A Look at the Much Maligned Law of God


I’m reading in the book of Deuteronomy in the morning. This is a book I’ve grown to love, in part because it clarifies an important theme running through the Bible.

Deuteronomy, you may remember, includes (as does Exodus) the Ten Commandments. The much maligned Ten Commandments. On one side, atheists are clamoring for the Ten Commandments to disappear from court houses and statues and cornerstones.

On the other hand, professing Christians are disparaging the Law because it does nothing but induce guilt. From The Shack:

[Jesus talking] “My words [expectancy instead of expectation and respond instead of responsibility] are alive and dynamic—full of life and possibility; yours are dead, full of law and fear and judgment. That is why you won’t find the word responsibility in the Scriptures.” (p. 205)

Perhaps the character Mack’s words were legalistic, but the passage says “full of law” as if that’s a bad thing. I could point out what Paul says about the Law serving as a tutor, but I want to focus on Deuteronomy today.

Moses is passing on some last words of wisdom to the people of Israel before he dies. As he recounts what they’ve been through and what God has done for them, from time to time he says something like this:

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God will all your heart and all your soul and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deut. 10:12-13)

The key, I believe, is this: Before we are to walk in God’s ways, we are to fear Him (hold Him in awe). Before we are to serve the Lord, we are to love Him. In other words, Law divorced from relationship with God is self-effort and probably selfish, too.

But relationship with God will result in obedience and walking in God’s way—i.e. in His Law.

The last part of the verse above states that the commands are for our good. For Israel, Moses spelled this out as some remarkable, tangible gains—no barren women, an increase in the fruit of the ground, an increase in their herds and flocks, no drought, victory over nations mightier than they, prolonged days in the land, and so on.

For those of us in the Church, God’s good means, above all else, continued fellowship with Him. Sin separates us from God; obedience, in contrast, brings us near, as does repentance.

Throughout Scripture I see these steps:

    -fear God and love Him
    -obey Him
    -receive His blessings or rewards

But look how different that looks if we make some alterations.

    -obey God
    -receive His blessings or rewards

Seems to me, that particular false teaching leads to legalism.

Or how about this:

    -desire God’s blessings or rewards
    -obey Him

That false teaching leads to the health-and-wealth ideas which in turn make people mad at God for “letting them down.”

Moses keeps relationship with God front and center. Here are just a few passages:

    – fear Me and keep all My commandments (5:29)
    – you shall love the Lord your God … these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart (6:5-6)
    – you shall fear only the Lord your God … you should diligently keep the commandments (6:13-17)
    – you shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him (10:20)
    – love the Lord your God, and always keep his charge (11:1)
    – to love the Lord your God and to serve Him (11:13)
    – to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him

Seems clear to me. Relationship first, and from it flows obedience.

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 2:03 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: