23 Nov 2014 – Loving the Law (Psalm 119)

Sometimes when we think about our relationship with God we get very interested in what He does for us, and rightly so. We look to God for salvation and for eternal life and it’s very proper for us to give thanks and praise for these things. In Christ God has come and saved us and we’re grateful for that. We have been promised resurrection into life eternal and we thank the Lord for that promise and for that life.

What we shouldn’t do, though, is think that salvation and the life to come are the same thing. They’re not. We aren’t going to be saved at some later time when God raises us to new and perfect life. If God saves us he saves us right here and right now. He saves us in this life and on this day. We have been saved and we’re being saved and we will be saved. God’s salvation comes to us today.

What that means is that we’re rescued from sin and from its consequences and we’re made whole and good as God intends us to be. God’s work of healing and restoration, through Jesus, makes us the people that we’re supposed to be, makes us properly ourselves and able to play our part in the wonder and beauty of creation.

And that’s where all this stuff about the Law and about obedience comes in. Christians have often been dismissive of the Jewish Law, have thought that we can put all that behind us. We can’t. Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and we have to take that seriously. To understand who Jesus is and what Jesus does for us we need to think about what the Law is that he fulfils, and that’s where the 119th Psalm can help us.

In it the “Torah”, the Law, is made the subject of a series of prayers and songs. We’ve heard two of them today and in them we hear a series of words that all name the same thing. “Word”, “path”, “judgements”, “statutes”, “precepts”, “commands”, “love”, “decrees”. “Torah” can also be translated teaching or instruction and the psalmist makes clear that this “way” or “path” or teaching is the way to true happiness and that we are created to follow it.

Our salvation is precisely that we are enabled to live according to God’s law, because that’s what we were made to do and is the only way for us to find peace and rest, the joy that living in close relationship with God brings. We are saved to live in this world as the creatures God intends, as His image, representing him in what he made, his self-portrait.

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The variety of words for that way, that teaching, that Torah, shows that it isn’t a simple set of instructions that can easily be learned and followed. Life is complicated and we make a lot of decisions and do a lot of things every day. The perfect human being would know and do God’s will in every single one, from the moment of waking until they go back to sleep. That’s what a full obedience to the law would take, complete alignment to God’s will, doing at every turn exactly what God would most want us to do because we want what He wants.

For us Christians that means following the commands and the words of Jesus, it means walking his way, following him. In Christ we have the example of what a human being whose self is completely attuned to God. In him we see the one who knows and lives the word, the commands and the precepts of God from his innermost heart. He is what we are meant to be, he is God’s pristine image.

He shows us by example and he teaches us by word but he does more than this. In the Holy Spirit he actually dwells in us and we dwell in him. As he says in today’s passage from John’s Gospel: Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” If we allow him to, by obeying him, he will inhabit us in the Spirit, he will live in us so that we can be like him and represent God. That’s the destiny for which God has chosen us as members of his family, that’s our salvation, to be joined to Christ, to be shaped into his likeness.

I will be talking more next week about what that means for us in our lives. What Jesus shows and teaches and how it relates to the love of the Law of the Psalmist. In the meantime I’ll just repeat that being like Jesus is obeying God’s will, as Christ reveals it, and that this is the salvation that Jesus brings and I’ll add that the Lord’s Supper, that we’re about to share, reminds us of our Saviour and also is a chance really to be with him in the Spirit. As we eat and drink we are brought into the presence of Christ and are fed by him as he works in us to make us holy, as he is holy.

As we prepare ourselves for that meal let us pray the prayer he taught, the Lord’s Prayer.

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