Friday, January 4, 2019

Laws and Promises

"If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth" (Deuteronomy 28:1).

In the Mosaic covenant Preamble, the master was Yahweh and Israel was the vassal. In the new covenant, Jesus is the lord and the church is the vassal. The old covenant Historical Prologue described the Exodus from Egypt, while the new covenant exodus was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus and our deliverance from sin and death.

Only after salvation and deliverance are we guaranteed that God will give His law. The vassal is to be grateful for deliverance, and his gratitude is seen in his faithful obedience. We must remember two things about this. The first is that in the Bible, the law is always given in the context of a covenant that God has sovereignly established by grace and never as a series of works we need to do in order to enter into covenant with God.

Secondly, there cannot be a covenant without law. The new covenant has Stipulations just as the old covenant, and because God’s character does not change, the fundamental ethical content of the Law does not change. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

Scholars have identified other elements of the covenant structure, such as a hierarchy of representatives of the master who remind the vassal of his duties (Old Testament: priests, New Testament: elders), and artistic songs that encapsulate the covenant as reminders for the people.

Yesterday we listed three elements of the covenantal structure. A fourth is the Sanctions. The lord not only gives laws to his vassal, but he also promises blessings to the vassal for obedience and threatens punishments for disobedience. In the Ten Commandments, we find Sanctions in Exodus 20:5–6 and 10. It is primarily in the covenant in Deuteronomy, which in its entirety follows the covenant structure, that we find the most striking examples of God’s blessings and curses. God had the people make a ritual affirmation of His Sanctions in Deuteronomy 27:11–26 and then spelled them out in greater detail in Deuteronomy 28.

A debate has arisen between evangelicals concerning the extent of grace and the Law for believers. Consider your own life this weekend. Take care not to presume on the grace of God by looking past the implications of such passages as Deuteronomy 28:1 and John 14:15, 24.