Romans 2:13 Hearing the law does not make people right with God. It is those who obey the law who will be right with him. 14 (Those who are not Jews do not have the law, but when they freely do what the law commands, they are the law for themselves. This is true even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands. And they show this by their consciences. Sometimes their thoughts tell them they did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts tell them they did right.)
It was only when I pasted these three verses into my digital journal that I noticed the close parenthesis at the end and realized the enclosed explanation was twice as long as the sentence it was clarifying. That simple fact seemed like a Biblical object lesson for me to think about.
Being right with God is more complicated than just knowing what the law is. Obeying the law isn’t a matter of separating the have’s from the have not’s at all. Instead, God makes a connection to what he’s written in the heart. “They [those who do not have the law] show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands.”
The object lesson: “Right with God” is the complicated relationship between being obedient to what the brain knows about the law and the obedience of the heart desiring to freely respond to it.
Hosea 6: excerpts from v.1-3
He will heal us
He will bind up our wounds
He will restore us that we may live in his presence
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
Let us press on to acknowledge him.
He will appear
He will come to us
6:4 Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears…6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
7:13 Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them
but they speak about me falsely. 14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds.
8:2 Israel cries out to me, ‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’ 3 But Israel has rejected what is good…5b How long will they be incapable of purity?…
I’m glad I’m reading Hosea knowing that God is going to provide the answer for us in Jesus. It’s hard to read of the disconnect between what God required and what “those” people were willing to give. Still the point of reading this book or any other of the Bible is to consider what possible difference it makes for life today.
Look at the statements pulled from the first part of Chapter 6. Don’t they sound like faith? The reality is they’re only a sacrifice of words. The next two chapters are a frustrated God calling them on it. Isn’t it interesting that God looks at those same statements that sound so good and adds “but they speak about me falsely?” The truth is God pays attention to the words we offer him and their connection to the what he sees in our heart.
There’s sort of a cart before the horse idea here that’s really important to remember. Acknowledging God with words before our hearts are connected to them won’t get us anywhere. We’re fooling ourselves if we think words are all it takes to convince God we’re putting him first and willing to move forward with him in the lead.
TLB Hosea 6:6 I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.
Psalm 119:153-160 ר Resh – Head
153 Look on my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great;
preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true;
all your righteous laws are eternal.
The Psalmist’s knows where to turn for help. That’s good, but stress and pain have created a disconnect between his heart and what he knows God can do that shows up in the see-saw emotions of these verses. That’s not good.
The same heart that knows God can save him out of his evil circumstances, judges “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.” The same heart that on one hand says “Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws” says …”I look on the faithless with loathing for they do not obey your word.” That’s heart trouble that’s hard to ignore…even for a Psalmist.
Maybe he’s chosen Resh – head, to title this section because in his heart he knows the promises, laws, statutes and decrees of God stored in his head are more trustworthy than his emotions. “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”
Psalm 119:129-136 פ Pe- Mouth
129 Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed.
This is what came to mind when I read the title of these eight verses; Pe – mouth. Luke 6:45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of…NIV
The “unfolding” words of God are very personal to the Psalmist. They’ve been stored in his heart as surely as if they were written just for him. They have become the song of his heart to be sung aloud for all to hear.
Years ago I heard a Christian linguist say that Hymns were the perfect and complete way to communicate the truth of God’s word and engage the whole brain; one half responds to the music itself and the other to the lyrics.
We don’t have the music that goes along with this Psalm but I bet you know at least part of a hymn or chorus by “heart,” too. Sing!…all by yourself…right there where you are…out loud [you can belt it out or sing it softly]…from your mouth to God’s ears “for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Galatians 4:4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
I’m lucky enough to have had good experience with a father’s love. It’s not quite the straightforward story you’d imagine though.
An excerpt from my post on 2/3/16
I was baptized when I was about 12. There was some huddled whispering among relatives at that time that was mysterious to me. Some of the mystery became clear shortly after my baptism when I learned the only Dad I’d ever known wasn’t my birth father at all but the process for adoption had been put in motion.
I really can’t add the word “step-” to this father because he was as real a Dad as one’s heart could hope for. It was his role in my life that formed my image of how a father’s caring and love worked in daily life. In case that sounds too syrupy, he was not a perfect man, by any means, but he knew about being a gentle and caring Dad. The truth is I’ll have to wait for some eternal future date to discover whether there is reality to my hope about his status with God.
But I am absolutely sure of this: that caring, humanly imperfect man played a part in helping me understand that adoption was A Matter of Hearts; his, mine and ours. The heart of that adoption made room, much later, for a new reality that “God [could send] the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
From John Piper February 10, 2007
The deepest and strongest foundation of adoption is located not in the act of humans adopting humans, but in God adopting humans. And this act is not part of his ordinary providence in the world; it is at the heart of the gospel.
Abba, Father…Thanks for both of your hearts.