Jots and tittles for grace and Godly living
by Pastor Matthew Bishop
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For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:18).
A page of Hebrew can be a fearful thing to a beginning student. I found this out in my first week at the seminary. Not only did I need to retrain my brain to read backwards (which, of course, is forwards in Hebrew!), then there were the differently shaped letters and the little dots and lines to tell us how long each vowel is … and therefore what the word is. I found it all quite ‘busy’ – at least compared to English. Especially the ‘jots and tittles’, as the King James Version translates ‘the smallest letter … the least stroke of a pen’ (Matthew 5:18). Eventually, my brain got used to it but was never perfect at doing it. I would become complacent, not looking at these jots and tittles properly. A few marks off for mistranslating. And sometimes, I got so bogged down in the detail that I failed to translate the text’s full meaning. More marks off (even if my Hebrew lecturer was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met).
Jesus knew his father’s will inside out. The smallest letter. The least stroke of a pen. He got full marks for attending to the detail of God’s commandments and perfectly translating God’s will. And he handed this supreme result over to us to put on our heavenly transcript.
Not once, though, did he say that it was okay to set aside his commands or teachings. Not even the least. Indeed, he even urged us to let our righteousness surpass that of the very righteous (commandment-keeping) Pharisees. Here Jesus was urging us – and still does – to receive the gift of his righteousness by believing the extent of what he achieved for us on Calvary’s cross. Then driving us to live as resurrection people by translating his gift of new life into generous yet commandment-based living toward him and each other.
As we have seen in the devotion texts for this week, there is nothing to fear in this. Just Jesus’ grace and wisdom to receive and live out of!
What aspects of God’s commandments do you need to brush up on?
Lord Jesus, you are righteous, and your laws are right. Thank you for the beautiful language of your law, which you fully kept and now gift the benefits to us. Generously give us your Holy Spirit to translate our life in you and your world according to your perfect will. In your precious name, we pray. Amen.
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