, would probably have given in to the temptation. However, Joseph kept himself clean and did the only right thing when Potiphar’s wife tried to get him to sleep with her – he ran away. As a result, Joseph was falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife and put in prison.
Not only had he been sold as a slave by his own brothers and brought to a foreign country. After faithfully and thoroughly having conducted his work tasks he did what was right and refused to sleep with his boss’ wife. As a “reward” he ended up in jail where he was locked up for several years! How could God allow this? Most people would probably have given up their faith in God if faced with similar circumstances. What was it that gave Joseph the strength to resist the temptation of sleeping with Potiphar’s wife? Remember that Joseph lived about 400 years before Moses. The law had not yet been given. In other words, Joseph is a shining example of that it is possible to live holy without having the 10 commandments or the rest of the law of Moses to relate to. But how was this possible? – Because Joseph had a strong and intimate relationship with God.
How can I know this? The Bible does not explicitly state that Joseph had a strong relationship with God during this stage of his life. The reason why we can know that so was the case, is by Joseph’s reaction to the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and chief butler while in jail. Joseph’s spontaneous reaction was that God could help him to reveal the meaning of their dreams.
It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. 3 So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. 4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; so they were in custody for a while. 5 Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. 6 And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?” 8 And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.” So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.” (Gen. 40:1-8)
Had Joseph not had a strong relationship with God – in the midst of his captivity – he would never have been able to trust in God and confidently say that God could reveal the meaning of their dreams. This same faith in that God was with him and for him – in spite of all the sufferings he had gone through – later led to that he would be elevated to become the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.
The story about Joseph – which in many ways serves as on Old Testament type and shadow of Jesus – thus shows us that it is possible to live holy without a law saying: “You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery”, etc. This is only – by the grace of God – possible for a person who has a living and strong relationship with God.
How can we live holy today? By living close to Jesus. Did you know that Jesus Himself is the “mystery of godliness” – i.e., the one who gives us the ability and strength to live holy and righteously? That Jesus is the mystery of godliness, as expressed by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy, means that there is no true reverence of God outside of the relationship with Jesus Christ.
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God [i.e. Jesus] was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory. 1 Tim. 3:16
We can live a life of true reverence and fear of God through Him who is the mystery of godliness. We cannot accomplish this in our own strength or ability. They key is to trust in Jesus, believe in what He has done for us through His death and resurrection, and let Him live His life in and through us.