2011 02 27

Oh, How I Love Your Law

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

February 27th, 2011 www.FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker

Exodus 24:3-8              Comparing the Law with Gospel English Standard Version

3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord.

6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.

7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”

8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”[1]

Americans relate to one another based on laws. We look within the culture and identify rude and offensive behavior which we legislate as criminal. We don’t mandate loving acts, but we legislate against hateful actions. Let me illustrate using the traffic laws.

On my way to church I was driving in the HOV lane on 85 South. My loving wife cautioned me that there was a white car on the horizon with large black letters. I slowed down. It turned out to be a policeman with a radar gun.

Traveling at excessive speeds is rude and endangers the lives of those around you. 40,000 people die every year on American roads and our government has identified speeding as so unloving that it is illegal.

Drunk driving is the opposite of love for your neighbor. As a nation we have made a law to stop people from this unloving act.

We made a law to give the right of way to emergency vehicles. Somewhere there is a family in desperate need. It is very selfish to not give way to an emergency vehicle.

As Americans we regulate our public relationships with laws which codify love. Stealing is not love. Murder is not love. Slander is not love.

We demand equal love to be shown for all races, religions and genders. The loving character of the American people is revealed in our laws.

And we can know God by His laws. We discover His character, His values, His concerns and His definition of love.

God is love. When we look at His laws we discern how His love operates in a society.

God codifies His love into laws that are bound together within a social contract we call a covenant.

Jesus makes this connection between love and law in Matthew 22:37-40 And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

God’s laws guide us into a loving relationship with God, and then God’s laws guide us into a loving relationship with one another. God’s laws bring peace.

We are not exempt from God’s laws. Why would we want to be? God’s laws bring us into fellowship with God, teach us to love Him and others, and teach us about the perfections of His character.

Every time the Bible gives a command, we are obligated to obey.

Listen to 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Our most basic actions of faith are to believe in Jesus and lovingly serve others. Love is the commandment just as He commanded us.

God legislates love by His laws. If we do not obey God’s laws then we either hurt our neighbor or we offend the holiness of God. To not obey God is to not love.

Listen to 1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Is it burdensome to obey God? Not if we love Him.

Covenants in the Bible are divine social contracts of love codified into concrete laws.

If we don’t obey the laws of God, then we do not retain the blessings of the covenant.

It’s like buying a car. When we buy a car we promise to make payments or the car gets repossessed.

In the Garden of Eden God made a deal with Adam and Eve that if they kept the  commandments, then they would be allowed to keep the car. Obedience was the necessary payment to stay in the Garden. If they failed to send obedience to God, if they failed to make payment, then they would lose the car. The Garden of Eden would get repossessed.

None of us are living in the Garden of Eden. We all suffer Adam’s fate. We will all die because of the sinful choices of Adam.

So God made a new social contract with humanity.

In verse 3 Moses speaks the laws which will bring peace and maintain a loving community.

In verse 4 Moses writes the laws of God. Verse 7 calls it the Book of the Covenant.

In verse 4 the alter represents God. The twelve pillars represent Israel.

Verse 5 tells us that the covenant was ratified with the shedding of blood. Young men strong enough to lead a bull to the alter helped make these sacrifices. There was no priesthood, so firstborn sons led this part of the worship.

Half the blood was sprinkled on the altar. Salvation happens by God’s initiative. God loves first.

In verse 7 this Book of the Covenant is read for all to hear. Once they agree to the laws of God, then the blood is sprinkled on the twelve piles of stones representing Israel.

Bible teachers usually divide these laws into three categories. Moral, ceremonial and civil.

Civil laws were needed to govern the nation of Israel. We are not the nation of Israel. We are the Church. The laws for political governance do not apply to us.

Ceremonial laws organized worship. There were laws for feast days and sacrifices. Lots and lots of laws for how to worship. We worship by the Spirit. The laws for worshipping with a blood sacrifice no longer apply to our worship.

The moral laws are the will of God for all people for all time. Laws like the Ten Commandments are still as relevant today as they were in the Old Testament. This is affirmed by Jesus and the Apostles.

And all of these laws, even the civil and ceremonial, are necessary for us to search out the holiness and character of the person of our God.

Which is why the people of God love all the laws of God. John Calvin enumerates three specific uses of the law for New Testament believers.

First, we love God’s law for it is a mirror of His perfections. We know God’s love by His commandments and we learn of our imperfections by knowing His perfections.

Second, we love God’s law for it restraints evil. God’s laws are written on our conscience and this basic knowledge of right and wrong can restrain a secular person to not murder. God’s laws on the conscience can lead a young man to not drive drunk and risk killing our loved ones.

Third, we love God’s law for it guides us into a loving fellowship with God and a loving fellowship with one another.

Jesus states this truth as clearly as it can be said in John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

As New Testament believers we are still under the law in this sense. God’s laws are our guide to a life of love.

Of course, we don’t increase our salvation by keeping God’s laws. We don’t overcome the condemnation of the law’s we break by our occasional imperfect obedience.

Only the obedience of Jesus overcomes our condemnation. It is only in Christ that the law stops being our accuser and becomes our teacher. In Christ we hear the laws directives, not it’s threats.

This third use of the law is the reason we should love God’s laws.

Like King David we should be able to say,

Psalm 19:7-11 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

God intends to bless those who love His law.

Let me wrap this up with a few profound statements.

The most godly person you know is also the most loving person you know. They go hand in hand. You can’t be godly and not be loving. If someone claims to be godly and shows a lack of love to those of a lower standing, then that person isn’t growing in God’s grace.

The most loving person that can be known is Jesus Christ. He came to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus came to do the will of the Father. Jesus came to love us with obedience to the Father. His obedience led Him to the cross. His obedience brought us everlasting love.

God has initiated a new covenant with us. Adam and Eve no longer represent us to the Father. Jesus stands with the people of God represented by the twelve piles of stones. The blood is sprinkled on Him. His blood ratifies the covenant of grace.

Only Jesus can earn back our Garden of Eden which was repossessed. Only Jesus can make full payment by perfectly obeying all the commandments.

And as disciples we agree to follow the Book of the Covenant. We are filled by the Holy Spirit to be holy as our God is holy. The Holy Spirit can help us not be a noise gong or a clanging cymbal.

If we fail to follow God’s laws to this end, then we are nothing. We gain nothing.

We must obey God that we might love like Jesus loved. This is the use of the law for us today.

God does not use the law to condemn us. God is legally obligated to remove our condemnation because Jesus took that condemnation for us on the cross.

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The laws of God show us the extent of our sin and the distance of suffering Jesus traversed for our salvation. The laws of God show us the glory of God. His laws lead us to respect His holiness. His laws lead us to love others.

Psalm 119:97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.

May we learn to love God’s laws to the extent of previous generations. May we obey His commandments and prove our love for God and our disinterest in the world. May we model the life of Jesus and do the will of our Father. And may we increase the welfare of our neighbor by adhering to God’s laws.

Thanks be to God.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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