Precept upon Precept

The Law of God just makes sense.

The Law is Good (5)

“Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
just weaned from milk?
just drawn from the breasts?
For precept
must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.”
Isaiah 28.9, 10

Key to the maze
I chuckle each time I hear Paul Simon singing “Kodachrome.” My high school days come rushing back, full of boredom and distraction, as he sings:

    When I think back
    On all the crap I learned in high school
    It’s a wonder
    I can think at all…

I especially am vaulted back into my senior civicscourse, which purported to make sense of the government and laws of our nation. To me, it was all a mish-mash of cherry-picked information designed to keep unruly teenagers in line. I couldn’t make sense of it. How did all this law, and all these political offices, parties, platforms, platitudes, and regulations, fit together to make one nation under God?

I doubt even those who make the laws pay much attention to their rationale or center. Indeed, do they even read them, or do they just plunk them down on the scale of political advantage and legislate not on sound, rational, constitutional principle, but out of mere party- and self-interest? I think of Rep. Pelosi urging the passage of the Affordable Care Act by saying we need to hurry up and pass it, so that we can find out what’s in it.

I’m sure that American law has rhyme and reason. To many Americans, however it appears to be a load of, well, like Paul Simon says.

The neglect of God’s Law
God’s Law is not like the laws that proliferate at every level in our society. His Law issues not from self-interested political whim, but from divine unity, holiness, harmony, and order. His Law is entirely rational. Thoughtful people can reflect on the Law of God, discern its wisdom and beauty, and use the Law, under the tutelage of the Spirit, to bring the goodness of God to light in creative applications of love.

The Law of God makes sense. It builds on itself – line upon line, precept upon precept – so that it becomes a tapestry of justice, crafted to promote love for God and neighbors as normal human experience. Where ignorance of God’s Law obtains – as in many churches today – neglect of it will soon follow, and where the Law of God is ignored or neglected, lawlessness will flourish, and love will grow cold (Matt. 24.12).

This pretty much describes the situation in our country, but it has not always been so. In the early days of the American experiment, the Law of God played a formative role in shaping American jurisprudence. School children memorized and learned the Ten Commandments, taught faithfully up and down the eastern seaboard by public school teachers, preachers, and parents, and recited and enforced in courtrooms throughout the land. Such a respect for God’s Law grew up in those colonies, that when the call came to defend the liberty that Law ensured, and to be ready to lay down one’s life for God and country, multitudes responded without hesitation.

God’s Law is orderly and rational; therefore, we can learn and obey for our good, and that of our neighbors.

Order in the Law
A quick glance at the Ten Commandments reveals the order in God’s Law.

The first four commandments guide us in loving God, the last six outline our duties in loving our neighbors. We must love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, or we will not love our neighbors as ourselves. American law today attempts to enforce a humanistic version of neighbor-love apart from love for God. How’s that working out for us?

Within the first four commandments, we worship and serve God only, and no one or nothing else. He is our deliverer. He is our judge. He is the God of all grace and power. There are no other gods. So, second, we must make no images to worship other gods, or devote ourselves to anything above Him. Third, we take His Name upon us for the purpose of glorifying Him, and not vainly, or with results contrary to His character and will. Finally, we reinforce these first three commandments by honoring the Lord’s Day, and using it to reflect on His power, sovereignty, grace, provision, and purpose for our lives – which makes us love Him all the more.

The order in the second table of the Law outlines the operations of a good and just society. In God’s wise plan, the family is the basic institution and essential training-ground for communities that flourish in love. What God intends for people in community – respect for their persons, property, and relationships – is to be learned at home, where parents who honor the first four commandments teach their children to love God and obey His Law unto righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. Where this occurs, where marriage is honored as God intends, and His Law is taught, learned, and obeyed, a platform and trajectory are established that can be replicated in succeeding generations, unto a good and just society (Ps. 78.5-7).

That this so seldom happens in our day is no reflection on God’s Law, but on the power of the law of sin to distract us from God and His Word, and to lead us to embrace merely selfish interests. In the Church, therefore, we help neither our families, our children, nor our communities by neglecting to teach the holy and righteous and good Law of the Lord.

The various statutes, precepts, rules, testimonies, and commandments that make up the civil law can all be arranged in an orderly manner beneath their respective Commandments, so that we can read, study, and make sense of the Law, and obey its holy and righteous and good teaching for goodness’ sake.

For reflection
1.  Why does it matter that the Law of God is orderly, rational, and makes sense?

2.  Can you see how each of the Ten Commandments leads logically to the next? Explain.

3.  Since God’s Law is orderly and rational; and since we can know and obey it; and since knowing and obeying God’s Law enables love to flourish; does it make sense to neglect such a precious resource?

Next steps – Conversation: Is the Law of God taught in your church or the churches of your Christian friends? Ask a few. What could you do together to begin reading, meditating on, and living within the order and rationality of God’s Law?

T. M. Moore

Why is the Law so important? How can we understand it? What use does it have in our daily lives? These questions and more are addressed in our brief book, The Ground for Christian Ethics. This could be the most important book you’ll read this year. Order your copy by clicking here. Order several copies, and read and discuss it with some friends.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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