I used this book to help me through my morning Bible Reading of the Pentateuch this year. I ended up not just referencing it, but reading thru it completely.
The simple terminology was so appreciated, perfect for the lay person. The charts and summaries helped give the overview of the book. So often we skim thru Numbers and Leviticus and miss the forest for the trees. This year I wanted to try an exercise for myself in writing down my own gleaning from these books in a more devotional form some of which I’ve been sharing in my posts. But this book is an in depth commentary well suited to help us keep our moorings when the weeds get thick. So as a reference book it was not only helpful in my devotions, but also in study for teaching opportunities. Often the author explains how modern Judaism interprets a passage alongside Christianity’s view, and that was helpful.
James E. Smith sought to create a one-volume classroom textbook that was neither too short and simple nor too long and technical for the subject matter. His perspective is one of a traditional view regarding Moses’ authorship. It is arranged in 45 chapter which could be used in a 45 lesson survey class.
I was surprised and reminded again how the simple stories we learn in Sunday School really were just primers to the actual accounts. God had a reason for including the events in our Bible. They often were crises events, and turning points for Israel with far reaching consequences. They revealed the hearts of God’s people and its leaders, not to mention God’s character and plan. It was so much more than just a moral anecdote. Or lists of genealogies.
Here were some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Israel was not to obey these laws in order to become the people of God; rather, they were to obey because they were, by God’s grace, the people of God” (Deut. 12 section).
“By grace God had chosen them, and redeemed them. The only appropriate response to that grace was obedience” (Duet. 27 section).
“Their future is determined by their present walk. Obedient faith leads to blessing, but disobedience to disaster” (Deut. 29 section).
I was struck by the frequency that faith and God’s grace is mentioned. Faith is the culmination of the Law. We have often said, almost in passing, that, yes there was Law, but they still had to have faith. I had always heard that, but never really understood. As a dispensationalist, I take each age as God’s unique dealing with man. The Law was characterized by rules and immediate, tangible consequences or blessing. Yet the heart of it was God’s love and pleasure for a people whom he chose when they were yet in their sins. It was grace that led them through the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan. Obedience to the Law was the expression of their faith in God.
That is not much different for us under grace. We have the Law of Christ to follow, and God is interested in our heart’s response to Him. Obedience to New Testament requirements and prohibitions in works and attitudes reveals whether our faith in Christ is real.
It is much like a child under his parents house vs. a grown person in his own home. I wrote about this in my artictle, “Of Dispensations and Parenting”. While the external conformity is not the main thing, it is an expected response from a believing heart to God’s grace. That was true under the Law, and it’s true under Grace. As Ryrie has said, “There was grace under law, and there is law under grace.” Houghton said it this way, “The Law makes demands; the Gospel makes no demands; Grace makes demands of the believer.”1 This author would concur.