Thursday, September 22, 2011

Relation vs, Religion or Grace vs. Law

Psalm 103:7-14 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:  The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 

We often associate Moses with the law and Christ with grace. But grace was there all along. David in this psalm says that God has made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. What are these ways and deeds? Well, it is enumerated by David thus:

1) "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love": This is not the typical angry and wrathful God we associate with the God of the Old Testament. (One wisecrack says: "The OT describes the time before God became a Christian.") But here David attributes compassion, grace, patience and love to the God of Moses and Israel.

2) "He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities": The OT God is a forgiving God and ever ready to forgive Israel of their sins. The judgments we read in the OT came to Israel not because God is not forgiving but because Israel was "stiff-necked" and refused to repent despite repeated calls by her prophets to turn from their wicked ways. So, when judgments fell on Israel, it was not because God was not gracious or forgiving but Israel refused to receive God's grace, preferring to be justified by the law. In Exodus 20:18-19, when the people saw the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai, they were afraid: "They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.'" They prefer God speaking second hand (through the laws of Moses) rather than directly (face to face). So Israel missed intimacy with a gracious face of God. They chose RELIGION over RELATIONSHIP.

3) "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust":  God's attitude towards Israel is like a father towards his children. The God of Israel is not the God of wars and conquests but the God of compassion like earthly fathers in their attitude towards their children. Yes, there will be times when there is a call for discipline of the children but it is the discipline of a loving Father, not of a petulant deity.

So when Jesus came to reveal God as Abba, Father, He was not saying anything that was unfamiliar to the Jews. They did not reject Jesus because of his concept of God as Father, but they rejected him because He claimed special relationship with God as Son. He came to restore the RELATIONSHIP of grace between Israel and God; instead, they chose to continue with their RELIGION of rites and rituals based on Moses' laws (Judaism) and rejected RELATIONSHIP of grace and love (Christianity). Even today, Israel prefers religion to relationship. As long as a person prefers religion to relationship, he will not choose Christ, for Christ means intimacy with God.

Father, open our eyes to Your gracious love so that we may have a relationship with You founded on grace, not a religion founded on law. Amen.

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