In this chapter, Carson first asks if it’s possible for there to be “no absolutes” concerning what is true and categorically says “no”. The reason is because of the nature of truth which presses in on us when we need air while being held under the ocean by a powerful wave. The truth is, if we remain underneath without any breathing apparatus, they will eventually be making arrangements for our funeral.
Moreover, no one can be position-less. To agree or disagree argues for the inevitableness of absolutes. Moreover, regardless of our view, when disagreements obtain, there will be “excommunications” as the analogy from Tim Keller reveals in [pgs.55-56].
Interestingly, Jesus reminds us that if we remain in his word…the truth will set us free. Truth and freedom are different sides of the same coin. They can’t be separated.
Second, he considers from where we derive our expressions “Old Testament” and “New Testament” (i.e., the primary divisions of the Bible). These come from our understanding of the covenant. That is, God made a covenant with Abraham, Moses, etc. This of course is found in the law, the prophets, and the writings (i.e., the Old Testament). They are referred to as the Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, Sinai Covenant, The Law Covenant. But when Jesus arrives, everything changes. In the New Testament, there are a few references to the “old covenant” which preceded the “new covenant” which Jesus would introduce. This means that the covenant Moses gave was “old”. Thus, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” are always referring to the old covenant and the new covenant.
Third, he contemplates the issue of God described as being jealous (Ex. 20:2-3; 34:12-14).
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
“12 Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 13 But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—”
The term jealousy is attached to God’s exclusiveness. The first of the Ten Commandments affirms what our culture despises in the West—He’s exclusive. The reason for this is because of His ontological status—He’s Creator, Redeemer and Lover of His people. God is love! He rescued Israel from Egypt, from the slave market, and brought them out to worship him—the I AM! He is their greatest good, and without stain. Unlike us, God’s jealousy is to protect the object of His love from outsider’s who will only destroy them.
God’s committed to his people and as the covenant maker and keeper, there will be parameters He establishes to protect and to nurture His covenant people. To not do this would be to expose His people to destruction, and this He can’t do because they are the object of His love. Thus, He is a jealous God.
Fourth, Carson explains the reason for why God prohibited Israel from making images (Ex. 20:4-6).
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
The reason for the prohibition is so that Israel would ever be aware of God’s transcendence. That is, the prohibition is a safeguard against domesticating the Creator and maintaining the proper distinction between Creator and creature. Unlike the gods of the pagan nations, God can’t be controlled because He is the “I AM”. God can’t be bargained with, manipulated, encapsulated or controlled.
Fifth, Carson explains the significance of the requisite sacrifice in order to enter the Most Holy place. According to Leviticus 16, God requires a sacrifice before anyone can enter his presence in the Most Holy place as first a reminder of The Fall. Remember, death entered through Adam’s transgression and must be remedied through another’s life. That is, entrance into the presence of this God is still obstructed. This is also a reminder of our sinful, idolatrous bent. And while we may be the people of God, we are still all terrible sinners. We need to be rescued. Most importantly, Leviticus points us to the rescuer, redeemer, the savior to come who is Jesus Christ the Messiah. They foreshadow His life and work for idolaters like us.
Sixth, Carson wrestles with reconciling God forgiving and punishing sinners. According to Exodus 32-34, God does the aforesaid. The fact is that the guilty are forgiven, but not by the law, for it is only by grace that forgiveness can be secured. God also punishes sinners and will not leave the guilty unpunished. So how can these two opposite poles be reconciled? He argues that a substitute is required for love and justice to be met out. Because God is not needy, and can’t be bartered with, only a substitute will suffice. Again, God accomplishes this through sovereign grace alone. Exodus 33:19 sums it up; “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
Lastly, Carson explains toward what the Law of Moses points. The Law of Moses points forward to Jesus through the sacrificial system. A system rife with types pointing to Jesus (e.g., the goat, the ram and bull’s blood, the tabernacle, etc.,) culminating in The Day of Atonement. On this day, the substitute is the calling card of the Law of Moses—actually of Jesus himself. The New Testament book of Hebrews attests to the fact that, “the blood of bulls and goats could never make the one’s offering them clean from their sin” (Day of Atonement) which is why every year they had to do it all over again.