Saturday, 7 September 2013
Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. Romans 9:32
The question is, “Why has Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, not attained to the law of righteousness?” The answer is found in how they pursued the law. Leviticus 18:5 says, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Perfect obedience to the statutes was needed for life. But within the law itself, it was implied that perfect obedience wasn’t possible. Where is this found? In the Day of Atonement rituals which are detailed in several locations of the law. Here in Numbers 29 is one example –
“On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work. You shall present a burnt offering to the Lord as a sweet aroma: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish. Their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the one ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, besides the sin offering for atonement, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.” Numbers 29:7-11
Even more specific details fill the entire chapter of Leviticus 16. Notice that the offerings include a “sin offering.” Why is this important? Because a sin offering implies sin has been committed. Thus, the law itself demonstrates that sin is expected. But, the law says, “which if a man does, he shall live by them.” Therefore, the law implicitly notes that man cannot live by observance of the law because man is unable to perfectly observe this same law.
So then how could the people continue before God? By observing another portion of the law, one based solely on faith; the Day of Atonement. Even though the rituals within the Day of Atonement were mandated by the law, they anticipated something from outside the law. The question is, did the sin offerings cover the sins of all the people? The answer is, “No.” If someone stayed at home and worked (something contrary to the law) on the Day of Atonement, he was to be “cut off from his people” (Leviticus 23:29). Therefore, he had to have faith that going down to Jerusalem and fasting and praying would actually bring about what the law stated.
Likewise, could the animal sacrifices permanently take away the sins of the people? Again, “No.” The New Testament tells us that is was “not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 9:4). In those sacrifices was the reminder of sins every year, but the sins continued. Thus the law itself demonstrates that through pursuing the mere observance of the law one could never attain righteousness.
In fact, attempting to do so would only become the basis for something else, self-idolatry. By observing the law, without faith, a man became confident in himself apart from the very law he was observing. This was because the law implied sins would be committed and needed atonement. And therefore, many years after the introduction of the law, Habakkuk was able to confidently say,
“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4
This is the “stumbling stone” that Paul speaks of and which still permeates the Jewish society of today. It is also, unfortunately, a stumbling stone for people in a vast variety of denominations, sects, and cults. It is a tripping hazard leading to hell.
The Bible makes it perfectly clear that there is one way to be saved and it is by a complete dependence on the work of Christ. One must abandon self and “call on the name of the Lord.” Only Jesus satisfied the demands of the law perfectly. Therefore, by faith in His work alone can we stand justified before God.
Life application: Are you being told that there are certain things you must do beyond calling on Jesus as Lord in order to be saved? If so, then maybe you haven’t trusted fully in Jesus and are depending on “self.” Unfortunately, “self” can only lead you to destruction. Give up on self and call on Jesus as Lord. Then, go forth and tell others of the freedom which is found in Christ.
Lord, there is nothing more precious than my time alone with You. And yet, too often I spend it in the vain pursuit of other stuff. When I stand before You, everything I waste my time with now will be a point of shame and sadness. Help me, Lord, to direct my thoughts and heart toward You. Grant me the will to put aside those things which take my mind away from that closer walk which I desire. Amen.