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The Purpose of the Law

“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which were offered continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, once purged, would have no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices, there is a remembrance of sins” (Heb. 10:1-2). The Mosaic Law given to the Jews was just a temporary means of communicating God’s requirements. It pointed to a permanent truth that was to come. The Mosaic Law was never given to Israel to give them life but to reveal to them that God is a holy God and cannot give life to the dead until His judgment of death has been met. The thousands of animal sacrifices offered were never intended by God to satisfy His death judgment. They were just a temporary means of bringing to light the fact that a death was necessary.

Under the Mosaic Law, the fires of the brazen altar burned endlessly.  The fire made clear that God is holy, and His divine justice must be satisfied. As mentioned earlier if just one sacrifice burned on that altar had truly satisfied forever the requirement of a holy God against man’s sin, then the Jews would have extinguished the flames forever. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin” (Heb. 10:4).

The Jewish priests also worked faithfully and tirelessly, performing one elaborate ceremony after the other, revealing that God is perfectly righteous and that His justice must be satisfied. If just one of those priestly ceremonies satisfied forever the just demands of this holy God, their jobs would have been finished. “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Heb. 10:11). Day after day, year after year, death was all around the Jew as a graphic grim reminder that the payment for man’s sin is death.

If a sinful man approaches a Holy God, God’s divine judgment of death must first be met. The elaborate Mosaic system never really satisfied God at all but established securely the boundary line that separated a sinful man from a holy God. The fire and smoke continuously made the Jews aware of God’s righteous demand upon their lives. Hidden as a shadow among all of the laws and sacrifices was a silent truth that one day God would send His Lamb who would eternally satisfy God’s divine judgment of death for man’s sin. Israel as a nation, however, did not grasp this silent message. Instead, they grew to enjoy the fire and smell of the smoke. They began to love the beautiful religious ceremonies. In fact, they loved them so much that they unconsciously began to rely upon their performance of these ceremonies to deliver them from God’s judgment. They actually began to worship their worship. They began to rely heavily on the very things that were given by God to reveal to them His righteous demands on their lives and their spiritual need. They failed to see with spiritual eyes the “good things to come” in Hebrews 10:1. I think that this has happened to the church today.  Faithfully attending church has become a subtle substitute for a personal walk with Christ. 

What about the Gentiles? “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Rom. 2:14-16). Some might observe that God’s written requirements given in the Mosaic Law were given to the Jews and not to the Gentiles. This is true, but the lawless Gentiles cannot escape the spiritual intent of the law. “For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law” (Rom. 2:11-12). The spiritual purpose of the law is written in our hearts. According to Romans 7:14, the law is spiritual. It has a spiritual application for everyone. We all have the knowledge that we have been infected with Adam’s sin because God has stamped the imprint of His law in our minds. Our conscience, our secret thoughts, either accuse us of our guilt or excuse us, based on a myriad of rationalistic excuses that we use to condone our sin before God. But either way, everyone is condemned by the law of God. Those who lived before the law was given, and those of us who live today, are all subject to the spiritual work of God’s law. God’s Holy Spirit uses the spirit of God’s law to convict us of our sin (Jn. 16:8) and to point us to salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. If we do not believe the gospel, God’s law will one day condemn us.

Why was the Mosaic Law Given?

It is my opinion that the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Galatians was his most important letter. One will never truly understand God’s amazing grace until the reason for the Mosaic Law is fully understood. In the first part of his letter, Paul penned these jaw dropping words: “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain”  (Gal. 2:21). That is powerful! Paul said that if a law could have given life, then righteousness would have been by the law. “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22).  The religious Jews were trying to convince Galatian Christians that in order to be saved, belief was not enough. They insisted they must keep the Mosaic Law.

Paul countered by teaching that a sinful man cannot have a right relationship with God based upon his keeping the law. If a right standing before God could come by keeping the law, then Christ’s death would be meaningless. In fact, if there had ever been a law that could have produced righteousness for anyone, then righteousness should have come to us that way. But no law has ever been used by God to give any human being life. This is not meant to diminish the value of God’s law. It is extremely important in the plan of God. For that reason, the law is referred to hundreds of times in the Bible.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The word “sin” means “to miss the mark.” The mark that we all have missed is the mark of the absolute perfection of God. How is this standard of perfection revealed? It is revealed through the Mosaic Law. We all fell short of God’s perfect standard when we sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12). Falling short of God’s glory is a result of being born into the slave-market of Adam’s death. We do not become sinners because we do bad things; we do bad things because we are born sinners. We do not become sinners with time and evil influence; we began as sinners and evil just comes naturally. We sin because Adam’s earthy image is imprinted upon us at conception. In fact, in Adam we are not capable of doing anything that pleases God. God declares that our good deeds are like filthy rags to Him (Isa. 64:6).

It is against the backdrop of our sin in Adam that God gave the law. “For until the law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed [put to an account] when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (Rom. 5:13-14). This verse holds the key to understanding the question “Why the law?” For nearly 2,000 years, from Adam to Moses, the people of the earth did not possess God’s law in written form, yet the old shadow of death was still around. It would have been impossible for man to keep the law in order to be saved during that time, because the law had not been given. However, even though these people did not have a specific command to break – like Adam’s eating of the fruit – all died. Physical death proved without a doubt that Adam’s nature was still in us even though we had broken no law as Adam did.

This does not mean that sin did not exist without the law, but for hundreds of years sin did not have the character of a transgression before God. And though death still marked Adam’s sin in us, sin was not taken into account as a transgression. “Because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15).  Said simply, how could anyone know that they had broken God’s law if there was not a law to break? How could we know that we had fallen short of God’s glory if we did not have knowledge of what God’s glory was? How could we know that we had died in Adam if we had no way to understand death? How could we understand that we were sinners if we had no way to measure sin? It would be similar to having no knowledge that we had transgressed the requirements of our state government by running through an intersection if there was no stop sign at the intersection to remind us.

The whole Mosaic system of laws was designed by God not to save or to give life but to reveal sin’s true character of death. The righteous demands of God upon the human race are brought to light by the use of His law. Sin within the human race had no real identity, no definition, until His law gave it one. This is exactly what Paul had in mind when he asked the Galatians this question: “If the law was not given to make us righteous before God, then why did God give us the law?” His answer was that the law was given by God through the mediation of angels and through a man (Moses) to reveal man’s sin as a transgression against God (Gal. 3:19-20). To transgress means to cross over or enter unlawfully into someone else’s domain. When we break God’s law, we enter unlawfully into God’s domain. Contrary to what the religious people were telling the young Galatian Christians, the law was never meant to save anyone. It had become God’s stop sign, or line of demarcation, separating sinful man from God’s unapproachable holiness. It is as though God says, “Here is my clear marker that describes my holiness and if one shall approach Me, here is My standard that I require that you keep. The moment you break one of these commands, by thought or action, you have sinned and come short of my glory.” More tomorrow. Blessings!

Propitiation

One could easily make the case that the most important word in the Bible is the word propitiation (pro-pi-she-a-shun).  The immeasurable value of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is made known through this word. It is the Greek word hilesterion, which is found five times in the Bible. Four times it is translated propitiation and once it is translated mercy seat (Rom. 3:25–26; 1 John 2:2, 4:10; Heb. 2:17, 9:5). God has opened to us truth that no human eyes have seen, no human ears have never heard, truth that has never before entered the human mind. Paul said that what is visible is temporary. It will pass away and only God’s invisible truth will remain. God opens to the eyes of our heart this incredible truth through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10; 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

 

One such truth is made known through the word propitiation. In order to receive the full impact of this word we must go back into Old Testament times. The animals died; the blood flowed, yet not a single sacrifice ever fully satisfied God. If that had been the case, the sacrificial system would have been abolished (Heb. 10:1–5). The entire Old Testament sacrificial system provided merely a shadow or mirror image of what God required to forever pay for sin. A glimpse was made known to the Jewish people through an elaborate ceremony performed once every year. The high priest entered into a small room in the tabernacle called the most holy place. What happened in this room was private, it could not be seen by the people.

 

The priest would sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, a small gold plate covering the ark of the covenant. This act was to make atonement for the sins of the priests and the people. Atonement is the Hebrew word kippur meaning covering (Ex. 25:21-22; Heb. 9:6-14). This happened once every year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This day was the Jews’ high holy day, a day filled with a combination of anxiety, fear, awe, and mystery. On this day, the great and awesome “I Am,” the sovereign, eternal king of the universe, visited with His chosen people, the Jews.  But not without the blood offering. Because this was to happen once a year, the people realized that the blood of animals (this ceremony) never permanently removed their guilt or the penalty of their sin. The guilt always returned.  The action of the high priest was so important that the people tied a rope around his ankles so that if he died in the process, he could be quickly pulled out and replaced.

 

Centuries later, God became a member of the human race in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did so to become the real High Priest who would make the final and forever offering for sin. On a hill called Calvary, God’s special Priest made the sacrifice that would end all sacrifices. While Christ’s body was hanging on a cross, His spirit was extremely active. Just before He died, He spoke the Greek word tetelestai, it is finished. At that moment, unobserved by human eyes, Christ entered a greater and more perfect tabernacle that was not made with human hands. He did not take with Him the blood of an animal; He took His own blood. With His blood He made the final payment for sin. He entered this tabernacle once, and once was enough. The earthly tabernacle made with human hands was just a shadow of a real heavenly temple where God the Father dwells. Jesus Christ carried His blood into the heavenly temple, into the very presence of God. He forever put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:25–26).

 

In the quietness of heaven, far from the searching eyes of humanity, the real High Priest stood before God the Father in a private meeting. There He provided the final and forever blood offering for sin. This is the sacrifice to which all of these symbols pointed—God’s clothing of Adam and Eve with animal skins; Abel’s sacrifice; the altars of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the brazen altar; the altar of incense; and the mercy seat. It was God alone who demanded to be satisfied, and it was Christ alone who achieved satisfaction.

 

God the Father finally, fully, and forever accepted the one sacrifice of God the Son for sin.  The incredible benefit of this sacrifice is being offered today to all that hear and believe the gospel. Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness because in the forbearance of God He passed over sins previously committed (Rom. 3:24–27).  Jesus Christ did not make a down payment for sin and then ask us to pick up the rest of the tab. God’s work of salvation in Christ Jesus happened long before we were here. Are we to suppose that we could possibly do something today to persuade God to be just a little more gracious to us than He has been in Jesus Christ? What more could we do that could in any way cause God to love us more than He loves us in Christ? God paid the debt we could not pay, and the payment He made was enough. God is fully and forever satisfied. Blessings!

 

E-zine Volume 4, Issue 3

We hope that you are finding ways to serve the Lord and grow in grace during these days of social distancing. The uplifting and inspirational articles in this issue of our E-zine will surely encourage and motivate you.

Glimpses of Grace is sponsoring a one-day Retreat on August 1. We hope you will join us for some in-depth Bible study and warm fellowship. The theme is “Culture in Chaos.” See the link below for more information and click here to register. There is no cost, but we need to know how many to prepare food for. We will adhere to Covid Restrictions. 

 

A Glimpse of the Ultimate Gift – Dick Hill
 
God is Faithful In Season and Out of Season – Ken Sheppard
 
Kingdom Stories: Guardians of the Gospel: Fire in the Hole – Danny Forrest
 
Putting Our Shattered Futures into God’s Hands – Justin Moore
 
The Idea of America – Jessica Otto
 
Moore Thoughts: The Last Verse – Mike Moore
 
Old and Thankful – Tanya Moore
 
A Grandmother’s Reflections – Linda Hill
 
Well Said – notable quotes
 
Glimpses Retreat

 

Credits
Richard J. Hill, Editor-in-Chief
Michael L. Moore, Editor
Linda Hill, Design Editor

Contact Info
Glimpses of Grace, 2587Attala Road 1153, Kosciusko, MS 39090
www.glimpsesofgrace.org
(662) 347-8291 (727) 458-1813

Glimpses of Grace Board Members
Richard J. Hill, Linda Hill, Danny Forrest, John Howell Jr., Quinn Hill, Michael L. Moore, Ken Sheppard

Abraham’s Sacrifice

It was God’s will that Abraham learn to trust totally in the Giver of the covenant rather than the covenant itself.  Twenty-five years after the original promise, God finally gave Abraham and Sarah their miraculously-born son (Gen. 21:1–2). No child could have been more welcomed and loved than Isaac. Through the process of giving Isaac, God had taught Abraham that He was a God who could be trusted. God is always faithful to keep His word. He had told Abraham, “In Isaac your seed will be called” (Gen. 21:12). But did Abraham really believe God?

God gave Abraham an illustration that he could not miss. He asked him to make an offering, not of an animal, but of his most precious possession, his only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1–2). Only son in Hebrew literally means “your uniquely born son.” Why was Isaac uniquely born? He was a miracle given to Abraham and Sarah long after they were capable of producing a child. Abraham’s uniquely born son reminds us of another uniquely born son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was God’s virgin-born Son, a tremendous parallel!

God instructed him to take his human treasure, the object of God’s grace, and kill him. Moriah was chosen for the place of the sacrifice. Moriah means “chosen of the Lord.” God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son appears on the surface to be completely irrational. It had taken years for God to fulfill His promise to give Abraham a son. Would God now command Abraham to kill him? Abraham never once questioned God’s integrity. He was strong in faith. He loved his son more than anything else in life, and to obey without blinking an eye was absolutely astounding.

Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him along with his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering and set out (Gen. 22:3). No delay, no reluctance, and no stress. No attempt to receive clarification of the command. There was no reference to Abraham seeking counsel from others. He simply obeyed God. Abraham was completely occupied with the presence of God. How do we know? When Abraham saw the place from a distance, he asked the young men who accompanied him to stay with the donkeys. He said, “The lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5). He did not say “I” will come back to you but “we.”  Isaac was still a bachelor. He had no wife and no children. Abraham reasoned that until Isaac had children, there was no way he was going to die permanently. Why? Because the Giver said, “In Isaac shall your seed be called.”

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son and off they went. He also took the fire and the knife for sacrifice. Isaac asked the question that no doubt Abraham had expected. “Look, Dad, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7). Isaac’s question would have torn the heart right out of an ordinary man. But Abraham’s faith never wavered. Abraham’s response was evidently given with perfect peace and grace. He said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:8).

Sometimes it is the little words that have the greatest effect. Notice Abraham did not say that God would provide a sacrifice for “you and me, son,” but that He would provide a sacrifice for Himself. Abraham kept the issue where it belonged. The sacrifice was God’s business. It was God’s character that was at stake. Abraham was simply saying to Isaac, “Son, we are going to put our confidence in God.” Whatever happens, we must trust the Giver. Abraham also did not say “a lamb” but rather “the lamb.” Speaking of Jesus Christ, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Abraham built the altar, placed the wood on the altar, bound Isaac, and laid him on the altar (Gen. 22:9). His security was solely in the Giver at this point. The Giver does not lie. As long as he had the Giver, he had the gift. Why? It was the Giver who had given him the gift in the first place. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son (Gen. 22:10).  Stretched out his hand is a Hebrew completed action. In Abraham’s mind, he actually did it. He fully intended to take the life of his son. Isaac had been slain. It was with complete faith and tranquility that Abraham carried out the divine orders. He loved his son deeply, but his trust was in the Giver. It was his love and trust in the Giver that motivated this action. He was caught up in the fact that, though he may not understand, the Giver knew exactly what He was doing.

But just in time, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and told him not to lay his hand on the boy or do anything to him. He knew that Abraham trusted totally in God, because he had not withheld his most treasured possession from Him (Gen. 22:12). But what about the sacrifice? Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. Just at that time and in just that place, God had prepared that ram to be caught and sacrificed. Abraham killed the ram and sacrificed it in the place of his son, and then he named the place Jehovah Jireh, which means “God will provide.” God will provide the once-and-for-all sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham and his son, Isaac, walked down that hill together that day. God spared Isaac’s life, but in Abraham’s mind, Isaac had been killed and raised again. The writer of Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac.” Abraham had received the promise from God that his descendants would come from Isaac. He reasoned that if God wanted him to kill Isaac, He would have to raise him from the dead. When they walked down the hill that day, in Abraham’s mind that is exactly what had occurred (Heb. 11:17–19).

Through Abraham’s offering of Isaac, God gave us the perfect illustration that His Son would come to die and that He would be raised again. God gave this illustration hundreds of years before the actual event. What a glimpse of God’s grace!

 


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