Deuteronomy is a great book if you haven't read Exodus, Leviticus or Numbers. Standing on the edge of the Promised Land, Moses gives his final instructions to the Israelites. Along with those instructions, though, Moses gives a summary of the previous 40 years.
Moses tells the people how they left Egypt and wandered from place to place. He tells them how they met God at Mount Sinai. He tells them about their rebellion and how they angered God. Along with the walk down memory lane, Moses also reminds the Israelites of all the laws, degrees and regulations that God had instituted.
Reading all of those laws in Deuteronomy can be a little overwhelming, especially having just read them in the previous books. The laws are overwhelming because there's literally no way that anyone could follow them all. Obviously God was gracious and allowed his people to offer atoning sacrifices, but in terms of the law, they were set up to fail.
I love watching the NBA, but I could never actually play in a professional basketball game; I probably couldn’t even play in a pickup game at the YMCA. I’m too short, I’m too slow and I’m too uncoordinated. I am set up to fail when it comes to playing basketball; there’s just no way. I could maybe get better, but not the point of practical perfection required for the NBA.
That’s what the law was, just an impossible goal that no one could ever achieve. Reading through all of those laws in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy makes me so grateful for Jesus.
God still holds us to an impossible standard, but now we have Jesus’ righteousness to cover us. Before sins were covered by sacrifice after sacrifice, a never ending cycle of sin and atonement. When Jesus breathed his final words on the cross he said, “It is finished.” That cycle was broken and we can have salvation and atonement once and for all in Jesus Christ. That’s pretty awesome.
And not only are our sins atoned for, but the Holy Spirit actually lives inside of us and changes us. We may never get to the point of perfection, but at least now we have the ability, through the Holy Spirit, to get better. Before God’s people just had to grit their teeth and try harder to live up to the law. Now, we still have to try, but we work in concert with the Holy Spirit. He dwells inside of us and empowers us to live the type of life God had in mind when he gave the law. God’s people had trying. Through the Holy Spirit, we have transformation.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and because of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work, we’re no longer set up to fail. We can actually live the lives for which we were created. We’re never going to be perfect, we may never be LeBron James. But perhaps we can get to the league and be some guy riding the bench.