What do you get if you mix one good egg with one bad egg? A bad egg that’s twice as big!
By the time Jesus came, the Law God gave to convict the people of sin, cover that sin from His sight, and call the people to Him, had become the religion of the Jews. The Bible makes it clear that there was almost always a small remnant of people who truly desired and followed the Lord. The rest were focused on the human system we have called the flesh. By the time of Noah, it was just a handful of people. After the Flood, it was just Abraham and his family. It seems to have continued like that through much of Hebrew history. There were prophets and a few others, but most of the people cared little about the real purpose of the Law.
But the flesh recognizes power and effectiveness. God’s Law did work to help the people. Those who followed it found God’s provision and protection in ways that were miraculous. So the people were drawn to the Law for what they could get from it. They saw it as similar to their own system, having morals and religion, and they wanted the special benefits it brought. So they combined the two plans.
Now, this is a gross simplification. But the point is that the Law, off and on through Israel’s history, was used as a tool of the flesh. It became viewed as part of the cause and effect process the flesh loves. Do this and you will get that. Mechanical. Mathematical. Formulaic. Obey the commandments and God has to bless you.
I want to be honest. The Law sounds conditional. If you do this then God will bless you. You can see it all through the Law. But you only see it that way because you and I were trained to think that way by the flesh. The point was that God was giving the people important advice on how to live. He wanted to bless them, but their own actions prevented His blessings. He knew, for example, that certain cleanliness practices would prevent diseases. He knew that rest was important for people and animals. He knew that giving helped to release people from bondage to money. He knew what kept them from enjoying His blessings and He told them how to be free from those hindrances. It wasn’t “Do this and you will get this.” It was “I want to bless you and here’s how you can receive the blessing.”
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time are the classic promoters of this “religion of the Jews.” They taught that the Law was to be kept beyond the letter. They invented more laws to surround the ones God gave. They built up the system of cause and effect, obedience and judgment. But they were not the first and they were not the last. People who served the flesh believed that adding the Law of God to their system would give them the spiritual life they so deeply desired. It would give them hope and make them righteous—if they did it right. So everything was about doing it right.
When Jesus came, He said that He was not going to abolish the Law. He meant the true and good Law God had given for the benefit of the people. He would fulfill the Law; accomplish the work God had promised to do for them. But He would abolish the religion of the Jews. The idea that people could earn spiritual favor by making sacrifices or performing ritual acts of kindness was going away. That was never the truth.
This is important for us to understand. God’s Law was just as good as David and others said it was. Jesus was the end of God’s Law only in the sense of the culmination, the satisfaction. God’s Law served an important purpose and that purpose brought people to Jesus. Jesus was the New Covenant that the Old Covenant pointed to.
But the religion of the Jews was just the flesh, the bad egg only bigger.