As I preach through Deuteronomy, I continually find myself amazed by how closely it resembles the story of the church today. The more I study and preach, the more I am convinced that God’s relationship with people has always been based upon God’s grace and not God’s law.
When I began the series, I explained that, despite the facts that the name of the book refers to a second giving of God’s law and that it is included among the books of the Old Testament that are grouped together as law, Deuteronomy consistently reveals God’s grace to Israel throughout its history. Moses explained it to Israel this way: “Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength” (Deuteronomy 4:37, NIV 1984). God revealed his love to Israel through his grace, by rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. God also gave them grace when he continuously led and fed and protected them throughout their travel in the wilderness – despite their lack of faith, despite their rebelliousness. God showed them grace when he did not destroy them when they made and worshiped the Golden Calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai. God showed them grace when he led them back to the Promised Land after 40 years.
Their relationship with God wasn’t based on their obedience; if it had been, God likely would have destroyed them right there at Mt. Sinai. Israel wasn’t God’s “chosen people” because of their righteousness or because of anything else they could have said or done. Moses told them as much:
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8, NIV 1984)
God chose them because he loved Abraham. He rescued them by his grace. He forgave them and led them into the Promised Land by his grace. They were allowed and enabled to follow God by his grace.
This is true for the church, as well. God’s people follow by God’s grace; Jesus’ disciples follow by God’s grace. Remember Jesus’ disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen, “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13); Matthew was a collaborator with the Romans, a tax collector (Matthew 10:3); Simon was a rebel, a Zealot, and Judas would betray him (Matthew 10:4). There was nothing special about the men Jesus called to follow him, except that he called them. Jesus’ disciples followed because he called them; they followed by grace.
As we follow Jesus, we must understand that we follow by God’s grace. There is nothing special about us except that by God’s grace we have been forgiven because of our faith in Jesus. Paul told the church: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV 1984). Our salvation, our forgiveness of sins, our relationship with God is a gift from God that we receive through our faith. There’s nothing we can do to earn it, not by doing good works nor by obeying God’s law. But as we follow by God’s grace, let us reveal God’s grace in our obedience, by doing good works and obeying God’s law.