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APRIL 26 2015

Living the Law

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is Jeremiah 2:2 and Jeremiah 31:31-32.

 

This is a third message on the law of God. In the last two messages we saw all the blessings that accompany God’s law and how even the presence of God’s law in our homes will bring a blessing. We saw that in the life of Obed-edom. Because the blessings of God accompany his law we ought to be motivated to learn it, to engraft into our minds and hearts. And, even though blessings attend to the law’s location in our homes, the Lord is after more than this. He is writing His law into our hearts if we allow Him to do so.

 

Yet, even more than this, it should not just be in our minds and hearts. We should joyfully live it out in our everyday lives.

 

Each step is somewhat more difficult. To physically locate it in our homes is not too hard. One can purchase a print of the commandments, frame it, and then hang it on your wall. The obstacles are minimal. The biggest obstacle is our own desire. If one has not been born again there will be no desire for God’s law. If one has been, but has allowed their hearts to drift, then the desire for His word to us may be at a low ebb and even to place them in a prominent place may be a struggle. Still, for the follower of Christ, it is an easy thing to do.

 

To learn God’s law is somewhat harder. In order to learn it we must read it, spend time in it, study it, meditate upon it, and memorize it so that it becomes engrafted in our minds and memories. That takes effort. It takes motivation. It takes energy. As in any worthwhile endeavor, the time invested will reap great benefits!

 

However, to live God’s law is the most difficult thing. How many of us have known the right thing and have failed to do it? All of us.

 

A right view of the law will go a very long way in seeing that it is lived out in our everyday lives. Not only lived out, but lived out joyfully!

 

[I] There are two kinds of people dealing with the law.

   [A.] There are the letter-keepers. When the law was in the hands of the psalmists, it was lovable.  But when it was in the hand of the religionists, it became something negative, something burdensome. When Jesus spoke about those handling the law in his day he said that they did not have a heart for God. The apostle Paul, in Galatians, reveals that those who are legalistic and demanding are, deep-down, trying to make a show of themselves. These are the letter-keepers who keep the law in an outward way, out of some kind of natural, human energy rather than the way the psalmists kept it.

   [B.] Then there are those who are loving seekers of God. The psalmists in the Old Testament typify this kind of person. As we read the psalms we see expressions of:

  • Love for God, “I love you, O LORD, my strength!” David says in Psalm 18. In 73:25 we have the testimony of someone who loved God absolutely: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth I desire besides Thee.”
  • We see expressions of seeking God. “As the deer pants after the water brooks, so my soul pants after thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God! (42:1,2)
  • The psalmists desired to dwell with God.   “One thing have I asked of the LORD,

                        that will I seek after:

            that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

                        all the days of my life,

            to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

                        and to inquire in his temple.

 (27:4 ESV)

  • And, we see an enjoyment of the law.        “How sweet are your words to my taste,

                        sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

 (119:103 ESV) The “words” in the context of Psalm 119 are God’s law.

 

We have four choices in life. Everyone has to make these choices. Whether you are a believer or an unbeliever these choices must be made. Some make them unconsciously, but these choices will still be made.

  • We can fight against God’s law.
  • We can ignore God’s law.
  • We can try to keep it out of our flesh, that is, out of our own human nature.
  • Or, we may handle it as a loving seeker of the Living God.

Which choices have you been making?

 

[II.] God is seeking lovers in giving his law to his people. When God first gave his law his intention was to have a people that would love him. The prophets spoke of God as the Husband of the children of Israel and of God’s people as his wife.

 

Everyone knows that God is the Creator. And all believers know him as the Redeemer, Savior, and Lord. But many do not realize that God is a Husband and his people are his wife. This is revealed in both testaments. Addressing the church in Corinth, Paul says, For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

(2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV)

According to the New Testament the church is betrothed to Christ and will be the wife of Christ. Not everyone, just those who constitute the church.

 

In one of our primary texts this morning, Jeremiah 2:2, we read:

 

“I remember the devotion of your youth,
 

your love as a bride,


how you followed me in the wilderness,
 

in a land not sown.

 

The New American Standard has:

 

“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth,


The love of your betrothals,


Your following after Me in the wilderness,


Through a land not sown.

 

This expression, “the love of your betrothals,” denotes the love of Israel at the time of her engagement to the Lord. In this verse the Lord seems to be saying to Israel, “I betrothed you to Myself. You and I were engaged. From the time of our engagement, you had a special love for me. I could never forget the love of your youth, when you became engaged to me and followed after me in the wilderness.”

 

The time that Jeremiah wrote was a time of Israel’s waywardness. God had allowed the northern kingdom to be taken captive by Assyria because of their unfaithfulness and the southern kingdom was about to be taken captive by Babylon next. But the Lord reminded them of their former love for Him and God Himself thought fondly of it.

 

This is what lovers do when things are not going well. They remember the time of their courtship when their love for one another was fervent. I know that when Josie is upset with me she will read some of our letters or think about my first couple of visits to the Philippines when we were devoted to one another. That is what the Lord is doing here in Jeremiah 2. You see, the kind of love that the Lord desires and that we ought to have is the strongest kind of love: the love between a man and a woman betrothed to one another.

 

[A.] When and where did this engagement take place between the Lord and Israel? Our other text answers this question.        “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.

(Jeremiah 31:31-32 ESV)

 

This passage clearly declares that the covenant was made with Israel when they came out of Egypt and that it was a marriage covenant, a betrothal.  Have you ever realized that the giving of the law was a transaction in which God’s people became engaged to him?

[B.] The Law was an engagement document, and engagement covenant!

 

The time following the exodus out of Egypt was the period of Israel’s youth and God was the Loving One seeking His people’s love. The commandments were not given in a legal way, but in a courting way. In giving the law to his people, God wanted them to become those who love Him.

 

The whole Bible is a love story and the law is the engagement ring between the Divine Husband and the Bride, his people.

 

[III.] Seeing that the law is not just a list of do’s and don’t’s, but a code of love sets the right perspective in living it. But we still need to know how – How to live it – How to live as the faithful Bride. We can live as a faithful Bride!

 

There are only two things for us to do in order live out our betrothal.

 

[A.] Love the Lord! What is it that makes an engagement successful and happy?

  • It is not money. The poor have longer lasting and better relationships than the wealthy! Money has nothing to do with the success of marital love.
  • It is not status. One of the favorite movies of Josie and I is The Sound of Music. (Our kids think it is boring. I suppose because no one dies in it and there are no monsters.) Some great songs came from that musical such as A Few of My Favorite Things, Climb Every Mountain, and Sound of Music, to name just a few. The movie is the true story of the Von Trapp family and their escape from Nazi Germany in WW2. The main plot, though, is the love that develops between the patriarch and master of the family and a lowly nanny played by Julie Andrews. Their social status is quite far apart and the one who is his equal in status, Baroness Schrader, loses out to Maria because of George Von Trapp’s love for her.
  • It is not ease or lack of hardship. Relationships that begin easy and go well at first often fail. While ones that are born in adversity persevere.
  • When the couple love one another then the engagement is successful and happy.

 

When you love someone then it is a natural and pleasant undertaking to do those things that please the one you love. No endeavors, no tasks, no accomplishments are burdensome to gain the one you love. They seem as nothing.

 

There was a young man who got into trouble with his family so he left home and travelled through a dangerous land until he reached a far-away town. There he was befriended by a wealthy farmer and became a farm hand. He was given the privilege of eating meals with the family. He got to know the farmer’s daughter. Soon, he realized that he loved her. Enough time had gone by that he thought the father would have come to know him well enough that he would give permission for the two of them to marry. So, he asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The farmer had observed this young man long enough, noting his work ethic and his high moral standards, that he was inclined to give permission. This was a long, long time ago in a different culture when a bride-price had to be paid

 

The young man had no money, so he offered to work for the farmer  for a certain number of years as a bride-price. He worked hard. The years went by but the work, although difficult, seemed easy to him. He was able to see his beloved every day and, although they never had relations, just the sound of her voice and the sight of her face made him happy and made the years go by in a pleasant fashion. He was finally able to marry her and the two continued to love each other all the days of their lives.

 

You see, his love for her made his duties a pleasure and not a burden. If you haven’t recognized it, that is the story of Jacob, one of the ancestors of our Lord Jesus. Jacob’s story is the story of anyone who has truly loved.

 

Love for the Father will make the living out of his law a pleasure and a joy. More, this is what the Father wishes from us – a fervent love that matches his own. Oh, how we need to love God more than we do! Love Him and the Christian life becomes a joy the same way that Jacob’s life was a joy as he sought Rachel.

 

I said that there are two things we need to live out our betrothal. The other is:

 

[B.] Being infused with His substance. We cannot carry out the dynamic life of God, which is seen in the law of God, in our natural man.  We must be infused with the very presence of God within us in order to live out His law.

 

This revelation is seen in both the Old and New Testaments.

 

  They feast on the abundance of your house,

            and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

  For with you is the fountain of life;

            in your light do we see light.

(Psalm 36:8-9 ESV)

 

David knew that there was a fountain of life that he could drink of and he experienced it. He was infused with God. He received of His Spirit. This is the way to avoid the dead letters! We need the fountain of life which is nothing less than God Himself – His substance infused into us. It is glorious! It is available to those who love Him!

 

Those who are infused with His substance spontaneously express His life, which is the law. The law is an expression of the One who wrote it.

 

Those who are infused with His substance spontaneously live out the law.

 

Jesus spoke of this infusion, this presence of God within those who love Him.              “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

(John 14:23 ESV)

 

This infusion is spoken of by the Lord in John 15 as well:           I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

(John 15:5 ESV)

 

The reason the branches live and produce fruit is because they have a supply of water and nourishment that flows into them from the vine. The vine imparts to the branch what is within it.

 

[C.] These three things are bound together by Scripture and are cyclical. When we love the Lord we happily keep his laws. When we live out his laws we experience the infusion of God’s substance, which is just God Himself. When we are infused with the life of God we spontaneously express him, which is His law lived out in our everyday lives. This experience causes us to love Him more. And so it marvelously goes!

 

Conclusion: People have dreams. I do not mean the dreams when you sleep. People have aspirations and desires that they try to fulfill. Sometimes it is nothing more than owning a certain type of car, living in a particular neighborhood, or being qualified to have a certain vocation.

 

The greatest dream is that which answers to the human heart’s greatest longing. That longing is to be loved by God, to love Him in return, and to express His life in our own.

 

In it’s positive aspect, the law plays a key role in fulfilling this dream.

 

Climb every mountain,

Ford every stream,

Follow every rainbow,

'Till you find your dream.