Why God Introduced Rules & Why Jesus Reintroduced Grace

by Rick

We have been in this series, learning from the life of Jesus, for a few months, and we are now just a couple of weeks away from Resurrection Sunday.  I have been sharing messages with you about the importance of the cross and how Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection changed everything!  Today’s message will flow in that same vein.  

So what does this mean for you today?  A few things.

1.  Understanding God’s grace, prior to The Law.

If we look at how God operated in the Old Testament, prior to the Law (prior to Exodus 20), we clearly see a God of Grace. Let’s look at a few examples.

In Exodus 14, when the Lord delivered the Israelites from Egypt, the Israelites complained when they got to the Red Sea. With the sea before them, and Pharaoh’s army behind them, the people complained that Moses had brought them out of Egypt to die. They exhibited no faith in God whatsoever. But God, rich in mercy and grace, opened up the sea, He made the ground at the bottom of the sea dry for them (so they would not get stuck in the mud), and He allowed the Israelites to walk across on dry ground. Once they were safely across, the Lord closed up the sea, destroying Pharaoh and his army. Not only did they come across on dry ground, but God brought them out of Egypt with silver and gold, and the Bible says, “there was not one feeble person among their tribes” (Ps 105:37). This was clearly a grace case.  

In Exodus 15, after the amazing Red Sea experience, Moses led the Israelites for three days without getting to any water. When they finally arrived at Marah, they found water, but it was too bitter to drink. So the people complained again, saying, “What are we to drink?” You would think that they would trust God and be in-faith after the miracle of the Red Sea. But they had no faith, and they were complaining. Did God get angry? No. God led Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water, and the water became sweet. God blessed them, once again, by grace.

In Exodus 16, after the miracles of the Red Sea and the sweet water, the people complained that they were hungry. They started to commiserate about the time they were slaves. The Israelites said to Moses and Aaron, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” The people were once again complaining without exhibiting any faith in God whatsoever. So did God get angry? No! God responded by raining down manna from heaven. God provided supernatural food for the Israelites every day. And on God’s supernatural diet, not one of them got sick. Did God do this because of their faith? No. He did it because of His grace.

In Exodus 17, after everything the Lord had already done for the Israelites in a clearly supernatural way, they complained again. While they were camped at Rephidim, the people complained again about not having water to drink. Even after all they had seen, the people said to Moses, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Moses was so frustrated with their lack of faith that he cried out to the Lord and said, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” And just like that, the Lord provided water for millions of people from a rock. Not because they were in-faith, but because they were complaining. Do you know what that’s called? It’s called GRACE!  

This all happened BEFORE The Law was introduced.

— Mercy is God NOT giving you the bad you do deserve.  

— Grace is God giving you the good you DO NOT deserve.

— Prior to the Law of Moses, we clearly see a God of grace. This is the God Jesus died to get us back to.

— Prior to the Law of Moses, every fresh murmur and complaint from the people led to a fresh outpour of grace from God. Not because they deserved it, but only because of God’s goodness.

— God did not bless the nation of Israel (with deliverance from Egypt, the opening of the Red Sea, sweet water in Marah, manna from heaven, and water from a rock) because they deserved it or earned it. It was not even because they exhibited an inkling of faith. No, God did what He did by grace alone.

— Grace is unearned, undeserved, unmerited, and almost unbelievable. The grace of God seems “almost” too good to be true. But it is true, and our God is a God of grace.

2.  The introduction of The Law changed everything!

We saw how much grace God extended the nation of Israel before the introduction of The Law. Now let’s see what happened once The Law was introduced.

In Exodus 20, the Lord told Moses the 10 Commandments. From Exodus 21-31, the Lord gave Moses a litany of additional laws. In Exodus 32, the Lord wrote the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone with His own finger. But by the time Moses got down from the mountain, with The Law of God on tablets of stone, the people had already violated The Law. They thought Moses was taking too long, so they built a golden calf to be their god, for them to worship.  

Moses was so angry that he said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone—even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.” The only ones who responded were the Levites. They obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day. Then Moses told the Levites, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.”  

I will give you another quick example. In our first point, you saw how much the people complained and how God blessed them with every complaint. This was prior to The Law. After the Law was given, in Numbers 21, we see a completely different response from God. The Bible says, “The people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!” This sounds like the very same complaining we read in the first point, which led to God’s blessings (before the Law). But now, after The Law was given, the Lord pulled back His protection, and poisonous snakes bit those who complained.  They all died. The people then quickly came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people.

a)  The Law brought death.

On the day the Law was introduced, 3,000 people died. No one died before while they were complaining and murmuring to God. But they died once The Law was introduced, and they violated it. Prior to the Law, there were no rules to break. As soon as the rules were given, they were broken. As a matter of fact, the rules were being broken while Moses was still up on the mountain receiving them. Once the Law was given and the rules were broken, the people had to pay for what they did.

b)  The Law brought human effort.  

When the Levites killed 3,000 people on the day the Law was given, Moses told them, “Today you have earned a blessing.” Prior to The Law being given, no one earned anything. Place after place, time after time, God blessed His people by grace. Not because they earned it or deserved it, but only because He is so good. Prior to the Law, when the people were under grace, they did not have to earn anything. But once they were under The Law, they were forced to live by human ability, and they had to work to earn what they wanted to receive from God.  The Law is about man working for God. Grace is about God working for man.  When I was a child, growing up in a very religious church, I thought I had to live under The Law. So I tried my best to earn God’s best, but I never could. Now that I know better and I have embraced grace, I simply access, by faith, all that God has freely given me by grace. Not because I am so good, but because He is. Now my life is not about me; it is All About Him! This is #TheGraceLife Jesus died to give me.

c)  The Law gives sin its strength.  

Paul later taught that the letter (the Law) kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6), that the Law actually gives sin its strength (1 Cor 15:56), and Paul even called the 10 commandments, which was God’s Law etched in stone, “the ministry of death” (2 Cor 3:7). Why? Because the Law was designed to show us that we needed a Savior. The Law was designed to get us (mankind) to the end of ourselves. We could never fulfill the Law. The Law condemns us, but Jesus came to give us access to eternal life and freedom IN HIM by Grace!

3.  The shift to human effort and the shift back to grace.

In our first point today, we saw how Israel murmured and complained a lot. But instead of getting angry and allowing the people to reap a bad harvest from bad seed, the Lord, by His grace, blessed the people richly.  Every fresh complaint from the people was met with a fresh outpour of grace from God. They did nothing right, but God blessed them richly anyway. It was obvious that God was operating by grace. During the time of complaining, not one Israelite died or even got sick. God blessed them, shielded them, protected them, and led them by grace. He provided them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They did not have the Holy Spirit, so He gave them something they could clearly see in order to follow Him. This is yet another example of God’s grace.  

Everything seemed to change in Exodus 19. In verse 6, the Lord said to Moses, “And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.” Notice that the Lord wanted an entire kingdom of priests, not just one tribe of priests like He ultimately got from the Israelites. He wanted every Israelite to have direct contact with Him and to intercede for the world. Moses shared what God said with the people, and their response is found in verse 8. “And all the people responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.” So Moses brought the people’s answer back to the LORD.” At first glance, there does not seem to be anything wrong with their response, but the Hebrew connotation highlights an emphasis on the word “We.” It was as if the people were saying, “Okay, WE are ready to do everything the LORD commands us to do. WE have not really being doing anything yet, but WE are ready to do it now. Put it on US. WE are ready. Judge US according to what WE do.” The problem with that is that they had not done anything but complain to this point. They had not earned or deserved any of what God had done for them, and here they were ready to rely on human effort, where they had only been relying on God’s Grace.

After Exodus 19:8, it seems like the nation of Israel was dealing with a different God. He immediately distanced Himself from them. He told them that if they even touched the mountain where He was meeting with Moses, they would die. He told the people to sanctify themselves for three days and to wash their clothes in order to get ready to hear from Him. God had not required ANYTHING from the people prior to this, but once there was a SHIFT to HUMAN EFFORT, it seems like the rules changed. In the next chapter, the Lord spoke the 10 Commandments to Moses, and He then continued on for three more chapters, providing more rules and regulations.  

In Exodus 24:3, the Bible says, “Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the LORD had given him.” Once again, all the people answered with one voice, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.” There is that word “WE” again. The Lord then proceeded to give eight more chapters of rules and regulations before He wrote His Law on tablets of stone in chapter 32, and we already learned 3,000 people died that day becuase they violated what God had said.  This is certainly not the same agreement Abraham lived under, nor the agreement that was in place prior to Exodus 20. In Exodus 19, there was a shift, and it was a shift FROM GRACE to HUMAN EFFORT.

I have given you a lot to process today. Here are a few final points:

a) Prior to The Law of Moses, God blessed Abraham and all those who followed by grace, and they accessed God’s grace through their faith.

b) Once the Law of Moses was in place, God blessed people in accordance with human effort. If they did good, God released good. If they did bad, God withheld His protection, and they were susceptible to the enemy.  

c) The Law of Moses was designed to show mankind that we are not good enough to ever be righteous on our own. Once that realization set in, mankind would then rely on God to save them from their sin.

d) The Law is perfect, but we are flawed. No human (outside of Jesus) has ever fulfilled the Law.

e) Jesus came to fulfill the Law. We are not perfect, but Jesus was perfect for us.  

f) Once Jesus died, was buried, and resurrected from the dead, He made a way for us to get back under grace. Jesus redeemed us from the curse of The Law. When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we are redeemed from the Law, and we get to embrace grace again.

g) Like Abraham, who was made righteous simply because he believed God, we too are made righteous when we believe. We now get to enjoy all God gives us by grace, and we are to access God’s grace with our faith.     

h) Jesus shifted us BACK from human effort to God’s grace. Therefore, we are delivered from performance-based religion.

Declaration of Faith:  

Father, I thank You for helping me to understand Your amazing grace.  Before The Law was given, You freely blessed Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses by grace.  They did not earn anything, and You blessed them richly.  Not because they were good, but because You are good.  Under The Law, there was a shift to human effort.  Under The Law, You dealt with mankind according to how good we were.  Under The Law, You required us to live by a certain set of rules and regulations.  The Law was designed to get man to the end of himself and to show mankind that we need a Savior.  You sent that Savior, and His name is Jesus.  

Under The Law, I would be condemned because I have not been perfect.  I have violated Your Commandments time and time again.  But Jesus was perfect for me.  Jesus redeemed me from the curse of The Law.  I am now in Christ, and Christ is in me.  I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.  Like Abraham, I am righteous by faith.  Not by works but by faith.  I now receive everything You freely give me by grace, and I access Your grace with my faith.  Living this way, GREATER IS COMING FOR ME!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

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