Signposts: Daily Devotions

Wednesday, March 23

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.
—Psalm 19:7

A counselor once told me that The Ten Commandments were just good common sense. “Someone observed human behavior,” he said, “and wrote down what worked and what didn’t.” Those of us who are a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition believe that the Lord dictated the Ten Words (word being a better translation than commandments) to Moses. Whatever you think about the origin of the commandments, the counselor was right: they just make sense.

The psalmist knew this and wrote: “The Law of the Lord is perfect; the decrees of the Lord are wise.” The commandments are not meant to burden life, but to enhance it. On the most simplistic level, we know this. The other day, I drove to a busy intersection where the “authorities” in their wisdom have finally put a traffic light. Formerly it was a four-way stop, which was nerve-wracking to say the least. Now, thanks to someone who had common sense, there is a new “law,” in the form of a device that makes driving much safer.

On a much deeper level, I remember my college years, when I became a very “liberal” thinker. I discovered the joy of thinking for myself, and the college encouraged us to question everything. I still appreciate that kind of education, but I took it way too far. I was part of the student government leadership, and, up until our year, the student government officers had been advised and supervised by a woman who had been with the college for a long time. Former officers had befriended this woman, sharing meals with her and spending time together.

In my senior year, we “leaders” decided that we didn’t need or want this woman looking over our shoulders, and we turned down her invitations for informal meetings and meals. “We are here to study and learn. We want to make changes in the system, too, and really don’t need your input,” we said. She was hurt and humiliated.

I remember that experience with great pain now. We took the “law” that had always worked and arrogantly replaced it with something we considered better, and the result was not good. I thought about that college time as I read this psalm. Of course, God gives us minds to use and personal gifts that can change things for the better; but there are ways of dealing with change within the larger “Law.” When you lose sight of that larger truth, as I did, then changes made can lead to big mistakes.

Help us to remember, O God, that your Law is based on love. Give us the wisdom and humility to recognize that, and to live life accordingly. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.