Many Christians are ambivalent about the law—and perhaps with good reason. The apostle Paul depicts the law as a force that holds us captive. Paul claims that Christ replaces the law with a new covenant, which we access through faith: “Now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6).
In contrast to Paul’s understanding, the psalmist views the law as life-giving and a source of true joy. For him, the law is not some dusty list of obligations that humanity cannot possibly fulfill. Instead, the law provides structure for relationship with the Divine.
The psalmist recognizes that humans cannot keep the law perfectly. Indeed, we commit some errors to which we are blind, despite our best intentions. Yet, rather than seeing the law as an inflexible source of condemnation, he suggests that the law can be our teacher. Through the law, we learn about our shortcomings and seek reconciliation with God. Thus, the law teaches us and facilitates our relationship with God.
Pedagogy, as I am using the term, refers to the philosophy, principles, and methods of teaching students. This week, we will examine God’s methods of teaching the faithful. The psalmist suggests one way of viewing the law. Although Christians obtain forgiveness and reconciliation through faith alone, the psalmist helps us see that the law can serve as our teacher, helping us learn about God and God’s intentions for our living.
Thank you, O God, for the law. Open our minds to what it teaches us about you. Amen.
As we continue in the season of Lent, we remember another important chapter in salvation history. Just as God established covenants with Noah and Abraham and their descendants, so did God renew the relationship with the Israelites by giving them the law. Obedience to the law was not the means of earning God’s love, but a response of love by the people to the love God had already shown them. The psalmist understands that God’s law creates a cause for rejoicing, for it is more valuable than gold. Both Paul and John address situations in which some had distorted the worship of God. Either they considered themselves too good for the gospel (1 Corinthians), or they had violated the covenant by altering proper worship for the sake of profit (John).
• Read Exodus 20:1-17. How do you keep God central in your life? When do you relegate God to the margins?
• Read Psalm 19. What do the heavens tell you? How often do you spend time in nature? In what ways does that activity renew your spirit?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. In what ways is the cross a stum-
bling block to you?
• Read John 2:13-22. What signs do you ask of God? In what ways might they be life-giving, a renewal of relationship with the Creator?
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