Monday, February 27, 2017

Teach Me Your Statutes

This New Year I have dusted off my audio Bible.  Specifically I committed to spending my first 25 minutes of listening for the day to listening to my Bible.  I am on track with all the folks who are reading and HOURS behind on my usual podcasts.  I am absorbed by the Torah.

Torah is the Jewish word for what we call "the books of Moses" or "The Law."  And from their perspective the creation account and the story of Judah and Tamar are as much a part of the "the Law" as the details of how to sacrifice and the list of capital crimes.  The Torah is rich and deep and beloved of the Psalmists, Prophets and our Lord.

You have dealt well with Your servant,
O Lord, according to Your word.
Teach me good discernment and knowledge,
For I believe in Your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
You are good and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
The arrogant have forged a lie against me;
With all my heart I will observe Your precepts.
Their heart is covered with fat,
But I delight in Your law.
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
(Psalm 119:65-72)

Statues, Law, Word.  The Psalmist is talking about the Torah.  It's better than gold.  It teaches discernment and knowledge. It is the answer to what to do when afflicted by the wicked.  It gives us the basic tenet of all Biblical ethics: God is good and does good.  

But let's be honest.  Some of us (*ahem* me) struggle not to fall asleep during the recitation of the genealogies, drift off while listening to one more descriptions of the pomegranates embroidered on the hem of Aaron's robe and think about the grocery list rather than the how many bulls were sacrificed on what holiday.

Yet there have been wonderful moments of clarity.  I have been reminded of how bleak the world's picture was up until Abraham.  Adam and Eve, Cain, Lamech, Noah, Babel: humanity was violent and evil minded. In our spiritual father Abraham, by the grace of our Heavenly Father, a covenant was established that brings salvation even today through Jesus Christ.   Abraham believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Jesus died and it was accounted to every obedient believer as righteousness.

I have reminded that God has always loved the stranger, the disposed and disenfranchised, the alien, the widow and the orphan.  He established a way of escape for the man trapped by poverty (the Jubilee).  He prepared honest aid for the impoverished (don't double glean your field but let the poor man glean the left overs).  Although He allowed slavery as way for the Jew to pay his debt, He provided the 7th year Sabbath to free him as well as ordering every city to harbor the refugee slave.  The 3 year tithe went not only to the Levites but to aliens, widows and orphans.

I remember that God is holy.  He hates it when...

  •  We gripe about our blessings ("We hate this worthless food." Numbers 21:5).  

  • We account our blessings to the wrong source ("This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt," Exodus 32:4). 

  • We long to go back to the bad old days ("For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Exodus 14:12). 

  • We ignore our leaders (Sons of Korah! Numbers 16).  

  • We treat him casually (Nadab and Abihu! Leviticus 10).

I remember why we are supposed to love the law.

If you haven't read it lately, let me remind you that God's law is deep and rich and beautiful and well worth the beautiful songs written about it. Dive in! God's story is as amazing at the beginning as it is in the end!

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