British theologian Alec Motyer died recently aged 91. I knew him when I was beginning my ministry in London. He was pastor of St. Luke’s Church, West Hampstead at the time and would join us at our staff prayer meeting on Saturday nights. He was a noted Old Testament scholar who taught at theological seminaries in England. In a foreword to his gem: A CHRISTIAN’S POCKET GUIDE TO LOVING THE OLD TESTAMENT, Tim Keller writes about remembering Alec’s answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church. “After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their ‘testimony’ to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:
We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator – the one who stands between us and God – came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.
Then Dr. Motyer concluded: ‘Now I think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.’
Tim Keller goes on to write:
“My young self was thunderstruck. I had held the vague, unexamined impression that in the Old Testament people were saved through obeying a host of detailed laws but that today we were freely forgiven and accepted by faith. This little thought experiment showed me, in a stroke, not only that the Israelites had been saved by grace and that God’s salvation had been by costly atonement and grace all along, but also that the pursuit of holiness, pilgrimage, obedience, and deep community should characterize Christians as well.”