By Russ Ramsey
Who gets to tell us what to do? All of us live by some sort of law or code. Even a code of anarchy is a law unto itself. Scripture is filled with laws—rules for life and faith handed down to the people of God by the Lord Himself. In Psalm 19, King David gives us a poem of gratitude for the gift of God’s Law.
Why did God give us instruction? Church fathers talk about the three uses of God’s Law. It has been given to 1) hold up a mirror so that we might see our own inability to live righteous lives, 2) restrain evil in the world by teaching us how to conduct ourselves personally and communally, and 3) reveal what is pleasing to the Lord, whom His people seek to serve.
King David calls not only himself but the people he leads to hold God’s law with a great affection. How does David make his case?
He begins by addressing the question: Has God spoken to His people? If the Maker has turned a deaf ear toward His creation, we are hopeless. But David tells us God is always speaking, everywhere. The heavens declare His glory. The sky proclaims His handiwork. There is no corner of creation over which God does not speak (Psalm 19:1-6).
So what, exactly, does God say? David says God tells us how to live in His creation. In fact, David doesn’t just say this, he exclaims it! God has given us a perfect law. It guides us. It gives wisdom to the simple. It is not merely a set of rules; it is a description for how to live well. It doesn’t weary us; it revives us.
God’s law reigns in we who are prone to wander, acting as a guardrail beside the cliffs of foolishness. It leads to a life of joy and draws from us a response of awe that is meant to last forever. This is what David says the Law is meant to do, and he thanks God for it (Psalm 19:7-8).
It is a mark of spiritual maturity to thank God for His law, because when we express this gratitude, it means we understand how much we need all these benefits God’s Law gives. We don’t approach the Law as a way to make God love us, but we see it as something He has given to us because He already does (Psalm 19:13).
As we read this psalm, let us make it a prayer of thanks so that our gratitude for the Law of God will echo David’s words at the end: May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, our Rock and our Redeemer.
written by Russ Ramsey