Advent Day 4
Artwork by Lee “Bubbles” Metcalf
Blameless, Mixed Media
Isa. 2:1-11 · 1 Thess. 2:13-20
1 Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
2 Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances.
8 I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
9 How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
11 I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
13 With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
14 I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
17 Deal bountifully with your servant,
so that I may live and observe your word.
18 Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
19 I live as an alien in the land;
do not hide your commandments from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your ordinances at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
who wander from your commandments;
22 take away from me their scorn and contempt,
for I have kept your decrees.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24 Your decrees are my delight,
they are my counselors.
When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.
20 So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.
What an unusual approach to the law. In Psalm 119, the writer asks God to open his eyes to see the “wonderful things” in the law. Wonderful things? Perhaps, at best, we accept that laws are meant to keep us safe. Or maybe we feel insulted by laws (God’s or humans’) because we disagree with them, or feel limited by them because it’s inconvenient to follow them.
Imagine a playground with swings, slides, monkey bars, and anything else you remember loving from childhood. Kids are running around, being loud, and having fun. Now picture that playground next to a busy street where cars are speeding by all day. If there is no fence, parents will constantly be worried about their children running into the street. They will tell their children not to get close to the street, and may even feel compelled to tell them not to run at all for fear of them accidentally going into the street. If the city comes and installs a fence between the street and the playground, how will the parents feel then? They can relax because the fence protects their children. The children can actually enjoy more freedom to run and play because of the fence.
Perhaps God’s law is like such a fence, and God is like a caring parent. His law is not meant to limit freedom, but rather to let true freedom flourish within its safety. God is a loving parent who wants his children to know joy and peace. His commands are designed to show us how to live the best life we can – the life in which we know him as our friend and savior. In this Advent season, let us renew our devotion to “give to God what is God’s” and to love God by obeying his commands. He is worthy, he is able, and he deeply loves us, his children.
Read through Psalm 119:1-24 again, this time as a prayer, asking the Spirit to make the words true in your own heart.