The scientists and physicists tell us that the atom is the smallest building block of all matter. Yet the most powerful bomb that has ever been used to demonstrate man’s inhumanity to man derived its power from the splitting of the atom. On that miniscule bit of matter rested the destruction of two cites and the lives of untold thousands. In the same fashion the manifestation of both the power and the weakness of the law to Israel hinge upon one of the smallest (yet certainly not insignificant) words in our language.
The little word “if” has but two letters. But upon those two letters hung the LORD’s promise to either bless or curse the children of Israel as they stood poised to go into the Promised Land. This is what we call a provisional promise because the fulfillment of that “promise” was conditioned on the performance or non-performance of those to whom the “promise” was made.
Some have surmised that the LORD created the world as a grand experiment to see what kind of responses that men would make and then based on the outcome of that experiment decided what to do next. Generally, they also tell us that HE is presently doing the same thing. Yet the scripture indicates that HE knows the end from the beginning. The source of HIS knowledge is not mere “prescience” or the ability to see things before they occur but rather because HE is the one who directs all things to occur according to the good pleasure of HIS will. (see Dan.4:35)
In order to exalt HIS SON and magnify the glory of HIS grace, the LORD did create this world and all of its inhabitants. It pleased HIM to set a stage upon which JESUS CHRIST the only begotten SON of GOD, would appear in HIS appointed time to secure the redemption of a people which HE loved with an everlasting love and chose in CHRIST as the objects of that redemption before that world was ever created.
In the manifestation of HIS grand design it pleased HIM to choose an earthly nation from among the other nations of the world, upon which to display HIS affection as a type and foreshadow of HIS love for that people which were chosen in CHRIST before the foundation of the world. Thus, national Israel (which is not the True Israel see Rom. 9:6-8) became known as the chosen people of GOD. As such the LORD committed into their hands the oracles (i.e.; the utterances, testimony, or word) of GOD. (see Acts :38; Rom. 3:2)
The LORD often teaches HIS truth by both comparison and contrast, and such is illustrated throughout the rich history of the nation of Israel upon the earth. We see the love and deliverance of the LORD demonstrated, for HIS people as, HE time and again, fought battles for the children of Israel and caused them to triumph over their enemies. Over and over again HE demonstrated HIS longsuffering and mercy to their backslidings and waywardness.
Yet it has also pleased the LORD to show the great contrast between law and grace by HIS use of this same nation. National Israel was the people whom the LORD placed under the coded law which HE delivered to Moses on Mt. Sinai. By doing so, HE was not trying to find out if they would keep it, but would use them to demonstrate the impossibility of sinful men to adhere to the law of GOD and to earn any benefit thereby. Those promises of blessing which were conditional upon their obedience to the law were made null and void by their inability to abide by that code which was delivered to them, and thus they mirror the weakness of all flesh.
Paul said that the law is, “holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Rom 7:12) It derives its power from HIM who gave it and cannot be in any wise abrogated, destroyed, or overturned apart from HIS decree, who has declared that not one jot or tittle of it can ever fail. As long as GOD remains as an absolute SOVEREIGN, then all of HIS decrees must stand and cannot be altered by any but HIMSELF who changes not.
Paul also said that the law is weak. (see Rom. 8:3) How then can that which is fashioned by the very hand of HIM who created all things, be weak? Certainly not in that it has not accomplished HIS design for it. Those who tell us GOD designed the law as a rule which HE expects men to abide by are sadly mistaken as to its purpose. Religious men can never comprehend the purpose of the law because they have never been slain by it and stripped naked and bare by its unyielding demands.
The design of the law is not to prevent sin (which it has no power to do) but to uncover sin. Paul said, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." (Rom 7:7-9) Paul was a self-righteous Pharisee who delighted in the law as religious men are wont to do. He considered himself to be living a righteous life according to the law and by the outward standards of it, he was blameless. Yet here he confesses that when he gained a true understanding of what the law was, and GOD was pleased to reveal to him the inward rebellion of his heart, he was utterly slain by it and could then see the mass of corruption which he was, a truth that is kept hidden from the wise and prudent.
That little word “if” is a huge word and one which strikes fear into the heart of the man who knows himself to be a sinful wretch with not a shred of righteousness nor any ability to gain favor with a HOLY GOD. “If” the promises of GOD to HIS chosen flock, such as “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” are predicated in any way upon an “if” then we have no hope. Israel being under the law and subject thereto could not inherit the promise because they could not fulfill the provisions necessary to gain it because of the weakness of the flesh which is that which makes the law weak or unable to grant favor to fallen men.
That which the LORD would do for the True Israel of GOD, however, is not in any wise dependent upon the conformity or obedience of those who are the objects of HIS sovereign mercy. All curses which the law might breath out are taken away in that which CHRIST has done for them and HIS obedience has become theirs. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom 8:1-3)
HE has not overturned the law but has fulfilled it in its every jot and tittle in their behalf. HIS promises to them are yea and amen and are in no wise provisional or conditional. “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6:17-20)mam