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.
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).
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11–12, NKJV)
When compared to human expectations, God does the unexpected. The great victory against the false prophets at Mt. Carmel manifested His power and genuineness as the only God (1 Kings 18). But now, queen Jezebel is hunting for Elijah to kill him. We find him at Horeb, the mountain of God (Sinai). Before arriving, Elijah had prayed for death, thinking things were hopeless (they weren’t, 1 Kgs. 19:4, 15-17). He thought he was the only faithful one left (he wasn’t, 1 Kgs. 19:18). In the midst of his doubt and despair, God did the unexpected. He revealed Himself in a “still small voice.” The point is not for us to wait for such a voice before we act, any more than we should wait for a strong wind, an earthquake, or fire from heaven. We will find the Lord where He told us to look – in His word. He manifests Himself to those who love Him by keeping His commands (Jno. 14:21). Let us trust and obey the word of God instead of expecting God to do things according to our expectations (Lk. 6:46; Jno. 6:68; 8:31-32).
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13–14, NKJV)
Christ gives spiritual life to the sinner when one is “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). This spiritual life (salvation) could not be obtained by the “handwriting of requirements,” that is, the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses made nothing perfect (Hebrews 7:19; 10:1). Its offerings and sacrifices could never take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). Christ’s death on the cross accomplished what the Law could not, and so, by His death, Jesus took the Law of Moses out of the way. We do not go to Mt. Sinai for redemption; we go to Calvary. The Law of Moses identified sin, but it is by the gospel of Christ that we are forgiven of them (Romans 1:16-17). We are children of God through faith, not through the works of the law (Galatians 3:24-29). And, our eternal inheritance is dispensed according to the new covenant of Christ, not by the old covenant that has passed away (Hebrews 9:16-22; 8:7-13).
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” (Hebrews 12:25–26, NKJV)
There are terrible consequences for rejecting the word of God. The ground shook when God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel from Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:18). Yet, Israel rejected God’s word, and made a golden calf to worship in direct violation of His commandments (Exodus 20:1-6; 32:1-7). About 3,000 men died that day as punishment for their sin (Exodus 32:28, 34-35). There is an unmistakable lesson for us from this event. We will not escape punishment if we reject God’s word that He has spoken to us from heaven “in His Son,” by the New Testament Scriptures (Hebrews 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Day of Judgment will remove heaven and earth. Only His kingdom will survive His awesome judgment (Hebrews 12:26-28). The words and wisdom of men will never prepare you to escape divine wrath against sin. But, the gospel of Jesus Christ will; it is God’s power to save you (Romans 1:16). Believe God’s word and obey the Lord Jesus, to “have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).