The Law & The Need For Grace

Psalm 119 is a great paean to the Law of God, extolling many marvels and facets of His word. Verses 1-8 (in which each verse begins with the Hebrew letter Aleph, as Psalm 119 is an acrostic in Hebrew) open the Psalm with a blessing for those who keep God’s Law. The problem for the thoughtful reader, however, is: WHO can live up to the standard proclaimed here?

Notice the depth of commitment and obedience that is required to the Law of God:

— :1 “How blessed are those whose way is BLAMELESS, who walk in the Law of the Lord.”

— :2 “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with ALL THEIR HEART.”

— :3 “They also do NO unrighteousness …”.

— :6 “Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon ALL Your commandments.”

If one can read through this first section of Psalm 119 and feel good about his relationship to the Law of God, I would suggest that either he has not read these words carefully, or has not evaluated his own obedience realistically. Who can live up to this standard?
— Who can say that his way is “blameless”?
— Who seeks God with “all” his heart?
— Who does “no” unrighteousness?
— Who can say that when they have perused “all” of the commandments of God, that they are not ashamed?

No wonder that at the end of :8, the Psalmist cries out to God: “Do not forsake me utterly!” The Law has brought him to a point of despair. There is no way he can live up to the perfect standard it contains. He must now cast himself upon the grace of God — which the New Testament tells us is exactly the point of the Law. “By the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified in His sight”, Romans 3:20 tells us — for none of us, like this Psalmist, can live up to these standards of perfect righteousness. But the Law was not designed to save us. Rather, as Galatians 3:24 teaches, “the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”

No one who seriously studies the laws of God will believe they can be saved by perfectly obeying them. Those people who flippantly assert that they believe that they will go to heaven because they “keep the 10 Commandments” have either never studied the Commandments, or never thoughtfully evaluated their own lives. The last commandment alone, “You shall not covet”, condemns every one of us as hopeless sinners. But that is the point. The Law of God was never meant to save us — but to reveal our great sinfulness, and show us our need to be saved by grace, through faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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