1 I said, “I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” 2 I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; And my sorrow was stirred up. 3 My heart was hot within me; While I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue… (Psalm 39:1–3, NKJV).”
Measuring our words with heavenly wisdom guided by God’s truth will keep us from sinning with our tongues (Jas. 3:1-18). The irreverent words and ungodly deeds of the wicked can influence us to speak rashly. Even Moses fell before this temptation when Israel strove against God: “They angered Him also at the waters of strife, So that it went ill with Moses on account of them; Because they rebelled against His Spirit, So that he spoke rashly with his lips” (Ps. 106:32-33). James said to be “slow to speak, slow to wrath” as a hedge against unrighteousness (James 1:19-20). Doing this does not mean we are unaffected when confronted by wicked people. Sorrow stirred within David, and his heart was enflamed as he meditated on the evil before him. Like Jeremiah, God’s truth burned within David, and he would speak (Jer. 20:9; Ps. 39:3). But he measured his response with prayerful words of praise and prayer (Ps. 39:3-13). Instead of being provoked to sin with your tongue when evil people press upon you, hold your peace until you can respond with words of truth and the meekness of wisdom that honors God and pursues peace (James 3:2, 8-13, 18; Heb. 12:14).
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant (Mark 9:9–10, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John had just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, seen Moses and Elijah talking with Him, and heard the Father’s voice say, “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him” (Mark 9:1-7). Why did Jesus tell them to tell no one what they had seen until “the Son of Man had risen from the dead?” Here are a couple of reasons. First, several were already bearing testimony that Jesus is the Son of God: (1) John the Baptist, the Elijah of prophecy (Mark 10:11-13; Matt. 11:14; John 5:33-35); (2) The Father Himself by the miracles of Jesus (John 5:36-37); and (3) The Scriptures (John 5:38-39). Second, the apostles were not yet prepared to tell others what they had seen. That was not their job at this moment. They still had much to learn from the Master. Only now did they understood John was the prophesied Elijah (Matt. 17:12-13). They did not know Jesus would rise from the dead (Mark 9:10). They did not yet grasp the redemptive work of Christ (Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying He would suffer, be killed, and rise after three days, Matt. 16:21-23). Rest assured, the apostles would tell others about the transfiguration when Christ commissioned them to preach the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; see 2 Pet. 1:16-18). What can we learn from this? (1) Teachers must be students of God’s word (1 Tim. 4:13, 15-16). (2) Teach what you know while maturing in your knowledge of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:11-6:3). (3) Zeal without knowledge can be dangerous (Rom. 10:2-3).
5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:7–9, NKJV)
This event in Israel’s history aptly illustrates salvation from sin and death (Rom. 6:23). They grumbled against God and Moses, which brought death into the camp. They confessed their sin and were told if a serpent bit them to look at the bronze serpent Moses made, and they would live. Their salvation from death becomes a figure of the Son of Man being lifted up on the cross to save humanity from sin (John 3:14-17). Israelites received God’s mercy and lived when they trusted and obeyed God’s command to look at the bronze serpent. Even so, sinners “look” at Jesus in faith by repenting and being baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37-38, 41). By doing so, the sinner receives God’s redemptive mercy and is saved. Israel did not earn their deliverance from the deadly serpents; they trusted God and obeyed Him. The same is true for every sinner Christ saves (Heb. 5:9).
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18–19, NKJV)
The “former commandment” is “the law” given at Mt. Sinai to Israel. God annulled (set aside, abolished) that law because it was powerless to perfect (complete) the one who comes to God. The law served its purpose of identifying sin (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19). It sought to rein in Israel’s sinful conduct by teaching her holiness and the divine blessings that come from obeying God (Deut. 4:13-14; 8:1). But that covenant was temporary and “made nothing perfect” (Gal. 3:19-25). The law did not have the power to redeem souls from sin; it could not save the lost (Heb. 10:1-4, 11). It was a “shadow of the good things to come” in Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1). Christ and His gospel (not the “former commandment”) bring a better hope to those who draw near to God for forgiveness. We dare not go back to the law of Moses to justify our worship and service to God today. To do so forfeits the grace that is in Christ (Gal. 5:3-4; 1:6-9). Remember, we are not saved by the “shadow” (the first covenant) but by the “substance” of the covenant of Christ (Heb. 10:1-4, 10-12).
7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:7–9, NKJV)
Keeping the law of Moses cannot save anyone from sin; it identifies one as a sinner (Gal. 3:10-12; Rom. 3:23). Salvation from sin comes “by the hearing of faith,” that is, by the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:2, 5). Sinners hear that salvation comes by faith through the gospel, not through the law of Moses and its works. One’s faith is counted for righteousness by hearing, believing, and obeying the truth of the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:1-2, 5-6). Before the law of Moses existed, gospel salvation “by the hearing of faith” was preached in the promise to Abraham: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (3:8). This promised blessing is available in Christ. The gospel reveals the crucified Christ so we can receive the blessings of Abraham (Gal. 3:1, 13-14). The “blessing of Abraham” and “the promise of the Spirit through faith” is the salvation from sins preached to Abraham, fulfilled by Christ’s death, and heard in the gospel (Gal. 3:14, 2, 22-25). Every sinner who believes the gospel and obeys the truth is saved from sins, is a child of God, and an heir of the promise (Gal. 3:26-29). We preach the gospel of Christ so sinners can believe and obey the truth and be saved in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:3–5, NKJV)
The Word (Christ) did not cling to the “form of God” when He became flesh (Phil. 2:5-7). That is, He emptied Himself of the glorious appearance of deity He shared with the Father “before the world was” (Jno. 17:5; Jno. 1:1, 14). Without divesting Himself of His Godhood, He took the “form of a bondservant” and became human (Phil. 2:7). His humility reached its zenith when He obediently died on the cross (Phil. 2:8). On the mountain, when Jesus was transfigured, Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of His glory and heard the Father’s confirmation of His Sonship (Matt. 17:1-2; Lk. 9:32; 2 Pet. 1:16-17). Jesus is superior to the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Therefore, we must hear the Son in everything He teaches (Acts 3:22-23). That means we go to His New Testament to inform and activate our faith, not to the Old Testament law and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2). We listen to the Son by hearing and accepting His apostles’ teachings (Jno. 13:20; Matt. 28:19-20). Are you listening to the Son of God?
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23, NKJV)
Christ came for the whole world (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles of Jesus testified what Moses and the prophets said would occur concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus. Paul takes note of some primary things Moses and the prophets said about the Christ: 1) He would suffer (read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). Peter said of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2) He would rise from the dead (read Psalm 16:8-11). The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled this psalm (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus was the first – the beginning of the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). 3) He would proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles (read Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6). Through His gospel, Jesus lights the way of salvation for every soul on earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:34-35). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer death for our sins, to be raised to exaltation for our salvation, and to light our way to eternal glory.
12 “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:12–14, NKJV)
Like Israel at the Red Sea, sometimes we have trouble waiting on the Lord and trusting His salvation. After witnessing God’s great judgments upon Egypt through the miraculous plagues, just days later Israel complained when the enemy’s army approached (Exodus 14:11-12). Moses told them to replace their fear with faith in the Lord’s power and presence, for He would fight for them. That day they would see the salvation of the Lord – and they did. God told Israel to “go forward,” and He protected them and delivered them as they did (v. 15-22, 29-30). Having been saved from our past sins in Christ, Christians are told to press forward in faith, not draw back in fear (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 10:35-39; 12:1-2). Our enemy, the devil, will tempt us with sin and trials, trying to discourage and defeat us. Keep doing God’s will by trusting Him and the power of His word. Be faithful and go forward, never backwards, “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24–25, NKJV)
The law of which Paul speaks in today’s passage is the Law of Moses (Galatians 3:17-23). A fundamental purpose of the law given to Israel at Sinai was to tutor Israel to bring them to Christ. Just as a tutor was the guardian in a household who was responsible for the care and discipline of the children, the law was responsible for disciplining Israel about sin while emphasizing their need for redemption. However, the law of Moses could not save the lost (Hebrews 10:1-4). It was never designed to be man’s way of salvation (Galatians 3:21-22; Romans 3:20). When “faith” came, that is, when the gospel was preached, the need for the tutor – the Law of Moses – ended. No one is under the Law of Moses today. We are all under the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 1:1-2). Every attempt to bind any portion of the Law of Moses on folks today fails to respect the saving power of the gospel. The Law of Moses could never save sinners, and it still cannot do so. Only the gospel of Christ has the power to save the lost (Romans 1:16-17).