Have You Seen the Promise in God's Commands?
Have You Seen the Promise in God’s Commands?
"The law sends us to the gospel that we may be justified. And the gospel sends us to the law again to enquire what is our duty in being justified."—Puritan Samuel Bolton
Dear New Covenant Family,
Our God is both terrifying and beckoning. It is dangerous for a sinful creature to encounter a holy God—we need God to protect us from God! Our journey into Exodus 19-20 makes this truth stunningly evident.
God’s Law reveals the holy nature of God’s character. It also reveals the sinful nature of our character. The Israelites responded to the revelation of God’s Law with the only appropriate response—they trembled in fear.
Yet Moses responded to their fear and trembling with words of grace and mercy: Do not fear! (Exodus 20:20).
I can think of several reasons why it was perfectly appropriate for Moses to tell the fearful Israelites not to fear.
1. They had already experienced God’s gracious and powerful redemption in their lives.
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. (Exodus 19:4)
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Exodus 20:2)
2. God’s intention in giving His people the Law was to test them, not to condemn them.
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you...” (Exodus 20:20).
3. God had provided a Mediator who could draw near to God and stand in God’s presence as their representative—and has provided for us a much better Mediator, of whom Moses was only a faint shadow!
The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21)
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith... (Hebrews 10:19-22)
4. God’s Law is not designed merely to have a negative effect on us—it is designed much more to be instructive in leading us in the paths of obedience. God’s intention in giving his people the Law was not only to show us our sin and our need of a Savior, but also to showcase through us how attractive holiness can be.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation... (Exodus 19:5-6)
“Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)
God’s design is that we would display His glory. And since God’s law reflects God’s glory, the design of God’s gospel is to transform us from law-breakers into law-lovers.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97)
We love God’s law because it reflects God’s character. And we long to be like Him whom our souls behold and adore.
That’s why we cherish the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God who gives us the power to obey from the heart the Law of God.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
God’s Law is like the rails for a train. It ensures that the train will go in the right direction. But the rails are powerless to move the train. For movement, an engine must be at work. God’s Spirit is that engine. He is the One who empowers God’s people to move in the path of God’s commandments!
When the Spirit of God comes to indwell you, He turns the commandments of God into promises. I read a great illustration of how the Spirit of God works with God’s Law:
A man went to prison because he was a thief. While in prison, God got a hold of his life and remarkably saved him. Finally the time came for this new follower of Jesus Christ to be released from prison. He knew that he would be tempted upon reentering the world, and he made it his first priority to find fellowship in a local church.
When he went to church his first Sunday, he sat in the back. Looking up toward the front, he saw the Ten Commandments inscribed on a plaque. His eyes fell upon the words, “You shall not steal.”
“That’s the last thing I need,” he thought to himself. “I know my weakness. I know my failure. And I know the battle I’m going to have.”
As the service progressed, he kept looking at the plaque. Amazingly, as he read those words over and over again, they seemed to take on new meaning. Before he had always read those words in the tone of a stern command: “You shall not steal.” But now it seemed as if God were speaking these words to him in the tone of a promise: “You shall not steal!” He saw that he was a new creature in Christ, and the Holy Spirit was now working in his life to give him victory over the harmful habit of stealing. Words that once brought only condemnation, now seemed to open up a whole new world of possibilities through the power of the Spirit of the Risen Christ. (From Colin Smith, Unlocking the Bible Story, vol. 1, pp. 85-86).
It takes a perfect Man to fully obey the Ten Commandments. Only Jesus Christ has met the standard. But take heart—for those who are in Christ, these commandments become a promise of the kind of men and women God’s Spirit is forming us to be: “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Colossians 1:27).
Longing to be like Him,
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