Knowing the Boundaries

This year's journey through the Scriptures has landed me in the minor prophets. And as much as some like to downplay the message of the Old Testament to today's world, I take the warnings seriously.

The parallels between the apostasy of God's people in the Old Testament and the modern church are too striking to ignore. And if those parallels are similar so will be the judgment that will come on us, as it once came on them.

The warning has been preserved for us down through the centuries, and though there are so-called evangelicals today who poo-poo the importance, and even the veracity, of the Old Testament, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to look around and see just how far we have fallen from Biblical truth, from the teachings of Jesus, from being a people of God for the glory of God.

History is cyclical. Our experience is something we share with generations past. The trappings might be different, but the evils are not. And those who do not learn from history we are told, are destined to repeat it.

So when the psalmist spends 176 verses in Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, extolling the virtues of paying attention to the law of God, he has a reason. Without the law, we have no idea what God's standards are. The world tells us that there are no absolutes and unhappily even believers live as though that were true. But there are absolutes. If we think that the absolutes of the Old Testament are "over the top" we forget that Jesus made those absolutes even stronger. The Old Testament says it is wrong to murder, but Jesus said murder is as much in the heart, disguised as anger, as it is represented in a knife, a gun, or a bomb. The Old Testament tells us that adultery is wrong, but Jesus said that adultery begins in the mind. The thought is as evil as the act. (Matthew 5). And those were only two of the issues He covered in His teachings.

David knew the consequences that arose out of murder and adultery. Even someone as close to God as David was not immune to sin. We fall into sin easily and we justify it just as easily.

The constant theme of Psalm 119 is the psalmist's gratitude that God has revealed His standard, that He has given the law. And the psalm expresses the psalmist's constant plea for the Lord to teach him about that those standards, those absolutes.

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law" (Psalm 119:18).

Wonderful? The law reveals to us what we are and, at first glance, we aren't happy. But then we realize that only a loving Father would limit us. Like plugs in electrical outlets, or burners out of reach of little hands, or baby gates at the top of stairs, God protects us with His absolutes. He establishes boundaries for our own good.

That's why His law is wonderful. That's why the psalmist repeats over and over again the delight he takes in God's Word. He knows that minding the spiritual "baby gates" will save him a world of hurt.

The prayer of every day needs to be: "Show me, Lord..." followed by an embracing of the boundaries as from a loving Father.


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