The Covenant of Grace: with Moses
Immediately I understand that categorizing the covenant made with Moses (and Israel) as part of the covenant of grace, is not commonly understood or accepted. Arguments against this placement will usually cite Paul’s various Law vs. Gospel distinction passages. I admit these and yet like to clarify that Paul is not against the Law, as if it were evil, but wherever Paul or any NT writer, in shorthand, condemns the “Law”, they are in fact only ever condemning the incorrect use of the Law, as if it were meant to be a system of righteousness, which it is not, cannot be, and was never given to be such a system.
Visible/Physical elements: Moses, the people of Israel, the Ten Commandments, promises and curses.
Scenario: a seed of Abraham had become a physical blessing to many nations, as Joseph rose to fame and power in Egypt and saved many from starvation. A new Pharaoh rises who hates and is threatened by Israel and so imposed a harsh bondage upon them, whereas the people cry out to God for deliverance. Moses comes on scene as a deliverer figure fulfilling Gen. 15:13, Ex. 2:23-24. Via the power of God represented by and communicating through Moses, the people are set free from Egypt and journey towards the land originally promised to Abraham.
It’s important to note that, as the New Testament teaches (Gal. 3:17), the covenant of grace/promise via Abraham is still the context in the days of Moses as to why Israel is considered the people of God, why they can call on God, and why He moves to deliver them. The institution of the grace/law covenant with Moses, DOES NOT replace the promises, but only adds the dimension that if you are a child of promise, by faith, given to you as was given to Abraham, then this new heart should function in these “10” ways.
Now, because physically they cannot see everyone’s heart, but yet physically all reside with or are within a household of Abraham/Israel, all the males are to be outwardly circumcised. Now all those outwardly circumcised (regenerate by faith or not) are expected to keep the commandments of God, as expressing their love for God and neighbor in tangible everyday living. To the invisible/spiritual Israel or church they are just living out the faith and love they have received internally. The unsaved or those who do not have faith, but are externally part of physical Israel are still required conditionally to obey the commandments, which because of sin can only offend them and drive them to be “stiff-necked” toward God and others.
So the Ten Commandments, along with all other instituted levitical laws do not replace the covenant of grace, but as it were, enhances it to now say what the people of God’s name and faith actually do. It’s to show the world how their hearts beat differently than others in all matters of tangible daily living. The faith filled Israelites, I think, would rejoice in this, as now elements of their entire day allows them to focus on God. The new commandments are embraced because of the heart they’re given, and not the other way around. Doing the commandments did not and could not make someone a child of grace, faith and promises, except in their external/physical sense. In the modern church we claim a better than type and shadow revelation, stronger witness of the Spirit and freedom in Christ, but our outward and daily walk with God can hardly be said to entirely focus on God. We consider ourselves “good” if we remember to pray before falling asleep.
Taking things just a bit further. You see throughout the rest of the Old Testament this visible/invisible and physical/spiritual context and tensions in how God treats “His people”. Israel is typically in trouble for breaking covenant relationship with God. So God physically punishes them (removing sometimes almost all physical covenant blessing from them), for their breach, but yet invisibly still calls the faithful of them “His people” (because by the promise to Abraham, God will answer against Himself for their breaches) and further promises to restore them.