Is God’s law a delight, or a drag? You would probably say the answer is a little complicated. Many of us who work hard to remain focused on the gospel as our hope before God have an almost visceral reaction to “the law,” particularly when it is presented as a means of obtaining or maintaining peace with God. This is good. The law is never our hope. Jesus is. However, the law is “holy, righteous, and good,” and Scripture tells us how “blessed” is the man who “delights” in the law. The Psalmist says, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” The Apostle Paul also says, “I delight in the law of God in my inner being.” Why do (should) the people of God love the law? Here are 3 reasons. 1. In the law we have divine direction.
God has not left us alone to figure out what is right and wrong. He has graciously spoken clearly, and we now know the difference between good and evil. In the law we see the character of God and his will to be carried out on earth as it is in heaven. For example, not only know that God calls us to do good to others in some general sense, but more specifically that we should be hospitible, loving, generous, and patient. He tells us what he desires of us. This is itself grace. We can delight that God has been kind enough to tell us what he requires of us.
2. Through the law we uncover our sin.
The law of God not only shows us God’s will, but it also acts as a mirror that exposes our sin and falsehood. In the law we see God’s standards and commands, but we also see how quickly we break them. As we have broken the law, it breaks us. The law is used by God to afflict our conscience so that we feel the weight of our guiltiness. And this is a reason to love the law, as it can eventullally destroy our pride and any confidence we put in our ability to measure up to God’s standards.
3. By the law we are led to the gospel.
In showing us the will of God, and our inability to keep it, the law leads us to see our need for mercy and grace. As many like to say, before we can know and embrace the “good news” of redemption and restoration in Jesus, we must first know and embrace the bad news that we are condemned as law-breakers and under the curse of God. It functions as one of the tools that God uses to prepare us to meet Jesus. So, we love the law as it leads us to see our need for grace and the beauty of the gospel against the backdrop of our guilt and corruption.
But here’s the rub; we can only love the law after it has been fulfilled by Christ on our behalf. The law will only be a delight to us after we have found life by the gospel. For without the gospel, in the law we only find standards unmet, and guilt without relief. We wind up sharing Martin Luther’s frustration with the call to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and say with him, “Love God? Sometimes I hate him!” Apart from the gospel the law leaves us broken and needy.
It is in the gospel where God’s standards are met, his law is fulfilled, sin is forgiven and we are restored to him. The reality of our justification before God through Christ liberates us from the law’s condemning power and produces in us a delight in God’s law and a motivation to keep it for God’s glory and our good.
Is the law our delight? It really depends on whether the gospel is our hope and boast. If it is, then the law does not condemn us, but guides us. It shows us God’s way, reminds us of our need for the gospel, and as we walk in it the law leads toward the good of our neighbors and praise of our God. That is our delight.