One of the dangers of being a teacher of the Bible is that the Bible can easily become something to dissect, study, analyze, and disseminate to others. Every reading of the Bible can turn into an exercise of the mind and never the heart. Aware of that danger I have made a point of having time in the Bible that is just for me, to let it speak to me, challenge me, comfort me. An important way that works in my life is to journal about the passage in front of me. Recently I dove back into the Psalms for just that purpose. After all, what better place to go to have one’s heart placed open before the Lord than in this most personal and honest of books.
But, because I am also a teacher at heart, it became clear that I should not keep those insights to myself. As a result I want to offer a brief reflection on Psalm 1 in the hopes that God’s Word will accomplish in your life all that He desires.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all he does he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
I love the grace of God. It is a gift beyond measure – being loved, forgiven, afforded mercy, and countless opportunities to reset after failure. I love the freedom that comes in Christ. I love the message of the Gospel, where a sinner like me, who was on a greased pole to hell, could be rescued by the sacrifice of God-in-the flesh. Jesus Christ, who though He was in very nature God, did not cling to His position in a stingy way, but rather emptied Himself to become a servant to the point of death for me and for my salvation. I am all about grace.
David’s words in Psalm 1 seem to run 180 degrees counter to grace though. David loves the law, he meditates on it day and night. He feeds his very soul on the law and is delighted by it. Clearly David was an extremely high J on the Myers-Briggs personality profile. Or was he? Maybe David saw something in the Law that points to God in ways that I miss when I focus only on grace. Wasn’t it Martin Luther who said we need the law to fully experience grace? Wasn’t it Paul who said he would have never known the seriousness of his sin and need for grace, if not for the law? David is on to something when he says, “the law of the Lord.” It is not the human rules of religion, that by which we seek to prove our worthiness to God, that David speaks of. It is the law of the Lord, the way of life, that is delightful and restorative and freeing. Yes freeing. The law of the Lord is not meant to bind me and make me a slave, but rather it is intended to show me the parameters of an abundant life. The law is like the steel fence at the edge of a vast meadow that keep one from falling off the hundred foot cliff and being crushed to death by the fall onto the rocks below. That fence, that law, is designed to show me the dangers of proceeding further and is made to turn me around to enjoy the vast wonders of the glorious meadow behind me.
What freedom there is in such law. That law brings me life. Far from being a burden and a heavy weight that pins me to the ground and keeps me from experiencing life, the law of the Lord is life-giving. To be sure, obedience to it does not gain me salvation. That is by grace and one reason I so love grace. But obedience to the law, meditating on the law, delighting in the law… that gives me freedom to live a life worthy of the calling I have in Christ Jesus. A life saved by grace and protected by the law of the Lord.