“Oh How I Love Your law!”

It is at this time of the month of August that I find myself struggling with conflicting feelings. On one hand, I am always sad when summer comes to an end. On the other hand, being an academic, I always associate the approach of September with a sort of rejuvenation, for courses begin, and the bright prospects of learning present themselves. It is with this last sentiment that I start up a new series of posts that I expect will go well into the fall. The topic is that of law. The Psalmist gushes out “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). Now there are some of you that can say, with all honesty, that this is true of you. Praise God! If so, you are swimming upstream against a strong antinomian current in our culture. “Antinomian” means “against the law.” We see it in our secular culture that wishes to throw away all restraints to self gratification. As I watch as much as I could without getting sick the closing ceremony to the Olympics last night, it struck me that our world culture is adolescent. It glories in its mindless self adulation, flaunting restraint. It is adolescent to rebel against law and right reason.

We see it also, however, seeping in our churches. The Reformation cries of “sola fidei/sola gratia” (only by faith/only by grace) has degenerated into cheap and thoughtless slogans. In many of the places in the Church, Marcionism has won the day. Marcion was a 2nd century heretic that condemned the Old Testament, and especially the law, and embraced only a gospel of love, and especially St. Paul’s epistles taken completely out of context. Very few Christians would boldly condemn the OT Testament nowadays, but many, out of neglect and ignorance, are virtual marcionites. They do not live by deep meditation on the whole of council of God, embracing both the Old Testament with its law and the New Testament, but in a superficial bubble of grace that sanctions their own spiritual listlessness and moral malaise. Every once in a while we hear someone mention the famous title by Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Cheap Grace,” but the cultural tide is too strong─law and human responsibility is out, and cheap grace has won the day.

A good start for understanding how the Bible would have us understand law would be to mediate on Psalm 119. One scholar said this concerning this glorious Psalm; it is “the paradox of seeming simplicity overlaying fathomless depth.” Look at the first section (vv. 1-8). Consider the paradox of attitudes here. On one hand we have such exuberance over the law and the Psalmist’s commitment to keep it. Yet, there are two prayers in it that throw the soul completely on God and His grace: “Oh that my ways were directed to keep your statues,” and “Oh, do not forsake me utterly” (vv. 5 and 8). Here we have a boldness and commitment to God’s law and a deep dependence on God and His grace to sustain this boldness and commitment. If you look at each section of this acrostic poem (structured around the Hebrew alphabet), you will see the same paradox throughout. Profundity of thought and life happens with a commitment to embrace seemingly contrasting positions of a paradox. We then see that there really is no irresolvable conflict between law and grace; these are but two realities that are melded together in what the Bible would call a truly just/righteous person. If you have the time this week, go ahead, revel in Psalm 119. What a joy the law of God excites in the soul! Can you feel it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: