Psalm 19:7-11 (ESV)
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
It’s easy to approach Christianity as a set of rules, rules that sometimes feel burdensome and even arbitrary. The Sabbath keeps us from doing what we want (or would if we kept it). Laws about sex limit our freedom and pleasure. Tithing burdens already overstretched budgets. The Christian faith may be true, but we’re not sure it’s very fun.
Lent can feel the same—as if God, while promising eternal reward, delights in our discomfort now, gladdened by my giving up chocolate or Facebook or computer games because he enjoys my suffering.
The Psalmist sees Torah differently. The Law, he says, revives (makes alive again). Makes us wise. Brings joy. Enlightens where we’re muddled. Torah, he claims, is way better than winning the lottery. Sweeter than the best dessert.
Seeing Torah (and Lent) this way helps us. It shifts our view of God from arbitrary rule-maker to protector—offering life and joy and freedom.
The very laws we dislike most usually reveal something about where we most need freedom. A struggle to keep the Sabbath points to God’s desire to free us from our excessive busyness or need to control our own destinies. Our struggle to set aside sugar for Lent highlights our enslavement to food.
Ponder which Biblical restrictions seem most burdensome and least joyful. Consider what God wants to set you free from, what’s keeping you from real joy. Then ponder what Lenten disciplines might lead you to greater wisdom, greater joy, greater life, for this is what his perfect law is about.
Almighty and merciful God, grant that by the indwelling of thy Holy Spirit we may be enlightened and strengthened for thy service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.