On their way to the Promised Land, Israel was given instructions on how to live in their new land. These instructions told Israel about what it meant to be in a special relationship with their God.
The law told them how to live as God’s saved people—how to live as the people through whom the whole world would ultimately be blessed. The most famous part of the Old Testament law is the Ten Commandments.
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” (ESV)
God is holy, because sin must be avoided, and paid for (with sacrifices). God is also loving, because he allows sinful people to relate to him in this way. God is also a ruler whose commandments reflect his own justice and holiness.
So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (ESV)
He calls his people to respond to his act of rescue by living in right relationship with himself.
In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (ESV)
God saves people in order that they should live his way under his rule.
Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (ESV)
The people of Israel repeatedly fell short of the law of God. They sinned time and again. But Jesus is the ‘end’ of the law and the ‘fulfilment’ of the law (Rom 10:4; Matt 5:17). His righteousness—his complete obedience to God—can be shared by those who trust in him. Where Israel failed, Jesus succeeded, and we share in his righteousness if we have faith in him.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
What chance did Israel have of obeying the law? What chance do you have?
Thank God for the way his law points out his complete goodness, holiness, and justice. Praise him for the fulfilment of the law in Jesus Christ, and the way we share in his righteousness by faith.