“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:17)
We’ve entered Advent season; what some describe as “the most wonderful time of the year.” I agree that it is wonderful, not because of the traditional Christmas scenes which are often lovely and evocative of pleasant nostalgia, but because it focuses our attention on GOD’s gift offering of reconciliation and peace between He and humanity, namely Jesus Christ. We don’t hear much about that offer of peace outside of the Church. The truth is we needed GOD to make that move for us.
Lately, I’ve been studying portions of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). After the creation story, the entrance of sin and death into the world, and foundation-setting for establishing a godly human family, all found in Genesis, the remaining four books are essentially about the immense culture change that was needed for that human family to experience a distinctive spiritual formation leading to godliness. I am currently nearing the end of Leviticus, a book that might as well be labeled, “GOD is perfect and holy. If you want to be His, you be perfect and holy, too.”
That’s just the overview. Wait until you get into the details…and there’s a lot! The requirements of GOD, both in terms of what was to be done to be holy and what was not to be done to remain holy is just about beyond description. It virtually (some would say “literally”) covered every aspect of human life, including things most of us would never think about as important. But they’re important to GOD who reminded us that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9) and that nothing impure, imperfect, or defective in any way was acceptable to Him.
Though it’s not my first time in Leviticus, I haven’t studied it in a while. I’m newly struck by the breadth and depth and height of GOD’s perfection and by how short of His mark I fall. I’m struck by how much He demanded of those who He called “His people.” Each time I open Leviticus, I see at least one requirement that I haven’t met; usually it’s more than one. It would actually be discouraging to keep a list with each day of study.
These weren’t the kinds of things to shrug-off as in “Oh well, I messed up again.” No, there were penalties tied to these failures, some of them quite severe. “Be holy as I am holy” has never been a small thing, a throw-away line, although we may treat it as such. GOD is serious about His holiness and understanding this explains so much about the travails of national Israel throughout their history. Impossible to comply is a phrase I would apply to trying to live this kind of life, and that is ultimately the point.
In the “short-term” (what we call B.C. or B.C.E.), GOD showed mercy and grace to those who fell short of His mark of perfection and humbly acknowledged their shortcoming in confession and repentance. He forgave them for their sin, reestablishing them in right relationship. But as the Bible says, in the fullness of time, He sent His Son who lived that life of absolute, perfect holiness.
Although Jesus never sinned, He took the sins of the world onto Himself, paying the penalty once for all. He was the One who never fell short of GOD’s mark in anyway, and in that, fulfilled the requirements of all of the Law, including what is specified in Leviticus. I am so glad for Jesus. I needed Him to do for me what I was incapable of doing for myself. I fell short…a lot; He didn’t…ever.
In Romans 8:1, Paul the Apostle says, “Therefore, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (underline mine). Who is that condemnation for? It is for those who, with their own merit, don’t meet GOD’s perfect standards of holiness. But for those whose hope, trust, faith and life have been placed into the life of GOD’s only begotten Son, there is no condemnation because He is the perfection of GOD’s holiness in every way.
All of the reminders of this makes this most wonderful season of all for me. I pray that it is so for you as well.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2020. All rights reserved for text content unless otherwise noted.