Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
“Remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.”
– C.S. Lewis
Everyone wants to write poems when they’re in love. And if you can’t write a poem, you’ll buy a poem at CVS, because it just feels strange to love someone so much and not… say it in meter?
I think the lectionary has a sense of humor when it gave us Psalm 119 as the Psalm on Valentine’s week. “You want a love poem? I’ll give you a love poem!” 176 verses of Hebrew poetry, elegantly organized by letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the longest chapter in Scripture – dedicated entirely to the Law.
My soul keeps your decrees;
I love them exceedingly.
I rejoice in your word, like one who finds great spoil.
Your statutes have been my songs wherever I make my home.
I delight in the way of your decrees.
My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times.
I find my delight in your commandments, because I love them.
These are lover’s words.
Those are the things that you whisper to your boo, curled up under the covers on a snowy morning. That’s what you text at 1am when you can’t sleep and she’s four states away.
You’re my delight, my love, I’m consumed with longing, I rejoice in you like one who finds great spoils. You are my song wherever I make my home.
I literally can’t even believe that you’re mine, this is too good to be true.
Who says things like this about a set of rules? Isn’t this creeping legalism? Isn’t rejoicing in the Law just another path to “Bibliolatry,” the liberal’s favorite condemnation of the errant fundamentalist? Isn’t this a Gospel of Law instead of a Gospel of Grace? And isn’t a set of verses like this exceptionally dangerous to someone like me, who is always a little over eager to find a new set of rules, a new checklist, a new path to the Divine that involves me being more sacrificial, more holy, more Good?
But the Law, for the ancient Hebrews and Israelites, wasn’t about checklists and rules and more things to accomplish to achieve the favor of God.
The Law was the proof that they already had the favor of God.
The Law didn’t function as a “get to heaven” card (the Hebrew and Israelite religion had no concept of an afterlife), and it wasn’t something that you followed so that God would be pleased with you and give you bonus points and special favors.
The Law was the marker of the set-apartness of the Hebrew people. It was the marker of who they were as a community, set apart of be God’s people. It marked them as different from the nations and tribes and people groups around them. It reminded them who they were. It reminded them that they belonged, first, foremost, always, to God.
God chose them. God named them. God called Abraham when he was nobody and nothing, and God said this is your name now. And then God said this is your name to the whole community, to a family, to the tribe, to the nation.
Remember your name, the Law whispers. Remember who you are. Remember where you came from. Remember that you belong to the Lord.
Samuel Johnson said that “people need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” It’s so easy to forget who we are. Everything is noisy and wants us – our jobs, our kids, our partners, our politics, our schools, everything wants us to give 100% to them, to be first and foremost theirs. That’s just a practical, non-theological way of things demanding that we make them our identity.
Before you’re anything else, be a pastor. Before you’re anything else, be politically engaged. Be a mom. Be a husband. Be a scholar.
If we don’t come back, again and again, to the Covenant God, we forget our name.
Remember, whispers the Law. Remember, whisper the Prophets.
Do this in remembrance of me, Jesus says at the Table.
This is the new Covenant in my blood.