The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. | Psalm 19:7-11
Few Christians today can list (much less recite) the Ten Commandments in order. Go ahead, try it. If you're like me and you can't do it, the proper response is shame. This reveals how radically out-of-sync we are with the faith of our fathers—both Biblical and Reformational.
King David adored God's Law. On it he meditated, day and night. To him it was "sweeter than honey" and "more precious than gold." Jesus affirmed the Law's New Covenant relavance when he said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill" (Matt 5:17). The Apostle Paul likewise affirmed a continued use of the Law: "We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully" (1Timothy 1:8).
Because both of Scripture's Testaments express overwhelming esteem for God's Law, the Protestant reformers rejoiced to sing the Ten Commandments each and every Lord's Day. In 1555, John Calvin devoted an extended series of sermons to treating the second giving of the Law in Deuteronomy and, a century later, the Westminster Shorter Catechism allotted forty-five (and the Larger Catechism thirty-nine) questions and answers to teaching God's Moral Law (and wow, you should read them!).
Chrstians today huff and puff whenever a court orders the removal from public property of yet another copy of the Ten Commandments. The best of us might even put out a yard sign as a show of solidarity with (newly re-elected) Judge Roy Moore. Yet beyond these obligitory gestures, we're hard pressed to point to any demonstrable zeal for God's Law: it's not in our thoughts or devotions, it's not in our dinner table conversation, it's not a tenet of our evangelism, it's not an emphasis of our preaching, it's not a principle of our worship. Is it any wonder, then, that God's Law is so often repudiated by our lives?
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. | Deuteronomy 6:6-9
At Clearnote, we've found great joy and blessing in restoring God's law to its rightful place in worship. Our congregation now delights to sing once or twice a month a versified setting of the Ten Commandments co-written by William Helder and myself (mostly Helder).
Alternately, we sing other testaments to God's Law such as Thomas Pollock's "We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought," Isaac Watts' "Lord, We Confess Our Numerous Faults," and our own adaptation of Psalm 1 (music and demo to follow). Such recitations and confessions lead naturally to a corporate confession of sin. Our hearts come to that work made more ready by our remembrance of the Law's holy requirements.
Fixated as the Church has been on the Gospel's great power to silence the Law's condemnation, we've forgotten that several positive ("lawful") uses of God's Law remain. You may read other places more on what these uses are, but I'm arguing here for a simple obedience to the instruction of Deuteronomy 6, above. That combined with the affirmations of Jesus and the Apostle Paul concerning the goodness of the Law should lead us to restore God's laws to the doorposts of our houses (as it were), to bind them again to our frontals, to diligently teach them to our children, and to speak of them as we walk on the way and lie down and get up. Maybe the best way to facilitate all of this is to set the Law to music and sing it together in times of corporate and family worship--even in the car on vacations.
Sound like a drag to you? Having a hard time imagining your church or family enjoying singing the Ten Commandments? Like many Christians today, do you scratch your head at the psalmist's claims of delighting in God's laws? Do you have a theological aversion to rules?
Well, I've often heard it said that we don't understand in order to obey but we obey in order to understand. Begin singing the Ten Commandments as an act of faith and you'll find (as we have) that the Law begins to become your delight. Why?
Because, it is so completely, utterly, thoroughly, and astoundingly delightful. It's sweeter than honey, but you'll never know it unless you put it in your mouth.