Law, Grace, and Rescuing Moses from Exile, Pt 3

Zeus-blog-post-keep-calm-follow-the-rulesThe other day I realized I was taking the easy way out on disciplining our oldest daughter. Multiple times during the day I had verbally warned her about her behavior and, in particular, her newfound skill at pushing the limits of our patience and our enforcement of house rules. As these episodes of bending and flexing our “rules” piled on, I expressed my frustration with her willful violations of our rules.

Then I caught myself. I was doing the easy thing of harping on rules and, hence, communicating to her that what really matters is “don’t break the rules.” This can easily translate into, “I can do whatever I want so long as the letter of the rule is not violated” – which, in fact, is what she was doing even if she didn’t realize it. So I talked with her and tried to explain as best I could to a 3.5 year old that it wasn’t about the rules themselves, but rather that she develop a heart of willful, joyful obedience which yields blessing. The rules are important, for they give shape and structure to help her learn what this heart obedience is really like, but what we as parents are after is not in itself rule-keeping, but a soft heart.

Once again, our experience as parents provides a gateway into understanding how God relates to us as our Father, for within the Covenant of Grace (of which our family structure is, in a sense, a dim reflection) the same basic principle applies.

In the prior two posts on the Mosaic Covenant, I set forth (a) two views about this administration (either that it is fundamentally un-gracious and a republished covenant of works, or that it is fully in line with the broader Covenant of Grace) and (b) my argument that there are more similarities than differences in structure between the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants, implying a closer connection than is often granted.

In this third installment of the series, I will deal with two crucial aspects of the legislation at Sinai that so often get muddled when folks try to understand the relationship of law (which is always seen as “bad”) and grace (which is, of course, good).

  1. First, I will outline the “three types law” (ceremonial, civil, and moral) in the Mosaic Covenant (not to be confused with the related framework of the three uses [civil, moral, pedagogical] of the law). These categories are well known, but I hope briefly to demonstrate how grace suffuses all three.
  2. Second, I will seek to place my finger on the pulse of the heart-level obedience (not mere rule-keeping) that lies at the core of the Mosaic Covenant.

Three Types of Law, and Their Relationship to Grace

The laws given to Moses at Sinai can be generally assigned to three categories based on their content: ceremonial, civil, and moral. The ceremonial governs the worship system of sacrifices, feasts, and so forth (“cultus”); the civil governs the national / theocratic government of the nation of Israel; and the moral governs norms of behavior that, in principle, extend beyond Israel.[1]

In mainstream covenant theology (and in the pulpit), attention is typically given solely to the abrogation of the first two and the pedagogical use of the third.[2] However, given that all three categories of law are the very things in question when dealing with the nature of the Mosaic covenant, Moses’ own view of them would naturally indicate whether he understands the legislation, whether the whole or certain categories, as continuing the Covenant of Grace or imposing a merit-based path to justification.

(1) The Ceremonial law
First of all, Moses summarizes the key issue addressed by the ceremonial law when he states, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2). Given this axiom, sin among God’s people violates God’s holiness and is, thus, the barrier that keeps God’s chosen people from perfectly worshipping him. Moses then describes in significant detail the means through which God intervenes to provide a way – the tabernacle and the sacrificial system – for him to “dwell among them” once again (Exod 25:8).

God’s relationship to the tabernacle is instructive:

  • God condescends to provide the pattern (Exod 25:9, 40; 26:30)
  • God arranges a way to “meet with you [Moses] and give you all my commands” (Exod 25:22)
  • God consecrates sinful humans so that “they may serve me as priests” (Exod 29:1ff.)
  • God provides a means for the community to participate in and contribute to God’s worship at the tabernacle (Exod 35)
  • And, climactically, God establishes his intimate and glorious presence among the people (Exod 40:34)[3]
Grace even here
Grace even here

Moses presents the tabernacle not as something the Israelites have to build and preserve in order to earn God’s presence; rather, everything about the tabernacle emphasizes God’s grace in giving it as a physical means of effecting his presence: “I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting … Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.” (Exod 30:44–45). In other words, the tabernacle serves to bring about a temporal, local, and tangible (even “incarnational”?) fulfillment of the Immanuel Principle lying at the center of the Covenant of Grace: “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (see the following verses for a variety of ways this principle is expressed: Gen 12:1–3; Gen 17:8; Exod 6:7; Exod 29:45; Lev 26:11–12; Deut 7:6; Deut 14:2; Deut 27:9; Deut 29:13).

Moreover, when he outlines the extensive stipulations of the sacrificial cultus pertaining to sin offerings, guilt offerings, burnt offerings, and the like, Moses consistently indicates his awareness that the sacrifices were God’s gracious provision to deal with the fundamental problem of sin[4]:

    • God himself defines the procedures (Lev 1:1)
    • God ordains and permits sin to be imputed to a vicarious substitute (Lev 1:4; 16:21, etc.)
    • God allows the substitute to receive the death penalty for the sinner (e.g., Lev 4)
    • God declares himself satisfied with the atoning blood of the creature (Lev 17:11)[5]
    • God accepts the application of the blood of atonement (Lev 8:23)
    • God carries the sin from the people (Lev 16:22)
    • God extends forgiveness as a result of the sacrifices (Lev 4:26–31; etc.)
    • God pronounces the people clean (Lev 16:30)
    • And God restores fellowship with them (e.g., Lev 3).

That is to say, God provides an exhaustive (even if exhausting!) means for dealing with individual, corporate, priestly, intentional and unintentional, specific and general sin. We need not miss how this is a profoundly gracious condescension of God in the eyes of Moses: “the Lord has commanded [this] to be done to make atonement for you” (Lev 8:34). Yes, he “commanded” it, but think of the grace that Moses countrymen would have perceived in the cultus: God has provided atonement! He has made a way to deal with sin so that we can worship him again! The other gods in Egypt (or, later, in Canaan) want to devour our children and manipulate us and crush us. Yahweh, the true God, has made a better way.

From a NT perspective, the ceremonial system in all its typological detail receives is fulfillment in the antitype of Christ.[6] However, its termination in Christ does not make it ungracious or contrary to faith, but in fact the opposite. By definition the Israelites were to look by faith to the substitutionary, propitiatory nature of the cultus, which prefigured the final, sufficient, infinitely worthy Messianic sacrifice to come, as the instrument by which they appropriated their justification – not to their performance of said sacrifices.[7] Though shadowy, temporary, and imperfect, the cultus provided a real way to deal with sin.[8]

(2) The Civil law
The civil law is one of the most overlooked aspects of the Mosaic covenant; rather than a vehicle for grace, it it seen as the epitome of works – perplexing, arbitrary, and arcane. However, a closer look at how Moses outlines the judicial, governmental, purity, cleanliness, and other laws governing the nation demonstrates their “inner rationale” as reflecting the “order that is required as part of [Israel’s] submission to God.”9

First, the provisions for the judicial system, kingship, prophethood, cities of refuge, and so forth reflect three ideas: the centrality of God himself and his word (Deut 17:18ff.; 18:22), the sovereignty of God in directing the life of the community (Lev 17:18,15; 18:18), and the overarching goal of purging evil from the community (Lev 17:7,12; 18:13).[10] In short, Moses’ political legislation is pervaded by God’s gracious initiation to constitute and govern his beloved people.

Second, the persistent motif among all the purity and cleanliness stipulations is that of building and purifying the covenant people. The Covenant of Grace that establishes the community is assumed when Moses describes the requisite purity laws. It is because of their covenant status – “I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore … You shall not defile yourselves …” (Lev 11:44, emphasis added) – that specific foods (Lev 11:1–23), bodily emissions (Lev 12; 14), skin diseases (13:1–46), mildew (Lev 13:47–59), discharges (Lev 15), and so forth can make them unclean to begin with. In cases of uncleanness, the punishment of isolation from the covenant community (e.g., Lev 13:4) further drives home that impurity impacts community. Obedience to these laws does not earn one’s way into the community but rather preserves its integrity.[11]

Though these laws are deprecated with the passing of Israel as a theocratic nation,[12] the civil laws in context demonstrate God’s gracious intent of structuring a community within which his gracious promise can be worked out in time.[13]

(3) The Moral law

(Moses didn't write in English)
(Moses didn’t write in English)

Finally, the moral laws, as summarized in the Decalogue, reflect the ethical holiness of the law-giver and are conceived by Moses as precepts guiding covenant life, not as a covenant of works regarding the earning of eternal life.14

Prior to receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses indicates his awareness that he must “Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live” (Exod 18:20 NIV). It is important to observe that this statement is a significant pre-Sinaitic reference to observing decrees and laws. Before the giving of the Mosaic covenant proper, there is clearly a presupposition regarding obedience to law; in other words, the giving of laws was not an intrusion of a foreign concept into a completely law-less Abrahamic administration; rather, law-keeping was a part of the Abrahamic Covenant and received greater clarity and detail at Sinai.

Moreover, the Israelites are being transformed into “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod 19:6) through obeying God’s instructions on the the way to live. Moses describes how God approaches a people in covenant already (Exod 20:2) and formally imparts to them moral obligations with respect to him and to each other. It is not: “have no other gods before me” nor “make for yourself a carved image” (20:3,4) and only then will “I [be] the Lord your God” (20:2), but the other way around. Moses emphasizes that the commands to obey stem from and are given their purpose by the covenanting God himself. This is precisely the situation I faced with my daughter, as mentioned above.

Two examples will suffice. The Sabbath is not a meritorious command, but a “sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you” (Exod 31:13). The fourth commandment, then, arises from God’s initiative to sanctify the people and make them holy. The Sabbath is holy to them already, and for this reason, they are to observe it: Moses writes, “You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you” (Exod 31:14, emphasis added).[15]

A similar principle applies to the human-related commandments (five through ten): when Moses explicates these laws in further detail in Leviticus 19, he summarizes, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:18). This summary of the moral law is quite revealing of Moses’ understanding of its inner intent: (i) Yahweh is the covenant God, (ii) his “own people” are in covenant relationship with him and each other, and (iii) on that basis, they are to love one another. This is a gospel principle that is not read into the OT simply because Jesus quoted it – it appears to be gospel in Moses’ mind as well.

Summary
In sum, Moses’ own description of the unfolding of the ceremonial, civil, and moral law reveals that “the law already showed the nature of redemption [in setting] forth the holiness of God and the standard to which humans beings are to conform.”[16] Each aspect of the law, whether abrogated in Christ (ceremonial), terminated in historical applicability (civil), or ongoing in some sort of binding way (moral), is presented by Moses as permeated by the principles of grace consistent with all other covenant administrations: God’s sovereign initiative to save and preserve the community he has redeemed to himself.

Obedience, Disobedience, and the Heart

In conjunction with their tendency to overemphasize the presence of conditions in the Mosaic covenant in aligning it with the Covenant of Works, the various proponents of the opposing theories often find a sense of merit (that is, earning justification by works) in the elements of obedience and disobedience present in the law.[17] However, Moses’ own view of covenantal obedience further supports the traditional view that the Mosaic covenant is not of works, but of grace, fully in keeping with Adam, Noah, and Abraham before him.

(1) Covenant obedience
First of all, Moses articulates numerous ways in which obeying God’s law issues forth in God’s blessing and approval. God, having redeemed his people, is certainly pleased with obedience. Several passages illustrate the fruit of keeping the law. In Exod 19:5, God says, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples.” In the Decalogue, God declares that he will “show steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod 20:6). In declaring Holy War on Canaan, God states, “If you carefully obey my voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries” (Exod 23:22; see also Lev 20:22). Lev 26:1–13 and Deut 28:1–14 outline the rewards for obedience, including physical blessings such as rain and agricultural plenty, military success, reproductive fertility, and security in the land. Throughout these passages, the call to obedience and the resultant blessings have both individual and national dimensions, which one would expect given the “corporate personality” of ancient Israel.[18] To Moses individual obedience is integrally related to the communal context. While some proponents of the “republication” view see this communal context as further reason to cut Moses off from the ostensibly more individualistic (=Protestant) view of Abraham, a closer reading shows that the situation with Moses is no different than that faced by Noah or Abraham, in which covenant obedience has individual (Gen 6:8, 15:6) and corporate (Gen 7:1, Gen 17:23ff) dimensions.[19]

The most striking words – picked up by Paul in Romans 10 and Galatians 3[20] – that have generated the hottest debate are these: God states, “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them” (Lev 18:5).

Even here, however, there are strong connections with the antecedent stage of the Covenant of Grace. When God affirms his covenant with Abraham, he says, in an oft-overlooked passage, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Gen 18:19; emphasis added). The pattern is thus: on the basis of the covenant in which Abraham has been placed (“chosen”), God instructs Abraham and his family to obey / keep the “way of the Lord” in righteousness and justice – two key categories of Mosaic law – “so that the promises of the covenant may be received. For Abraham, while the promises are indeed eternally secure, he and his family must walk in obedience as a response to God’s electing love in order for the blessings to be appropriated in reality; in other words, the bridge from the ideal promise to its actualization is obedience.

With Moses, the very same situation is prevalent. Taking as an example this contentious passage of Lev 18:5, God twice reiterates his covenant name “Lord” (YHWH; 18:1,4), references their deliverance from Egypt, guarantees his deliverance of the people into Canaan as he had promised (18:3), and explains that obedience is necessary to prevent them from becoming like the Canaanites and polluting their covenant status. Only after this does God say that “if a person does [these statutes], he will live by them” (v. 5). In context, the “living” referenced is not simply the issue of justification, but refers clearly to their reception of the entirety of covenant blessings in a land of pagans (v. 3). Death comes from “walk[ing] in their statutes,” but life comes from “keep[ing] my statutes.” This situation is the same as that faced by Abraham. Moses’ view of obedience is simply this: by fact of their relationship with a covenant God, the Israelites are to obey as the means by which the promised blessings are received in the historical outworking of the covenant. Obedience is not a merit principle to enter or stay in the covenant; it is a response to an existing covenant relationship.[21]

(2) Covenant disobedience
There are two levels of covenant disobedience implied in the Mosaic covenant: covenant-breaking of the apostate that results in a removal from the covenant community,[22] and a type of disobedience that results in discipline but not the full rescission of the covenant. When Moses discusses the latter category of covenant disobedience, he continually offers out the hope that God’s fundamental gracious disposition towards his people remains despite the sins of his people. For instance, in Num 14, after another serious case of the Israelites’ rebellion against God and Moses’ leadership, Moses asks God to forgive and spare them; God replies, “‘I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live … none of those who despised me shall see’” the promised land (Num 14:20–23). God offers real forgiveness for their disobedience, yet their actions still have consequences. Furthermore, even when he pronounces extensive covenant curses for Israel’s future disobedience (Lev 26:14–39; Deut 28:15–68), God does two notable things to illustrate that his covenant of love will endure. He promises that in the future‘I will remember my covenant … I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant,’” if they repent of their sins (Lev 26:40, 42–45); and in the present he confirms this promise by renewing the covenant with Israel at Moab (Deut 29). These patterns illustrate that Moses has a full understanding of disobedience: the Israelites would disobey, and many of them to destruction, but God’s abiding purpose would stand. As such, Moses is squarely in line with Abraham.[23] Ishmael, the son conceived out of faithlessness, is excluded from the promise as a covenant-breaker (Gen 16:12); however, God preserves his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even Lot despite many acts of disobedience, offering forgiveness again and again.

(3) The heart
This comparison of the principles of obedience and disobedience embodied in the Mosaic legislation and the covenant of Abraham highlights a critical area of continuity: God’s focus on the spiritual, heart dimension of Covenant of Grace.

Moses reveals that the fundamental issue is heart commitment to God. He is speaking in gospel terminology when he states, “Teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you” (Exod 33:13), for the only true hope of Israel is not keeping the law but in “your going with us” (33:16). Moses’ heart is to know the laws of God and thus abide in God’s presence, and God promises, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exod 33:14 NIV).

Later, Moses summarizes the law’s underlying focus on the heart by saying, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart’” (Deut 6:5).[24]

Finally, in terms quite consistent with the later prophetic and Pauline usage,[25] Moses writes in Deut 10:16 and 30:6 that God will circumcise the hearts of his people, applying the external Abrahamic rite to the spiritual realm.

Summary
Therefore, while Moses speaks in extreme length about the imperatives of the law, the requirement of obedience, and the punishment for disobedience, he does so while maintaining an overarching perspective that Israel’s actions are to be the overflow of hearts that are changed by God’s covenant graciousness.

Connecting to the pew

Live from Heathrow airport, let me outline a few ways in which the preceding (overly long, I admit) discussion may be brought to bear on the life of the Christian.

  • God is far more gracious than we can ever imagine. What struck me most as I pursued this study is the fact that, even in the place where we would MOST likely expect to find the wrath, sternness, and utter distanciation of God – the law of Moses given in thunder and fire at Mount Sinai – we actually find something far more complex. Yes, God is Holy and terrifying … but he is also profoundly, deeply gracious. His all-controlling purpose is saturated with a gracious disposition towards us, even in law. Woven into the multi-faceted law element of the Covenant of Moses is the God of Israel who has redeemed his people, covenanted with them, provided a means of atonement, preserved them as a community, and set them apart from the world. And WE are those people. Even in law there is grace – even in law there is a gospel message.
  • Obedience is actually rest. I love how Moses talks about his fear of obeying God in leading Israel if God were not going to be present with him. The striking thing about the Mosaic Covenant, when you really look into it, is how it portrays obedience fundamentally as rest. When we realize that God has condescended to redeem us from sin and destruction, and when we rest in that reality, we will obey from the heart. Not always, of course, but in general a heart that rests in God’s grace will irresistibly desire to obey the God who has offered that grace. That’s the beautiful thing to see in disciplining one’s children. Once they realize it’s not about the rules, once they can rest in the reality of your love (even the imperfect love of a human father), they can rest from their rebellion and trust that obedience is better and more desirable than disobedience. A restful heart (super)naturally obeys because the whole conundrum of merit and earning things and legalism is just no longer relevant.
  • The gospel of the OT is a real gospel. I believe what has gotten lost in a lot of the debate about the Mosaic Covenant (republished works covenant vs. covenant of grace) and, by implication, the justification-sanctification-grace debates is the truth that the OT, in its own context, is real gospel truth. A half-built bridge that is a shadow on the “other side” of the cross –yes. But still full of the revelation of God’s grace and the anticipation of the gospel of Christ. In other words, the “Judaism” with which Paul is dealing in his treatments of law / grace / works / merit and so forth IS NOT the same thing as the faith of the OT saints. First century Judaism is a complex thing, but it is not to be equated with the Mosaic administration of the Torah. Once we grasp that difference, it becomes easier to identify and internalize the profound connectivity between the anticipatory-gospel of the OT (Adam to Abraham to Moses to David and beyond) and the inaugurated-gospel of the NT. They are two halves to one Covenant of Grace. Fully recognizing the gracious contours of the Mosaic law will help clarify what works in the Judaism of Paul’s day was and was not – hopefully adding light to a range of debates often characterized by smoke (and hurt feelings / reputations).

______________________
Footnotes:

1 See Ferry, “Taxonomy,” 82-83 for an outline of the three types of law.

2 “Pedagogical use” generally refers to the function the law plays in exposing our sin and driving us to Christ. Nothing I will say in the ensuing questions this key Pauline framework in the slightest; rather, I am hoping to shed some light on the fact that the pedagogical use is not the ONLY use of the law. Such imbalance has played a huge role in the current debates in Reformed circles about grace, justification, sanctification, sonship theology, etc.

3 Vern S. Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1991), 35, 106.

4 Ibid., 42.

5 In Exodus he also describes how the sacrifices procure a “ransom for his life” to pay for sin (Exod 30:12).

6 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), xxi.

7 WLC 34: “The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.”

8 It is here that one can clearly notice a key problem of the republication theorem: if Israel was “in some sense” required to earn something by a works principle embedded in the sacrificial cultus, what does that do to the NT believer’s relationship to Christ as the antitype of the cultus? Is the works element typological as well?

9 Poythress, Shadow, 80.

10 For instance, God will “choose” the place to deal with difficult cases, “choose” the king, give lengthy reign to the king who follows his law, “raise up” the prophets, give Israel land for cities of refuge, and “purge the evil from Israel.”

11 It is interesting to note that circumcision, so key to the Abrahamic covenant and the visible designation of Israel, is mentioned very rarely in the Mosaic law; the only substantive command regarding circumcision on the eighth day comes in the context of other purity laws (Lev 12:3). Thus, Moses is indicating some sort of close relationship between this covenant sign / seal and the purity that God desires for his people.

12 Ferry, “Taxonomy,” 83.

13 Kline, Structure, 52. He illustrates how Hittite treaty forms often include stipulations relating to the boundaries of the vassal kingdom, its national policies, and various other civilly-oriented laws; “This community-structuring or constitutional character of Old Testament law” reflects the ANE treaty norms.

14 Contra many shades of the the republication view; cf., Ferry, “Taxonomy,” 91-92.

15 The harshness of the penalties for disobedience (e.g., in this case, death or cutting off) has no bearing on its fundamental gracious nature, for any heightening of moral commands does not make it a works-principle but, rather, furthers the goal of separating God’s people from the dangers of prevalent wickedness.

16 Poythress, Shadow, 106-107.

17 Brian D. Estelle, “Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 30:1-14 in Biblical Theological Development,” in Estelle, et. al., Law, 130. He writes, for instance, “a works principle in the old covenant was operative in some sense because … it was a fracturable covenant.”

18 Jeph Holloway, “The Ethical Dilemma of Holy War,” SJT 41 (1998), 61.

19 Noah’s and Abraham’s obedience had a personal element (based on God’s electing grace), but the obligations to enter the ark or bear the sign of circumcision, respectively, extended to their families, which were prototypes of the larger nation of Moses’ day. Moreover, contrary to the perspective that holds that the Mosaic covenant is a bisected (Beckwith, “Unity and Diversity,” 104) or is somehow not gracious due to the national or physical character of the blessings, the blessings offered to Moses and Israel for their covenant obedience are essentially the same as those offered in prior or future covenant administrations: security of land, descendents, preservation of the community, and so forth. For example, for Noah, Abraham, and Moses, the promise of stability of the dwelling of the people is offered as a covenant blessing, pointing, of course, to the eschatological inheritance.

20 Space does not permit treatment of the Pauline usage of this verse in particular; briefly, however, it is clear that Paul builds his “negative” case for the law by utilizing the pedagogical aspect of this verse. Elsewhere, Paul maintains a more “positive” view of the law and obedience of faith, which is often overlooked.

21 Ramsey, “Defense,” 384. He writes, “Kline and Karlberg assert that the blessings and curses … of the Mosaic Covenant in particular refer to the works-inheritance principle, and are antithetical to the Covenant of Grace and were abrogated by the coming of Christ. The Confession, on the other hand, believes that they are part of the Covenant of Grace and applicable to the New Testament believer.”

22 Numerous examples illustrate this principle, such as the stoning of Israelites who give their children to Molech (Lev 20:2); such flagrant violations of God’s commands result in permanent removal from the covenant. The NT equivalent of this scenario is illustrated by Heb 5:6:1–8. See Bruce, Hebrews, 144ff.

23 As well as Noah; Ham / Canaan would be treated as covenant breakers while Noah, Shem, and Japheth would be preserved in grace despite their sinful deeds.

24 It is also true that in v. 25, Moses also writes, “it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God,” which some might suggest demonstrates a justification by works. However, in light of the context in which Moses describes God’s unilateral, gracious actions (v. 20-23) and the imperative of love, it is clear that this statement can equally, if not preferably, be interpreted as a demonstration of God’s imputed righteousness through obedience, not an earning of righteousness, in the sense of James 2:14ff.

25 Cf., Jeremiah 4:4, 9:26; Ezek 44:7, 9; Rom 2:29.

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