An introduction to God's Heavenly Law (Part 3)


We have discovered that the Lord Jesus Christ, while standing between God and us, has created new case law that has brought us closer to God. We used a modern day term known as “arbitration” to try and explain how Jesus’ role, as an arbitrator, is so much better if compared with the Pharisaic role, which is based on litigation.  In the letter to Timothy, we learn that the biblical word used to illustrate Christ’s role is the word “mediator” (1 Timothy 2:5), which suggests that our Lord Jesus is a go-between or a reconciler.

In other words, whatever our transgression, if we should decide to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, then we can rest assured He will reconcile us to the almighty Father.

Law or Faith:

Christ’s ability to reconcile us to God is certainly good news. However, if the “Heavenly Law” is good, should a person not try to obey, for example, the Law of Moses (which was received from God) in order to be a true Christian?

This was the same question the Galatians pondered during their time, and it seems as if Paul argued that the only sound basis for life in Christ is faith and not works as the Law of Moses demanded.

In Galatians chapter 3 Paul puts before us the case which claims, “those who depend on obeying the Law live under a curse…” (verse 10, Good News Bible). It therefore seems as if the Old Testament was destined to end in a curse if there was no hope of divine intervention heralding a new age of faith (see Malachi 4:6). When Paul discusses the choice between “law or faith” he says: “… no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for. The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).

It seems as if there is really no choice should one be asked to choose between “law and faith”. Yet to this day, many people still prefer to choose the law above the challenge to exercise faith. No wonder Paul called the Galatians ‘foolish’, as he cried asking “…received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal.3:11).

It is a question some of us even battle to answer correctly today, and may it be suggested that very few people in the Old Testament, while serving God, came to realise that the law was only a schoolmaster. One man, while in sin, realised that the law had serious shortcomings - and his name was David.

Sacrifices taking away sin:

King David knew that according to the law, almost everything could be purified by blood. But as the writer to the Hebrews highlights, the things associated with the law were copies of the heavenly originals (See: Hebrews 9:22-23), and copies are not as ‘potent’ as the original.

David found this to be true when he sought forgiveness for the sin involving Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba (see: 2 Samuel 11:2-21; 12:9). Not only did David commit adultery and murder, but also both his sins were intentional. Turning to the law and the sacrifices David found that the sacrifices had serious limitations.

Imagine being King David, and seeking reconciliation by means of the provisions of the Law of Moses. The sacrifices covered the following scenarios and David may have eagerly sought a way to obtain forgiveness from God.

 Type of Offering:
Scope of Offering:
 Burnt Offering
 2 Chronicles 7:1 cf Lev. 1:8-9
 Done as an expression of complete dedication to God
 Sin Offering
Leviticus 4  Applies when admission of an offense is made, and the offender desires to seek forgiveness (v2,20)
 Trespass Offering
Leviticus 6:2-6
Sins listed: lying and deception (v2), lying and swearing falsely (v3)
 Peace Offering
 Leviticus 7:11-38 Linked to thanksgiving (verse 12); fellowship (v 16)
 The Red Heifer
 Numbers 19 Context: He who touched a dead body is unclean, and without purification the temple is defiled (v 11, 13, 16)

Having considered the complete spectrum of possible sacrifices, David found that for his specific sin linked to Uriah and Bathsheba, God does “…not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering.” (Psalm 51:16).

When one considers law, context is everything, and here the context of David’s position is he is guilty of bloodshed (Psalm 51:14) and, given the context, the sacrifices as detailed in the Law of Moses seem to fall short in being able to deal with David’s unique situation.

This is not surprising, as the Law of Moses clearly stipulated that David’s sin deserved only death and no mercy:

 Committing Adultery::
Committing Murder
 “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that comitteth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”(Leviticus 20:10) 

v       Part of the ten commandments: Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13)

v       Discussing the cities of refuges: Outside the cities of refuge, the murderer shall surely be put to death (Numbers 35:16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 30, 31)

v       Context of cities of refuge: Cities of refuge only apply if the person killed someone accidentally (Numbers 35:6,11)


 But what if David was repentant? What if David experienced a godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10) that made him change his ways (2 Corinthians 7:9), i.e. acknowledging his sin (Psalm 51:3 cf 2 Samuel 12:13)? Would this allow David to receive God ‘s mercy and would it allow him to be washed clean (Psalm 51:1-2)?

These are the questions David must have had in his mind as he reached out to reconcile with his God. He knew that he had trespassed the commandments, and surely the purpose of the sacrifices was to make clean that which had become unclean? Yet the sacrifices offered David no assistance. The sin offering as detailed in Leviticus 4 creates the following context: “… if a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them” (Leviticus 4:2 New King James Bible). Clearly the sin offering could not help as it only dealt with unintentional sin, and David’s sin was intentional. What about the trespass offering? We saw it listed specific trespasses, such as lying, deception and swearing falsely (Leviticus 6:2-3), and again adultery and murder is not covered. Even if David looked towards the day of atonement, he would have discovered, like the writer to the Hebrews, that the atonement only catered for the people’s sins committed in ignorance (Leviticus 16 cf Hebrews 9:7).

David’s sin relating to Uriah and Bathsheba, and his subsequent godly sorrow and repentance, illustrates that the Law of Moses was only a copy of a greater Heavenly Law. The Law of Moses was a copy as there was no provision for intentional sin. As the writer to the Hebrews also illustrates “…sacrifices could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience.” (chapter 9:9 NKJB).

The Law of Moses therefore did not cover intentional sin and, more importantly, it was incapable of dealing with the worshipper’s heart, i.e. clear his/her conscious.

Seeking a reconciler in faith:

For David it had become very clear that the Law of Moses was not a full and faithful model of the real Heavenly Law, but only a faint outline of the law that includes sacrifices of righteousness (Hebrews 10:1 cf Psalm 51:19).

These sacrifices of righteousness could only be done in faith, and as David sought restoration (Psalm 51:12), he discovered that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart (and) these God (does) not despise.” (Psalm 51:17).

Unlike the Law of Moses, the original Heavenly Law has provisions, which can remove the guilt or consciousness of a person’s sin because the actual sin is removed! (Hebrews 10:2, 4). This is the restoration David sought (see Psalm 51:12) when he consulted the Law, its sacrifices and offerings.

In his seeking, David in faith discovered the arbitrator, i.e. the true reconciler who is able to reconcile us to God – despite our sin. In Hebrews 10, the writer refers to Christ when he quotes from Psalm 40, and the context here is the sacrifice of Christ, and how this sacrifice can take away sin. In verse 5 of Hebrews 10 we read that Christ too realized that God does not want sacrifices and offerings, should we seek true reconciliation with our God. What does God require then? God requires that we seek to do His will (Hebrews 10:7). David made this discovery in Psalm 40:7-8, and in order to be reconciled to God, he had to reach out to the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ and, in faith, seek to follow him.


Could it then be possible that part of the reason why David is listed as a man of faith is the insight he gained when he was weak in sin and he became strong when he discovered that through faith in the promise of the Saviour alone, one could achieve restoration (Hebrews 11: 32, 34, 39)?

Years later, and in the time of the New Testament, we find that the writers allude to the fact that reconciliation, although it has nothing to do with the law, is achieved when God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21) and the Law of Moses and the prophets gave witness to it and David saw it… and believed.

Romans 3 makes it very clear that the law declared everyone guilty before God (v 19). The question then is how does God put us right with Himself? Faith in Jesus Christ is the answer, and Romans 3 lists ‘faith’ seven times in the NKJB – and there is much to learn:

1.  Verse 22: Righteousness is achieved, not by the law, but faith in Christ.

2.  Verse 25: Our sins can be forgiven through our faith in Jesus Christ.

3.  Verse 26: God puts right every sinner who has faith in Jesus.

4.  Verse 27: Our redemption is therefore not of works but by the law of faith.

5.  Verse 28: We are put right with God through faith, and not by the deeds of the Law.

6.  Verse 30: Jew & Gentile will be put right through their faith.

7.  Verse 31: Faith does not do away with the Law, but through faith the Law is upheld.

The aim of the Law was to reveal the righteousness of God, that despite it only catering for sin for example done in ignorance, today through faith in our mediator, i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, irrespective of the type of sin… “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).

 (To be continued)

Bro Ronnie van Rooyen (South Africa)

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