Beckett: Love for the Law

Psalm 119:161-168
Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your words.
I rejoice at Your Word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love Your law.
Seven times a day I praise You for Your righteous rules.
Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for Your salvation, O Yahweh, and I do Your commandments.
My soul keeps Your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
I keep Your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before You.

In this section of the psalter’s acrostic poem, he delights in the Law of God. He finds God’s Word a thing to rejoice in since anything straying from His Word is falsehood. He claims that those who love God’s Law receive “great peace.” God’s Law—God’s Word—is a thing to be loved exceedingly and adored. And the psalter is right, for we see what happens to a person when they don’t love God’s Law.

If you love God’s Law, you will keep it, and we see what happens to the Israelites when they love their own word rather than the Word of God. Whenever Israel loves something else—falsehood—over the truth revealed in God’s Law, God allows them to be handed over to their enemies (Deuteronomy 1:42-45).

This is not to say that doing the Law justifies. This is merely to say that a person who loves the Law of God merely does it out of joy, just as the psalter does. And just as Jesus says, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left h and know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:1-3). In other words, do not consider whether the needy person will use your generosity fruitfully, lest the next time you give, you give less and less than you did before because you have supposedly judged they will be squandering your generosity.

As Luther says concerning good works, “[Faith] does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them” (FC.SD.IV, 10). In other words, just as a human being cannot help but breathe because they are human, so a Christian cannot help but do good works (the Law) because he is Christian.

We ought to love the Law since the Law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12). Yet we must be careful with our zeal for the Law lest we love it more than the grace of God—the promise of God—which antedates the Law, and under which we are justified (Galatians 3). Nevertheless, we must love the Law since it is holy, righteous, and good, and especially for the love of our neighbour, who needs us to do the Law for their sake.

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