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I will delight myself in thy statutes . . . My hands also will I lift up to your commandments which I love . . . your statutes have been my songs. Psalm 119:16, 43, 48

I don’t recall in law school much singing about the “law” or local ordinances, or any musical versions of the General Statutes or the United States Code. There is no department of Congress charged with developing a civil code hymnbook with meter and keys. The ideas seems incongruous—oxymoronic. Music and Law don’t seem to fit much at all, do they? The law is so stuffy, devoid of feeling, mechanical, laborious—surely it isn’t the stuff of which rhythms are suited.

And yet the Psalmist seems to see it quite differently. The whole 119th Psalm is a hymn of praise to the LAW: to statutes, ordinances, and commandments. For David, the LAW of God—his order and demand—is the cause of purity (v. 9), joy (v. 14), life (v. 17), wonder (v. 18), strength (v. 28), hope (v. 43), liberty (v. 45), comfort (v. 52), . . .

I think our misunderstanding of law and its wonder comes from three sources. First we misunderstand Paul’s teaching that we cannot find salvation and righteousness in the “Law,” but only in the GRACE of God. We think because the Law can’t provide redemption, that it is worthless or replaced, or only for OLD Testament times. So “LAW” has gotten a bad reputation. Because we can’t be justified by the LAW, we too easily have shelved it, or worse, abandoned it.

Second, perhaps the LAW has lost its glory because of our misunderstanding of freedom—both spiritual and maybe even political. By natural instinct we don’t like rules and regulations—they are seen as confining, restricting, inhibiting. We want “liberty.” It’s as old a theme as the Garden of Eden. In political life today, that mantra of “freedom” and individual rights is the chant of those who strike out at rules, discipline and limits. It is the “do your own thing” culture of our day. Unlike an older culture which saw maturity and adulthood as mastering self-control and limiting “self” and controlling appetite—now the dominant culture finds such restrictions as an unwanted imposition and insists that maturity is throwing off these shackles and living “life to the full.” The political consequence of moral and social anarchy is evident-and is paralleled by spiritual anarchy as well (Romans 1).

Third, I suppose the foolishness of man’s law—too often its arbitrariness, silliness and injustice—encourage a cynical view of law’s role and its potential. It’s the observation of one of Shakespeare’s characters: “The law is an ass.” We see that in our own law practices. The law is so inadequate, and at times too stupid. We don’t commend district court with a hymn of praise to the Motor Vehicle Code.

For the Psalmist David, he knew well from his own life that it was only the grace of God which could cleanse and justify—but he also knew the wonder and glory of God’s statutes. And in them he did not find burdens, but joy and real liberty. He knew the law of God was a way to wholeness and joy—in the same way a road through a mountain terrain is not a confining instrument, but a liberating device. To leave the road is reckless endangerment.

It was, I believe, the famous Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton who noted that “without discipline, freedom doesn’t know what to do with itself.” Law provides the boundaries, the signposts that allow real freedom to flourish. It is like a chart of the oases in the desert. No one lost or thirsty, discovering such a guide, would complain of the burden of the discovery—but rather would rejoice.

We lawyers ought to know how blessed good law can be—how it may encourage responsibility and justice. We have seen in our generations the tragedy of societies with no legal standard—where only sheer power ruled. Today we urge Rule of Law because the law, despite its human limits—MAY be an instrument of life and security.

So it is with God’s law. God has not left us without direction. His statutes are wonderful gifts to us. So when we lift hands of praise—for the grace and mercy of God, for the cross of Christ, join also with David in a song of praise for the commandments of the Lord. Make that song in a major key with a rhythm section, trumpets and cymbals—and then declare: “Oh, How I Love Your Law.” Psalm 119:97.

…The law remains one of the greatest and richest gifts of God. It is incomparable. It is a holy, righteous and good thing. – Markus Barth   

Lynn R. Buzzard

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.

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