Clothesline Theology


The law of the Lord is perfect…” Psalm 19:7-11, NIV

Most people would disagree. And some of us only agree when the law of the Lord doesn’t cramp our style.

We used to sing these verses (using the King James Version) before the overwhelming quantity of new music made the song a relic. But the words remain as true today as they always were.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.”

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.”

The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.”

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

The law is described using several different words: statutes, precepts, commands, fear, ordinances. “Fear” seems out of step with the others—only if we don’t consider the consequences of NOT paying attention to them.

And in case we aren’t convinced, the psalmist makes a list of attributes that apply to God’s instructions: perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, sure and altogether righteous.

My mother used to attached my harness to the clothesline so that I could run around the yard but not escape to the street (the one time I did escape, my brother had to run out and rescue me from being run over by a car!). Some people might say that the harness attached to the clothesline constitutes child abuse. But considering what the consequences of NOT attaching me almost were, I’d say she had been looking after my welfare. So it is with the laws of God. We can choose to see them as limiting when they are actually for our own protection.

Then the psalmist describes the benefits that come with obedience to God’s instructions.

1. They revive the soul: they cause our lives to bloom.
2. They make the simple wise: they introduce us to what we could never know on our own.
3. They bring joy to the heart: they bring contentment and harmony to our world.
4. They give light to the eyes: they provide direction and stability.
5. They endure forever: they are constant and reliable.
6. They are precious: they are worth more than anything this world can offer.
7. They are sweet: they satisfy in a way that nothing else can satisfy.
8. They warn us: they keep us from making shipwreck of our lives now and in the future.
9. They bring great reward: they will give back much more than they may seem to take.

John writes some remarkable words in 1 John 5:3 (NIV): “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” Obeying God only gets hard when we try to impose our will on His. John insists that obedience is not hard at all on those who submit themselves to pleasing Him above all. On this day when we celebrate love, who better can we love than the One who loved us long before we loved Him and who, because of that love, gave us the instruction manual that would give us all the blessings described in these verses.

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