2 Sep 2006

Hebrew Grace: Eyes to See

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Grace, Hebrew Bible, Ministry, Mission, Preaching

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them into your holy dwelling” (Exodus 15.13, RSV).

Contrary to a popular, and persistent, myth God’s grace was not a new revelation in the New Testament. Israel looked upon the Exodus from slavery in Egypt in the same way Christians do the Cross of Calvary. The comparison of Exodus and Cross shows jus how crucial deliverance from bondage is to biblical faith. In the text quoted above from Exodus 15 notice that it is God’s “unfailing love” that leads and redeems Israel. The Hebrew word lying behind “steadfast love” is hesed which is a difficult word to translate into English. It is a powerful word that perhaps means what we understand as grace and unending love compounded together … and much more.

It is absolutely alien to the Hebrew Bible that Israel somehow earned or deserved to be God’s People. According to the First Testament, the Exodus was an act of utter grace on Yahweh’s part. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy that God “did not set his affection” on Israel because they were powerful, numerous “for you were the fewest of all peoples.” No it was not because Israel was the prize of the Ancient Near East rather they were nomadic nobodies! Moses likewise obliterates any notion of Israel’s self-righteousness. The Prophet says it was simply that God “loved you and kept his oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you” (Deuteronomy 7.7-9).

The Exodus is often undervalued by Christians but it was the greatest act of God’s grace (after Creation) and was not surpassed until the incarnation of the Word. Some even call the Exodus the “Old Testament Gospel.” This is not far from the mark in my view. Israel knew beyond a doubt that she existed solely because of Yahweh’s love and grace. If we read the Hebrew Bible carefully we will notice dozens of references to the Exodus in the narratives, the Prophets and the Psalms (see Joshua 24; Psalms 106-107; 114; 136, etc).

God’s grace to Israel is the foundation of his grace to you and me. Our relationship with God is based upon grace, not law, just as it was in the Hebrew Bible. God redeemed Israel through the Exodus and then invited them into a covenant of love with him at Sinai. This progression is essential for understanding biblical faith in either Testament. God redeems us through the blood shed at Golgotha and then invites us to covenant with him. In both cases God’s grace is prior to and establishes ground for our human response. God acts; we respond. Exodus comes before Sinai; Calvary comes before Pentecost; Grace comes before faith; It always has and it always will.

Rejoice over God’s grace.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

16 Responses to “Hebrew Grace: Eyes to See”

  1. Niki Says:

    Amen brother! My eyes were opened to the beauty of God’s grace even further when I studied “The Life Of Moses” in BSF a few years ago. Amazing stuff and still jaw dropping today. Grace vs. Law…not a tough choice for me really. I’d much rather have the grace I don’t deserve than what the law had in store for me. Great post Bobby..and I love that picture!

  2. Tim Archer Says:

    Sunday school teacher: God in the Old Testament was a God of wrath.
    Kid: But then he became a Christian.

    Kind of what a lot of us think, right? Keep on digging in the Hebrew Scriptures and keep sharing what you find.

    Have a great Labor Day weekend!

  3. Jim Martin Says:

    Bobby–A very good post. Such a good reminder that God’s tender mercy is a consistent part of his character.

    I’m thankful for this mercy which keeps me going.

  4. Angie Says:

    I’m sad that most all of my memories of learning about God (OT and NT) throughout my childhood and young adulthood are law-centered rather than grace-centered.

    I missed the best part.

    I’m so very thankful for grace. Definitely something to blog about! Thanks, Bobby! πŸ™‚

  5. Mark Says:

    Good insight, Bobby. I had never thought about the Exodus in that light (being a picture of grace), but I definitely will in the future. Along with this, I’ve heard the statement before–even by some men who are well-respected and considered ‘scholars’ in our brotherhood–who’ve asserted that you don’t find ‘fatherly’ language in the Old Testament either. It’s only when Jesus says ‘abba’ that it starts being ok to think of God as Dad.

    My favorite book of the Bible is Hosea, particularly chapter 11. God talks about teaching Ephraim to walk, like a young child. When we tend to ask, “How could God ever forgive me for _____”, Hosea gives you the picture of God asking himself, “How could I ever stand to let one of my precious children go?” Tim Archer’s comment is very appropriate…we forget that God has always been love, and has always been full of grace.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Mark

  6. preacherman Says:

    Bobby,

    As I read the Old Testament over and over again I see God’s grace more and more.
    Last year I read the Old Testament without considering the New Testament. I read it as if the New Testament hadn’t been written and man oh man the verse that kept comming to mind with each story with each book, “The Lord your God is a graceous God, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

    Thank you Bobby for this post and that God that serve a God who is so gracious to mankind.

  7. MommyHAM Says:

    Today in Bible class we were talking about the fall of man in Genesis.

    A key point – God went looking for Adam and Eve, not the other way around. And yet, so often when we’re in hiding, we say, “My God, where are you?” He’s always coming after us, think Hosea, think Christ saying, “I stand and knock [will you answer the door? or will you hide?]”

    I finally posted about the homeless count experiences – I think it’s a must read, but then I’m biased πŸ™‚

  8. cwinwc Says:

    Your post reminded me of a comment that a teacher of a Sunday School (stoogelover might know who I’m talking about) once made. He said something to the effect of, “A lot of Christians believe that there are two kinds of God portrayed in the Bible. The mean / lightening bolt one of the O.T. and the version of God in the N.T. who seems to “have gotten religion” and become a nice guy.”

    Thanks for reminding us that God is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

  9. DJG Says:

    Thank God for that grace that I could never, ever deserve, but that I so desperately need.

  10. Darin L. Hamm Says:

    Bobby,

    Nice post. Yes, it has always been about grace. One of my favorite readings is the early fathers and how they saw Jesus throughout the OT.

    Grace vs. law isn’t what changed, hope vs. no hope is.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Bobby,
    I haven’t had a chance to read your last 2 post’s as I have been out of town. However, I was hoping you might give your opinion regarding a couple of book’s I am reading. “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola,
    “A History of Christianity” Beginnings to 1500 by Kenneth Scott Latourette and the book you recommended,
    “How to Read The Bible For All It’s Worth” by Gordon D.Fee & Douglas Stuart.

    These books are deeply questioning my beliefs in the church and how I feel about christianity. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    In Christ,
    Penney Winiarski

  12. Darin L. Hamm Says:

    Bobby,

    I would be interested in your comments on a post I put up today.

    Penney, the discussion might even bless you.

  13. Velcro Says:

    Great Post. Many forget about God’s Grace in the OT, but it’s all over the OT.

  14. john alan turner Says:

    And you call yourself a dispensationalist?!

    Oh…wait…you DON’T call yourself a dispensationalist. Okay. That makes more sense now.

    πŸ™‚

  15. Ancient Wanderer Says:

    bobby,
    CREATION REGAINED is on its way and i am 1/2 through KINGDOM COME

    AW

    ps:
    i was one of the very few (maybe 1 or 2)lucky children in the entire U.S. we sangs
    JESUS LOVES ME
    all the time :

    i evens likes da mercy part too ;o

  16. Darin L. Hamm Says:

    I typed you up a response if you are interested.

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