I began a project this year - to read through the Old Testament, looking for Grace Sightings! Since Jesus Christ was the plan of God from before the foundation of the world, it stands to reason that the Old Covenant must be replete with shadows and glimpses and outright sightings of grace-gospel.
Oh, it is. I've always known this, on a basic level. I've been well taught in the types and shadows found in the laws and feasts. But I began to think there had to be so much more.
Oh, there is. So much so, in fact, I often wonder if I have not bitten off far more than I can chew. The law was set in place to magnify grace. Grace was in place before the law. The gospel of grace is hinted at...oh, long about Genesis 1 and 2. God gives dominion to human beings He knows are going to blow it, and blow it almost instantly. He blesses them...
But I really want to talk about Abraham. After all this time, inching along, looking for glimpses of the grace message hiding behind every Old Testament olive branch, shimmering through every rainbow, warning me about my self effort through a tower (self effort results in relational disconnect) - after all this time, I'm not even half way through Genesis.
I've come up with quite a few sightings - and then I come to father Abraham. Here, grace is more than glimpsed. God displays it openly.
Yet people read of Abraham, and still come away with whack-job notions about Christian perfection. And no wonder...a mere human being must approach God's revelation of Himself with great humility, knowing that he has to have supernatural revelation, or he will get the wrong idea.
I will say this - revelation and patient scholarship are required to understand the picture of grace painted in the Old Covenant well enough to teach it. If you understood it quickly, if you were taught this stuff piecemeal, here a little and there a little, you didn't understand it well.
Do you need to understand the gospel intricately to be saved? Not at all. Believe in your heart the Lord Jesus, and confess with your mouth, and you'll be saved. You don't have to have a grasp on all the shadows of grace found in the Old Covenant to be saved.
I will say this too - it is far better to receive grace by faith first. Then, you seek to understand Old Covenant in the light of grace....veil removed. Not the other way around. You do not first put your trust in the law, and then look for the grace of God hidden within its types and shadows. You usually won't find it. That darn veil.
Genesis 17:1 - "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect."
At first glance, every single one of us reads this and comes away with the idea that we, too, have to modify our behavior and improve ourselves.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. As I began to study, in the light of the gospel of grace, trusting that Jesus Christ was the plan of God from before the foundation of the world, believing that "before Abraham was, I AM", I began to see what was hidden from me before.
God was not giving Abram a moral imperative here! He was, in fact, giving Abram an impartation of divine grace. God said to Abram, in effect, "I am God all by Myself, needing nothing. Therefore, walk before me in that state of completeness."
"Be thou" perfect - much like "be thou" made whole.
Circumcision was a token of the covenant of grace being made with Abram (verse 11 of chapter 17). Circumcision was not itself the covenant. Works are incompatible with faith, they are not a condition for the gift of righteousness which is by faith. Rather, they are a token of a far greater reality which is beyond any one's ability to merit.
Then, and only then, after more prayer and thought and study of the original Hebrew wording, I checked out the commentaries.
Clarke's commentary on Genesis 17: "Ten thousand quibbles on insulated texts can never lessen, much less destroy, the merit and efficacy of the Great Atonement!"
Here is some language study: "Be thou perfect" in Hebrew (vowels added to make it easier on us Gentiles) - "Vehyeh thamim", which properly translated is "and thou shalt be perfection."
"I am God Almighty, Abram. Take the next step believing Me, and you will be made perfect. By Me. All by Myself. I will make you complete. Lacking nothing."
Another commentary: "God can and must do everything. No movements or workings of nature are of avail; everything that is for God must be affected by His mighty power. Now if we walk before Him in this sense, we shall be perfect. We shall come into the good of His covenant, and obtain spiritual promotion, and we shall be prepared to accept circumcision; we shall (then) have no confidence in the flesh."
Circumcision was not a token of stout moral willpower. Just the opposite! It was a type and shadow of you and I having no confidence in our own ability. Please, please see circumcision in the light of Biblical context!
Context, context! What had just happened?
In the previous chapter, Abram had just used his male "organ" to obtain The Blessing through his own efforts. Result: Ishmael.
How vivid of our God to make His covenant of grace with Abram, and to decree that the token of this covenant be that the very part of his flesh he used to obtain God's blessing, be the very part that gets....ah, "incapacitated".
We are Abraham's seed truly, who put no confidence in the flesh, to keep the law. Our flesh is "cut off". Just as father Abraham's was. Our circumcision is of the heart - our seat of ambition and motive. In our very heart of hearts, we acknowlege our utter ineptitude to improve ourselves, or to "make of ourselves" anything - all we have, in terms of salvation, education, income, ability, all of it is grace.
God alone is "Maker". It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.
Friends, there is no more a blessing for keeping the law. No one was ever blessed for keeping it. Rather, they came under the curse that comes with not keeping it. In fact, it is the same curse in force to this day, for all who put themselves under the law, to attempt to obtain any level of righteousness by self improvement.
Read your Old Testament without the veil on your head.