“Mom, all of these rules are ruining my life!” One little boy shouted as they were playing around a public swimming pool. Right off the top of your head, you know the rules that this little boy was talking about: no diving, no running, no big splashes, no food or drinks around the pool, and the list goes on and on.
I remember listening to this boy, who could not have been any older than eight years old, say this, and I thought, “He is exactly right! All of these rules do seemingly take the fun out of the whole pool experience!” If you were honest with yourself right now, you would have thought the same thing. We want to jump into the pools, and we want to carry our favorite drink to the water’s edge. But, if we are even more honest with ourselves, we many times think of God’s Law like this too.
Our immediate responses to words like “Law,” “Rules,” “Guidelines,” “Commands,” and “Restrictions” are met with frustration and annoyance. We simply do not like them! Everywhere we go, we are immediately confronted with rules, and we want to push our limits; we want to break them. They really seem to be holding us down or pinning us up. So, when God tells gives us His Law, we wince at the thought because that’s the last thing we want more rules.
In our sinful desires, we want to be our own god. We want to do life our way. Sadly, that sinful desire doesn’t immediately disappear when we come to Christ in faith. Often we still struggle with thinking that we have it all together and planned out, and we ignore what God desires for us. We blatantly disobey because we have a better idea.
Jonah the Illustration
Jonah, the prophet of the Lord, is guilty of these very things. We know the story well, but we need to hear it again. Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh and to proclaim God’s judgment upon that great city because of their sins and idolatry. Yet, instead of obeying God’s call, Jonah rises up and goes in the complete opposite direction. Jonah begins his foolish flight to Joppa, and while there, he finds a boat heading to Tarshish.
As Jonah pays his fare to come aboard, you cannot help but to think that Jonah thinks that he’s about to get away from the presence of the Lord. Tarshish is one of the farthest cities of the known world, and in his flight, that’s exactly where the prophet wants to go.
I am speculating here, but I can almost hear Jonah saying, “God! All of these rules are ruining my life!” Jonah felt like God’s Law was holding him back; he was being bound down by God’s commands. Like I said, we know the story well, and we know what happens. The Lord hurled a great storm upon the waters and Jonah is ultimately thrown overboard to relieve the boat and her crew from the storm. While sinking to the bottom, meeting his sure death, the Lord sends a great fish to swallow Jonah. There the prophet repents and calls upon the name of the Lord for his salvation from the fish’s belly.
As Jonah is spat upon the dry ground, the call of God comes to him again, and this time Jonah goes to Nineveh and proclaims God’s judgment upon the city. With great sorrow and repentance, the people repent and call upon the name of the Lord for their salvation. Seeing this, God relents His judgment against them.
We all would think now that Jonah would be overjoyed for the Ninevites were saved and came to the Lord, but his reaction is the exact opposite. Again, Jonah, the prophet of the Lord, felt like he had a better plan and a better solution; therefore, he goes and sulks to the east of the city and waits for the Lord to destroy Nineveh. Again, God meets him with grace there, but my whole point of drawing this illustration out is that many times when it comes to God’s Law, we are Jonah! We do not want to say that we would tell God that His Law was ruining our life, but that’s many times how we act.
David the Illustration
But notice, here in Psalm 119:41-48, that is not the way David talks about God’s Law. My favorite verse of this passage is v. 45. Let’s read it, “and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.”
Do you see the revolutionary language that David is using? The Law of God does not hold him down, it does not bind him up, and it does not make him scream in frustration and annoyance. No! He says that his paths are wide!
We are constantly thinking that laws and rules are constricting and restricting, but David says here in Psalm 119 that God’s Law for the believer does neither. In fact, God’s Law should make us feel that we are walking wide paths. What does he mean? That God’s Law should bring us joy and freedom! In God’s Law, David finds delight, love, security, and hope.
The Apostle John underlines these thoughts when he says that he is writing to the church at Ephesus about the salvation and Law of our God because he wants their “joy to be complete.” (1 John 1:4)
With the word of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, giving us complete confidence in the person and work of Christ, the Scriptures are completely clear that there is a response to God’s saving grace. That response is gospel obedience. Simply, we meet God’s Law like David here in Psalm 119!
Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus commands believers to present their lives as a living sacrifice and states that those who hear the Words of God and keeps them are to be considered blessed. This is not the only reason that Christians ought to be obedient to the commands of God, but also that others will see our love for Him. 1 John 5:2-3 states,“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
Therefore, our obedience is a testimony of our faith and a testimony of our love for God. Again, this is declared in 1 John 2:3-6, he writes:
“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 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.”
How wonderful it is to give great testimony to our God! The way we do this, gospel obedience to God’s Law, is often met with hindrance from our sinful desires. So, let our prayer constantly be that we have a heart like David; that as we look to our God, we will see His Law as lovely and beautiful. Truly, God has shown us our duty as Christians; therefore, let us answer the call with great diligence and joy.