Rector's Letter

The Privilege of the law

In our modern western culture, there are those who’d want to maintain that the notion of God’s law is anachronistic, an instrument of oppression, and the antithesis of freedom. But Moses had a different view! Moses, that towering figure who led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, repeatedly urged them never to forget God’s law. They were to remember that after rescuing them from slavery, God’s first act was to give them His law. That’s where the Ten Commandments come from. Moses’ argument was always that in keeping God’s law lies the way to living the beautiful life. Now, why should that be?

Well, I read a translation of an ancient Sumerian prayer. The author evidently believed passionately that the gods were angry with him, that the cause of their anger was some transgression of his, and that he vitally needed to do something to placate them. But he had not the least idea who these gods were, no inkling of what his transgression consisted of, and not a single notion of how to set about placating them. The prayer is heart-breaking.

The point is, that unless God reveals himself, no-one can ever answer those questions. What is God like? What kinds of behaviours are acceptable or unacceptable to him? If we do offend him, what can be done about it? No-one can tell. We can only experiment in the dark, with mortal consequences. Such was the awful condition of that poor, desperate Sumerian.

I think it’s hard for any of us in Britain today to imagine what that would be like, because, even if we’ve been taught very little about God directly, we’ve all been brought up in a culture and under a legal system that are based on Christian principles. We absorb them. So it’s difficult for us to take the mental step into the darkness of complete ignorance of God and into the fear that follows.”

But that’s just where the law is such a blessing. It’s in his law that God graciously makes himself known. The laws reveal God’s character to us – his justice, his integrity, his kindness, his faithfulness. Through the law we discover his nature. His law sets boundaries, so we know precisely what kind of behaviour is acceptable to him, and what behaviour crosses the line. And the law tells us what’s to be done when we offend him.

And, above all of these privileges, the law points us to Jesus, who lived the beautiful life flawlessly, as an example for us to follow, showing us perfectly who God is, and whose death and resurrection are the once-for-all answer to that impossible question of how to placate the God whom we’ve offended.

To know God’s law is a huge privilege. Will you join me in resolving to follow it with God’s help as the way of true freedom in the beautiful life, as seen in Jesus, that God longs for every one of us to live?

Rob Thomas

© 2019 Trowbridge St James'