The Psalm writer wrote: Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. As we come before a Holy God and hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God. It is eternally true and applicable for all of life.
Deuteronomy 5: 1-21 Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me. ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. ‘Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you. ‘You shall not murder. ‘You shall not commit adultery. ‘You shall not steal. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.’
How many times have you read through the Ten Commandments? Hundreds? Thousands? I would venture to say that most of us are so familiar with the commandments that when we hear them recited, or read them ourselves, we check out. Our eyes glaze over a bit. Our hearing grows a little dull. Our minds wander to something else. Maybe your heart hardens, just a bit, because, you know the Law, and do not need to be reminded. “Ridiculous” you say. “I delight in God’s Law (Psalm 119:47) just like King David.” Yes, just like King David, adulterer and murderer.
In Reformed tradition we generally hold to what is called the “Threefold use of the Law”(1). In short, the Threefold use states that God’s Law serves three functions: 1) As a mirror which reflects the perfect righteousness of God, as well as highlights our weakness; (2) To restrain evil, allowing for a limited measure of justice on earth; and 3) To reveal what is pleasing to God.
I mention this threefold use because there are a few traps that I fear many of us fall into regularly. Trap #1: “I see God’s Law, it is perfect, it really does reveal God’s righteousness and perfection, so when it's read, or brought before my eyes, I will check out because to be reminded of it means that I will have to repent of my sins, and I don’t really want to do that, because this pet sin I cherish isn’t that bad”. We know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, and not only do the same, but give hearty approval to those who practice them. We become idolaters, worshipping ourselves and the puny little god of our imaginations that is ok with your little sin.
The second trap goes like this: “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul...so I am going to use God’s Law to pound sinners into submission. I will use the Law as a billy club on the sidewalk, in my home, and at work to push back those evil wicked pagans. I will hold God’s Law up for them so that they recognize just how far they fall short from God’s standard, and they will flee, and I will have debate victory”. There is no desire to see sinners converted, there is no presentation of the gospel, there is no hope offered, only Law, wrath, and punishment.
Lastly, we fall into the trap of the Judaizers: “You must do A + B+ C, then you will be saved”. God’s Law reflects His righteousness and holiness, it is perfect and good, it restrains evil, and shows us what is pleasing in His sight, sooooo, I will keep the commandments, and he will be pleased with me. Another way of putting it is: I will keep His commandments and He will save me. “Oh, come on, we don’t do that”. Really? Why then do you despair as if you have lost your salvation every time you sin? There is no condemnation in Christ. Why do you feel guilt and shame over sitting down to enjoy a basketball game, when you could be reading Calvin’s Institutes or listening to Plodcast? Did you think your “religious” activity was going to save you? In many reformed circles, if your eschatology does not line up with your beard length, the bible translation you use does not coordinate with your whiskey of choice, and the sweet smelling aroma of your sacrifice isn’t a cuban cigar, then you must not actually be a Christian….I mean, reformed.
Brothers and sisters, ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD. All of us, from least to greatest, have transgressed the Law of God. No amount of Law keeping on your part can change that. If you have stumbled in even one point of the Law, which you have, you are guilty of breaking all of the Law. If we seek to stand before God on judgement day and point to our Law keeping as evidence of why we should or should not be allowed into the Kingdom of God...we will be damned. This perfect Law of God which reveals to us His righteousness and Holiness, also points us to His mercy and grace. We cannot keep the Law, yet keep the Law is what He commands. We cannot be perfect, yet be Perfect is His demand. Our righteousness is like filthy rags, yet He requires that those who are in His presence be perfectly righteous. What can we do? What must I do to be saved? Who will save me from this body of death? I can’t do it! I can’t keep the Law! Save me! Save me, we must cry aloud.
We need an advocate. We need an intercessor. We need a Saviour. His name is Jesus. Let us call upon the Name of the Lord. If you are able, please kneel at this time.
Heavenly Father, Your Law is perfect, but because of our idolatry, we oftentimes twist your Law and use it in ways that keep us and others in hopeless bondage. Instead of fleeing to Your Son Jesus, we hide behind our abilities to keep Your Law, which are always lacking. Father, instead of trusting in Your Son Jesus and His righteousness for our salvation, we trust in our works, our programs, our systems, and our perfectly lined up theologies to save us. Father, we instinctively realize we cannot measure up to Your Law, so we set it aside and put in its place rules and ordinances which give the appearance of Holiness and obedience, but which are actually open rebellion and warfare against you. Father, please forgive us for trusting in our law keeping, rule following, systems, and practices to save us, rather than the Perfect Spotless Lamb which You Provided to take away our sins. Please forgive us for trusting in our weak arm of flesh, rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us, and conform us into Your image. Please forgive us for worshipping ourselves. Please forgive us for not trusting in You for our salvation. It’s in Jesus Name we pray, Amen.
Listen now to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to all that believe:
Ephesians 2: 8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts!
(From the 3/31/19 liturgy of Sovereign King Church.)