This morning I was mulling over some more the whole “why did God create us knowing what was going to happen” question, and it brought me to the area of the law and grace.
At the beginning, God gave man just one “rule”. He knew it was enough to keep us safe. He knew the best for us.
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17 MEV
Man ignored him, giving in to the temptation to follow his own plan, to make his own rules, to be in charge.
Now, man knew the difference between good and evil. Between God’s way and the enemy’s way (i.e. not God’s way). Between the way where it was all provided for us and we had very good thing, and the way of toil, pain, hardship and effort. Going the opposite way to God, the Creator of all, takes energy.
Things went on like that for a while but it was clear that man didn’t have a clue. Just knowing good from evil wasn’t turning out pretty.
God stepped in and, out of mercy, gave mankind a basic blueprint. A way of better understanding what right and wrong looked like. A guide. The Ten Commandments.
It still wasn’t enough. This led to a more detailed framework, the law of Moses, which set out the old covenant relationship between God and man. It covered ceremonial, sacrificial, civil, moral/spiritual matters. A huge list. It showed just how hard it was for man – though his own efforts – to keep to God’s way. It showed just how perfect, how righteous, God is.
Of course the teachers of the law realised this and over time built a “hedge around the law”: a further series of rules designed to keep man out of the grey areas so that they were less likely to stray far enough to break any of the Mosaic Law.
It is a little bit like having a 20mph speed limit in a built up area. If you are driving quite slowly you are more likely to have the time to react to a child running out in front of you, and therefore less likely to hit them. At that speed, even if you did, the chance of death or serious injury is reduced. That restrictive speed limit is a law that helps prevent you from breaking one of the “big” ones – not taking someone else’s life.
Imagine the first time a parent leaves a child alone to play, maybe just in another room or when the child is old enough, because they’ve trusted them enough to stay home unsupervised whilst the parent pops out. “Be good” is perhaps deemed to be enough of an instruction to keep them safe.
When you get back and see they have broken something, done something they know they aren’t allowed to do or hurt themselves, you realise that “be good” isn’t enough.
Next time you might be more detailed! This time there is a list of things, things you’ve realised they are more than likely to end up doing without you there to stop them.
More than likely you get back to find they did something that you hadn’t put on the list, but still wasn’t something you wanted them to do!
The list gets bigger..
In a tiny, imperfect-analogy way, that is a reflection of the journey mankind had with God regarding the rules that were designed to keep us safe once we had stepped out from under His protection.
So what was the answer? A bigger list? More rules? Bigger punishments? Harsher consequences?
We’ve all seen that parent in the supermarket… “Don’t do that!”, “Come back here!”, “If you don’t come back here this minute you will be in trouble!”, “Come here or I will smack you”, ,Come here [usually with expletives by now] or I will [insert ludicrous unlikely response e.g. ‘I will kill you’!]”.
It doesn’t work. It isn’t the answer. It wasn’t the answer.
God’s answer: Jesus.
We simply cannot keep ourselves righteous outside of the original relationship with our Creator, but we cannot have that relationship because we have sinned, gone our own way.
God’s answer was to sacrifice His Son to make payment for those sins in order that we can step back into relationship with Him. DESPITE THE FACT THAT WE KEEP SINNING!!!
Jesus, omnipotent God incarnate, Alpha and Omega, paid the price for every sin. For every one. For ever. Past, present, future.
So despite the fact that I can still chose to go my way not God’s way, despite the fact that I can still give in to temptation, I am now, having confessed Christ as my Saviour, believing that He died for my sins and rose from the dead, has defeated death and is sat at the right hand of the Father, back in that original Garden of Eden relationship.
I’m not worthy. I’m not righteous. On my own, I can never be. But once I accept Christ’s redemption, in Him, I am all those things.
The biggest oxymoron of them all: grace.