The Leopard's Spots
● Jer 13:23a . . Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?
The answer to both those questions is of course NO; and like they say: you can't get blood out of a turnip.
● Jer 13:23b . . Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Many years ago, I gave quite a bit of thought to the fact that it is very easy to ignore God and do the things that offend Him. If only I could comply with God just as naturally as I don't comply; then I might actually have a chance of not only making it to Heaven; but also staying there.
In time I discovered that the apostle Paul was concerned about the very same problem and recorded his thoughts in a letter to Romans.
● Rom 7:15-24 . . I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can't help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things.
. . . I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
. . . It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? . . . . So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Paul apparently saw himself as a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; a man with a good side and a dark side. The dark side can be controlled somewhat (Gen 4:7) however, Paul consented to failure at his attempts to eradicate the dark side. It was as much a part of him as the knees connecting the upper and lower halves of this leg bones, viz: the apostle Paul was stuck with a dark side no matter how conscientious he tried to be 100% pious thru and thru. _
Supposing there's this man: he's Jewish by birth, circumcised the eighth day of his life in accord with the instructions given Abraham in the 17th chapter of Genesis, completed Bar Mitzvah, studies Torah daily and makes an honest effort to comply with it, observes all the required traditions and holy days, attends synagogue regularly, dresses in accord with a proper Jewish dress code, and prays the officially accepted prayers in his Siddur.
What are this man's chances of acceptance with God? Well; actually pretty good; for example:
● Deut 6:25 . . Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before The Lord our God, as He has commanded us.
Quite a few Jews in the Old Testament were righteous that way; some in the New Testament too.
● Luke 1:5-6 . .There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of The Lord blameless.
* David established the priest's duty roster back in 24th chapter of 1Chronicles. Abia (a.k.a. Abijah) was eighth in the rotation.
Now the thing is: The Lord's commandments and ordinances incorporate a sacrificial system. In point of fact Zacharias was a priest by that Law; and some of the sacrifices that priests are required to offer were, and still are, pretty important.
So in order to merit a rating of "righteous" by means of the Law, one must practice all of it, viz: they must practice the sacrifices along with all its other God-given instructions; and for sure this is humanly possible because others like Zacharias and his wife have done it.
* There are times when it is impossible to practice all the Law. For example Daniel was enslaved almost his entire life outside Israel-- for much of the time he was away, the Temple was in ruins and its priests disbanded --yet he was still ranked right up there with the most righteous men who ever lived (Ezek 14:13-20). This strongly suggests that there is a righteousness that can be accredited to Jews apart from total compliance with The Lord's commandments and ordinances per their codification in the covenant that Moses' people agreed upon with God in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. _
So: it's possible to attain a level of righteousness by compliance with the entire Law, and it's also possible to attain a level of righteousness apart from compliance with the entire Law. But we have yet to address the problem related to a leopard's spots and an Ethiopian's skin.
Leopards might be trained to act like dogs, and Ethiopians might be schooled to conduct themselves like Europeans; but the leopards would still be Leopards and the Ethiopians would still be Ethiopians. So changes in somebody's behavior doesn't necessarily cause changes in the nature of their existence; and like Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie character the Terminator once said: It is in your nature to destroy yourselves.
One possible method for effecting improvements in the nature of people's existence would be to simply do away with it, viz: have them die, and then bring them back from death minus their former nature, i.e. regenerate them with divine nature instead of human nature; thus making it possible for folks to be even more righteous than Daniel; in point of fact, making it possible for Daniel himself to be even more righteous than he ever thought possible.
FAQ: Lord; who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
RESPONSE: He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear Yhe Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. (Ps 15:1-5)
Were the nature of somebody's existence heavenly righteous instead of humanly righteous, then it only stands to reason that the above performances could not only be easily done, but always done; like this:
"He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him." (John 8:29)
Were that the case, then we could reasonable expect that if someone were blessed with divine nature, they would end well at the finish line.
● Dan 12:2 . . And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. _
Regeneration with divine nature-- spoken of above --isn't a pipe dream. In point of fact, it's a true-to-life blessing predicted by the Prophets. For example:
● Jer 31:31-34 . . Behold, the days come-- declares The Lord --that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them-- declares The Lord.
. . . But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days-- declares The Lord --I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "know The Lord" for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them-- declares The Lord --for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
● Ezek 36:24-28 . . For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
. . . A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.
The new covenant is essential so God's people can stay put in the land of Israel instead of being kicked out of it and/or dominated by foreign powers again and again.
Messiah's reign would be jeopardized too without a new covenant. He might be an okay guy himself whose methods please God alright; but his countrymen's typically half-baked compliance with God's instructions would most likely ruin things for him in short order. But according to Dan 7:13-14 Messiah's kingdom is predicted to be an everlasting kingdom and the one which will never pass away. So his constituents absolutely have got to be made 100% God-fearing to protect Messiah's best interests.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have a stake in Israel's future too, so it's important that it be permanently stabilized before they return to live there.
● Heb 11:8-9. . By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
I think history has proven well enough that God's people cannot be trusted to be faithful to the original covenant. But the new covenant doesn't rely upon their inconsistent human will power. God's spirit will take charge and reform the people in spite of themselves; and done in such a permanent way that they will never lose the benefits that the Old Testament associates with Messiah's reign. The new covenant is a very good deal.
● Isa 60:21 . .Then will all your people be righteous, and they will possess the land forever.
● Jer 31:38-40 .
. See, a time is coming-- declares the Lord --when the city shall be rebuilt for
The Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate; and the measuring line
shall go straight out to the Gareb Hill, and then turn toward Goah. And the
entire Valley of the Corpses and Ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi
Kidron, and the corner of the Horse Gate on the east, shall be holy to The Lord.
They shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.
Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus
by Michael L. Brown
Volume 1 ISBN 0-8010-6063-X
Volume 2 ISBN 0-8010-6334-5
Volume 3 ISBN 0-8010-6423-6