Advent Series Day 6: fulfillment of the law

Are you a rule-breaker or a rule-follower? It seems that some of us are prone to cross a line as soon as we see someone draw it. Others are likely to get as far away from the line as possible. Many fall on the spectrum in between, but still land on one side or the other. If you are not sure which you are, ask someone close to you. They probably have you pegged.

My husband tells me all the time that I am a rule-follower.

It’s not that I never disobey rules- I do- sometimes by accident, and sometimes on purpose. But, by nature, I am prone to obey them. I feel sympathetic to the person who created the rule. I assume there is a reason he or she did, and I want to honor that. I am also likely to feel guilty if I don’t obey.

However, even me, a rule-follower, would have struggled to obey all the laws laid out in the Old Testament. Take the first of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.

 “You shall have no other gods before me. – Exodus 20:3

I am to make nothing else my god before Yahweh. I should not give anything or anyone a higher place in my mind or heart than Him. I should not base my identity on anything but Him. I should not spend my energy trying to please anyone besides Him.

I’m pretty sure my rule-following self messed that up several times just today.

And this is just the first commandment. There are nine more. Plus numerous ceremonial and civil laws spread throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

What is the purpose of all these laws?

If God did not consider them important, He would not have spent so much time laying them out for the Israelites. And He would not have used up so many pages of the Bible with their words.

I do not believe the law was not there to save the Israelites. For at a point when they had done nothing to earn His favor, God had rescued them from the Egyptians. The law was about setting them apart from other nations. It was about living in response to what Yahweh had done for them. And it was about recognizing God’s holiness, and their failure to live up to His standard.

The law was helped them see their need for a Savior.

If I were an Israelite, I would have failed many times at living according to the law. When that happened, I would have symbolically placed my sin on an animal sacrificed in my place. Over and over again.

So I would have found hope in the promise God made that a new covenant was coming.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” – Jeremiah 31:33-34

The coming of the Messiah means the new covenant has been ushered in. Our relationship to the law has changed. Jesus said

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. – Matthew 5:17

The law is fulfilled. Now it is not obedience to the law that is our response to the holiness of God, it is faith in Jesus. It is to His blood that we go when we make a mistake. We are still called to live differently- as the lights of this dark world. But we do this through Christ, and the law He has now written on our hearts.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

The Messiah has come. I am no longer a rule-follower: I am a Christ-follower.

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