So, like I mentioned in Part 1 of this Psalms series, we know according to Psalm 1:1 the “blessed” one ditches sin and sinful influences which leaves a huge space in your life to fill. Your desires, your time, your friends. What will satisfy that gaping hole? What does the rest of Psalm 1 have to say? The “blessed” one places their hearts elsewhere: the law of the LORD.
Woah, wait a minute, Cass. Law? Ew.
To the Christian who reads the New Testament (Romans and Galatians in particular) and finds that in Christ we are set free from the law and not bound to the Old Testament law because of the saving work of Christ, this can seem confusing. Am I supposed to love the law or be set free from the law? What’s my relationship with the law suppose to be like?
First, we need to do some digging in the Old Testament. We also need to understand that God showed Himself to His people through a very slow, methodical unveiling process. Although His character never changes, He revealed Himself much differently to previous generations because He wanted to reveal something specific about Himself to them in their specific historical context. They were equally as human as are today. They were equally capable of believing and following God. But they came from a different time and a different culture with, at times, very different values. Thus, the need for some digging. Let’s start at the beginning…
The Jewish nation began when God called Abram, a wealthy, childless man in Ur to move his family to an undisclosed location and He would make Abram the father of a great nation. God spoke to Abram maybe a handful of times and Abram chose to believe God. Abram got into trouble a few times… lied and fathered an illegitimate child in an effort to bring about God’s promised son. Abram’s choices afflicted the people around him with misery or plagues (Genesis 16:1-6; Genesis 12:10-20). Wouldn’t it have been nice if there had been a written version of God’s desires for righteous living saying “Don’t lie, don’t get frisky with anyone other than your own wife, and here’s a list of ways to get along with your neighbors in a way that honors Me?” Abram walked with God, there’s no disputing that. But some divine guidance on the details would have been helpful… maybe. But God didn’t do it that way at that time. He revealed Himself to Abram through a covenant which implies “You might not keep your end of the bargain, but I will. Period.”
Abram finally fathered his miracle son and God continued to fulfill His promises. Generation after generation, God revealed Himself to Abram’s line… who were enslaved by Egypt and finally set free by God through Moses. These Israelites left Egypt yet still practiced some of the idolatry that had been a huge part of Egyptian culture. Whenever they would commit idolatry, God’s main form of communion included sending plagues and healing them. And then. God. Gave. Moses. The. Law. Tablets communicating the type of culture He wanted from His people. A lifestyle that would bring them life and not death. A culture that would be distinctly different and a light to all nations. Did their salvation come through the law? No, it came through faith in God. Just like it did with Abram and just like it does today.
Which would you prefer as a way to learn what pleases God? Sporadic appearances from an angel of the Lord? Plagues and misery? Or a written document that you can read in your own language to know God’s desires for you? I’m a girl who loves face time, but when I’m in a bind, I’d much rather the document. I’m quite forgetful.
And guess what the Israelites found even with the wonderful law? It is impossible to keep it perfectly. And because sin requires a sacrifice, He also included an entire system of sacrifices so that they would look forward to a day when their sins would be completely atoned… which Jesus completely fulfilled!
In essence, the law points to our need for Jesus as our Savior. The law glorified God in the Old Testament and it still glorifies Him to this day because it exposes our hellacious flaws so that we can have them corrected and healed. Should we keep the law? Dietary laws, it’s up to you. God revealed that through Christ the boundary between Jew and Gentile and especially their eating customs has been torn down. Jesus said a man’s heart is what is unclean, not what he puts in his mouth. The behavioral laws? Jesus raised the bar. Yes, adultery, lying, cheating, covetousness, etc are wrong…
and merely committing the acts doesn’t condemn you, but committing them in your heart condemns you.
Like the Old Testament Jews, we need a Savior – even more desperately than they thought!
Which brings us to the amazing act of God to write the His law on our hearts (no longer on stone, Jeremiah 31:31-34) when we become believers. He fills us with the Holy Spirit who helps us understand where our lives do not align with Scripture and nudges us in daily situations saying This is what I want for you! Or This is DEFINITELY NOT what I want for you. Stop! Even better than occasional angelic appearances, plagues, or laws on stone!
Now, let’s take a step back and see what the law meant to the Psalmist. Let’s get into the mind of a guy whose understanding of God’s word includeed the law and doing what it says. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was not guaranteed to stay forever in the life of a person of God. The law to the Jew was God’s instruction and direction. It was all they had and they loved it dearly so they could love God all the more!
How much more should we love God’s word and treasure His Holy Spirit who will always reside in us? They had Genesis-Ruth. 8 books. They were living during the time 1 Samuel had just occurred and 2 Samuel was being lived out before their very eyes.
We have 66 books! And thousands of years to see how God has expressed Himself to His people and how He wants to continue to express Himself to His people. How can we not crave to know Him more and to know His ways more fully? Do you think He’s done expressing Himself? The Bible canon is closed, but our daily lives should be wide open! He wants to transform our lives and fill us in ways nothing else in this world can. May this be our deepest craving!
How can we stir our affections for God’s instruction and direction in our daily lives? What do you do to maintain and push yourself to further know God and follow Him? Would love to know!