The New Testament offers us citizenship in a monarchy where the King serves— and calls his servants friends.
The idea isn’t completely new. It’s a story that begins to unfold in the drama of Eden— but is soon lost in the confusion of a world where muscular strength and social authority are used to build kingdoms of self-serving laws, enforcement, and dynasties.
The result of the rebellion is that descriptions of ourselves and our God become increasingly difficult to understand until our image of God (and ourselves) suddenly reverts to what seems upside down and inside out—in Jesus.
Am hoping it might help us to spend some time reviewing together some of the common ground of our faith to see once again that an upside down and inside out understanding of the Father in Jesus— and Jesus in us— is deeply rooted in a story often misread.
For example, even when we say that the New Testament offers us a relationship with God that is born— and grows— not in law— but in and by grace, I think it’s easy to lose sight of how deeply grounded that good news is. So let’s consider together what the Old Testament means by:
The Law (Hebrew—Torah): All of the story and teaching entrusted to Moses—not just the commandments of Sinai.
Using the English word “law,” to represent the 5 Books of Moses (Heb. Torah) can be misleading. When we read Law/Torah simply as legal code, it can lead us to see the writings of Moses as a rulebook instead of as the beginning of our story and God’s plan to mercifully restore us to himself.
This helps to explain how David (with a Hebrew perspective) can refer to the joy and peace of those who love “the law” of God (Psa 119:165), while Paul— looking through a New Testament window— writes, “No one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law shows us how sinful we are” (Rom 3:20).
Note: To see an example of the rule-like dimension within the bigger Hebrew perspective of Torah, see Psalm 119:174-176 where David ends his celebration of the Law (Torah) saying, “I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands.” (Here the last word “commands” is the hebrew “mitzvah”—a word that refers more narrowly to the “laws/rules” of God (that we are no longer “under”).
So, when we see David someday, will we still want to ask, “David, when you wrote, ‘Oh how I love your law’, what were you thinking?” Or will we be more interested in asking him to sing some of the songs that have long since lost their rhythm and melody? :-)