I am a compulsive rule-follower, and not in a go-the-speed-limit-no-matter-what kind of way. Sure, I try to observe speed laws whenever possible, but I’d say I’m more of a rule follower in a wait-ninety-seconds-for-the-Hot-Pocket-to-cool-because-it-said-so-in-the-directions-and-surely-the-makers-of-Hot-Pockets-want-what’s-best-for-me kind of way. There are few things about me that could be classified as “hardcore,” but my devotion to rules might come close.
That’s why it was a bit of an odd moment for me when I realized Abraham never had the Ten Commandments.
This guy got to father the nation of Israel. He was singled out by God for blessing. He had such great faith that he was credited with righteousness, but he never even had God’s core list of Do’s and Don’t’s. Neither did Noah, or Joseph, or any other Genesis hero of the faith you want to think about. God didn’t provide the Ten Commandments until his people had grown from a family to a clan to a nation of slaves recently escaped from one of the most powerful countries on the planet.
To a compulsive rule-follower, that’s a little weird.
The only explanation is that, while rules are important, they’re not the point. I can and should follow the laws God gives me, but if that’s all I do, I’m only treating the symptoms of a much deeper issue: that I am broken and sinful at my very core. Refusing to covet my neighbor’s donkey will only go so far. It can’t change what’s inside me.
Fortunately, God knew this. When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God told them what a mess they’d made. He told them the consequences they’d be dealing with. But before he did that, he promised to fix what they’d broken.
And he wasn’t going to do it with a list of rules.
He was going to do it with a boy.
And while that boy did give us behavior pointers, none of his instruction was really that new. It was radical to that culture – even to this one – but not new. He was only revealing what had been at the heart of the law all along. He was just showing people what they’d missed.
So if all Jesus had done was show up, tell us how to properly follow the rules, and then go back to heaven, we wouldn’t be any closer to fixing our rotting, sinful cores. Jesus didn’t fix us by being a great teacher.
He fixed us by being the perfect sacrifice.