The benefit(s) of reading God’s Law
“Bene factum” is the Latin foundation for the word benefit. It means “good (bene) product (factum)”.
So, what is the “good product” of reading God’s Law? If the Law is Holy, and I am sinful, it reveals the contrast between God’s perfection and my imperfection. Isn’t this a downer? Why would I want to read something which highlights my failures? In this way, the Law is an amplifier of sin. It acts as a projector, taking things we think are small issues and magnifying them a thousand times bigger. Why is that a benefit?
It’s important to remember the context in which God delivered the Law to Israel. They were a lawless people before Moses guided them out of Egyptian servitude. This does not mean they were cannibals or anarchists. Israel was a large body of people needing order and a foundation for nation-building.
Unfortunately, their lawlessness was deeper than the need for societal boundaries. Even as Moses was up on the mountain, they were busy breaking the law by making a golden calf. They thought they could create order and appease whatever deity by developing their own object of worship.
This is the heart of lawlessness.
And, modern Christians do this with God’s Law as well. They replace the revealed Christ with the “do’s and don’ts” of Scripture. By reading and attempting to hold to some of the stringent laws of the Old and New Testaments, they shift the focus off of the cross and onto themselves. Their performance is the heart of their faith. This is often called “sanctification”.
In reality, this is self-justification. It is a denial of the work of Jesus Christ. It is anti-Christian. Instead of leading us to the cross and the finished work (and, by the way, continual working) of Christ, we are lead to the vomit of utilizing God’s Law to appease God.
But, Jesus undoes this in His deeper requirements set out in Matthew 5-7 (know as the Beatitudes). James follows a similar path in the book bearing his name.
Only the sacrifice of God appeases God.
So, what benefit is it to read the Law? As I have been reading Deuteronomy, God’s Law is rarely alone. It comes with blessings and declarations of God’s promises to always be the God of His people.
Additionally, God’s Law has to do with how Israel was to relate to people. Compared to many societies of that time, Israel’s Law was incredibly compassionate, providing for those less fortunate. It also demanded a respect to the boundaries of individuals, creating harmony among neighbors. God shows how he cares for widows, orphans, and foreigners in His Law.
God’s Law does highlight sin, but also created a means of restitution in sacrificial offerings. God provided a means by which people could be cleansed of sin. Our eternal sacrificial lamb is Jesus.
God’s Law corrects our shifting view of what is right. Like others, I have a tendency to fall into relativism and self-justifications. God’s Law dispells a reader of his/her delusional self-perceptions. God’s Spirit testifies to our Spirit through the Law what is right and what is wrong. God’s Law destroys the mistaken belief that we are god.
Finally, in reading God’s sobering Law, you and I can be thankful that although there is injustice in the world, there will be a day when God will correct all injustices. God has already corrected the injustices we have committed by dying for us on the cross and redeeming us from sin.
As a footnote, when we read the Law in the light of what Christ has done and is doing for us, we might feel a desire to live “in line” with His desires. After being measured by the Holy Law, found guilty and been given forgiveness, there is a new desire produced to attempt to live in light of His will. Perhaps perspective of the Law is transformed by the Christ who has fulfilled every “jot and tittle” so that we don’t have to. Ultimately, however, it is God’s forgiveness which creates a desire to pass on His love, kindness and forgiveness to others. In that, the Gospel has its final Word.