Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Law

Fr. Dale Matson
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws on their heart, and upon their mind also will I write them; then saith He.” (Heb. 10:16).

Boundaries/rules provide freedom. The most freeing thing God did for the Jews in the Old Testament was not providing for their escape from Egypt but providing them with the Law. The Law gave people rules to live by and a life with meaning and purpose.

As I wrote this statement for my Advent III Homily, it was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes. It became clear to me that the Law is so much more than I had understood it to be. The distinction between Law and Gospel that I imposed on Scripture was a template provided by years of experience in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. This template created a contrast between Law and Gospel and whether Luther or Calvin, the purpose of the Law was in marked contrast to the Gospel. For Luther, the Law was seen as a Curb, a Mirror and a Guide. (Formula of Concord, 6th Article). Roughly put, the Law was a means God used to control men.

Why then is the Law spoken of by the writers of the Old Testament with the same adoration we hold the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why does our Lord say, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”(Matthew 5:17-18).

As we honor the Law, We are given life. As we honor God as commanded by the Law, we are given purpose. As we honor the Law toward our neighbors, our stony hearts are turned to flesh. As we honor the Law in keeping it, our priorities are established. As St. Paul points out in Galatians, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (3:24).

The Psalmist mentions the Law twenty five times in the 119th Psalm alone.
I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes. Remember the word to Your servant, In which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction,that Your word has revived me. The arrogant utterly deride me, yet I do not turn aside from Your law. I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O LORD, And comfort myself. Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked, which forsake Your law. Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. O LORD, I remember Your name in the night,And keep Your law. This has become mine, that I observe Your precepts.
(Psalm 119: 47:56).

It is not the Law contrasted with the Gospel. It was God’s good pleasure to provide us with the Law that we could read and understand and love in the light of the Gospel. Amen

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