Last week my major focus was on God’s covenant with Abraham and how He works out His plan of salvation over time through people. The emphasis was on God’s faithfulness to His promise to bless every nation through Abraham regardless of whether Abraham or his descendents were faithful to Him or not. That covenant was a Gospel Covenant, an agreement God initiated and would not, could not recant. It was fulfilled when Jesus faithfully completed His mission by dying as a ransom for sinners and by conquering death through His resurrection. The ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan will occur when those who have faith in Jesus join Him in everlasting life in heaven.
Today the OT Lesson directs us to another covenant that God made with His people, usually called the Mosaic covenant because God mediated it through Moses. At the center of this covenant are the Ten Commandments. It differs from the covenant made with Abraham because its provisions are dependent upon human faithfulness. Both were initiated by God and both have the good of humanity in mind, but one is covenant of Gospel and the other a Covenant of Law. I don’t have time to review the history behind the making of the covenant with Moses so hopefully a few verses from Exodus 19 will jog your memories and set up the meat of today’s message.
[19:1] In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt–on the very day–they came to the Desert of Sinai.  After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.  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:  ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  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,  you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”  So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak.  The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
The deliverance of the Hebrew nation (the Israelites) from centuries of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea and the 40 years of wandering and crossing into the Land of Canaan through the leading of Moses is the most significant story in the Old Testament. It is a microcosm of history’s most important story, the deliverance of mankind from the slavery of sin, through the red of Christ’s blood and the wilderness of life to the true promised land of heaven. God didn’t just desire for His people, the line of Abraham to be saved, His desire is for every man, woman and child to be saved. That is at the heart of the covenant to Abraham – “Every nation will be blessed through you.”
God’s motivation for delivering and blessing His people and all people, is grace. He told Moses, “You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wing and brought you to myself.” Grace and love always motivate God’s action. God continues, “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Understand clearly what’s going on. God says, “If you obey . . . then you will be my treasured possession.” The opposite is also true, that being, “If you do not obey . . . then you will not be . . ..” This is very important to grasp because virtually every relationship and engagement in life is based on “if . . . then.” Think about it, “If you do what is expected (i.e. eat vegetables, complete tasks, treat others nice, obey the speed limit) then you will be rewarded (i.e. get dessert, receive a bonus, be treated nicely). Of course the opposite is equally true. If you don’t do what is expected, then you suffer consequences. The covenant that God established with Israel through Moses is an “if . . . then” covenant. Let’s look more closely at the giving of the Ten Commandments.
[Exodus 20:2] “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  “You shall have no other gods before me.  “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.  “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.  “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  “You shall not murder.  “You shall not commit adultery.  “You shall not steal.  “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The motive for this covenant is God’s love for His people. He said, “I have delivered you and now I want to tell you how to live so that your lives will be rich and blessed.” Hopefully even in this brief account you can seen that this covenant is not about earning salvation it is about receiving blessings or curses during your earthly pilgrimage. God said, “I will punish or I will show love depending on whether you keep or break my commandments.” The Law of God, the Mosaic Covenant has not power to open up the doors to heaven to us; only the Abrahamic covenant does. This covenant or the Law of God serves each of us in three ways in this life, as a Curb, a Mirror and a Rule/Guide.
The Law serves as a Curb when it tries to keep us from engaging in a behavior or activity that would do harm to ourselves, another or God’s creation, just like a curb or guard rail tries to keep us from running up on someone’s lawn or worse going over the edge of a cliff. The Law serves as a mirror when it accuses or condemns us of a loveless or hurtful act. There is no escaping its verdict. The Law serves as a guide or rule when as a redeemed child of God we seek the right path of loving service to walk and ask God, “Because You love me and desire to bless me, what can I do demonstrate my love and thankfulness, serve You and find blessing?”
The Law was given in love and can only be fulfilled from a heart motivated by love. Even if you or I could fulfill it perfectly in thought, word and deed, it could not open a path to God’s heart. God’s grace and mercy can’t be earned. They are given. This side of heaven the Law for us will always accuse, curb us and be a rule for us. Our flesh will always war against it. Thanks be to God that this side of heaven Jesus covers us with His righteousness so that we stand holy and pure before our Father apart from how we perform under the Law. Thanks be to God that this side of heaven Jesus dwells in us so that we have a desire to repent and hunger and thirst after His Law and love him and our neighbor with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, God’s love, Christ’s righteousness and eternal life are ours by faith, without any merit or worthiness is us. That gives us a peace, a hope and a confidence that the world cannot give. If we desire an earthly journey that is full, blessed, rewarding and worthy of the praise of men, then consider keeping God’s Law. You win both ways.