If you know me, this won’t come as a surprise, but I’m a rule follower. Mostly because I strongly dislike getting in trouble. However, when it comes to driving the speed limit, I tend to curb the rule following. Especially since nine times out of ten, by the time I have everyone in the van, with appropriate attire on their feet, we’re running late.
Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20
Key Verse: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7
I’ve tried to leave earlier – I don’t know why it doesn’t work. Though in almost twenty years, I’m happy to say, I’ve only had one ticket and it happened not long after acquiring my license. (Watch, I’ll probably get one tomorrow.)
The worst part was the police officer pulled me over in the parking lot of our church Thanksgiving dinner. (Hello there so many people who know me.) To put it mildly, I was devastated and no longer in the mood to be thankful. One look at my hot mess of a face and my mother let me go home to sit in the bathtub. The fact that I’d just gotten in trouble in front of well, half my church, left me in need of bubbles, not turkey.
(Ugh, I hate getting in trouble.)
The problem is, not everyone shares my fondness for rule following. In fact, the Bible says even my preconceived notion to follow the rules (minus the speed limit) is a hoax. Psalms 3:2-3 states, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”
Not even one – we’re a sad case. But if we did follow after God, after his precepts and rules, oh the life we would lead. Not because all would be well and dandy with wild flowers doting our every path but because of the closeness of God we would know and experience.
Obedience is the soil by which the knowing of God will grow.
1 John 2:4-5 says, “Whoever says I know him but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.”
If you want to know God – you’ve got to obey him. Why? Because the law is the essence of God’s heart. Consider this..
God called David a man after His own heart not because he lived life perfectly (i.e. Bathsheba), but because he loved the law (see Psalm 119) and the law reflects God’s heart, expressing His nature in multiple ways. The law is good and righteous and true and so is God. “Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules” (Ps. 119:137).
But unfortunately rules have gotten a bad rap. Gaining the reputation of boring, restrictive, stuffy, tiresome, tedious. A technicality not worth following. Especially God’s rules. Which the world now views as relative for some and not for others depending on how you feel that day. Or your upbringing. Or your circumstances.
A sad delusion that’s significantly damaged our relationship with God.
Because His ways are not restrictive, they’re freeing. Psalm 119:45 says, “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments” (NLT). When God’s commands are followed blessings abound (Ps. 1:1-2). Peace is given (Ps. 119:165). Understanding is gained (Ps. 119:99). The heart overflows with joy (Ps. 119:111). Comfort is received (Ps. 119:52). And something more valuable than gold is attained (Ps. 119:72).
God’s rules are like a map for living the best life possible. Turn left here, turn right there, leading to the most amazing treasure we could ever receive – God himself.
“Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me” (Ps. 119:175).
Therefore, God’s second greatest act of love is right here in Exodus 20: the giving of His law. It’s not the first because “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NIV). Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for a people like us – yeah, nothing tops that.
But for God to come down from Heaven and speak the outpourings of His heart to a people He knew couldn’t follow it and wouldn’t follow it – this is love. Yet for the purpose of guiding us and them unto himself through the work and person of Jesus Christ, God shared His desires anyway.
We call them the Ten Commandments. So important were these rules to God, He wrote them himself on two stone tablets that were to be kept in the ark of the covenant. They weren’t to go anywhere. Their permanency guiding generation after generation; even in the New Testament.
Though today the church no longer needs to follow the ceremonial law (the sacrifices) or civil law (the rules that governed Israel as a nation). The moral law (i.e. the Ten Commandments) are very much still in play.
Why? Because God’s heart didn’t change. His guidelines for life and joy and holiness are still the same. What changed was our ability to follow them. So important are these rules to God He put his own spirit within us to help. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).
No longer would it be done in the old nature but with the new. In the Spirit, instead of the flesh. In Christ’s strength, instead of our own. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). (The true essence of that verse.)
Yet God knew we couldn’t keep His rules perfectly and it’s perfection he requires. Thus, we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by keeping the law. Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, just as Israel was. (Giving us all the more reason to obey Him!)
God’s heart is before us in Exodus 20. Just as we set rules for our kids because we love them, our Father cared enough to set rules for us. It’s not out of spite He’s asked us to live a certain way, it’s out of love. “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19:7).
He’s not only a God who loved us enough to give us His son, He’s a God who loved us enough to give us His law.
Contemplate and Evaluate:
How do you view God’s laws? As suggestions? Commands? Relevant or no longer necessary?
Are the Ten Commandments something you still try to live by today?
Why is the giving of the law a loving act of God?