A couple of weeks back I mentioned that I was reading Psalm 119.
I’m still going! And still loving it.
But this niggling questing keeps popping into my head:
Should Christians love the law like the Psalmist seems to?
Psalm 119 is shot through with exclamations like, “your statutes have been my songs wherever I make my home” (verse 54) and “I delight in your law” (verse 70).
The Psalmist is clearly referring to God’s holy law — the Law of Moses, the Torah (or ‘instruction’).
What’s the problem with that?
Well, many Christians have been taught that God’s grace in Jesus delivers us from the law — rescuing us from the penalty it levies against sin and freeing us from the anxious need to obey it (in order to amass brownie points with God or whatever).
A spirituality focused on the law is thus painted black — it brims with hypocrisy, nominalism, moralism, and shallow behaviour adjustment rather than deep heart change. Over against this, trusting in Jesus is supposed to show up in all its vivid glory.
What to do, then, with the Psalmist’s whole-hearted enthusiasm for God’s law?
Isn’t it embarrassing that someone so obviously hungry for genuine connection with God — and so obviously aware of their own failings and need for mercy (the Psalmist says in verse 67, “Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word”) — is so in to the law?
Or maybe it’s more embarrassing that we aren’t in to God’s law? That we aren’t so hungry to know God and follow his ways?
I’ve found it particularly challenging to read Psalm 119 alongside the Sermon on the Mount (which I’m preparing some talks for).
What Jesus seems to want from those he’s graciously grabbed hold of, is not less concern for the law than those most zealous for it in his time. It’s nothing short of a radical and total fulfilment of the Psalmist’s deepest longings.
I suspect we could learn from Augustine’s prayer, “Give what you command, and command what you will”.