Sunday, June 14, 2015

Viewing the Law through a Child's Eyes

Ask my children the rules of the house, and they're likely to give you a list of negative "No's."  No running inside. No slamming doors.  No drinks outside the kitchen. No shoes left outside the cubby. No standing or jumping on the furniture.  No dirty clothes outside the hamper.  No wet towels left to mildew on the floor.

I've read the parenting books about not phrasing every request as a "no" to your children, and so I say "Use your walking feet!" instead of "No running!"  But honestly?  No matter how positively I spin the request, my children still just hear one word: "NO!"

And no matter how many times I try to explain how the house rules are for their good, all my trio sees are restrictions that limit their freedom and fun.

As a result, I'm often labelled the bad guy, the enforcer, the law-giver (insert little girl eye-roll).  But when I think of how I, too, have spent much of my life viewing God's laws as "negative," I realize my children and I aren't that different.

Listen to anyone say "the law" in reference to the Old Covenant, and it's usually in a tone that makes it sound more like a curse word than a blessing. Too often, Christians categorize the Old Covenant of "the law" as bad and the New Covenant of "grace" as good.

Law--bad.  Grace--good.  Old Covenant--bad.  New Covenant--good.

But it's not that simple.  While the Old Covenant founded on obedience to the Law of Moses could not save mankind from his sin, still, it wasn't intended to be a curse.  The law of the Old Covenant was given as a blessing.

What's more, our 21st century view is definitely not how those men and women under the Old Covenant viewed the law. 

Before his death, Moses told the Israelites, "And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day" (Deut. 6:24).

The law is shown here as "for our good always."

Even David said, "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.  The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Ps. 19:7-8).

Does this sound like a man who considered the law to be a curse?  Absolutely not!  The Law of Moses was liberating, not enslaving!  No, it did not give man the capability to obey the law, as would the Holy Spirit of the New Covenant, and it did not lead to salvation but unto death.  But the law was a demonstration of God's grace and it did give man freedom by guiding him in knowing how to please God.

In John Walton and Andrew Hill's A Survey of the Old Testament, they write,

"We are used to drawing a sharp contrast between law and grace.  This would have puzzled the ancient Israelite for whom there was hardly any greater display of God's grace than that demonstrated in his giving of the law.  In the ancient Near East, gods were not known for their consistency.  Worshipers were left to guess what might please their god or displease him, and this could change from day to day.  That doubt and uncertainty led to constant confusion...The law changed all that for the Israelites.  Their God had chosen to reveal himself and to tell them plainly what he expected of the Old Testament the Israelites are not heard complaining about the burdensomeness of the law.  It was a great example of God's love for them that he would communicate to them in this way.  They considered themselves fortunate to be able to know what God required of them.  The law was viewed as a delight rather than drudgery, as freedom of revelation rather than fetters of restriction" (p. 175)**

Imagine serving a god whose likes and dislikes changed like the seasons.  You would never know from one day to the next what would please him or call down his wrath upon you.  Instead of requiring His people to wonder, our God had mercy on His children and gave them the law to guide their steps--for their good always!

Even Paul said, "the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good" (Rom. 7:12).   Again, to Timothy, Paul said, "the Law is good" because it directs a sinner's path away from sin and illuminates one's need for a Savior when one realizes obedience is impossible without the Holy Spirit's guidance. (1 Tim. 1:8).

God's lists of "do's and don't's" in Scripture aren't meant to rain on our parade.  Politically correct or not, His law is an act of grace, making it clear to us what pleases Him.  

Let us stop rolling our eyes and spitting out the term "law" like little children.  Instead, let us see the law with fresh eyes as a demonstration of God's divine love for us.

**Walton and Hill. A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd Ed. as qtd. in Moore. The Law of Love: Lessons from the Pages of Deuteronomy. Living Proof Ministries, 2012: 27-28.

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