GRACE IN THE OLD COVENANTEdit
The covenant which was established at Sinai was built upon the Israelites covenant relationship through the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yahweh placed a divine call upon Abraham's life and made an unconditional covenant with him and before he had proven himself faithful of any merit (Genesis 12:1-3), he was given the promises of offspring, land and nations, which was entirely by the choice and grace of God.
The Abrahamic covenant therefore, was a covenant based upon grace through faith (Romans 4:1-2,16). His descendants inherited the promises unconditionally also, on the same basis, by faith through grace. Each generation implemented the covenant sign of circumcision by faith, on their sons to set them apart to Yahweh as partakers of His covenant and inheritors of the promises made to Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14).
The covenant at Sinai was not a covenant for salvation. They were a redeemed people who had been restored to faith in Yahweh as their God through all the mighty signs and wonders in Egypt and their redemption and deliverance was secured by the blood of the Passover Lamb before the exodus. The covenant at Sinai was the culmination of the promises in the Abrahamic covenant to establish them in the ways of righteousness so that they could fulfill their calling as a priestly nation to the world (Exodus 19:4-6).
THE PURPOSE OF THE LAWEdit
The covenant centered around their calling to be a kingdom of priests to the nations, and not for redemption. The Law was given because they were His people, and as His people they should walk in His ways.
It was not for the purpose of saving them and their salvation did not depend on them keeping it. How they walked in the Law would make a difference though, to whether they inherited the promised blessings, or not. The Law is good and was given for their benefit (Romans 7:12), so that He could position them to fulfill all that He purposed for them, and they could inherit the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Living in the Law brings life, whereas living contrary to the Law brings death (Deuteronomy 30:11-20).
Walking in His ways would enable them to inherit the blessings, failure to do so, the curses (Deut. 27 & 28).
Walking in His ways would cause them to be a light to the nations (Deuteronomy 4:5-10); but failure to do so would cause them to lose their inheritance in the land and be scattered among the nations (Deut.4:25-30).
Walking in the Law is life and goodness, failure to do so, death and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15-18)
Obeying it would cause life to go well for them and impart long life (Deuteronomy 4:40)
Obeying it would keep them walking in righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25). By Keeping His Law, some of the blessings would be: Yahweh would be merciful to them and in His love He would bless them in every way (Deuteronomy 7:11-14). He would keep sickness and diseases from them (Deuteronomy 7:15). He would give them victory over their enemies (Deuteronomy 6:19).
THE TESTIMONY OF RIGHTEOUSNESSEdit
Yahweh did not give them the Law if it was not possible for them to keep it and obtain the blessings from it.
"For this commandment which I command you this day, is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very near you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it".
The Word had been spoken into their hearts and they understood it's requirements. It was a matter of hearing it with their heart and doing it. It required them to circumcise their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:15-18).
Although there were many backslidings of the nation as a whole, there were also many righteous people who kept His Law and walked in His Ways. There are a few names which stand out from the pages of scripture.
Although it is not specifically said of them that they kept His Law, the evidence is there in their lives. We could name Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, Barak, Samuel, Hannah, David, Elijah, Mordecai, Jeremiah etc., as those who were among the righteous. Then we also have the specific statements regarding the lives of Elizabeth and Zachariah, that they were, "both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:5-6); and Mirium, who the angel Gabriel addressed as, "Highly favoured one, Yahweh is with you", and again, "you have found favour with God" (Luke 1:28, 30).
Paul's own testimony was that he was blameless in how he walked in the righteousness of the Law (Phil. 3:6).
And these could not have been isolated examples. But although many saints did walk in righteousness, the natural state of man without the indwelling Spirit, was more inclined to pre-dispose man toward sin than to walk in the righteousness of the Law. The Law exposed their sin and they reaped its penalty (Romans 7:7-11).
THE TESTIMONY OF GRACEEdit
The expression is made that those in the old covenant were "under the law" and Paul himself uses the expression, but with a different meaning than that often implied by it. Paul used it to mean under legalism. But the old covenant saints were not under the Law in that sense as it was given to them - that came in later through the Pharisees who brought in bondage by their interpretations of how to apply the Law.
The penalty of the Law had not yet been paid, and so when the people sinned, they did reap the curse of the Law, however, we see in the instance of the Golden Calf, the operation of grace in re-instating them. Moses seeks to make atonement for their sin, but before He does he begins to seek the grace and mercy of God for the people, "Now therefore, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I might find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." (Exodus 33:13)
Here we see Moses seeking a deeper revelation of the grace of God, as a mediator on behalf of the nation.
"And he said, I beseech You, shew me Your glory. And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of Yahweh before you; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy." (Exodus 33:18-19)
Then comes the wonderful revelation of His goodness, "Yahweh, Yahweh God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy to thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6-7)
In seeking to come into a greater measure of His glory, he is shown the glory of His grace which tempers all His judgments of man according to His truth: "But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am Yahweh which exercise lovingkindness [chesed], judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith Yahweh." (Jeremiah 9:24)
The old testament saints experienced His grace in their walk with Him because it is part of His nature and a relationship with Him involves coming to know Him as He is, as they could testify: "But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, plenteous in mercy [chesed] and truth." (Psalm 86:15); and even in judgment they found mercy and grace extended toward them: "Thus says Yahweh, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest." (Jeremiah 31:2)
"Yahweh is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy [chesed] Yahweh is good to all and His tender mercies [racham -compassions] are over all His works." (Psalm 145:8)
"Surely goodness and mercy [chesed] shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of Yahweh for ever." (Psalm 23: 6)