This week, we began a new series called “Oil and Water.” In this series, we will be learning how to identify law living versus grace living and avoiding trying to live by a mixture of the two. If we live by law, we expect curse to come if we don’t follow things just right (or blame a failure to live perfectly for bad stuff that comes our way). This is not what grace is about. Just like oil and water, grace and law do not mix. At first, we spent some time answering the question, “if the law is so bad, why did God bring it in the first place.” It may seem like we bash the law, but, as the apostle Paul said, the law is pure and holy. The law itself is not the problem. On this side of the cross, if we use it for the wrong purpose, it brings death. The law is good, but it cannot justify us or make us righteous. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can do that!
We can find all the way back in Genesis 5 that God’s ultimate plan was never the law, but redemption by His Son. Now, it is not clearly there on the page, but it is there if we will look for it. You see, we can often read lists of genealogies in the Bible and not know why it was so important for them to be there. First of all, they help us establish the timeline and the authenticity of the people spoken of. It is not just a list of stories, but an ongoing account of man. But here in Genesis 5, where we have a lineage going from Adam to Noah, we can actually find a lot more if we examine all of the names of those mentioned in their original Hebrew. Some of these names are direct Hebrew root words and some are made up of multiple words – as is the case with proper names.
Seth = Appointed
Enosh = Mortal
Kenan = Sorrow
Mahalalel = The Blessed God
Jared = Shall Come Down
Enoch = Teaching
Methuselah = His Death Shall Bring
Lamech = The Despairing
Noah = Rest or Comfort
Put it together and you would get (my words added in parenthesis): Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow. The blessed God shall come down teaching (and) His death shall bring the despairing comfort and rest.
Wow! Some have claimed that the Hebrew rabbis had conspired together and wrote the Old Testament to say what they wanted it to say. I can’t believe for a minute that some ancient rabbis conspired to hide the Gospel of Jesus in Genesis 5!
There are many interesting things about the people in this lineage. One that is striking is that Enoch was the first “prophet.” He prophesied by God that destruction would come to the earth when his child died (Methuselah). Of course, Methuselah’s name meant “his death shall bring.” What is so indicative of the nature of God is that, in His mercy, Methuselah became the longest person to live at 969 years. God’s mercy lasted longer than anyone on earth has ever lived. That is good news for you and I!
If Jesus was the plan from the beginning, then why didn’t God send Him right after the fall in the Garden, or instead of the flood of Noah’s day, or instead of the law? God had a plan and, until it was complete, we were not ready for Jesus to come. He couldn’t have done the complete work He did until these other things happened.
In Noah’s day, God physically destroyed the earth because all of man’s thoughts and intents had become evil. Keep in mind that there was no law at that time. There wasn’t anything that defined sin. So, was it unfair for Him to destroy the earth? It was actually an act of mercy. You see, apart from law we can be right before God, but sin still destroys everything in its path. God had to stop the spread of sin’s destruction until a better solution was ready.
Fast forward to Moses’ day. Why doesn’t God send Jesus instead of the law? Once again, it was not yet time. Man was not ready. The law came to show us what it takes to be holy before God through works. In Exodus 19:8, after Moses’ first conversation with God on
, Moses is to
present the idea of law to the people. The people respond by saying “we will
do” all that He asks. On the surface, we
may not read much into that response. But, when we look at the Hebrew, we find
a little more information. The Hebrew word for the phrase, “we will do,” was
ASAH. This word was used in Genesis 1 during creation. When God spoke to
nothing to create something, the word was BARA. But when He spoke to something
and tell it to produce something else, the word was ASAH. Mt.
In effect, what the Israelites were saying is, we can make our own way. To understand this response better, we should look back over the scriptures leading up to this statement. In Exodus 14, they grumbled against God because it looked like the Egyptians were going to capture them and take them back to
. God DID NOT
rebuke them for this (remember, there was no law yet) but delivered them by
parting the Egypt Red Sea. In Exodus 16, they grumbled against God
because they were thirsty and could not find water. Again, God did not rebuke
them and provided water through Moses striking a rock. There is a similar
situation regarding eating in Exodus 17, and God’s response was the same – no
rebuke, but He still met the need.
The Israelite people had gotten to a place that, despite miracle after miracle happening before their eyes, they felt God was not taking very good care of them. I believe they thought that keeping whatever list of commands He was going to give would OBLIGATE Him to treat them better. They would be treated based on what they deserved! Boy, were they in for a surprise! God had been dealing with them by grace (apart from law), but as soon as law came things changed. Now, God rebuked them when they sinned. We should all be happy we do not get what we deserve. Sometimes, if we live in law, we try to use following a list of laws to say “now God you must…”, but we only use that for the positive things and forget all the negative things that means we deserve when we fall short. Any time we fall short of God’s best for us (don’t eat right, smoke, etc.), we are sinning. This becomes extremely difficult. The law shows us just what it takes to be holy and righteous before God by works. It shows us that it is impossible. This is what God needed man to understand before Jesus came. We had to get to the place that we knew we could not do it, that we needed a savior! Romans 7 sums all this up. The law showed us what was right and wrong, and also showed us that we could not do it on our own. We knew we needed a Savior because of the law.
Romans 5 shows us the answer. Now, Jesus has made us righteous. We must receive that righteousness apart from the law. Only then will we be empowered by His grace to begin to more closely resemble the law’s righteous picture. Christ in us, the only one who could fulfill the law, is what gives us the strength to, day by day, more closely resemble that righteous picture.