The Story: The Law of Moses (and Grace of God), Part 3 (The Song of Moses)

Near the end of Deuteronomy, the book records a song sung by Moses to the Israelites just before they cross the Jordan River.

We never study the Song of Moses, but it’s a fascinating composition.

Moses refers to the Israelite people anthropomorphically, that is, as a single person: Israel (remember: God renamed Jacob as Israel).

(Deu 32:10-12 ESV)  10 “[God] found [Israel] in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.  11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions,  12 the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.”

I just love that image, and I love that Moses, having just delivered chapter after chapter of statutes, returns to the most important thing: God’s love for Israel.

Of course, we Gentiles have now been grafted into Israel.

(Rom 11:17-18 ESV)  17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,  18 do not be arrogant toward the [Jewish] branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the [Jewish] root, but the [Jewish] root that supports you [Gentiles].

By being grafted in, we’re given the same blessings — the unmerited, unearned love of God, bestowed on Israel because of God’s relationship with Abraham.

(Gal 3:8-9 ESV)  8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”  9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

(Gal 3:13-14 ESV)  13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” — 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

We are elected because we’ve been added to God’s elect nation, not because of our superior righteousness (for we are “a stubborn people”) but because God has chosen us.

In fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, he re-formed the covenant community to include only those with faith in Jesus, and in so doing, he has re-defined “salvation,” “redemption,” and even the “land” or “inheritance.”

In the Law of Moses, God promised Israel his protection from earthly enemies (called “salvation”) and freedom from Egyptian slavery (called “redemption”) so that they could live on the land (Palestine) forever (called their “inheritance”).

Salvation

(Exo 15:1-3 ESV) Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.  2 The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  3 The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.”

(Psa 18:1-3 ESV) I love you, O LORD, my strength.  2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

Redemption

(Exo 6:6-7 ESV)  6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.  7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.’

(2Sa 7:22-23 ESV) 22 Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.  23 And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?

Inheritance

(Deu 4:21 ESV)  21 Furthermore, the LORD was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

(Act 20:32 ESV)  32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Modern Christians don’t speak much of our “inheritance,” although the word is found 34 times in the New Testament. But Jesus made this change: “inheritance” is no longer merely a reference to a nation living in Palestine. No, our inheritance will be the entirety of the new heavens and new earth.

(Heb 9:15 ESV)  15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Here you see that “slavery” is redefined in Jesus to mean slavery to sin, more precisely, the requirement that we circumcise our own hearts so that we must try to obey God — to love him with all hearts — by our own power. We can’t do that, and so we sin.

The “new covenant” is a kainos covenant (rather than a neos covenant), that is, a renewed  covenant, not a brand new replacement covenant. Jesus has fulfilled and brought the previous covenants to fruition. He has not repealed them; he’s completed certain elements and renewed other elements.

Moreover, while the Mosaic covenant was established — by the grace of God — to elect a nation to demonstrate the righteousness and holiness of God to the world, this purpose has now been accomplished by Jesus — who reveals God much more fully. And the coming of Jesus means that much of the Law of Moses has served its purpose. Thus elements of the Law are not so much repealed as accomplished or even (to use a lawyer word) moot.

For example, the laws regarding being clean/unclean, circumcision, Sabbaths, and feast days were designed to separate Israel ethnically from the surrounding peoples. Now that God has invited all nations into the Kingdom, there’s no need to command ethnic distinctiveness.

On the other hand, God’s grace and election (I know we in the Churches of Christ are uncomfortable talking about election, but it’s a biblical teaching, and we need to get over it) continue, and his promises to Abraham have been fulfilled by inviting all with faith into the Kingdom.

Is the Law opposed to grace? Well, the Law brought grace to Israel. It’s not the opposite of grace. However, Israel was elected and chosen by God before the Law was given.

One punishment for disobedience to the Law was a loss of the land and even loss of God’s redemption and salvation — the Jews could be placed in subjection to other nations and no longer under God’s protective hand. And this very thing happened.

But as God promised in Deuteronomy 30, even if the Jews forfeited God’s promises, God would be faithful to his covenant and would, at the right time, renew his salvation and redemption, give Israel an inheritance, and so all this by changing their hearts himself — by circumcising their hearts.

Later, in several passages, but especially in Ezekiel, God reveals that he’ll do this by pouring out the Holy Spirit, which he did at Pentecost — all as promised in the Mosaic covenant.

God doesn’t repeal his promises. Rather, he’s faithful to them, so faithful that he fulfills them — which he did through Jesus and the establishment of his Kingdom.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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6 Responses to The Story: The Law of Moses (and Grace of God), Part 3 (The Song of Moses)

  1. The “new covenant” is a kainos covenant (rather than a neos covenant), that is, a renewed covenant, not a brand new replacement covenant. Jesus has fulfilled and brought the previous covenants to fruition. He has not repealed them; he’s completed certain elements and renewed other elements.

    This one thought, if accepted and understood, would revolutionize our attitude toward the Old Covenant Scriptures. It always pains me when some well-meaning brother or sister responds to a reference to the Old Testament, “But that’s the Old Testament and that’s been nailed to the cross!”

    This, of course, comes from the KJV mis-translation of Colossians 2:13-14 which is better translated in the ESV,

    And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us,; with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (emphasis added)

    Our indictment consisting of our transgressions is what He nailed to the cross, not the Old Testament.

    Thank you for pointing out the function of the ceremonial law. The sacrificial system prepared the way for the sacrifice of Jesus that fulfilled it. The dietary laws set Israel apart from the nations. The Sabbath, I see as being fulfilled in Jesus as a “rest from all our labors” to save ourselves. I wrote about this here and here. Of course, this “rest” is not a day of the week, but what we have by resting in Jesus now as well as the rest we will enjoy after His return.

  2. laymond says:

    Jay said, “We are elected because we’ve been added to God’s elect nation, not because of our superior righteousness (for we are “a stubborn people”) but because God has chosen us.
    In fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, he re-formed the covenant community to include only those with faith in Jesus, and in so doing, he has re-defined “salvation,” “redemption,” and even the “land” or “inheritance.” ”

    Jay, do we know why we are to have faith in Jesus.? Why our salvation depend on our trust in what Jesus said?
    Jhn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    Jhn 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
    (the word was a part of God, and had forever been a part of God)

    Jhn 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
    Jhn 3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
    Jhn 12:47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
    Jhn 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

    Jhn 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
    Jhn 17:8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

    We have to have faith in what Jesus said, or we don’t have faith in “God’s Word”
    and that same Word will be our judge on that final day.
    “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. “

  3. laymond says:

    Jay said “The “new covenant” is a kainos covenant (rather than a neos covenant), that is, a renewed covenant, not a brand new replacement covenant.”

    Jerry said “This one thought, if accepted and understood, would revolutionize our attitude toward the Old Covenant Scriptures. It always pains me when some well-meaning brother or sister responds to a reference to the Old Testament, “But that’s the Old Testament and that’s been nailed to the cross!”
    This, of course, comes from the KJV mis-translation of Colossians 2:13-14 which is better translated in the ESV,”

    Jerry it must be mis-translated in Jer 31:31 -32 also. even in Hbr 8:8 -13

    Jer 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
    Jer 31:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
    chadash = 1.new, new thing, fresh.
    Jerry I believe Jer 31:32 goes to the length to explain that “the old and the new” are not the same.

    Hbr 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
    kainos = 1.new 1.as respects form1.recently made, fresh, recent, unused, unworn
    2.as respects substance 1.of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of

    Hbr 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

    Jerry if we are to believe the bible, we can’t just make up what we want the bible to say.

  4. laymond says:

    What is a covenant ? lets look at the first mention of the word in written scripture. It was an agreement between God and Noah.

    2.between God and man1.alliance (of friendship)
    2.covenant (divine ordinance with signs or pledges)

    Gen 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
    Gen 6:22 ¶ Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

    God saved Noah and his family from the flood, just like any contract of pledge even today, when that pledge is fulfilled, it no longer has a need.

    God made another covenant with all flesh, which is active even today. because it is everlasting.
    Gen 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

    God made a covenant between Himself and Abraham, God gave Abraham a land of his own, and all Abraham’s decendants were marked as God’s children.
    Gen 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. (Paul said that was no longer valid. )

    If we look back the covenant between God and Abraham has either been fulfilled or done away with.very few covenants were meant to last forever.

  5. Grizz says:

    We never what???

    3rd time in the past 12months … at 3 different assemblies meeting as 3 separate congregations.

    Grizz

  6. The reason we get so queasy about “election” is that we can’t imagine not having personal control of at least SOME facet of our salvation… even if it’s only our decision to believe. The idea that we are not the ultimate “decider” simply rankles the rugged individualist..Most of us still hold to at least some vestige of a personal doctrine which quotes the poet– “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” The Gospel According To “Invictus”.

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