God provided a way for men to be perfect before Christ, even though the Old Testament law could not make anyone perfect. The Old Law itself was never meant to accomplish this purpose and goal. However, the Father was able to give his truth through his prophets to accomplish that purpose. Abraham was one of these prophets. Consider the purpose God had for Abraham.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly (Gen. 17:1-2).
Notice Abraham’s part of the covenant God made with him to walk before God and be perfect. Some would redefine these words, as do some of the modern translations. We need to be honest enough to listen to the words that proceeded from the mouth of God and not change the words it to fit our preconceived notions.
The radical (literal) definition of the Hebrew noun tamiym is entire, complete or whole. It comes from the verb tamam which is literally defined as to complete, finish or end. Another major noun translated perfect is the Hebrew word tam (tawm), which is also literally defined as complete and comes from the same verb as tamiym. These Hebrew words are almost identical to the Greek noun teleios (complete) which comes from the verb teleo which is literally to end. It is very interesting to note God’s purpose for his children as described in James 1:4 “…that you may be perfect, and entire, lacking in nothing…” is identical to these words. Let us keep in mind that the complete expression in the New Testament is “the complete love,” which is the complete love of Christ and God. This word is used of material things as well as of spiritual things. He shows his definition of this Hebrew word used in a physical context.
But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect (tamiym) to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD. Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts, that mayest thou offer for a freewill offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted (Lev. 22:20-21).
The offering had to be perfect to be accepted. He defines that physical perfection as having no blemish or spot, and as “…nothing superfluous or lacking in his parts….” Without all the parts it was unacceptable to God, and if it had more than all of its parts, it was not accepted. This is the word perfect in the Old Testament. Spiritually, it is the same way. Anything less than all of the parts of God’s love in the heart is unacceptable, and anything more is unacceptable.
Another major noun translated perfect in the Old Testament is the word shalem (shaw lame) and is also literally defined as complete. It comes from the verb shalam (shaw-lam’) which is literally translated as to be safe. In our study we want to center on the most commonly used words, tamiym and tam listed above.
God testifies that several godly men were perfect (tamam, tamiym or tam) during the Old Testament era. Noah was “…perfect (tamiym) in his generations…” (Gen. 6:9). As noted above, Abraham was commanded to be perfect (tamiym) as his part of the covenant of promise. Abraham must have obeyed God’s command to become perfect for he inherited the promises (Heb. 6:12). We will also inherit if we walk in Abraham’s steps (Rom. 4:17-24). God himself says “. . . and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1, 8, 2:3). Satan did not deny the truth when God reminded him of it (Job 1:8,9). David said “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psa. 101:2). He testified that he would behave himself in a perfect way, which is understandable because he had a perfect heart (Psa. 101:2). No doubt this is the reason that God testified that he was, “. . . a man after mine own heart,” which indeed is a perfect heart (Acts 13:22). David testifies “. . . he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me” (Psa. 101:6). We must conclude that there were others in David’s day who were also of a perfect heart. Our Father is calling us to walk in the steps of these good men.