Our obedience to God’s law is featured in every passage of today’s reading. As a follower of Christ who has been given credit for fulfilling the law by virtue of Christ’s work, I tend to think more about fulfilling God’s will for my life than living in obedience to His law. Today’s reading makes a case against that.
10 … “At the end of every seven years… 11 … you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
To obey God’s law, we must know God’s law. To know the law, we must read the law. These verses call us to proclaim it and pass it on to our children. It promises that hearing the law teaches us to fear the Lord. This is not a fear to be avoided, but a healthy, respectful fear which comes only as one begins to understand and compare the deep, pristine ocean of God’s righteousness to the shallow, murky puddle of our own.
The Psalmist certainly took this to heart!
97 Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
This Psalmist discovered there was much more than fear of the Lord to be gained by knowing God’s law, but he also knew that knowledge of the law is not enough. He combined knowledge with love of the law, and look at what he gained:
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
114 You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.
Wisdom. Insight. Understanding. Hatred for wrongdoing and evil. A light unto his path. True joy of the heart. Refuge and protection. Awe.
Is there anything else in all the world that can provide such an unique combination of benefits?
…“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Isaiah delivered a message from God about obedience. He makes it clear that ceremonial obedience is all well and good, but only if it is accompanied by obedience to the full law, to the spirit of the law, and with an eye on God’s purposes for that law. Only such obedience from the heart can provide all the blessings God intends the law to provide.
Jesus has much to say on obedience in Matthew 6, but it is well summarized in the first verse.
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Obedience to the law requires knowledge of the law, a love of the law, and attention to the spirit and purpose of the law. Finally, Jesus warns us to keep the law with our eyes on God rather than men.
As His creation, God has every right to demand my obedience simply for who He is, so how amazing is it that He promises rewards for behavior that I already owe Him? Yet if I do any good thing with my eyes on the fleeting approval of men, to enhance my reputation among my neighbors or co-workers or church family, I sacrifice the lasting reward God would have otherwise bestowed. It seems like such a foolish choice, and yet I’ve failed here too many times to count. My obedience to the law MUST be out of devotion to God and Him alone.
Dear Lord, thank you for giving us your law. Please give me a deep and enduring love for it. Teach me to unlock all the wisdom and insight you’ve wrapped within. Please lead me away from obedience to the words or the law rather than its spirit, and let me obey out of pure love and devotion for you. Amen.