As you read Psalms you’ll see over and over again the phrase,
“Oh, how I love your law” (Psalm 119:97) or a derivative of it. “Teach me your statutes”, “I seek your precepts”, “I made haste and did not delay to keep your commandments,” fill Psalm 119 and appear elsewhere too.
But we who know and follow Jesus are saved by grace and are not under law, except the law of love. So David and the other psalmists are out-dated, correct?
Jesus came to fulfil the law (Matthew 5:17). It infuriated the Pharisees when he claimed this. And yet, we need to look closely at the life of Jesus and his words to be sure we live in the freedom salvation gives us without license and without denying the character and intention of God in our lives.
Last week I asked readers which of five topics they most wanted me to explore:
2. Total Surrender
3. Preparation for God’s Call
4. Preparation of the Bride of Christ
5. Politics and Christianity
A resounding message came back: “Share about Total Surrender”, “I want to be totally surrendered to God but I’m not there yet; it’s hard”.
And so I’m going to develop this theme newsletter by newsletter. First, may I take this opportunity to thank publicly those who responded to my request for feedback. Bless you all!
Psalms is part of the Hebrew Bible from the Old Covenant or what we typically call the Old Testament. But although Jesus’ witness and walk begins on earth in Matthew, the beginning of the New Covenant, we would no more ignore or throw away Psalms than we would Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, would we? Jesus is everywhere in the Bible, because he is the Word of God made flesh. (John 1) He was from the beginning and will be forever. And so, Psalms is as much a part of the Word of God as is John or Galatians or Hebrews.
And in Psalms David and other psalmists speak to us of God’s blessed law.
“I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45)
And so salvation comes through Jesus, and freedom – also known as liberty – comes through seeking God’s law, according to the Psalms.
Recently, I was reading Leviticus.
I rarely look at Leviticus, but it came to me as I opened the Bible one day so I decided to read it. I read chapters 1 to 5 and then stopped.
It wasn’t easy reading, because it was full of blood and pain and loss.
In ancient times in Israel, animals lived with their owners. Sheep lived with the shepherd and whilst having pets wasn’t a part of the culture, I suppose these animals were well known to the families. When a lamb was born, wouldn’t it be as adorable to a child then as it would be to a child today?
In order to be forgiven of an unintentional sin, an animal sacrifice had to be made. The one who sinned was to put his hand on the head of the animal as it was being killed. There was much blood, pain and loss on behalf of the sinner. And there would be regret, repentance from the sinner as he surrendered the animal in exchange for his human mistake.
All this has been done away with now and Jesus has taken the place of the animal sacrifice. But let us not despise the beginnings of God’s law. His ways are perfect and though the sacrifice has been fulfilled once and for all, let’s look a the beauty of the Law and why God devised it.
At the heart of the matter is God’s love for us. He created us to be in fellowship with Him.
Eventually, He created law which reveals sin and enables people a way to “get right” with God. But from God’s perspective, what does He make of His law? Is it punishment for sin, prevention against sickness, or beauty that He delights in? I think it is all of these things. And so, even as Jesus fulfils the law, it doesn’t change the fact that it is God’s law, which is a beautiful thing that He created.
In Psalms it is written, “I love your law”.
Today, we are called to keep the Law of Love, within which is all of God’s law.
Although we do not have to keep the law of God in order to be saved, why would we not consider valuing it as something God created and something He loves? And therefore why would we not consider practicing it?
Paul makes it abundantly clear in his letter to the Galatians that we are not under the Law and gentiles do not have to convert to Judaism in order to receive the salvation of Jesus. He even goes on to suggest that if we keep a part of the law we are obliged to keep all of it. But leaving aside the motive to practice law because we must, what about celebrating the law because it’s something beautiful that our Father created and which He loves? There are feasts and festivals and foods which are beneficial.
What about loving the Father, not based upon what we are supposed to do, but based on our relationship with Him and in what He would delight in our doing?
We will, thankfully, never go back to animal sacrifices. But there is so much more to God’s law that offers joy and delight.
I believe in order for us to truly surrender to our Father, we need to allow ourselves to love Him entirely.
We love Jesus, and in that loving salvation, God’s law is fulfilled. But also, to love the Father, we can love the law and study, learn and discover it, not for our salvation, not as religion, but as an act of love toward the Father, and as a means to love All of God.
Over recent years, I’ve been convicted and keen to learn the Hebraic roots of Jesus and of the Gospel. Piece by piece, I am discovering more of the character of God and yearn to have a deeper relationship with Him, one that is truly intimate, truly unconditional and fully reciprocal. I’m nowhere near to attaining this, but I am happy to sense that I am now embracing my faith, not only for what I can receive but for what I can give, not because I have to, but because I want to.
Perhaps we’ve all heard the debate about tithing. It goes like this: we’re called to tithe (or some say that’s the law and so we’re not forced to) but of the 10% of our income we’re meant to give back, is that net or gross? Really! If we’re quibbling about that, aren’t we missing the point about tithing, which is to give back to the LORD some of what He’s given us, often in order to sustain ministries who need practical, financial support.
Well, I am currently considering, isn’t keeping the law of God the same? If we love Him, don’t we do it out of love for Him, to please and delight Him, rather than to save ourselves?
I have far more questions than I do have answers. But what I do know is that as I’ve asked the LORD to help me surrender fully to Him, I’m discovering He’s taking me to the end of myself, beyond my own understanding, and I’m learning a lot more about love and devotion in the process.
Total surrender? What’s that look like?
We don’t know. But we do know that we have a tremendously wonderful Father who will take us on the journey if we allow Him to.
Shalom: God’s Peace, until next time….