“He should be here any minute. I think that’s him at the front door. Could you let him in, Marcia?”
Uncle Jim was tall and lanky. He looked like he could drop a basketball in the net without even stretching. Marcia and her brother Tim liked Uncle Jim a lot. So did Mom, but she always worried a bit when he dropped in. Uncle Jim was an atheist and loved to poke fun at the children for their belief in God.1
“Hey there!” Uncle Jim said. “How are my silly Christian relatives today?”
“You’re the silly one!” Marcia said as she poked Uncle Jim in the ribs.
“Hey, kids, I have a question for you.” Uncle Jim put his hands together and waited a few seconds. “If there’s a God like you believe, does He have any rules?”
“Sure, He does,” Tim said. “Only we call them laws. Like the Ten Commandments.”
“Oh, I see. And what happens when you don’t obey His laws?”
Marcia and Tim looked at each other. “If you love God you’ll keep His laws,” Marcia said.
“Hmmm,” Uncle Jim said. “So if you don’t love God you won’t keep His laws. Then what happens?”
“You die,” said Tim.
“I’m going to die anyway,” Uncle Jim said, “and so are you.”
“But if you love Jesus, He’ll wake you up some day, and you’ll never die again,” Tim explained.
“How do you know that?” Uncle Jim asked.
“Because God says so. In the Bible,” Marcia said.
“So the law of God is a life preserver that keeps you alive or wakes you up from death.”
“Sure,” said Tim and Marcia in chorus.
“You children are as wacky as they come. I don’t believe a word of it.”
“But Uncle Jim! You’re going to wake up before you go to sleep forever. If you don’t love God and obey Him now, you’ll find out you’re wrong and it will be too late.” Marcia was pleading with him.
So was Tim. “And if you do start loving God now you can spend eternity with Him and with us and with other people who love Him.”
Uncle Jim shook his head. “No,” he said, “It’s too late already. I don’t believe there’s a God. And that’s final.”
Two weeks later Uncle Jim died in a car crash.
A note scribbled on a 3×5 card was found in his pocket: “Obey God’s law of love.
[Thought Questions for God the Lawgiver February 8, 2012]
- The God of love. The above story can be categorized as a stretch of the imagination, but is it possible for God to speak through children? Can we teach our children how to share God’s love with others? Did God have children in mind when He delivered the Decalogue (the 10 Commandments)? Or is God too mighty, too complex, to try to explain to youngsters? If you have had children at home, can you ever remember saying, “Because I said so”? What about the rules at home that helped to keep the children safe? Were they always appreciated? What about when the cuddly little ones became teenagers? Have you ever felt that your words of love were rejected? How does God feel about His wayward children today?
- Delivering the law. Imagine a display such as the Children of Israel experienced when the commandments were delivered in a cloud of thunder and fire, the entire mountain covered with smoke because the Lord Himself descended on it in fire. How did the Israelites react to this revelation of the Lord’s presence? What were they afraid would happen? Why isn’t the plan of salvation mentioned in the 10 Commandments? Or is it? When did the Lord present the full concept of the plan of salvation to the Israelites? Is there a link between the sanctuary service and the commandments? If so, what is it? How does the law of God point to the cross? Do we show similar godly fear and reverence for the law today that the Israelites demonstrated at Sinai? Should we?
- The Sabbath is Jewish. Have you ever heard anyone call the seventh-day Sabbath “the Jewish Sabbath?” What is wrong with that label? When was the first observance of Sabbath on earth that is recorded in Scripture? Is it not true that the seventh day became a special day for the Jewish people for about 2,000 years? Doesn’t that prove it was a Jewish day of rest, and part of the Jewish religion? How should we proclaim our Christian adoption of the “Jewish Sabbath”? How can we explain the Sabbath of Creation and onward until after the flood when the Jewish nation was established? Does the permanence of the Sabbath from the seventh day of creation onward enrich your own spiritual experience? In what ways?
- A religion of grace. How should we respond when friends characterize the Old Testament as describing a religion of works, and the New Testament as showing us a religion of grace? Could you come up with examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament? Do we sometimes regard “grace” as a “cheap” way to stumble through our sins? Is it a temptation for us to see the law as a “table of opportunities” to sin and be forgiven? Why do you think legalism was strangling God’s people at the time of the Incarnation of Christ? Is it possible that Satan sees the benefits to him for getting Christians so wrapped up in concern about sin, especially the sins of others, that we don’t have time or energy to show the love of God to those around us? What can we do to put grace back in our personal religious experience? In our church life? In our families?
- The law of the prophets. How did David express his love of the law? Think about the account of young Isaiah and his regard for the precepts of God. What was the source of Jeremiah’s mental anguish? Can a prophet represent God without harboring a deep respect for God’s law? How are all of the Scriptures related to the law of God? Is it possible that some of us turn away from a love of the law because we think of laws as restrictive and freedom-robbing? Do you know someone (not yourself, we hope) who breaks the speed limit routinely because “I’m in too big a hurry to slow down to 65 miles an hour”? Are the laws of the land designed to make us uncomfortable? What about the laws of God?
- “Do and live.” What is the greatest benefit of all to obeying, by the grace of God, God’s commands and teachings? Does God’s love mean more to us because it is offered without stress or compulsion to accept it? Does the freedom God values so highly make His laws more valuable? If you could talk to Moses one-on-one this week, what would you ask him about the Sinai experience and the gift of God’s law to the Israelite people? Do you think we will continue to praise God’s law through eternity? Or will His laws be demolished at the Second Coming?