Under the Old Covenant, absolute obedience was required. God's law made no allowances for even the slightest disobedience. Simply put, the soul that sinned died.
Those commandments were laid out clearly, describing the perfect obedience a holy God requires. Yet the law made no provision in the flesh for such obedience and man found himself utterly unable to keep the law’s demands. Paul called the law “. . . a yoke upon the neck . . . which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10).
Yet, Paul also describes the law as a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The law exposes our hearts, teaching us we are weak-willed, helpless as babies, in need of a savior.
At this point, you may be wondering, “Why would God demand perfect obedience from us, and yet not provide us with power to comply?” The Bible makes it clear: God had to bring us to a place where we realized we had no power to escape our sin.
It took Israel four hundred years of affliction to learn they could not provide their own deliverance. They couldn’t rid themselves of their slave masters in their own strength. They had to have a deliverer—a God who would reach down and bring them out of their bondage.
And it took centuries—up to the time of Zechariah—for Israel to recognize their need for a redeemer. They finally became convinced they needed a savior who would “be unto [them] a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of [them]” (Zechariah 2:5). God himself would be the fire around them and the glory within them!
Yet many Christians today still have not learned this lesson. They are living under the law, striving in their flesh, making promises to God, trying to get free from their sin. They wake up each day saying, “This is the day, Lord! I’m going to find the strength and willpower to break these chains. With just a little more effort, I’ll be free!”
No! It will never happen. It will only end in more guilt. The law is meant to drive us to the cross to acknowledge our helplessness, our need for a redeemer.