On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson prayed for our nation in Washington, D. C., and said:
Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“[O]bedience to Thy law” … It took just a paltry two hundred years for our society to break through the restraint of obedience to God’s law into a society which is fast approaching the description found in the book of Judges in Scripture:
… Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 17:6 [ESV]
For some reason, our society has apparently equated obedience to God’s Law with an unwarranted and unwanted restraint on our freedom, as setting up boundaries that we do not want to recognize. The problem, of course, is that without any restraint, there is anarchy and license which results in degradation of the individual, the family and the society. Like it or not, adults as well as children need boundaries and, although the lines may be far different for each, they are present nonetheless.
A fence is a visible boundary which serves a multitude of beneficial purposes. We accept the freedom of movement within the fenced yard and, at the same time, we recognize that the fence provides a type of security and protection that would not be there without its presence.
Indeed, often we forget the fence is there … we just take the benefit from it. I was looking out the window during breakfast one morning and saw something shining back at me.
Upon closer inspection, the glow was a result of the sun shining off the fence along the lot line. Most of the fence was hidden in the mass of branches, limbs, leaves, and shade so that I had forgotten it was there. But the sunlight revealed its position as it served to protect the back yard and to define where we could run and play without interference.
That fence shining in the sunlight reminded me of God’s Law. It too is a type of fence that sets boundaries for our lives, precepts that God wants us to implant in our hearts. Because man cannot conform to the conduct that God mandates in His Law, there was put in place a system of burnt offerings and sacrifices that foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Lamb that would fully atone for sin.
The Old Testament Prophet Samuel eloquently expressed what God wanted from His people in 1 Samuel 15:
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
1 Samuel 15:22
The Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses, in easy to understand language, the tenets of the Reformed faith in question and answer format. The very first question and answer pair is:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
Question 39 asks and answers:
Q: What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A: The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to His revealed will.
Question 40 and 41 then go farther and teach that God requires obedience to the moral law as found in the Ten Commandments.
This obedience to God’s will was reiterated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He responded to a question propounded to Him:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:36-40 [ESV]
Obedience – a concept that is passé, that is “old fashioned”, that is “outdated”, that is “inconvenient” – and it is a concept that is based on Scripture.
True Christianity is not defined by the culture of this world but is based on Scripture and the culture that is reflected in the Kingdom of God. Obedience might not be what our culture teaches, but it must be a way of life for the Christian. Not so that we “follow the rules” but so that we give praise to God as we live a life pleasing to Him through His Son and the power of His Spirit. Let us be known as a people who obey our Lord and His commands, even when we are labeled “old fashioned” to do so.
Father, I pray that I would honor You by obeying Your commands and the commands of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Forgive me when I have fought against the restraint that you placed on me; open my eyes to see that even the fence of Your Law is based on Your holiness and justice, and love! Thank You for loving me enough to give me boundaries, for my protection and for Your honor and glory.