Grace Frames the Law

An online survey about this art piece included 2,200 participants. They were asked to vote on what they saw. The results were interesting. Sixty-eight percent only saw a trophy with a total of 1,492 votes. The next group saw two faces with 635 votes reported. The last group neither saw a trophy nor two faces, casting 73 votes. They were all given the same object, yet they were divided.

Two questions come to mind. One, were the participants given no instructions to guide them through the process, allowing them to wander and interpret the image according to their limited knowledge of illusionary art? Two, were these illusion enthusiasts told what to look for in the image?

These are questions that merit some answers. So do the questions some people in church may have about grace and the law. Discussions around grace and law continue to pop up unexpectantly in simple conversations in church settings. In Survey of the Old Testament, the eBook I am using for a course with BibleMesh, John Walton writes: “We are used to drawing a sharp contrast between law and grace.” He makes this declaration when speaking about the Law. I searched for answers as I read through the fourth book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy.

Studying the book of Deuteronomy through BibleMesh has given me a different perspective about each book of the Old Testament, especially Deuteronomy. In it, I discovered (my aha! moment) that the grace of God framed the law of Moses. As Professor Walton writes: “In the ancient Near East, gods were not known for their consistency. Worshippers were left to guess…this could change from day to day. That doubt and uncertainly led [a worshiper] to…guess whether he or she was in favor or out of favor by evaluating one’s own fortune. The Law changed all that for the Israelites.”  Favor and consistency emanating from God sets the tone for the legal code given to Moses for God’s people. It is all rooted in God’s intent to set aside a people unto himself. It is all about his unmerited favor toward us: Grace!

“In the New Testament,” Walton says, “if Paul conveyed any disenchantment with the law (e.g., Gal 3) it is only in the sense that the Jews of his time had attempted to make the law a vehicle by which the people of God may be identified (and thus the keeping of it a vehicle for salvation).” Professor Walton offers a great advice to us when he says: “The fact that the law is not an example of the gracious provision of salvation does not mean it should not be considered an act of grace.”

Yahweh gave the law to Moses in a manifestation of his gracious love for Israel. It is by that same grace of God we have been saved through the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. God’s acts of grace through the ages brought blessings upon the covenant people in the Old Testament, but also to those redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I pray we would not be found as divided in surveying God’s love as participants were in figuring out the image above. While surveying the image, the majority could not see the faces framing the trophy. Likewise, I fear a majority of believers may not see grace in the law. Some could see the faces, but not the shape they created. Analogously, may some only have eyes for the law of Moses while overlooking God’s grace? May the Lord help us see his amazing grace shaping our hearts and minds today as much as it did for the Israelites who accepted Yahweh’s gracious law.

May we no longer find ourselves divided over concepts of grace and law, but united in the spirit and purpose of the law—to make us a holy nation unto the Lord.

Teodosia Rivera is a student at the BibleMesh Institute.