"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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    Images of the Savior (43 The Second Giving of the Law)

    Behold, I am placing before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing if you hearken unto the commandments of Yahweh your God which I command you this day, and the curse if you will not hearken unto the commandments of Yahweh your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which you have not known. – Deuteronomy 11:26-28

    Immediately after God first gave his Law to the people whom he had chosen, and established his covenant with them, they showed their unworthiness by transgressing his commandments, and building a golden calf to worship in his stead. But instead of casting off his people, God brought them through forty years of testing in the wilderness, and thereafter, when he was about to bring them into the land that he had covenanted to give them, he gave them the Law a second time, through Moses his servant, and reminded them in many ways of all the blessings he had promised their fathers to give to them, which they had not yet received; and he therefore enjoined the strictest obedience upon them most ardently, in order that they might enter into the joy of the promised blessings. This second giving of the Law, after the failure of Israel to obey it when it was first given, is recorded for us in the final book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy; which is a name that simply means “second law”.

    Now, this background gives that final book of the Pentateuch a function that is typical of the work of the Son of God, by its very nature: for this second giving of the law, by a great mediator, in response to Israel's failure to keep the first law, which failure was repeated and confirmed throughout forty years of testing in the wilderness, is answerable to and fulfilled in the true second giving of the law, by the one true mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ; who, after forty days of being tested in the wilderness was fully successful, and so, having passed the test that had once been failed, he went up into a mountain and gave the Law of God again, which he would this time keep unbroken, unlike the first Israel, and so would secure the covenant promises of God that had hung upon its fulfillment. So, the book of Deuteronomy is a foreshadow of the Sermon on the Mount, and whispers the typical promise that, although God's Law was at first unfulfilled, it would be given again, and would this time be fulfilled, and would win blessings for God's people; which is also what was signified on Mount Sinai itself, when Moses brought down a second, unbroken set of tablets, after Israel had transgressed and caused the shattering of the first.

    The book of Deuteronomy, then, is a foreshadow of the ministry of Christ in a broad sense; but as we shall see, it also contains very many specific types and foreshadows of the coming Savior, and whispers his name in a thousand ways. And these ways are all bound up in the necessity of obedience to God, which his justice demands, and which, as of the writing of Deuteronomy, had not yet been accomplished. It was necessary that God's commandments be obeyed, or else the promised blessings would not come; but it was also necessary that the promised blessings should come, lest God be found a liar; and so, the whole book, crying out for strict obedience, yearns for and requires a champion who would satisfy God's demands, and be a mediator and savior of the people, that God might both be just, and still make good on his promise to justify the ungodly (see Romans 3:23-26). Now, let us make a brief survey of the bases upon which obedience to God's Law is so forcefully enjoined, in this renewed covenant proclamation, and in particular, in the first part of it, chapters one through eleven of Deuteronomy; and then, let us mention the ways in which it foreshadows and promises Christ at the same time.

    In the first three chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses gives an overview of Israel's history, and of how God had redeemed her from Egypt, and after her failure to enter the promised land had preserved her for forty years through every difficulty, and had then begun to fulfill his promise, driving out Sihon and Og, two mighty kings, and giving their land to Israel. And then, at the beginning of chapter four, Moses makes this application, that, because of God's mighty works in her history, Israel must therefore obey him wholeheartedly (Deuteronomy 4:1-2). Throughout the next chapters, the same point will be forcefully applied: because of what God has done, his people must now obey.

    Only note by how many considerations this obedience is enjoined upon the people: because of what God has done in preserving Israel for forty years, they must obey (Deuteronomy 4:1-2). Because of what he had done in electing them as his own people, in accordance with the promise given to the patriarchs, they must obey (7:6-11; 9:27; 15). Because he had given them the peculiar privilege of his speaking to them alone, and his giving them his very Law, which he did in mighty thunderings and great terror on Mount Sinai, they must obey (4:10-15, 33). Because he had ever shown himself faithful to his covenant, even when they were unfaithful (cf. Romans 3:3-4; 1 Timothy 2:13), they must obey (4:7-9, 30-31, 37-40; 11:1-9). Because he had dealt with them as sons (cf. Hebrews 12:5-8), afflicting them and yet sustaining them with mercy, in order to their purification, they must obey (4:3-6; 8:1-6). Because he had forgiven them in all their rebellions, they must obey (9:7-29). Because he had placed before them a blessing and a curse, they must obey (11:26-32). And so, in every way, the condition of God's people, after their failure to keep the Law when it had first been given, demanded obedience: God's character demanded it, their status as his covenant people demanded it, the future fulfillment of the promises demanded it; and most fundamentally, the fact that it had still not been perfectly kept demanded it. But who is sufficient for these things? So we see that the very tenor of this second law-giving cries out for the Christ; but as we shall also see, in many different ways it promises him whom it demands and yearns for.

    So let us reflect on a few of the ways in which it remembers Christ and looks ahead to a greater work yet from him: first, in all the histories of God's provision and guidance in the wilderness, we see many glimpses of the mediation of Christ; he is the one who sustained his people, and ever caused them to triumph. He is the one who came down to them as the serpent lifted up on a pole, to heal the serpent-bitten rebels; as the water from the side of the smitten rock, to quench the grumbling people's thirst; as the unknown manna at which the fathers were amazed, and which nourished them all their lives; and in all these foretastes of Christ, Moses declares, God was humbling and proving his people, and so preparing them, that he might do them yet more good at their latter end (Deuteronomy 8:15-16). Now, in saying this, Moses makes it clear that, all the ways in which God foreshadowed Christ to the people served to show them their own failure and desperate need for him, and to make them hope that he would come indeed, and bring in full measure those promised blessings of which he gave only the down payment, as it were, in those provisions in the wilderness.

    Second, we see that God several times enjoins obedience upon his people on the basis of the fact that he had revealed himself and his character to them alone (4:24, 31; 7:9-10; 10:17-18). But in this way, as well, we see both a foreshadow of the Messiah, and a promise of his coming in fuller power and glory. For when God revealed his name to Moses, at the burning bush and when he hid him in a cleft in the rock (Exodus 3; 33:17-34:9), he then showed himself to be a God both utterly righteous and just, but equally merciful and faithful to his covenant blessings; but in this, he merely shows himself in shadow-form when Christ is the revelation of God in the substance; for only in Christ do these diversely glorious attributes meet together in full; he is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 5:5-6), the one in whom righteousness and peace meet together, and mercy and truth have kissed each other (Psalm 85:10). So these revelations foreshadow Christ, and they also expect him to come as a greater revelation of God; for the revelation of the character of God demands obedience; but this shadow-revelation was not sufficient to produce a perfect obedience in its beholders; so therefore, a revelation of God was necessary that would be complete enough to change those beholding it into his own image, and make them obedient (2 Corinthians 3:5-18); which is just to say that, these many revelations, demanding obedience, both foreshadowed Christ and promised his future coming in far greater glory.

    Third, Christ was promised very notably in this, that God, through Moses, often reiterated that his covenant would still be fulfilled, and that he would bring about those blessings that it held forth to an obedient people (Deuteronomy 4:31; 5:2-3, 28-29; 7:1-2, 6-10, 12-16; 8:7-10, 18; 9:26-10:5, 11; 11:8-9). Now, this contained a twofold demand that Christ come; for first of all, he himself was the essence of the covenant blessings that God had promised. When God established his covenant with Abraham, he promised him a Seed, who is Christ (Genesis 13:15-17; 15:5-6; 17:7-8; cf. also Galatians 3:16); and in the coming of that promised Seed would be wrapped up the coming of every other covenanted blessing, including forgiveness, fruitfulness in righteousness, reconciliation with God, etc. And so, it is said of Christ that all the promises of God find their fulfillment in him (2 Corinthians 1:20), and that we who are in him have received every promise and every blessing (Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 1:3). But in addition, the coming of Christ was strongly required in this, that Moses promises the fulfillment of the covenant on the condition of perfect obedience (7:7-8; 4:31; 10:15); and so there wanted a covenant champion, who could stand before God as the federal head of the people, and perform in their behalf what he had demanded, which was an office that the Christ alone should enter into.

    Fourth, we see a promise of Christ hinted in this circumstance, that the people had proven to be inadequate to enter the covenant blessings because their heart remained uncircumcised (Deuteronomy 10:16; 5:29). Now, in that Christ had been so often promised, and had so far proved to be everything that the people needed for life and blessing, this further need to have circumcised hearts must have made the people long for one who could circumcise their heart just as Moses had circumcised their flesh; and who could this be but Christ, in whom we have been circumcised with the circumcision not made with hands (Colossians 2:10-12), in fulfillment of the promise here first hinted at, and later made most explicit in the writings of the prophets (Ezekiel 36:25-27, etc.).

    Fifith, and finally, we will note that the great conclusion to which Moses brings this part of his speech, in which he sets before the people a blessing and a curse, conditioned upon obedience or disobedience, leads us directly to Christ: as the great Covenant Champion, promised by the God who had sovereignly determined to fulfill his promises to his people, he heard the challenge here issued by God, and undertook to win by a perfect obedience every blessing that God had interwoven into the covenant benefits; but then, seeing that this alone would not be sufficient to save to the uttermost those who had already brought down upon their heads the threat of divine retribution and covenant curses, through their rebellion and disobedience, he likewise submitted himself to be made a curse (Galatians 3:13-14), to become sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and so to satisfy the thunderings of the law against the people. The Law promised a curse, and the Christ became that curse for his people. The Law offered a blessing, and the Christ won that blessing for his people. And so here, the vast blessings and the curses which Moses sets forth so clearly before the people at his second giving of the Law, point ahead to the true second Lawgiver, who should give the Law and keep it, thunder its eternal demands of vengeance and take them all into his infinite person, and all for the people he had been sent to bring into covenant with God.

    Ah, covenant people of the eternal God, let us look to our second Lawgiver, the almighty Christ, who satisfied the covenant curses and won the covenant blessings, so that we might die to the avenging demands of the Law, live to its holy precepts, and so enter into the blessings prepared before the foundation of the world, that we should live in them, dwelling in the presence of Christ our Immanuel, in whom is every curse exhausted and rendered impotent, and every covenant blessing won eternally!

    Posted by Nathan on February 6, 2009 10:39 AM

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