I was recently visiting with a friend when her phone dinged. “Oh, it is today’s verse from my Bible reading app.” The verse was Joshua 1:8, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
My friend read the verse out loud and then looked at me with a questioning grin. We had been discussing our identity in Christ and all that became new at our salvation including the end of the law in our lives. She continued, “I don’t think this verse fits our new covenant identity.” I agreed.
Friends, let me say this as carefully and humbly and respectfully as I can. We are inundated in our Christian sermons, devotionals, memes, and books with a mixed covenant message that, quite frankly, is unsettling. Please hear me carefully. This is in no way meant to minimalize the proper role of the Old Testament as the home of the old covenant and a foreshadowing of the coming Christ. And verses like Joshua 1:8 are a prototypical summary of the old covenant.
“Speak the law. Meditate on the law day and night. Be careful to obey the law. If you do all of this, your path will be prosperous, and you will have success.” This is the old covenant, God’s old arrangement between Himself and His people. It was behavior focused and consequence based. If you do all the Lord commands, you will be blessed. If you fall short, a curse will follow. And it is an arrangement that died at the cross of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul explains it this way, “A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brothers, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:2-4).
The word picture is clear. Just as a married woman is free from her marital vows upon the death of her husband, you have been freed from the Law by a separation as severe as death. This freedom from the Law was made available by the death of Christ and became yours when you believed the gospel.
You are literally separated from the Law by its death. And you are free to marry another. And you did marry another; “Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead.” You have a new marriage partner. Your former spouse, the Law, is dead. You have a new husband. You are the bride of Christ.
Now on a theological level, it is easy to agree that we “died to the Law”. But, in practice, we just don’t want to give up on these verses that appear to make such great promises to us. So we say, “Jay, don’t get so caught up with the word ‘law’ in these kinds of verses. Let’s just put ‘God’s word’ in place of law. Let’s meditate on that in its place. How can that not lead to success?”
When we do this, I believe we miss two very important points. First, let’s let the Bible speak for itself. If it says law, it means law. Second, is prosperity and success what Christ promised to us as new covenant believers? We will talk about it next time.