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I Love Your Law

My soul keeps your decrees, I love them exceedingly. - Psalm 119:167 (NRSV)

 

On the day our country celebrates freedom, today’s psalm instead praises God’s law—arguably a restriction on freedom. “I love your law,” the psalmist sings. “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.” The poet promises to fulfill God’s commandments, precepts, and decrees.

 

The psalmist chooses to give up some of their individual freedom, and in so doing, finds the freedom of being in right relationship with God and others. “Great peace have those who love your law,” the psalmist affirms in verse 165. “Nothing can make them stumble.”

 

For the ancient Jews, the giving of the law on Sinai was as liberating an event as the parting of the sea or manna in the wilderness. The law guided them like the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. Not even kings were above the law. When those like David or Ahab thought otherwise, God sent prophets like Nathan and Elijah to remind them.

 

To be sure, not all laws are just. For the psalmist’s “great peace,” our human laws need God’s law with its concern for the poor and its care for the outsider as the plumb line.

 

Yet unjust laws don’t negate the need for the rule of law. Law provides structure, and at its best, the law supports justice for all and therefore true freedom for all. That’s something to celebrate.

 

Prayer

Thank you, God, for this country and for your liberating gift of the law. As Katherine Lee Bates proclaimed in the poem, “America the Beautiful,” may “you confirm our soul in self-control, our liberty in law.” Thank you. Amen.

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