Earlier this year I found myself reading through Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible and a meditation on the perfection of God’s law. “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.” Psalm 119:1. “I rejoice in following your statutes as one who rejoices in great riches.” Psalm 119:14. “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.” Psalm 119:27. “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Psalm 119:97. “Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.” Psalm 119:127-128.
For years I read these verses and believed they were, at best, hyperbole. In my more cynical moments, I thought the psalmist was faking it. How in the world, I wondered, could anyone seriously feel this way about the law of God? Better than great riches? C’mon!
To my mind the law of God was not better than riches, pure gold, and blessedness, but something that kept me from those things. It was a to-do list, a way to keep me busy and out of trouble perhaps but not happy. Happiness would come as the world has always said it would come: through sex, money, and power.
I now, however, not only believe the psalmist was completely sincere and betrayed not a hint of hyperbole, but I am also convinced he was absolutely right. I’ve now seen too many miserable people who have had more sex, money, and power anyone should have a right to expect. Pursuit of those things, for their own sake, is the way of death, not life.
“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45. Only by following the law of the Lord can we find true freedom. Why? First, we are sinners and cannot be reconciled to the God of the universe through keeping the law. In our fallen state, the law can only condemn us, unless we follow the law all the way along and see the one to whom it points: the one who can save, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4. In Christ, there is freedom.
But too often we leave the discussion of Christian freedom in the abstract. Yes, Jesus saves and brings freedom, but how? “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105.
Freedom comes from a right relationship with God and the people around us. I am now convinced that the most blessed people on earth are not necessarily (or even often) the rich and powerful, but those who by diligently applying the law of God to their lives know how to live in this world: how to obey God and how to love the people around them. Because they have kept the law they are now at perfect peace. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3. Peace with God and peace with everyone in your life: that’s freedom.
Imagine: you have every physical need met. Food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over your head. Not wealthy by the world’s standards, not influential. But you are rich in relationships, because for years you’ve applied yourself to the law. Therefore, you know how to serve and care for those in your life, you know how to treat others to avoid unnecessary conflict, you know how to handle the inevitable conflict that must come, and you know how to forgive. In short, you know how to love, and you find you are loved in return.
Peace with family, friends, neighbors: that’s freedom. I pray that I and all who read are on our way to the fulfillment of this dream. “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your laws.” Psalm 119:148-149.