August 2, 2011 A+D
He did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets, yet the Law and the prophets threaten to abolish us. Or so it seems. But it is not the Law that threatens us, but sin. The Law merely exposes us. The Law promised life, but has proved death to us. For sin, seizing opportunity through the Law, deceived us and killed us. The law is not abolished because the Law is holy. Did that which is good, bring death to us? By no means! It was sin, producing death in us through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
In this also the Law is good. For it is good to kill the cockroach that carries disease and destroys the cattle. It is good to throw the filth into the fire of Gehenna. It is good that the truth be told.
But there is more here than that. St. Paul also writes in chapter 5, that was chapter 7 above, so we’re framing the Epistle today, he writes in chapter 5 that death reigned from Adam to Moses because all sinned. But Moses is the lawgiver par excellance! The chapter read from Exodus 20 comes from Sinai via Moses and is simply a list of what you shall and shall not do upon penalty of death. We expect St. Paul to say that death reigned from Adam to Jesus not to Moses.
You know, of course, the answer. Moses is the beginning of the end. He comes with a promise. The beginning of the Law is “I am the Lord your God.” It is a statement of fact. The Lord is not just God. He is their God. He bound Himself to Israel through the killing waters of the Red Sea. He placed His Name upon them from the burning bush. He fed them with miraculous bread from heaven. Whatever they might do, whatever atrocities they might commit, He was their God – and that, quite obviously, by grace. The father of the prodigal son does not disown him, but eagerly awaits and prays for His return. He remains his father.
Moses is the beginning of the end of death’s reign. What the Lord was for Israel, He is for us a thousandfold. For we have the prophet like Moses, a man, one of us, who has seen God face-to-face, but more. For He is God in our flesh, receiving and eating with sinners. He has bound Himself to us through the killing floods of Holy Baptism. He has placed a greater Name than YHWH upon us, His fullest revealed Name, His very character: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Lord is family, plurality within the unity. The Lord is love as His Name shows. He gives us not miraculous bread from heaven but His risen Body from His Father’s right hand. We don’t ask “What is this?” for He has told us, “This is My Body.” It is not simply for daily sustenance but it is the Bread of Life, forgiving sins, encouraging the hearts of the faithful, strengthening faith, and creating the deepest intimacy between the Bridegroom and Bride.
This is more than simply what Lutherans think of, by default, as the Law. This is Torah, the Word of the Lord that kills and makes alive, that bestows a Kingdom and inheritance, that calls a people who were no people, “no people,” and then makes them His people. This is the Divine, creating, powerful Word. It will not be destroyed. Heaven and earth will pass away but not the Word of the Lord. The Word of the Lord endures forever.
The Word of the Lord is given through Moses: “I am the Lord your God.” It is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God. Thus the jailer has been over paid. He got more for you than every last penny. He got more than your sins deserved, more than justice asked. The Son is the Ransom. Isaac goes free. Joseph forgives his brothers. Ruth finds a husband. Sarah has a baby. St. Paul is converted and becomes friends with St. Peter. The Lord setteth the solitary into families and Luther the monk gets a bride.
The Lord saves, Jesus, is your Lord. He is not just the Lord. He is not just God. He is your God and your Lord, and you, by grace, are His own child and Bride.