"Amazing Grace, Amazing Law"
Why did Israel fail in the attempt to attain righteousness under the law of Moses? The Apostle Paul answers the question for us.
"Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law" (Romans 9:32).
Of course, God Himself called Israel to the futile attempt in full knowledge they would fail. "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: for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation… And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and it is a stiff-necked people" (Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 32:9). Why did the Lord call His chosen earthly people to an impossible quest? Why did He institute a covenant that required the righteousness He knew Israel did not have to give? The Apostle Paul answers...
"The law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).
There was never a possibility that Israel could achieve righteousness under an if-then, contingency covenant with God. The Lord rather gave the law of Moses to His people in order to reveal their deep need of the heart. The law was a diagnostician, as it were, rather than a healer. The Jews of the Old Testament who became righteous did so by looking to God's grace in the personal sense, trusting in a coming Deliverer according to God's promise and their need. Be it Samuel, Esther, Nathan, David, Daniel or Jeremiah, none were saved by keeping the law, but rather by the law's guidance unto grace. Their knowledge and experience was limited in comparison to the saints of the New Testament, but God's freely given favor in Christ redeemed such ones no less than it saves those who for 2,000 years have confessed the person, name, and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
No human being can possibly become just with God by attempting to keep a moral or ethical code, albeit even the Lord's "holy and just and good" law (Romans 7:12). "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight" (Romans 3:20). Nor did God ever intend that any sinner should be redeemed by keeping the law. He rather purposed that the law reveal our need for grace - "For by the law is the knowledge of sin".
Under the law with its ten-fold lash,
learning alas, how true,
that the more I tried, the sooner I died,
while the Law cried You! You! You!
Hopelessly still did the battle rage,
o wretched man my cry,
and deliverance sought by some penance bought
while my soul cried I! I! I!
Then came a day when all struggling ceased,
and trembling in every limb,
I knelt at the Tree where One died for me,
and sobbed out Him! Him! Him!
(Roy Hession, from "We Would See Jesus")
We rightly sing Amazing Grace. We could also, however, sing Amazing Law. We need the diagnostician as well as the healer. A strain of pride runs deep in the human race, inherited from the Adam who believed Satan's lie that we could "be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). The law exposes both our futility and our pride, revealing that we must have grace if we are to have hope. Thereby we realize the salvation of God through His freely given favor in the Lord Jesus, and our need thereof.
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for mans layers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God."
(I Timothy 1:8-11)
"The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh unto God."
Weekly Memory Verse
His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
(II Peter 1:3)