The Lawgiver and Promise Giver

I m writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19

During my Bible Worker ministry, I have occasionally heard people try to rationalize away Matthew 5:17-19 and the whole law by saying that Jesus did away with the law once it was fulfilled. This is where we need to exercise Isaiah 28:10 and compare other verses. In Matthew 3 Jesus goes to be baptized. In Matt 3:15 Jesus says it is necessary to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness.

After Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism, did He then do away with baptism? No. In Matthew 28:19-20 He tells the disciples to baptize. So Jesus did not do away with baptism when He fulfilled it, and neither did Jesus do away with any of the law after fulfilling the law. Paul also demonstrates what it means to “fulfill” God’s law:

“For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:9-10

I have also had explained to me that we no longer need the commandments because now we have love. Fact is we have always had love. It is because we have love that we do not steal, kill or lie about our neighbor. When we have love we fulfill the law by putting God and our family and neighbors before ourselves. Love is putting others first. The first four commandments show us how to put God first. The last six tell us how to put our family and neighbors first.

The beautiful thing is how it is all brought about. When the Lawgiver gave the commandments, He began with the reminder, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exodus 20:2 Here the Lawgiver is reminding His people that they did not free themselves from the Egyptians, but that He freed them while they were totally helpless. He then goes on to explain in Exodus 20 that He will free them from other gods. He will free them from adultery and murder and other sins.

So how is this brought about? The Lawgiver tells us in Exodus 19:3-5,

And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; ‘Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.’ Exodus 19:3-5

Just as the Israelites did not save themselves from the Egyptians, but God did, so we will not save ourselves from the power of sin, but He will. He goes on and tells us to obey His voice. My Strong’s Concordance tells me that word “obey” (shama) means to listen and be attentive. God is not demanding a legalistic obedience of works.

Many have the idea that the Old Testament is about being saved by law while the New Testament is about being saved by grace. But grace is just as real in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. God wants us to listen to His voice of promises! The Lawgiver goes on and says “keep my covenant.” Again, according to my Strong’s concordance, that word “keep” (shamar) means to guard or protect. Shamar is the same word used in Genesis 2:15 when Adam was told to keep the garden. Did God mean for him to obey the garden? No, He meant for him to cherish the garden. Care for it. Protect it. The word “covenant” is also a promise. So in Exodus 19:3-5 the Lawgiver is telling us that just as He delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, He will also deliver us from spiritual bondage, if we will only cherish His promises!

Thus we find in the Old Testament the same grace we see in the New Testament.

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 peter 1:4

God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 311.

You may study this week’s lesson here.

Better Promises Make a Better Covenant

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had cut down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day.” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not cutting down nearly as many trees as the others are,” the foreman began. “Yes I know, Sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?” 

The new worker did not realize he was not expected saw down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

A popular urban legend tells about a captain on a battleship who spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The response came back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, threatening reprisals, if his demands were not met. The response was, “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change. The law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The New Covenant was not an afterthought after the first covenant did not work. The new covenant was actually God’s original plan. What we call the “old covenant” was actually man’s idea – thinking he could save himself by his own strength and effort. It was not a faith response. (See Heb. 4:2) Man’s effort failed, so in what we call the New Testament God re-introduces His original plan from the Old Testament, and says “Are you ready to give up trying to do it on your own? and let me write my law on your heart Myself?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they confidently replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go. He knew they could not keep His Law in their own power. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about in Hebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the “old” covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

The Messiah in Scripture, with Video Presentation

EventProphecyFulfilled
The place of His birthMicah 5:2Luke 2:4-7
His virgin birthIsaiah 7:14Luke 1:26-31
The slaughter of the childrenJeremiah 31:15Matthew 2:16-18
His flight into EgyptHosea 11:1Matthew 2:14,15
The time of His baptismDaniel 9:24,25Luke 3:1,21,22
His rejection by the peopleIsaiah 53:3John 1:11
His entrance into JerusalemZech 9:9Luke 19:29-38
His betrayal by a friendPsalm 41:9Luke 22:4748
The price of His betrayalZech 11:12Matthew 26:15
Spat upon and beatenIsaiah 50:6Matthew 26:67
Crucified between two thievesIsaiah 53:12Mark 15:27,28
The wounds in His bodyZech 12:10John 19:3420:27
Given vinegar and gall to drinkPsalm 69:21Matthew 27:34
Gambling for His clothesPsalm 22:17,18Matt 27:35,36
None of His bones were to be brokenPsalm 34:20John 19:32,33
To be buried with the richIsaiah 53:9Matt 27:57-60
His resurrectionPsalm 16:10Luke 24:1-7

A Promise Kept

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1969 7 -year old Niki was in the hospital having some tumors removed from her throat. While in the hospital she met Charita, another girl her age, who had a rare form of cancer. Niki found out that because of the cancer Charita would never be able to have children of her own. The two girls formed a friendship, and one night while the two of them were alone in their hospital room, Charita was crying. Niki came over to Charita’s bedside to comfort her. She told her not to cry and that when she got married and had her own baby she would let her mentor her baby and if it was a girl would even name it after her. 

After their stint in the hospital Niki and Charita kept in touch until 6 months later when Charita’s family moved from Los Angeles to New Mexico. In 1983 Niki married and in 1987 had a daughter whom she named Charita. Niki then went on the Unsolved Mysteries show looking for her childhood friend Charita so she could help mentor little Charita. In 1990 Niki and Charita were happily reunited. 

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

In a world where people will make empty promises just to get whatever they want, 7-year old Niki  stayed true to her promise even  as an adult, and became married and with a child. While it’s true that our promises are like ropes of sand and we can only trust God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4) It is also true that by God’s grace we too, like Jesus and 7-year old Niki , can stay true to our word. After all, even while the Bible teaches us not to put trust in ourselves or anyone else, the Bible also speaks of those who  “keep their promises even when it hurts.” Psalm 15:4 NLT 

This quarter we are studying the promise God made to man. One of the ways we reflect the image of God is by being men and women of our word. Sure, we make mistakes and have made broken promises. This is one reason why I am careful about making promises. Instead of promising to help a friend, I tell them I will try, but make it clear I am not making a promise.

God’s promises are the only promises we can rely on. Still, by God’s grace, we can be men and women of our word. By God’s grace, we can be faithful to our promises even if it hurts.

Can you share a time when someone showed you God’s love by staying true to their promise? 

You can study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.