Exploring Grace in the Old Testament - Bible Study Part Two

Bible Study About Grace: Part Two – Grace In The Old Testament

Pastor Duke Taber

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Introduction

While grace is most fully revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, it is not absent from the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament is full of prefigurations, foreshadowings, and instances of God’s grace. In this study, we will explore how God’s grace is manifested in His dealings with key Old Testament figures like Noah, Abraham, and the nation of Israel. We’ll see that from the very beginning, God’s interactions with humanity have been characterized by unmerited favor and steadfast love.

Reflect:

  • When you think of the Old Testament, what examples of God’s grace come to mind?
  • Why is it important to study grace in the Old Testament, not just the New Testament?
Bible Study About Grace: Part Two - Grace In The Old Testament

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Grace to Noah

One of the first explicit mentions of grace in the Bible is in reference to Noah. In the midst of a world filled with wickedness and violence, “Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8) This grace was not due to Noah’s perfection, but to his faith and righteousness in a corrupt generation.

God’s grace towards Noah is seen in His warning about the coming flood and His instructions for building the ark (Genesis 6:13-22). This grace not only saved Noah and his family, but also preserved humanity and the animal kingdom. After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah, promising never again to destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17). This covenant was an act of pure grace, not based on Noah’s merit but on God’s love and faithfulness.

Key Verses:

  • “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8)
  • “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” (Genesis 6:18)

Reflect:

  • How did God show grace to Noah before, during, and after the flood?
  • What does Noah’s story teach us about the nature of God’s grace?

Grace to Abraham

Abraham, originally named Abram, is another key figure in the Old Testament who received God’s grace. God’s initial call to Abram in Genesis 12 is a prime example of grace. God chose Abram, not because of his merits, but because of His own sovereign will and purpose. He called Abram out of idolatry and into a covenant relationship, promising to bless him, make his name great, and bless all the families of the earth through him (Genesis 12:1-3).

God’s grace to Abraham is further demonstrated in the promise of a son, Isaac, despite Abraham and Sarah’s old age (Genesis 18:10-14). This gracious promise was fulfilled in Genesis 21:1-7. The ultimate test of Abraham’s faith came when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham’s willingness to obey, and God’s gracious provision of a substitute sacrifice, foreshadows the ultimate act of grace in the sacrificial death of Jesus.

God’s covenant with Abraham, first made in Genesis 15 and confirmed in Genesis 17, was a covenant of grace. It was not based on Abraham’s works, but on faith in God’s promise (Genesis 15:6). This covenant included the promise of land, descendants, and blessing – all gracious gifts from God.

Key Verses:

  • “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Reflect:

  • How did God show grace to Abraham throughout his life?
  • What can we learn from Abraham’s story about the relationship between grace and faith?

Grace to Israel in the Exodus

Perhaps the most significant display of God’s grace in the Old Testament is His deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The Israelites were not chosen because they were more numerous or powerful than other nations, but because of God’s gracious love and faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

The Exodus itself is a story of grace. God heard the cries of His people and raised up Moses to lead them out of bondage (Exodus 3:1-10). Through the ten plagues, God demonstrated His power over the gods of Egypt and His determination to free His people (Exodus 7-12). The Passover, where the blood of a lamb saved the Israelites from the destroyer, is a beautiful picture of God’s saving grace and a foreshadowing of Christ’s redemptive work (Exodus 12:1-13).

At the Red Sea, God once again demonstrated His grace by parting the waters and delivering Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 14). This event was so significant that it is remembered and celebrated throughout the Old Testament as a paradigmatic example of God’s saving power and grace.

Key Verses:

  • “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7-8)
  • “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” (Psalm 106:7-8)

Reflect:

  • How did God demonstrate His grace to Israel in the Exodus?
  • What can we learn from the Exodus about God’s character and His desire to save His people?

Grace in the Mosaic Covenant

After the Exodus, God graciously entered into a covenant relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai. This covenant, known as the Mosaic Covenant, was a significant act of grace. God had already delivered Israel from slavery, and now He was establishing them as His special people, giving them His law, and promising to dwell among them.

The giving of the law was itself an act of grace. The law was not a means of earning salvation, but a guide for living as God’s redeemed people. It taught Israel how to live in a way that reflected God’s holiness and love. The sacrificial system, detailed in Leviticus, was a gracious provision for dealing with sin and maintaining fellowship with God.

Yet, as Paul makes clear in the New Testament, the law was never intended as a means of justification before God (Galatians 2:16). It served to highlight humanity’s sinfulness and need for grace. It was a “guardian” or “tutor” leading people to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

Throughout Israel’s history, God continued to show grace even when they broke the covenant and turned to idolatry. He raised up judges, kings, and prophets to call them back to Himself. He disciplined them, but did not utterly destroy them. This grace is beautifully expressed in passages like Psalm 103 and Lamentations 3:22-23.

Key Verses:

  • “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”” (Exodus 34:6-7)
  • “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Reflect:

  • How was the giving of the law an act of grace?
  • How did God continue to show grace to Israel even when they broke the covenant?

Grace in the Prophets

The prophetic books of the Old Testament are filled with both warnings of judgment and promises of grace. The prophets served as God’s mouthpiece, calling Israel back to covenant faithfulness and pointing forward to the ultimate expression of God’s grace in the Messiah.

One of the clearest prophecies of grace is found in Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant passage. This prophecy points to the coming Messiah who would bear the sins of many and make intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). The Servant would be “wounded for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). This is a stunning picture of substitutionary grace, where the innocent Servant takes the punishment due to sinful humanity.

The prophet Jeremiah also speaks of a new covenant of grace that God would make with His people. This covenant would not be like the old one that they broke, but would be characterized by God’s forgiveness and the internalization of His law (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This prophecy anticipates the New Covenant established by Christ, where God’s grace is poured out in fullness.

Other prophets, like Hosea, Micah, and Zechariah, also highlight God’s gracious character and His plan to save and restore His people. Hosea’s marriage to the unfaithful Gomer serves as a living parable of God’s grace towards unfaithful Israel (Hosea 1-3). Micah reminds us that God delights in showing mercy and casting sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-19). Zechariah prophesies of a future king who will bring peace and speak peace to the nations (Zechariah 9:9-10).

Key Verses:

  • “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
  • “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19)

Reflect:

  • How do the prophecies of the Suffering Servant and the New Covenant demonstrate God’s grace?
  • What do the prophetic books teach us about God’s character and His plan of salvation?

Conclusion

From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is a story of God’s grace. We see it in His dealings with individuals like Noah and Abraham, in His deliverance of Israel from Egypt, in His covenant relationship with His people, and in His promises of a coming Savior. While the full extent of God’s grace is revealed in Jesus Christ, it is not absent from the Old Testament.

As we study these Old Testament examples of grace, we are reminded of several key truths. First, God’s grace is sovereign and free. It is not earned or deserved, but freely given according to God’s good pleasure. Second, God’s grace is poured out on the undeserving. It is not for the perfect, but for the broken, the rebellious, the unworthy. Third, God’s grace has always been His plan for redeeming humanity. From the first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15 to the prophecies of the Suffering Servant and the New Covenant, God’s plan has always been one of grace.

May studying grace in the Old Testament deepen our appreciation for the grace we have received in Christ. May it also move us to worship the God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).

Reflect:

  • What are your key takeaways from this study of grace in the Old Testament?
  • How does understanding Old Testament grace enhance your appreciation for what Christ has done?
  • How can you apply what you’ve learned about God’s grace to your life today?

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