Law as a Gift

What do you think of when you think of the law of God? Do you think of something mysterious and perhaps ugly? Do you think of standards that nobody can meet? Do you feel a little repulsed by the bloody sacrifices and odd laws about diet and blended fabrics?

If the law of God is off-putting to you, there is something that is missing in your understanding of what the Lord did for his people. Look at the words that Moses speaks to Israel as he finishes reiterating the law before the people entered into the promised land.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 – 11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See what Moses emphasizes about the law of God. First, he tells the people that this law is not too hard for them. Stop and read that again. Moses said it is not too hard for them. This law was not impossible for the nation to follow. It is not impossible for a nation to not eat the foods God forbids. It is not impossible for a nation to exercise actual justice. It is not impossible for a nation to refrain from casting and worshiping idols. It is not impossible for a people to obey God’s standards for marriage, sexuality, gender, and family. It is not impossible to refrain from cruelty and to do kindness. It is not impossible to love God and love neighbor.

This requires a quick note. No, God is not saying that the people of the land can live out the kind of righteousness that would make them enter into his favor as individuals under the covenant of works. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The law does expose for us how much less than perfect we are. But, as a nation, as a people, living as a society, these laws are not too hard. And the people who live under these laws will live as a prosperous nation, the people of god, who would eventually birth the Messiah into the world. These same people also have the temple system and its sacrifices which help them to find salvation by God’s grace through faith as they obey his commands to sacrifice animals which point to the ultimate and perfect sacrifice of Jesus. This is how the law is not too hard.

Then Moses points out that the law is not distant. God has not kept his standards a secret in heaven. No mythical hero has to climb a ladder into the clouds to find out how not to incur the wrath of God. Nor does a sacred ship need to be commissioned to traverse the seas to go and find the law. No, the law of God is right there. Moses has told them. The people can speak it. The people can read it. The people can love it in their hearts. The law of God is revealed.

That, dear friends, is a tremendous gift. God giving us the rules is grace. How? What if he did not? What if God told us just to please him, but then he still enacted justice based on his standards? Our natural instinct is not righteousness. Our reflex is not holiness. We would make choices that damn us all because our ways are not the Lord’s ways. That God would give his rules to us is a kindness beyond anything we can imagine. He tells us what he demands. He tells us what is just. He told the Israelites how to sacrifice to have their sins covered. He tells us now how to trust in the sacrifice of Jesus to be forgiven. Those commands, that word, is a treasure worth more than anything else on earth.

With those thoughts in mind, perhaps you will reconsider how you feel when you think of the law of God. It is not too hard. It is not far away. The law of God was given to the people of God to help them to love God and live in his favor. For Christians who have a completed canon of Scripture, we must love the word of God from beginning to end.

God’s Law Shows Us As Wise

Reading Deuteronomy 4, I came across something that grabbed my attention in a very strong way. It is one of those paragraphs that feels wrong in our culture. But it is absolutely perfect.

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – 5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

When God sent Israel into the land, he told them to keep his law. One reason for them to keep his law is that doing so would show the people of Israel as wise to the watching pagan world around them. People would see a people who were different from them in a thousand ways, and that difference would be notable.

This paragraph stands as an indictment against our modern American culture. God is clear that lost people should see the people of God who live according to the commands of God and find it wise. Lost people should see how we deal with worship, with family, with community, with justice, with charity, and they should be amazed at how orderly and wise is the word of God. It is a black mark against America that we as a nation no longer express respect for the justice and wisdom of the word of God.

And this stands as an indictment against the modern church. We as the people who claim the name of God today in America—I’m here talking about big evangelicalism in general—have failed to cling to the word of God in the face of society. Church after church and organization after organization has let go of the word of God. Bit by bit, standard after standard, people who say they love God are letting Go of God’s word and God’s ways so as to look pleasing to our culture. We fear that our culture will not like us, will not accept us, might even persecute us if we do not show them that we are willing to adopt their ways. And thus we deny that the word of God is clear that the people of God, living in accord with the word of god, will ultimately amaze the watching world with the wisdom of God’s word and ways.

Church, let us love and obey the word of God. Yes, that will make us look different from the world. That is, after all, the point. There is no value in winning someone to a gospel that has let go of the word of God as if that is any sort of gospel at all. We must look, think, and act differently than the world around us. And we reach out to that world with the grace of the God whose word we obey. God will use that word to convict others of sin and draw them to himself. And we must never pretend that following the Lord looks just like the rest of the world, only with a little cross attached somewhere.