God’s Law – It’s not Legalism

This is the script of a talk I gave at Lighthouse Community Church yesterday:

Following on from what Steve F has told us about God not being a harsh task master and David C, that there’s no right way of being a Christian: it’s not a matter of keeping to detailed rules, but about getting close to God and living it out,

I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve found as I’ve been meditating and studying Ps 119 – don’t worry, it’s the longest psalm but I’m not going to go through all 176 verses today. In fact, I’m not even a third of the way through yet. I haven’t got to verse 105 yet where it says that God’s ‘word is a lamp to our feet’ – a verse most of you know.

So far, I have found in v2 that we are BLESSED if we keep God’s statutes ie follow His house rules, the Jesus life-style

That there are WONDERFUL THINGS in God’s law.[v18

We are STRENGTHENED by His promises [v 28

The psalmist finds DELIGHT in God’s commands and that they set his heart FREE. [vv 32, 35

He finds COMFORT in God’s ancient laws  [v 52

That God’s word is the WORD of TRUTH and it gives HOPE [vv 43,49

Do we delight in a set of rules? Do they bring hope and freedom or comfort?


Our English bibles use words like law, precepts, statutes, commands, and commandments to describe God’s word. All very legalistic words that sound as delightful as our acts of parliament. They don’t seem to speak of comfort or freedom; but anxiety – are we obeying them correctly? – and restriction not freedom.

Yet in the Hebrew, these words have a very different flavour:

Law, the torah, was God’s teaching – the instructions given by a caring father to a beloved child.

Other words used speak of God’s promises, that His word is engraved –His words last. Jesus said that his words would never pass away [Mt 24:35] they are for all people and for all time.

God’s words speak of His nature and His truth and they are designed for practical application – Jesus said that the wise man hears his words and puts them into practice. [Mt 7:24]

The word translated ‘precept’ comes from the word for an officer or overseer – a person responsible for looking closely at a situation in, seeing to the smallest details.

God is concerned about the smallest details of our lives. As it says in Zec 4:10 ‘Who despises the day of small things?– God doesn’t.

Some people mock at asking God for a parking space – but God does care about details, things like a parking space when we’re running late for an important appointment. Jesus told us that the very hairs on our heads are numbered. Imagine! I think about that when I notice how many hairs have come out in my hair brush. How many thousands of hairs do we have? How many billion people on the planet? And yet, God knows… and He cares – and that’s just the hairs on our heads!

To give you an idea of what can be found in Psalm 119 I’d like to read one section from The Message:

‘Let your love, God, shape my life with salvation,

Exactly as you promised;

Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery

Because I trusted your Word.

Don’t ever deprive me of truth, not ever –

Your commandments are what I depend on.

Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me,

Guard it now, guard it ever;

And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces

as I look for your truth and your wisdom’

Then I’ll tell the world what I find,

Speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed.

I cherish your commandments – oh, how I love them! –

Relishing every fragment of your counsel.’

V 41 ‘Let your love, God, shape my life…’ – that’s what it’s all about. When we know how much God loves us, nothing else matters, and nothing can separate us from that love. Paul knew this: despite all the hardships he’d endured:  shipwrecks, floggings, beatings and stonings…  [2Corinthians 11 has a long list] he could say, ‘I’m convinced that neither death nor life…nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’  [Romans 8:38,39]

V 42,‘then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery because I trust your word.’ and in v51 he writes: ‘the insolent ridicule me without mercy, but I won’t budge from your revelation.’

Dawkins and the new atheists may mock us and say that our God’s a delusion, and be hostile to any form of religion – –  but we won’t budge. We know He loves us, know that He has proved faithful, keeping His promises and  keeping us safe. And so we’ll tell the world about Him, speaking out boldly like the disciples did after Pentecost [Acts 2-5 gives several examples], we can speak out boldly and without embarrassment about the things God has revealed to us – His truth and His wisdom, telling the world about Jesus ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ [Col 2:3]

V45 ‘I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom’ or in the NIV ‘I will walk aabout in freedom for I have sought out your precepts’. God’s law is not restrictive, but gives freedom, making us the people He plans for us to be. We all need boundaries.

V 47,48 ‘I cherish your commandments… relishing every fragment of your counsel’

God is the perfect counsellor – that’s one of the names for the HS given in Jn 14 and for Jesus as told in Isaiah 9:6. God knows us better than we know ourselves as we are reminded in Ps 139.

And His laws are for our benefit as it says in Dt 10:13.

So I’d just like to encourage you to continue studying and meditating on God’s word, – it’s not dry and dusty, but it is a rich storehouse of wisdom and knowledge – to be cherished and considered a delight. His words are ‘sweeter than honey’ [v 103] and ‘more precious than thousands of pieces of silver and gold’ [v 72]

Please share any comments – what’s your experience of God and His laws?

About Sandra Delemare

follower of Jesus, retired mental health nurse, writer. Interests: crochet, photography, wildlife I blog on biblical meditation, mental health and crochet. I'm also posting a series on my life story so people know where I'm coming from.
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5 Responses to God’s Law – It’s not Legalism

  1. scskillman says:

    I do like what you’re saying here, but it makes me curious on one level. Every so often we hear preachers speak of ‘unhelpful’ words in the bible which, we are told, are the fault of bible translators. I wonder why that has come about. Much of the King James bible apparently – according to Melvyn Bragg in his wonderful TV programme on this subject – has come directly from William Tyndale himself, the original translator of the bible into English, whose vision was to make the bible available to be read by the ‘common’ person. Since much of the language he used has been highly praised, why is it that there are some words which have created such a false impression of the spirit of God, I wonder. Any comments from bible translation experts would be welcome!

    • Thanks for the comment, Sheila. I’m no translation expert, so rely on the work of others and the guidance of the Holy Spirit on who I’ll go with. I used the NIV Commentary and Strong’s Concordance for info on the Hebrew words used.
      Just a thought – English itself has moved on from the time of Tyndale, so maybe all those legalistic words didn’t have the same ‘baggage’ back then.

  2. Those are such beautiful encouraging words of scripture… Thanks Sandra…. Diane

  3. Pingback: At the end of your tether? | MMM… Meditation, Mental health, Mindful crochet

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