Second Look: Delight in the Law?
[His] delight is in the law of the Lord.
Psalm 1:2 NIV
Dear ICB family,
I'm not going to lie to you. For a long time I recoiled slightly when the psalmist talked about how much he loved the law or delighted in the law or found it to be sweeter than honey to his mouth. I hear the word law and my mind goes to Leviticus:
"And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering he shall remove from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys…; and the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung—all the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood" (a law concerning the procedures for properly making a sin offering, Lev. 4:8–12 ESV).
"These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat" (a law regarding what foods the Israelites could eat, Lev. 11:2).
"And if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white, and there is raw flesh in the swelling, it is a chronic leprous disease in the skin of his body, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean" (a law regarding the treatment of leprosy, Lev. 13:9).
These and many other commandments like them were all a part of "the law" that the psalmists constantly praise. I admit I find within myself little affection toward such ordinances. These aren't the Bible verses that people embroider and hang on their walls. These verses don't get used at weddings or funerals and they're never claimed as a person's life verse. These laws seem so foreign and if I'm honest, a little off-putting.
So what do the psalmists see that I obviously miss? I think they understood that the law is pointing somewhere. You see, the law reveals to us the character of God.
When we read laws about leaving the corners of one's fields unharvested so that the poor have something to glean, we see the compassion of God toward all people, even those considered to be at the bottom of society. When we read laws about clean and unclean animals or what makes a person clean or unclean, we get a glimpse of God's complete separateness from everything common. He is completely pure and undefiled by any contaminated thing whatsoever, and that is the unbelievably high standard to which he calls his people. When we read laws about which internal organs to burn on the altar in the tabernacle and which parts of the bull are to be taken outside the camp to be burned, we begin to understand the true cost of a person's sin—it resulted in the death of an animal so that the person might live—and we begin to grasp how horrible the punishment of sin is, namely, burning up by fire.
When seen this way, I can feel a stirring of love for the law of God. Even Leviticus. I remain thankful we today are not bound by the covenant that God made with Israel, yet I love the high and holy and loving and compassionate and pure and gracious and just and righteous God that shines through every single one of the laws that he handed down to Moses on Sinai, and in that way, I, too, can say with the psalmists that I delight his law.
May God remove from your eyes and from mine "the veil" that keeps us from seeing "the glory of the Lord" in "the old covenant" (see 2 Corinthians 3:12–18).
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