The word “law” has a mostly negative connotation in our minds. We are grateful to live in a nation of laws. We recognize their importance and that culture and community can’t exist without them. Yet we still look at “law” as a restriction, as something enforced upon us, as a necessary evil.
The 613 commands of the Mosaic Law were not looked upon with this attitude. Yes, there are restrictions, many of them. Take this sample from Leviticus 19. “Don’t turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves” (4) and “do not lie” (11) or “do not curse the deaf” (14) and “do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life”. (16)
It’s not all restrictions, however. From the same chapter we see these “do’s” as well: “Stand up in the presence of the aged” (32) and “respect your mother and father”(3) and “‘be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy”. (1)
Though we often respond negatively to the concept of “law” we do well to consider “law” from the perspective of the Israelite. For an Israelite the law kept peace among the community, maintained orderly life within the camp and created a space of friendship with God. Keeping the law did not earn God’s love or deliverance. (Note that God delivered Israel from Egypt before the law was presented to them.) Instead, the Law provided a means of keeping covenant with God. It was about with YHWH. God was neither the cosmic policeman waiting to arrest the deviant Israelite nor the exacting judge itching to pronounce sentence on the violator. He is the father of his people creating a means by which their friendship can be enjoyed.
The Psalms are full of joyful references to the Law. Faithful Israelites were in love with the Law. This week we will explore both the perspective of Law from the Psalmist’s perspective and from the perspective of Jesus as well. May God bless you this week as you read and pray the Psalms!
“Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”