August 28, 2013

Law and love and wonder

In the Old Testament, the word “law” is the Hebrew word “torah.” It primarily means “direction, teaching, instruction.” This is not what we normally think when we use this word. For us, it is the regulations whereby a culture or government rules itself. When the law says I cannot drive faster than the posted speed limit, there is some instruction involved, but is mostly laying down a rule that if violated, I will have to pay a fine. The emphasis is “do this or else.”

While many people think that religion is the same, that is a whole bunch of “do this or else” laws, the law of God puts more emphasis on the spiritual principles for life that make life better, richer, more in line with what God had in mind when He created us. That means when God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” He is not yelling, “If you don’t, you will pay” but implying (among other things) that “This is my ideal for your life.”

This is why the psalmist was excited about the Word of God and the laws of God. In them, he learned a higher kind of life, a greater way to be a human being. He knew that this body of learning was beyond his comprehension though. This is because sin blinds our understanding. For that reason, he prayed this…

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

Today’s devotional reading says that conversion to Christianity is a great experience because when God opens our eyes to His law, this recreates the faculty of wonder. Even when His instruction comes with strong rebuke, it can be sweet, beautiful and fresh. Seeing life through the eyes of God opens to us a great wonder. Some say the sky is deeper blue, loved ones more precious. For me, the gospel steadily deepens my sense of wonder at all things around me and deepens my love for life itself.

I once thought life was a journey to enjoy and I dreaded death, but now life is the prelude to eternity and death is its doorstep. I once thought of sin as the big bad things done by other people, but the wondrous law of God showed me sin is a violation of all that God intended for me and makes me unclean in His eyes. Once sin was not vital or even noticed, but now I fight it with all my heart for I want to please the One who died so I could be set free from its grip.

God’s instruction is not a list of rules. It is guidance and direction for life, and shows me how to have joy and peace, a peace too deep for words that is a mystery that humanity can never fathom. In it, even as a Christian with eyes wide open, I can only wonder and be amazed.

My Christian faith and the law of God shows me how His love is at the heart of everything, and with it, wonder is never far away. Most wonderful is that God loves me and His love is permanent, mine forever. The author of today’s reading expresses it this way:

Once we have learned to love Jesus and to experience His love to us, there falls a newness of wonder on everything. I know that God is power—but he may be power and still leave me cold. I know that God is justice—and yet infinite justice can never win my heart. God is love. The world is made in love. Every touch of his hand on me is love—and immediately I cry in adoration, “He will be called Wonderful!”

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