“…and the Law-giving and the service of God….…” (Romans 9:4).
The giving of the Law was one of the key events in the history of mankind, although most Christians tend to deride its significance. In the giving of the Law, a moral light shone for the first time upon the darkness that was the inhabited world. Before the giving of the Law, the word of the ruling man amongst the various tribes was the law; but it was a law without justice and without mercy.
Moreover, the Law given to Israel was a revelation of the holiness of God and a transcript of His purposes and intentions and His desires. While it was not the Light of Life, it was a necessary precursor to that Light, being intended as a schoolmaster to lead His people to Christ (Galatians 3:24).
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “…the letter kills but the spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). This is often use as an excuse to disregard the literal sense of the meaning of the scriptures, but what Paul is saying is that this letter, graven in stones, setting out God’s demands for holiness, is meant to kill us; indeed, it must kill us, before the Spirit can bring new life in place of the old. If the Law of God has not, like a double-edged sword, pierced and broken us to ourselves, then we cannot know the full life-giving power of the gospel.
Of course, the full significance of the giving of the Law, which constitutes part of Israel’s high calling in the eyes of the apostle as he writes to the Romans, will not be finally and fully manifest until, in the days to come, the Law is written on the mind of Israel, the nation, and put in its heart. Then the earth shall see, for the first time, a whole nation, upon whose life and conduct will be written; “Holiness to Yahweh” (Jeremiah 2:3). What a day that will be!
Together with the giving of the Law, Paul names “the service of God” as one of those attributes of Israel’s special relationship with God. This really can be summarised as the “gospel in the Law”, for in the service of God was pointed the way to the Christ; and shows how a man, condemned and separated from God, could yet draw near to Him, on the ground of shed blood and by the ministry and intercessions of the High Priest, all since fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God and “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” (Hebrews 3:1).
This should give no encouragement to those Christians who, today, seek to establish an unauthorised copy of the divinely appointed ritual of Israel’s religion and thus, lead Christians away from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). This mimicry of that which took place in the past amounts to idolatry.