Even God’s covenant with Israel through Moses is part of the covenant of grace, that overarching covenant between the Lord and His people first announced in Genesis 3:15 wherein He pledged to defeat sin and Satan, redeeming us from those enemies. It may seem surprising at first, however, that the Mosaic covenant is part of the covenant of grace. After all, the New Testament frequently places grace in opposition to law, and the Mosaic law is a defining feature of God’s covenant with national Israel through Moses (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:4). In fact, the law is so prominent in the Mosaic covenant that it would not be inappropriate to call it the law covenant.
Yet when we consider the giving of the law and the task of the law, it becomes clear that the Mosaic covenant is indeed an essential part of the covenant of grace. First, let us consider today’s passage, which appears immediately before the Ten Commandments, which are the heart of the Mosaic law. In Deuteronomy 5:6, God reminds the people of Israel that He brought them out of the land of Egypt and the house of slavery.And this happened before He revealed His covenant law to them. Thus we have an important pattern that defines God’s relationship to His people even under the new covenant: salvation precedes obedience. In other words, God does not first give the law and tell us that our obedience to it will save us. Instead, He saves us and then gives us the law as the means by which we show our gratitude for our redemption. Note also that the Lord’s redemption of Israel was His work alone, which is entirely in keeping with the covenant of grace. Only God sent the plagues and performed the miracles that persuaded Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, and only God intervened at the Red Sea to destroy the Egyptian army (Ex. 4:1–15:21).
The task of the law also shows us that the Mosaic covenant is part of the covenant of grace. Here we are thinking primarily of the second use of the law, wherein the law reveals our sin and drives us to Christ. Although God never intended for sinners to save themselves by doing the law, the law does promise that those who keep it perfectly will enjoy everlasting life (Lev. 18:5; see Gal. 3:12; 5:3). But it does not take honest sinners long to realize how far short they fall of God’s perfect standard. In trying to keep the law, we see the inadequacy of our obedience. This drives us to look for another to keep the law in our place, even Jesus Christ, who “is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4)
Even after we have trusted in Christ, the law continues to show us our need for Him. If we meditate on God’s commandments, we soon see that we have not kept any of them with our whole heart, mind, soul, or strength. We are driven to our knees in repentance before God. Meditate on one of the Ten Commandments and consider how you have failed to keep it. Then, go before the Lord in repentance