Dr. Jerry Root
Reasons for the Law
Often we think of the Law of God as restrictive and limiting of our freedom. In reality the Law, like one’s skeleton adds necessary structure for life; without which we would be a mere clump of muscle tissue and organs. Surprisingly, David, in the Psalm 19 took a very different approach. He saw great benefits in the Law and wrote of God’s Laws that, “They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10. What did David see in the Law that we often fail to see? As I’ve tried to enter into David’s celebration of the Law, here are some benefits I’ve found in Scripture that reveal very positive purposes for the Law.
The Law reveals God’s perfect character. Isaiah 42:21; Psalm 19:7; Romans 2:20; Romans 7:12. If I want to know God in His Holiness, His Justice, His Wisdom, and His Righteousness, the Law is the place to start.
The Law reveals my sin. Deuteronomy 31:26 “a witness against you”; Romans 3:20 “truth the law comes the knowledge of sin”; Romans 7:7; Hebrews 7:19. This is a benefit in that it guards against pretense and drives me to God for grace.
The Law reveals God’s provision for sin. Leviticus and the whole sacrificial system; John 1:29; Galatians 3:24 “a tutor to lead us to Christ”; Hebrews 9:22b.
The Law reveals the necessity for faith in God’s provision for sin, if that provision, found in the atoning work of Christ, is to be efficacious. Galatians 3:21-22 & 24.
The Law reveals that I ought to love God. Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 22:40 “on these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets”; Luke 10:25-37.
The Law reveals that I ought to love others. Mark 12:28-34; Galatians 6:2; Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:8.
The Law reveals the fences within which I may enjoy life to the fullest. Galatians 3:19; Psalm 19:10-13; Illustration “All positive Joy exists on condition”-G. K. Chesterton. Like a fence the Law protects from the harms outside the fence while defining the playgrounds within the fence.
The Law reveals God’s warning for certain behaviors when, at times, I would be utterly blind to their destructive nature. Psalm 19:11 “Moreover by them (the laws) they servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward”; Psalm 19:12 “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults”. Also notice, Job 28:28 “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” [The Hebrew word used here is Hokmah and speaks of prohibition—I may not have acquired wisdom but in obedience to the Law I can live in the benefits of God’s wisdom]. Furthermore, Job 28:28 continues by adding that, “To depart from evil that is understanding” [Here the Hebrew word is Bene it speaks of the skill of discernment and an understanding that grasps why the Law is good and worth following. This skill is the fruit of obeying in the days when I do not understand that out of that obedience knowledge might emerge].
The Law reveals God’s standard against hypocrisy (especially religious hypocrisy). Leviticus 24:22; Deuteronomy 16:19; Ezekiel 45:10.
The Law reveals the uniformity of God’s truth in its applications to all matters of justice. Numbers 9:14b “You shall have one statute, both for the alien and the native of the land”.
The Law reveals that there may be a difference between a universal law and mere regional customs. Deuteronomy 14:21 “You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it”. Discernment seeks to know and understand the difference.
The Law reveals God’s plan for the administration of justice. Deuteronomy 1:9-18.
The Law reveals a reason to have confidence in God. Psalm 78:5-8 “He appointed a law in Israel…that they should put their confidence in God”; Psalm 19:7b. As we grow in understanding as to why God prescribed certain things, it increases our trust in Him and our worship of Him. He is wise and good.
The Law reveals the content for generational instruction. Each generation should pass on something of Transcendent substance to the generation that follows. Psalm 78:5-8. Claudia once said to me, “I think I am just a begat”. She went on to explain that there are many in Scripture where all we hear of them is that they are a “begat” in a Biblical lineage and genealogy. This is no small role. In Judges 2:10, it says there came up a generation in Israel that did not know God which means there was a generation that failed to play the begat role well. The Law directs that each generation embrace their responsibility to those who follow in their wake.
The Law reveals God’s work among His people from generation to generation. Psalm 78:5-8.
David’s love of the Law invites those who read Psalm 19, to think more robustly about the benefits of the Law and our obedience to it. The fifteen benefits listed above are only a starting list, not an exhaustive one.