July 14th, 2011 by Kristi Stephens
15 years ago I wept over dying Haitian babies in my arms – will you help me make a difference today? Please consider partnering with me to bring infant formula to these precious ones in desperate need! Got milk?
Now, back to One Summer, One Story…
When you think of Old Testament law, what word comes to mind? Tedious? Monotonous? Repetitive?
Long lists of required offerings, detailed specifications for the tabernacle, “thou shalt not’s”?
Personally, I think that the reason why we often misunderstand the purpose behind the Old Testament law is that we fail to see it within the context of God’s unique relationship with Israel. As we discussed on Tuesday, God’s redemption of and covenant relationship with Israel came first – the law came second.
Israel was set apart as God’s chosen people on the earth. They were a kingdom of priests, intended to communicate God’s character and will to the rest of the world. They were to eat differently, live differently, worship differently, relate to one another differently – because their God was completely holy and unlike any other god of any other nation.
Not only that – but their God would physically dwell in their midst.
“So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.”
A completely holy God living among completely sinful man.
The law was not a strict code of rules requiring them to live perfectly. The law was in place because they could not live perfectly. The book of Leviticus opens with instructions of various fellowship offerings the Israelites could present to God – there was a right way and a wrong way to worship, and they must do it correctly. Because God is holy, sinful man cannot saunter into His presence however he wants and worship however he wants. Remember – Cain already learned that lesson once. So, God teaches them how to worship Him.
After these fellowship offerings, however, notice what comes next:
“Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands…”
The law did not require perfection. The law assumed imperfection. Imperfect understanding of worship, even among God-fearing men. Imperfect living. Imperfect thoughts. Imperfect motivations.
Sinful man cannot live with a holy God in their midst without a covering for their sin.
The amazing thing about the law, to me, is this: God wanted relationship with them. He loved them enough to teach them how to live with Him in their midst, how to approach Him, how to worship Him, how to live in a way that honored Him, how to repair their relationship with Him when they inevitably would fail.
This is the heartcry of the entire book of Deuteronomy – it screams off the pages at us:
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
God wants relationship with us. He wants to dwell among us. This is why Revelation exults loudly and joyfully:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
But we must understand: sinful man cannot dwell with a holy God. Our sin must be covered. And so, God made a way.
Not with bulls and lambs sacrificed over and over for each and every sin – but with the one perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God whose death was able to take away the sins of the world. He offers to us an invitation to be redeemed, and then to have God not just dwell among us – but in us.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.