We have begun our consideration of the “law of the Lord,” a topic which doubtless invokes memories of strict authorities and uncomfortable “discipline.” The law can be a troublesome topic, but it is central to the ancient path of blessedness we have set out to understand.
Here we must make the important distinction between the laws of man and the law of God – let’s call them civil law and natural law. The key difference is that natural law has inherent – or built in – consequences while civil law depends upon enforcement.
Take the law of gravity as an example; if you jump off of a ledge you will fall, regardless of whether you’ve been seen jumping. The consequence is unavoidable; it is the nature of things. Now if there was a sign that said “jumpers will be fined” next to the ledge, you might get away without a fine if nobody is there to enforce it, but you will still fall if you jump. Natural law, then, is a description of the way things are. Civil law, by contrast, is a description of how the lawmakers would like things to be. The law of the Lord is natural law.
This distinction is all we need at the moment to continue our journey. The law is, of course, a complex issue, but delving any deeper now might distract us from what we are here to consider.
We have already touched on the psalmist’s description of the blessed man – “his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:2, NASB).”
Did you notice that obedience is neither mentioned here nor in the rest of the Psalm? Instead of focusing on behavior, the blessed man focuses on the realities that the law of the Lord illuminates. When Jesus claimed that all of the law and the prophets hang on the commandments “love the Lord” and “love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40),” what was he saying about reality? It is as self-evident as “what goes up must come down.”
The world promises happiness through loving things and using people, but we are told time and again in the scriptures that life ought to be about loving people and using things.
Oscar Wilde, one of the most talented authors of the nineteenth century, followed the world’s advice. In De Profundis, one of his last works, he wrote of the inherent consequences of living that way:
“I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetop. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace. There is only one thing for me now, absolute humility.”
What great news it is that we are not left without instruction! We have the law of the Lord to teach us about reality, both inside and outside of ourselves. Moreover, if we will take the time to ponder (or meditate on) what God’s law tells us, we can navigate through life’s challenges instead of drifting into them. We can be intentional in life.
This week, pick a passage of scripture and study it with the following questions in mind:
- What does this tell me about myself?
- What does this tell me about the world?
- What does this tell me about God?
- What does God want me to do about it?
You may be surprised what you find.
Keywords: Navigating Life; Gaining Clarity