I recently had a conversation with someone who was a fierce defender of the Old Testament law, and who felt extremely uncomfortable with the message of grace as it is emphasised in the New Testament. They believed – as many have – that the message of grace was a licence for debauchery.
But what is missing in this point of view is; 1. There are many examples of God demonstrating grace to his chosen people both Jew and Gentiles in the scriptures, and 2. If we understand the law as being only a set of rules and regulations, given to the people of Israel to reign in their passions and lusts we have missed it’s primary purpose. The law first and foremost is an expression of God’s holiness to his people and was given, to reveal how they could live a life that allowed God to freely bless them without hindrance.
Unfortunately, it is within our natures that as soon as a, “Thou Shalt Not” is declared, temptation rises up within us, and sin quickly follows.
In his mercy God knew that his people could not keep the law and so he invoked a series of sacrifices to mitigate all of the offences he knew his people would incur against his holiness.
But before the law was given to the Israelites, God demonstrated his favour to many. The first example of course was to Adam and Eve. Even while God was pronouncing the curse due to their sin, God gave a promise for their redemption through Eve. God says to the serpent, (Genesis 3:15) ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’
In that moment God would have been justified in killing them both, but as is typical of all his dealings with mankind there is a promise of hope within the curse.
Further examples of God’s pre-law grace are seen in the lives of Noah, Job and Abraham,
In Genesis 6:8 ‘Noah found grace [חן pronounced Khane] in the eyes of the Lord’, and of all the people; only his family were rescued from the flood.
Job’s who's steadfast refusal to fall into sin and curse God during his period of suffering, recognising all that he had was from God. Resulted in God praising Job and finding all of his prayers acceptable (Job 42:8-9). So much so, that God would only accept Job’s prayers of repentance for his friends and councillors, who in their ignorance defamed the nature of God. In this short list the final member is Abraham the father of promise, who lived a life of great grace to whom it was commended as righteousness because, he believed God’s promises. Despite Abraham’s mistakes God chose to bless him, by giving him the promised son, thereby fulfilling his promise to make Abraham a great nation.
After the law is given there is an even more interesting list of individuals God chooses to show favour to. There is Rahab the prostitute who is named in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5), Jonah the extremely reluctant prophet, along with the wicked Ninevites, for whom God relented in his purpose to destroy them (Jonah 4:4-10). King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-3) a Persian King who did not know God, however God chose to bless him magnificently.
A list of those to whom God chose to show grace and favour would not be complete without King David, a man who is described as being after God’s own heart. And yet he was capable of great sin, adultery and murder; for which under the law the penalty was death. But at his repentance (Psalm 51:1-19) God chose to forgive him; allowing his rule and lineage to continue through to Christ, the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin.
So, a question to be asked. Is the law of Moses to be vilified?
The answer is a resounding, No. The law is holy, but we are incapable of keeping all of the law.
As is true in all these things we need Jesus Christ the Redeemer (Galatians 3:13, 4:4-5).
Our faith in the lordship of Jesus over our lives wipes clean the curse, and meets the full requirements of the law.
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