Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Christ and the Law of Moses

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Christ and His Law
Lesson 2: Christ and the Law of Moses

The Bible itself is a better source of information about Moses than any movie, and more interesting, too. If the Bible is read with unbelief, it becomes boring, because doubt short-circuits practically every statement and paralyzes the understanding. But if it is read with heart-felt belief, it grips the attention. The Holy Spirit recreates the happenings described there and you see it all in three-dimensional realism, a vividness that can never be forgotten, as a movie can be.
Before we get to the fire and earthquake of Mount Sinai and the writing of the law on stone in Exodus 20, we find that Israel had already made the mistake in chapter 19 of forming an "old covenant." They wanted to substitute it for God's new or everlasting covenant. The story is fascinating, for we can see ourselves in it.
When the people gathered at Mount Sinai, God told Moses to renew to them the same "new covenant" promises He had made to their father Abraham: "Tell the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people'" (Exodus 19:3-5).
When He said "My covenant" He was referring to the same covenant He had made with Abraham--His one-sided promise. "Keep My covenant," He said; that is, cherish it. The Hebrew verb shamar is the same word used in Genesis 2:15 where we read that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden "to tend and keep it." It wouldn't make sense to say that Adam was to "obey" the Garden! There's a play on words in what God said to Israel: If you will "treasure" My promise to Abraham, I will "treasure [you] above all peoples." For us to believe as did Abraham makes God very happy!
The Hebrew verb shamea translated as "obey My voice" is rendered in the Old Testament as "hear" over 700 times, as "hearken" almost 200 times, but as "obey" only about 80 times. The root meaning of "obey" in either Hebrew or Greek is to listen attentively (in Greek it is to bend the ear down low so you catch every syllable). Any parent knows that if you can get your child to listen to you, you've probably gone a long way toward obedience.
Thus the Lord said to Israel, "If you will listen to My voice and cherishor treasure the promise I made to your father Abraham, you will be 'a special treasure to Me above all people." But Israel did not understand. They did not have the faith of Abraham. Mired in legalistic thinking, they made a vain promise, something that God never asked Abraham to do. "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (verse 8). Thus they formed the old covenant.
Since they brought the old covenant upon themselves, God must let them learn through their own history how vain were their promises to keep His law. The law written in tables of stone imposed upon them a burden of "ought," a never-ending obligation they could not fulfill, never giving liberty, but always threatening punishment if not kept perfectly. It must serve in this long national detour now as a kind of jailer, driving them "under the law" until at last they come to the experience of their father Abraham to be justified by faith and not by their "works of law."
The difference between the new covenant and the old covenant is simply "who makes the promise." As "Sabbath School Today" has often presented, the new covenant truth was an essential element of the 1888 message, and even today lifts a load of doubt and despair from many heavy hearts. In the new covenant, it's God; in the old covenant, it's the people. And the keeping of the promise depends entirely on who makes it. In the new covenant, the foundation is solid Rock; in the old, it's sand. Our salvation (and Israel's) does not depend on our making promises to God (or keeping them) but on our believing His promises to us.
Correctly understood, the message of the new covenant is part of the light which is yet to "lighten the earth with glory" (KJV) in the closing hours of this world's history (Rev. 18:1-4). The message will be centered in a true understanding of righteousness by faith, which alone can prepare God's people for the final time of trouble (see 19:1-14). Many, when they hear its Good News will awaken as from a dream. All of God's biddings will become enablings, and the Ten Commandments will become to them ten precious statements of Good News. Nothing will be able to stop them from responding to God's gracious last call, "Come out of her [Babylon], My people" (18:4).
Possibly we have been misquoting the Ten Commandments without realizing what we've done. Whoever taught them to us since we were kids usually left out one verse that God put in at the very beginning, before any of the prohibitions. Leave it out and the ten indeed become Bad News, a "yoke of bondage." Many, even preachers and teachers, have not seen the importance of that preamble verse. Even some who claim to specialize in preaching "the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" have not seen it.
Here it is--the missing verse that belongs at the beginning of any true version of the Ten Commandments:

"And God spoke all these words, saying: 'I am the Lord your God,who brought you out of the land of Egypt,out of the house of bondage'" (Exodus 20:1, 2).

First, God tells us what His true name is: "The Lord." Second, this neglected verse tells us that He is everybody's God, "I am the Lordyour God." Third, in His preamble God tells us that we don't belong in spiritual Egypt. Fourth, God has already delivered you "out of the house of bondage."
Just as He chose Israel to be His "child," so in Christ He has already chosen you. Israel never truly were "slaves" in Egypt. The Egyptiansmade them think they were slaves, and they believed it, and thus they served mistakenly as slaves, but all the while they were a free people waiting for Moses to tell them the truth, "Leave! Get out--to freedom in your own land."
What the world is waiting to hear is the full truth of God's past message of freedom. The Father sent His Son with an express mission: save the world! Just before He was crucified, He prayed to His Father, "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do" (John 17:4). How could He say that if He had failed to save the world?
We know that the Ten Commandments were not nailed to the cross. Ellen Whit writes: "There is a law which was abolished, which Christ 'took out of the way, nailing it to His cross.' Paul calls it 'the law of commandments contained in ordinances.' This ceremonial law, given by God through Moses, with its sacrifices and ordinances, was to be binding upon the Hebrews until type met antitype in the death of Christ as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world" (Bible Echo, April 16, 1894).
What was "abolished in [Christ's] flesh" was not the law itself but the age-old enmity which was encouraged by a fear-motivated legalism. Peter in Acts 15:10 referred to the "yoke ... which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" as circumcision and "the law of Moses." Circumcision was instituted because of Abraham's unbelief in taking Hagar (Gen. 16, 17). "The law of Moses" was imposed on the people because of their unbelief in bringing on themselves the old covenant at Sinai (Ex. 19:8). What was "abolished" at the cross was the fear-laden enmity and guilt generated by that unbelief. Thus circumcision and "the law of Moses" came to an end at the cross; but in principle something more fundamental also came to an end there, says Paul--sin itself was conquered, with its resultant alienation from God.
 Deliverance From the Yoke of Sin
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and prompts us to continual overcoming. But in view of the cross, we are to "let no man therefore judge you" or lay upon us a guilt trip for trespasses paid for by Christ's sacrifice. We are to "let no man beguile" us of our "reward" through the false teachings of a "fleshly mind" (Col. 2:16-18). Paul's meaning for the Colossians of his day included deliverance from the regulations of the ceremonial law, but it also had reference to the infinitely greater good news of deliverance from every vestige of Satan's tyranny over our souls. That is the idea which is at the heart of the "third angel's message in verity"--deliverance from the galling yoke of sin. It is possible for a people to prepare for the second coming of Christ!
That's Good News for these last hours of earth's history. Untold millions are waiting to hear it.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
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