What I see in the Psalms when David makes a reference to his love for the Law of the Lord, is an intense study of the details of the first five books of Moses so he would know how to rule Israel in accordance with God’s will. He devoured every detail of the Law, and constantly compared Scripture with Scripture.
How should we read the Bible? Some people see it mostly as a devotional book. I’m not sure, in doing devotions, if we are devoting ourselves to God or if God is devoting himself to us. Generally, a devotion is a short Bible reading and a prayer on a daily basis that reaffirms our faith in God, or it is a request of God to reaffirm his commitment to us. The purpose is to make us feel better about the integrity of God and make us feel secure in our relationship to him.
My wife and I try to read the Bible every day. I have a list of people for whom I pray regularly. It is recorded on my computer under the heading of “my prayer list.” I never tell people that I will pray for them unless I mean it. I don’t want it to become a trite pious remark. If say I will pray for you, when I go home, I will add your name to my prayer list. I will pray for you regularly.
However, I am afraid that the devotional aspect of using the Bible can become a hindrance to how the Bible should be used. For me, the Bible is more of a textbook than a devotional book. I majored in mathematics in college, and I always loved getting my new textbook at the beginning of each semester (for a calculus class or an advanced calculus class). I looked forward to conquering every concept in the book, and then proceeding to the next textbook.
To conquer the concepts of math, I had to work very hard in devouring every principle in the book, work every problem (sometimes several times), and shed tears when something seemed beyond my comprehension. One of my math professors once told me that when I started dreaming about math at night, then I was probably beginning to conquer the discipline.
Too much devotional reading of the Bible without the textbook approach may likely leave the Christian in a very immature state. The Bible was not given to be a series of verses that gives me a good feeling when I read a few of them daily. I may relieve myself of the guilt of not having devotions daily, but there may be something else missing. Now, I’m not saying that Christians should give up daily devotions. Not at all! But I am saying that daily devotions may become a substitute for devouring the book as a textbook. Today, when I see in the Church the absence of how to apply the Scriptures to all of life, I am astounded. Not enough of a textbook approach, in my opinion.
Let me paint you a picture that may never have come across your mind. In Psalm 19 David speaks of the Law of the Lord as being perfect, more precious than gold, even much fine gold, and sweeter than the honeycomb.
Now the image that most modern Christians have in their minds is David reading Scriptures for devotional reasons, maybe twice a day in order to reassure himself that God loves him. He was astonished by the beauty of the language and the consistent parts that made the whole. We tend to carry our modern paradigms back in time and transfer them to men who lived thousands of years ago. However, I see something quite different here.
First of all, in Psalm 19 David uses the phrase “the Law of the Lord.” What was the Law of God in the time of David? It is interesting to note that the only Law of God that David had was the first five books of Moses (the Pentateuch).
Now, picture with me the man David, who was either to become King of Israel or who was already King. As a King or potential King, he had to rule the nation according to the Law of God. Quite a task! I assure you that David (being a man after God’s own heart) desired to rule according to the Law of God.
What I see in the Psalms when David makes a reference to his love for the Law of the Lord, is an intense study of the details of the first five books of Moses so he would know how to rule Israel in accordance with God’s will. He devoured every detail of the Law, and constantly compared Scripture with Scripture. As a King, to have an authoritative set of laws given by God himself that could be used for his calling was more precious than anything on this earth. Too, the Law was full of gospel in the sacrificial system. Another reason to rejoice!
What does the Law say about homosexuality, crossdressing, adultery, the courts, and the necessity of witnesses? What about the penalty for negligence? David had to dig deep to find these answers and how to apply the principles to the nation over which he was appointed as a ruler. His Bible was not a devotional book; indeed, it was a textbook on how to rule the people of Israel.
That’s one reason as a pastor I preached from the Law and taught it so much in Sunday School for nearly 50 years. I did it in order that my and I congregation might not only be driven to Christ for forgiveness, but also that they might be wise in God’s Law, and that they might be able to discern how God’s Law is a standard for nor only individuals but also for all nations today, even our own America. Yes, we must realize that the ceremonial law was fulfilled in Christ, and that any laws specifically applicable to Israel alone is not controlling today, but the general equity (or better put – the universal justice) to be found in the case laws is still relevant in our age.
America suffers today because we have not conformed our civil laws to the Law of God. It’s hard work to go to the Bible and learn how to apply the Law of God to every area of life (from education, to economics, to politics, to plagues, etc.). Most modern Christians I meet don’t have a clue about how to do it. I think it may be partially true because they use the Bible primarily as a devotional book rather than a textbook.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.