“I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them. I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees. Psalm 119:44-48 NIV
When we read the above verses and then remember that the Apostle Paul says Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13) we do a doubletake. What’s going on? What is going on is not either/or, but two sides of a single coin. Is God’s instruction manual for life (that’s what “torah,” which the English Bible translates “law,” means) a bad thing. Never! Thank God he has shown us how he designed us humans to function. That’s why the psalmist can say he can walk about in freedom. The torah is a blessing!
But Paul says it’s a curse! What he is describing is the result of having misunderstood what the torah is for. If we think that torah-keeping can make us acceptable to God, as the Pharisees did, we have got it backwards and our persistent inability to keep the torah will indeed curse us. Nobody can be good enough for God except one man – Jesus. Every one of us, from Abraham on, comes to God by grace alone.
But look at all of Paul’s letters. What is Paul calling his new Christian disciples to do? He is calling them, now that they are Christ-followers, to live according to torah! Stop stealing, stop lying, stop committing adultery, etc. Why? To make themselves acceptable to God? Of course not! That is where the Galatians went off the track. No, Paul wants them to live that way because this is the life of Christ that is being now, praise God, being reproduced in us by the Holy Spirit, if we will just surrender to him.
The good news of the Gospel is that because Christ has cleansed the temple of our hearts the Holy Spirit has moved in with the marvelous power to make God’s torah no longer an impossible demand, but all that the psalmist dreamed of: our delight, our liberation, our testimony, our life.