The law of Moses–sometimes referred to as the old covenant or 10 commandments–can be a source of unending confusion to believers. We know that Jesus fulfilled the law but what does that mean, really? Some say the law has no bearing at all on the Christian. Others say some laws are required, others not. What does the Bible say about interpreting the law? How we answer not only determines the way in which we approach the law but indicates what we expect to understand from it. Let’s consider the following verses:
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law (Psalm 119:18
But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away (2 Cor. 3:14).
If we are to know what the law is saying, our eyes must be opened. If we approach the law thinking that its meaning lies in the mere letter, we are reading the old covenant with a veil over our hearts (2 Cor. 3:6). In other words, God is trying to reveal much more to us than moral standards or proper religious practice.
“Wonderful” in the Psalm above doesn’t just describe something nifty. The Hebrew word (pahlah) refers to something completely other, surpassing, extraordinary. The angel of the LORD used this word when Manoah, Sampson’s father, asked his name—“Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Judges 13:18). What we are dealing with in the word “wonderful” is nothing less than God’s absolute uniqueness as contrasted with anything and everything known to us in the universe. Moses expressed this when he worshipped the Lord following the Red Sea crossing: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).
The writer of Psalm 119 evidently expected to receive much more from the law than the plain meaning of the words—“Remember the Sabbath,” “You shall not steal,” “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material,” or “This is the offering made by fire that you are to present to the LORD” (Ex. 20: 8, 15; Lev. 19:19; Num. 28:3). He anticipated “wonderful.” What we see in the verse from 2 Corinthians is that when our eyes are opened, when the veil is removed from our hearts, we see Christ. Jesus is “wonderful.” In Him, God’s surpassing otherness, His uniqueness, is fully expressed.
All of this means that if we approach the law as instructions to be obeyed, we approach with the wrong assumption. Instead, God would have us approach the law as a way to know and commune with Him who is “wonderful.”
To be continued…
Excerpted from my booklet, “Wonderful Things in Your Law“
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I also like the first occurrence of that word “pahlah” H6381 in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard (pahlah) for the LORD?”
Thanks! That enriches the verse for me 🙂