If You Cling to These Nations-3 (Joshua 23:9-13) part 3 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 01 March 2017

The second function of the law and its works-principle was to show Israel's inability to meet the moral requirement of the law on its own, thus showing its need of a Savior. The demand of the law easily exposed Israel's moral failure and inability. But was that enough to make them see their need of a Savior--not just a Savior to defeat their enemies and establish a kingdom of prosperity and peace but also a Savior to deliver them from their sin? This was not as instinctive and automatic as we might think because the Mosaic Covenant--in fact, the law itself--had the sacrificial system built into it.

 

 

The presence of this sacrificial system pointed to the gracious nature of the Mosaic Covenant. A covenant of works cannot have any provision for forgiveness: one strike and you are out, as it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But how would Israel come to see the inadequacy of the sacrificial system to deal with their problem of sin and thus their need of a Savior? Why would they worry about their sins as long as the temple was standing and the sacrifices were being offered on the altar, just as God commanded precisely for the forgiveness of their sins?

If You Cling to These Nations-3 (Joshua 23:9-13) part 2 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 01 March 2017

The covenant of grace was first established right after the Fall, which is given in Gen. 3:15 (known as the First Gospel): God said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." What is amazing about this is that all the DNA of our redemption was encoded in these words. There is the principle of election: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring…." With these words, God divided the fallen humanity into two--those who belong to God and those who belong to Satan. Thus, God chose some to be saved out of the fallen humanity. This also points to the principle of grace: "he shall bruise your head…." The salvation of God's elect people would come through a particular Offspring of the woman, who will vanquish Satan, not by their own works of righteousness. This points to the principle of faith as well: they receive their salvation by waiting for and trusting in this Savior. There is also the principle of atonement: "you shall bruise his heel"--God's appointed Savior must suffer for the sins of His people.

 

 

What about God's covenant with Abraham? By it God highlights the principle of election and grace. Abraham was chosen out of pagan worshippers (as we will see in the next chapter). He was promised a great nation when he did not have any heir. He was promised a land when he was an immigrant with his father (Gen. 11:31). The main point of his family history was this idea of election: Isaac the younger son by his wife Sarah over Ishmael the older son by his wife's handmaid, Hagar; Jacob the younger twin son of Isaac over Esau the older. This continued to the next generation until Judah was chosen as the royal tribe through whom the Prince of Peace should come.

If You Cling to These Nations-3 (Joshua 23:9-13) part 1 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 01 March 2017

How should we make any sense of all this? Was the Mosaic Covenant a covenant of works or a covenant of grace? When we are faced with seemingly contradictory data, it is important for us to distinguish the different aspects involved. What is helpful here is the distinction between substance and accidents. Simply put, substance is what is essential to the nature of a thing/being. An accident is a property of a thing/being that is not essential to its nature. As humans, we all share the same human nature. But we have different "accidental features," if you will--from different skin and hair colors to different personalities and other character traits. Sometimes the accidents may seem quite incongruous with the substance. Think of whales and dolphins, for instance. They are mammals but they live in the water!

The Mosaic Covenant is similar. We can say that the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant of grace in its substance but in its administration contains works-principle. Why the inclusion of the law and the works-principle in an administration of the covenant of grace? It had two important functions.

If You Cling to These Nations-2 (Joshua 23:9-13) part 5 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 20 February 2017

And God will not fail to achieve this majestic vision in us. The zeal of the Lord will surely make it come to its glorious fruition! From the very beginning, on that tragic day when our First Parents rebelled against God and fell in sin, God was prepared to give us His Son as our Savior in the covenant of grace. This shows His determination not to let anything stop Him from saving His people, even the sacrifice of His only Son! And He repeated and reiterated that promise again and again in all the different administrations of the covenant of grace, even in the Mosaic Covenant. In this covenant of grace, God is not just the Law-giver; He is also the Law-fulfiller and the Curse-bearer in His Son! We find our forgiveness in this Curse-bearer. We find our righteousness in this Law-fulfiller! Why should we cling to sin? Why should we cling to the false idols of the world and put our hope in their false advertisement when only disappointments follow without fail? Let us cling to Jesus Christ! If you knew Google would be the kind of company it is now ten years ago, would you have just watched in grow or invest in it as much as possible? If God is working to complete His glorious salvation, which He cannot fail, would we just sit back and watch or would we consider it a privilege and blessing to participate in that infallible, glorious work? In Him we find all of God's blessings and promises fulfilled! He is our all in all! As we abide in Jesus Christ, our Law-fulfiller, we will receive the strength to live by God's holy law and experience the joy of living by His holy will--like the braches of the vine, which vigorously sucks the sap from the vine to bear much fruit!

If You Cling to These Nations-2 (Joshua 23:9-13) part 4 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 16 February 2017

God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ does not shield us from the natural consequences of the moral law in this world. God will forgive us if we steal and confess our sin to him. But we will still have to go to jail. No matter how great and many our sins may be, God will forgive us, seventy times seven in a day, if we confess our sins to Him. But each and every one of those sins has natural consequences--if not physical and judicial, certainly moral and spiritual ones that will damage our character and our treasured relationships. Similarly, we cannot grow in holiness and faith when we regularly expose ourselves to and immerse ourselves in profane and shameful materials (even though they are all around us). We cannot grow in the knowledge of God's Word if we do not hear it and study it and meditate on it regularly and intentionally. We cannot grow in our prayer life if we do not pray regularly and consistently. We cannot develop deep, meaningful relationships with others without investing our time and energy and service. You see, the law of God is not to be despised. It is for our own good. It is designed to help us thrive in God's world.

 

 

But we have an even more compelling reason to obey God's law, don't we? It's the grace of God by which we are brought out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God's beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Not only are we to obey God's law because it is good; we are to do it also because God has saved us by His amazing grace. Why did He sacrifice so much and give so much in His Son? So we can be holy as He is holy and know through our union with Him the fullness of His joy and peace and love! Our salvation is nothing less than that--for the image of God in us, which was marred and lost, can be restored and perfected in glory and beauty! How grateful we should be for this marvelous vision God has for us! And how grateful we should be for the price He paid to achieve that vision in us!

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