Do You Want to Dance With God’s Law?

Do You Want to Dance With God’s Law?

How do you feel about law?

When’s the last time you browsed the two-volume truth-in-lending law or the federal law for income tax or the rule book at your local school? I would guess if you requested to see a copy of your company’s code book, the pages would be in pristine condition, hardly thumbed by human fingers.

Have you ever known anyone to record the company policy manual on a CD so he or she could memorize it en route to and from work? Or have you ever come across a college student sprawled out in the middle of campus reviewing the campus code of conduct?

We don’t turn to law on normal days—only when we are violated and want to use it to our benefit or when we are in trouble and wish to challenge its unpleasant ruling on our behavior. Law is big words in unused books for hard situations that we hope to never find ourselves in.

For most of us, the words surrounding law are not our favorites—rule, restriction, regulation, requirement, code, commandment, covenant, limit, boundary, must, ought, shall, will. These are parental words, court words, conflict words. So we use them only when we have to; otherwise, we hold them at a distance.

The Israelites had a different take on law. They took their copy of the law their God had given them, clutched it to their chests, and danced with it. They celebrated it as a gift.

They observed it daily in their relationships and required their young to memorize it. And when a copy of the law had grown ragged and old, they had a special ceremony to retire it. They buried it with all the dignity of a beloved grandparent’s body.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to parts of the longest psalm in our Scriptures and note the numerous ways these people lavish praise on the gift of law. I’ve only included excerpts of it here because this text is looooong, but you can click here to read the entire chapter of Psalm 119 (which I suggest you do). The weight of love for the law in this text is absolutely stunning.

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.
Oh, how I love your law!
It is my meditation all day long.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your decrees are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
I do not turn away from your ordinances, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word.
Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your ordinances.
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.
Your decrees are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your custom toward those who love your name.
Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from human oppression, that I may keep your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not kept.” (Vv. 33-40, 97-112, 129-35)

Now how do you feel about law?

When we feel like the psalmist of Psalm 119, I think we will have come to understand it the way the people at the time did—as a sacred gift that points the way to the life God intended for us.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Dancing with the Law: The Ten Commandments.

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