I fully intended to write more after “Where Exactly is the Wiggle Room?” I did. When I returned, the coals were cooler, the ideas had become faint whispers, and I wasn’t sure what was next. That can happen. I’ve lost more amazing thoughts than I’ve ever actually penned, simply because I haven’t pen them in time. Maybe you know how that works.
Then I was going to write a blog post about my single “Word for the Year.” I think I have it now, several weeks into the year. Timing is everything, and this wasn’t on my timetable. It will come. It’s a great word, by the way. It makes me laugh a little.
But, back to the “wiggle room” idea—
Some find the Bible to be infinitely troubling, challenging, even harsh. There are so many rules in those first five books! As reading goes, it’s some tight space when you’re hoping for wiggle room. And that is exactly the point. The commands are definitely hard. I’d dare say impossible!
One thing I love about reading the Bible is getting the inside scoop on God’s heart toward his people. In the Old Testament, that’s generally understood as Israel and the Gentiles who chose to identify themselves with Israel’s God. (Not surprisingly, laws prescribed the whole process, but that’s a whole other blog entry.) God showed love to his people, time and again, but they continually rebelled from the instructions and specific direction they were given. There were times when God, through the prophets, upbraided Israel:
12 He had said to them: “This is the place of rest, let the weary rest; this is the place of repose.” But they would not listen. 13 Then the word of the Lord came to them: “Law after law, law after law, line after line, line after line, a little here, a little there,” so they go stumbling backwards, to be broken, trapped, and captured. Isaiah 28:12-13 CSB
Out of context, it’s difficult to get a sense of what’s taking place. We do know that the LORD is addressing “the majestic crown of Ephraim’s drunkards…the fading flower of its beautiful splendor” (28:1). When I read the whole chapter, verses 12 and 13 get my attention. Look at the “Law after law, law after law, line after line, line after line, a little here, a little there.” Do you have the same feeling I do when you read that? Sometimes my heart has different words for it, but I feel a little like that, if I’m honest. The minute we decide it is “Do and do, do and do…” the whole thing is just painful (28:10 NIV).
If I come to Bible study with a teachable mindset, I see the tension again. The truth is, biblical Christians have an incredible standard and a flawless example set before them. I see it every time I open the Book. Seeing more clearly that the wiggle room isn’t there isn’t easy, but it’s not bad either.
And there is GRACE.
Here’s the thing: I believe the tension is specifically and intentionally placed there. By God. For our benefit.
The Law—and the lack of wiggle room in it—has its own glory. I’ve said that before. Why do I keep looking to find a way to succeed in it or beat the system? No, I’m not usually aggressively pursuing loopholes. It’s much less obvious than that. It comes with a warped perspective on right and wrong, initially, for me. In my weakest moments, it’s comparisons, a sliding scale, a balance sheet, or a shovel to bury what I can’t stand to look at. It’s a quick run through of my repentance flow chart to land at what I think is grace and, ultimately, forgiveness. The cross is cheapened with a “sin and sorry” repetitive cycle.
Rather than the sweet fragrance of grace, I’m engulfed in the horrible stink of rotten ritual, self-preservation, or self-righteousness. Yuck!
Can we get back to the truth of God’s beautiful grace?
16 This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants — not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all HSC
Verse 4:17 finishes the above sentence with “in God’s sight.” I like that. Take a look at one of my favorite translations of the same verse:
16 The reason the promise is based on trusting is so that it may come as God’s free gift, a promise that can be relied on by all the seed, not only those who live within the framework of the Torah, but also those with the kind of trust Avraham had—Avraham avinu for all of us. CJB
Don’t miss some of the highlights: God’s free gift, a promise that can be relied on….
I love this! Jew and Gentile are given this promise-gift. Gifts aren’t earned; they are given. In this case, it can’t be purchased, but must be received in humility. Promise indicates a lasting characteristic, if not a bit of a “not yet” or the things yet to come.
In humility, I realize I’ve broken parts of an inseparable, holy law. I’m guilty—of all of it. And it is only through trusting that the promise comes, so it’s free (in case I might feel the urge to brag about my “all that and a bag of chips” moments).
Sweet fragrant grace wafting—
The Law convicts. We’re all stuck, if we’re honest. There’s no wiggle room.
There is freedom. Lavished. Freely. Through trust.
Are we okay with that? It might be time to celebrate the goodness of Jesus Christ’s loving sacrifice for us yet again….
Meandering thoughts I finally penned for my own heart. Maybe you are blessed, too.
Scripture from http://www.biblestudytools.com
Random thoughts are compliments of Jen; the good ones, if there are any, are God’s.