Standards must be taken into balance for one cannot live without them but one cannot be rock solid in them without any give. I believe that when standards are lax or lacking then it will develop a culture that will make anything permissible, which leads to chaos. When there is no standard then there is no room for justice and thriving as people begin to make their own standard as it becomes about “me”. The opposite extreme is when there is a hard stance on standards with no room for change or conversation and thus it creates a different type of chaos, oppression.
When there are standards but no room for discussion, growth, or taking account of unique situations then there is no room for grace and authenticity as people will be willing to give up being real to make sure that they are in line with the rules. To sum it up, no standards leads to boundaryless relationships whereas cold hard standards leads to lack of genuine relationships.
I’m going to keep it simple, God has standards.
God is gracious.
Put it together and we find that God’s grace helps us to meet those standards.
How did I come to talk about standards in today’s passage?
“And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’”
You would think that this was a valid question but it is only a valid question when there is ignorance but for the people of God they knew better as they knew the standards. They asked what their iniquity was. Iniquity is a tricky thing in that we all commit it daily and a lot of times we don’t know we did because iniquity is sin justified and packaged in such a way where it is acceptable in our eyes but blatantly sinful in God’s eyes. Iniquity is a standard or truth that is slightly twisted from its original form and thus it is a minor change or slight tweak yet that slight tweak can have devastating results.
Did you ever try and type a website address and accidentally spell the name incorrectly by one letter to find that where you ended up is not where you wanted to go? That is an example of what iniquity is like in that it’s a slight tweak that takes you to a place you did not intend to go. Or when you look at a plane that is going to a destination, a minor change in direction that is even one degree shifted to the left or right doesn’t do harm in the immediate but in the long run you will find that the plane is actually hundreds of miles off from it’s intended destination. Slight changes bring big changes.
The Israelites were saying what is our iniquity? God was telling them that their persistent “small” iniquities have created a situation of sin that has blinded them to the heart of God because it is not so much the “big” sins like murder that contribute daily to the atmosphere for sin to thrive but it is the “white” lies or sins that we allow because we think it is ok. When we allow the white lies we are allowing ourselves to create the standards.
These questions that the Israelites have can be answered when one abide by God’s laws (v.11) and if they knew the ways of God they wouldn’t dare ask these questions. If they have been cultivating a relationship with God then they would know what grieves His heart and also pleases Him as they were people who for generations were given the law so they had no excuse for these ridiculous questions.
The more I walk with God the more sensitive I am becoming to God’s heart and that the standards that seemed so outlandish and ridiculous are beginning to make sense in the context of being in relationship with God. Standards apart from relationship do not make sense and in fact may seem oppressive but once you understand the heart behind the standard then you will realize the importance of keeping it not as a do or don’t but as a way of guarding the heart of the being behind it. Even when I sin, I know that I have sinned and though it is tempting to justify it and say it was a small sin, I realize that justification of sin only leads to grieving God’s heart. I learned to admit where I messed up and walk towards the direction opposite of where I was going when I was entertaining iniquity. God’s grace reveals to me that I have messed up so that I can clean it up with Him as it is only by His grace is there awareness, the conviction, and the power to move in the direction that leads to life.
Today if you want to know the standards and the heart behind the standards, read His word for His word revealed to us through the Bible is grace in of itself! Meditate on it day and night and keep them close to your heart and you will find that as you keep it close to your heart you are close to His heart.