Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Approaching the Darkness

by Nick Otto

It is interesting. Right after God spoke the Ten Commandments to the Israelites from a dark ominous cloud exploding with thunder and lightning as it engulfed a smoldering mountain, Moses says to the people, "Do not be afraid..." These people were not just a little scared of God. Their bodies turned to Jello. They begged Moses to tell God NOT to talk to them. I can't think of how many times I have pleaded with God to talk directly to me or give me a sign. But that's just me. I'm sure none of you have done that. But these people were absolutely terrified of being anywhere near God.

So Moses tells the Israelites, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of the Lord will be with you and keep you from sinning." I love this verse because it summarizes perfectly why I am doing this crazy experiment. As a Christian, I believe that I am free from the Law (meaning all of the ritual stuff or ceremonial law). But trying to keep the Law is very much like a test. And this test in not just any test. It is a horrible, excrutiating, horrifying test that reminds you over and over again what a miserable failure you are. And if you don't feel like a miserable failure, you still are; you're just to proud to realize it.

Keeping the Law will by no means make you righteous. You cannot earn your Salvation. On the other hand, we cannot throw the Law out like it's a piece of trash. We cannot throw it out because Christ did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Free from the Law? Yes. But I will try to do it anyway because God has given us His law as a gift, just as he has given us His only Son as a gift. And his son said, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Christmas was not too long ago. Has anyone been blessed by the opportunity to watch children open presents? Mom or dad spend months working and saving to get that perfect gift, and within minutes after the wrapping paper is shredded off one of three things usually happens. 1) the toy gets broke, 2) a fight ensues over the toy, or 3), my personal favorite, the child loses interest in the toy and spends countless hours playing with the box the toy came in! The trash is more appealing to these children than gift they longed all year for. Praise God adults are too mature for such childish behavior.

The Israelites were so terrified of God that they would not go near him. Ironically, it was not long before the Israelites (including their priest, Aaron) had formed an idol in the form of a golden calf. It seems that the Israelites were kept their distance from God in more way than one.

But Moses does the most remarkable thing. While the people remain at a distance, "Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." There is a connection between closeness to God's Law, or Christ's Commandments, and closeness to God Himself. I have heard many in our group tell how much they have learned about God, how much more they fear Him, and how much closer they feel to Him. Yet, so many Christians, even pastors, distance themselves from the Law. They throw it out as if it no longer matters at all. As if it were a piece of trash. How often have we, like children, mindlessly broken the precious gifts God has given us? The one thing we long for most, the opportunity to hear God speak and draw near to him, we either break, argue over, or loose interest in.

Living Leviticus is not easy. It is very difficult. It can be downright terrifying at times when you catch yourself falling short. Failing the test. So far, I feel that I've been keeping a distance. I have not been reading Leviticus as much as I probably should. I have not kept track of how many times I've fallen short or what laws I have broken. But from here on out, I plan on approaching the darkness, embracing the gift of God's law, and I hope that by the end of this month, I will know that I am a little bit closer to Jesus Christ.

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