Spotless as a Leopard
Did you see the story about the spotless giraffe born recently in a zoo in Tennessee? I’m no zoologist, but those who are say it has never been observed in the wild, and the last spotless giraffe was last reported in Japan more than 50 years ago1.
It reminded me of the verse in Jeremiah 13:23, which comes at a convenient time since we are in the middle of our series on the doctrine of sin:
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.”
I don’t know if you were aware, but it turns out that a leopard’s spots are skin-deep. If you were to shave off their coat, the spots on their fur would always grow back because God actually designed their skin to have spots! Spottedness is wired into the DNA of that big cat, regardless of what you do with the outer coat.
In the same way, our propensity for evil is not superficial. Our wrong desires and behaviors exist because evil is a matter of our nature, hardwired in our spiritual DNA as human beings from birth.
I cannot escape my evil, which is part of who I inescapably am, any more than a black-skinned Ethiopian has any power to alter the beauty of God’s design of his physical appearance or any more than a leopard can shed his spotted fur and never regrow it.
Psalm 51 captures this aspect of the doctrine of sin with an explanatory word: iniquity. “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity (v. 2) […] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity (v. 5).”
These verses from Jeremiah and David powerfully declare that sin is not just wrong behavior, but rather, wrong behavior caused because sin is a matter of our nature, for all those born as human beings.
David confesses not only that what he did to Bathsheba and Uriah was sinful, but, even more significantly, he sinned because he is a sinner in his DNA.
Like David, you and I don’t have a problem with sin only when we do something wrong. We have a problem with sin because sin is a part of our very nature. Sin is a condition we inherit at birth.
We may briefly be able to harness our wrong behavior, but it is impossible for us, born as spotted sinners in iniquity, to become spotless on our own.
Discouraged and feeling hopeless? If the biblical story ended here, you should be! But enter the God-man, Jesus Christ. Remember that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Our sin has been pardoned and put to death, so that we will be presented as spotless and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). And even though this corrupt sin nature still remains in all of us who have been regenerated by God’s grace, we have real hope for change, right here, right now.
The next time you go to the zoo or watch a video about giraffes or big cats, remember your iniquity. Confess that sin is not just what you do; it is who you are.
But most of all, celebrate that because of Christ, you are spotless!
Paul David Tripp
1 Dina Fine Maron, “Extremely Rare Spotless Giraffe Born in U.S. Zoo,” August 23, 2023 on NationalGeographic.com.
1. What are a few things you sincerely enjoy in God’s creation? Think through your five senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and sounds – and be specific about the glorious things the Creator has graciously put in your life for you to take pleasure in. As you ponder, write those good things down. How do they make you feel as you think about the pleasures you love here on earth?
2. How have the beautiful things you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch (and take delight in) become ultimate things in your life? Where have you shifted your affections from the Creator to the created things instead? How have the fingers pointing to God been elevated in your life to a status they were never meant to claim and how have those fingers left you dissatisfied? What glorious things do you find yourself going to and asking to satisfy your soul?
3. If you are discouraged because you keep running to created things instead of to the Creator of all things, remind yourself that hope is found in the God-man, Jesus Christ. What might be some truths from Scripture to meditate on and purposefully remind yourself of when you find yourself worshipping anyone or anything other than Jesus? Why is he the only one worthy of our worship?
4. How can you let this bad news – that sin is not just what you do, but who you are – drive you to the good news of the gospel? If in the gospel you are truly perfect and spotless before Almighty God, how does this truth make you thankful for the work Jesus has done in his life, death, and resurrection? Take some intentional time right now to write down and/or pray and thank God for the perfection you stand in as a ransomed believer.