We talked about the Law of God and the prophets this last Sunday (Matthew 5.17-20). Not an easy task with so much culturally specific language and thick theological context. How many times have you talked about iotas and jots in everyday life?
I felt a heavy burden to help us see the Law of God in a way that does not provoke either of two unhealthy responses: smug lawlessness (I'm saved by Jesus so I don't need to care about the Law. Following the law is death!), or smug lawfulness (Why do so many fail to live a moral life like I do? Why can't they get it?). One primary thing I want us to understand is that the Law of God is an expression of the good God desires for us. In Psalm 1 we read:
Psa. 1:1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psa. 1:3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The man who delights in the law of the LORD is blessed. He flourishes, he prospers. The law is not a bad thing, it isn't a thing that exists to bring bring us shame and defeat, like an unyielding and unmerciful master. But there is a warning between the lines of Matthew 5.17-20: if one is not transformed internally, in the heart, the Law can only bring the sad realization of our decay. Like when God's people rebuilt the walls of the Temple in the Old Testament (Ezra 3.12), only those who were ignorant of the walls in their former glory could rejoice. Those who had seen the beauty of that original construction wept bitterly.
Thankfully Jesus has come to do what the law could not: Jesus has come to provide an internal transformation that allows us to look at the good law without shame and without fear. The bible calls that inward transformation "righteousness" and it is the renewal of our hearts by God. That transformation comes through placing our faith in Jesus and it progressively makes us more like Him. We can not earn "righteousness" by keeping the law - Jesus makes that clear. The most morally upright people of Jesus' day - the pharisees and scribes - could not make themselves righteous by their religious lives. But if we have the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus we can be fearless and humble law-keepers. Similar to the way that the commitment of marriage frees you to fearlessly pursue self-giving love in a romantic relationship (thus keeping the marriage "law"), God's commitment to you means that you can pursue the the Law of God without insecurity or fear. We can look at the Law of God and shape our lives after it without shame, without covering up our failures in double-speak and hidden lies. Instead we can focus on pursuing the flourishing in our world that the Law intended: healing and reconciliation for those who have experienced the plague of sin and brokenness.
May we be one of many churches that love the good law of God. May we one day rejoice at a world rebuilt and renewed by Him into something truly beautiful.