I’m anxiously looking forward. I don’t have any idea what 2012 holds and that is SO okay with me. I know my Lord Jesus knows, and I’m tellin’ ya, that to me is PEACE!! I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I am okay. I am looking forward to a new start… a new start to what, I’m not sure. But I look forward to it, haha!! … which brings me here. The other day while finally taking some time to spend with my Lord, I was reading in the book of James. It was so good. It always is, you know, spending time reading, praying, learning at the proverbial feet of Jesus… I’ve never walked away from that time feeling anything but renewed, refreshed, and full of peace. So anyway, this was about five days ago and a couple verses are still very stuck with me. I’ve reread them, bookmarked them in my phone’s bible, and talked about them with my son. I woke this morning thinking of one of them again, and how it should be my “theme” for 2012.
James, in chapter 2, verses 12 and 13, tells us this:
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” ~NIV
So often I think that the “law” part of God’s amazing Word trips us up. Just the word “law”… in our society today, it can have such a negative image. I found this amazing definition, and yes, it gets just a tiny bit deep for just a second… don’t worry, keep reading…
In the Old Testament part of the Bible, the word “Torah” was used as the word “law”. To look at what God meant when He was talking of the law, let’s dive into this! The word originally came from another word (old language often does this… it’s like they had about 5 words and then created a billion from those 5… hahaha!! I laugh because I would still have just 5!! LOL!)
So, torah comes from a Hebrew word, Yârâh, and it means this:
Yârâh begins with the letter Y. In the Hebrew language, letters represent pictures. This letter Y is the picture of a hand. There is another word used for teaching and instruction in the Hebrew language and it begins with the letter L. The word is lâmadh. I am telling you this for one important reason. The letter L in the Hebrew language is a picture of an ox-goad, used for disciplining and training an animal or soldiers. I am excitedly sharing this with you… I can barely sit still enough to type this! People, do you see? God could have used this lâmadh word when He was teaching us the “law”. He didn’t! He used the word Yârâh! It is SO much better to be taught by pointing than by poking… by the demonstration of the hand than by the discipline of the rod!!
So what am I saying? Torah, the word in the Bible for “law”, comes from a word meaning “hand-led instruction”, NOT rod-following legalism. Wow! That just about brings me out of my chair! I want to shout “THANK YOU” a billion times to my Lord!! I want to wrap my arms around His neck and give Him the biggest hug ever! I just don’t know how to thank Him enough.
You see, I’ve needed this teaching, this instruction… this “law”, if you will. And I’ve experienced it first-hand. Hebrews 12:6 says that the Lord corrects the people He loves and that He disciplines those He calls His own. Proverbs 3:12 tells us that the Lord corrects everyone He loves, just as parents correct their favorite child. How does God correct us, the ones He loves? Using His law! He teaches us!
Let’s not give our amazing Father God human characteristics! He’s not the angry father that has had a long week at work disciplining a wayward teenager out of anger. He is not a tired, over-worked, under-appreciated mom who chooses to walk away rather than deal with a problem child who is possibly looking for any attention, even if it be negative attention. God is not the power-hungry, hard-hearted police officer taking his frustrations and bitterness out on a citizen in trouble. We have these pictures of discipline, authority, and law in our minds. So when we read these words in the Bible, our mind does not see it any other way. But looking at the word “law” as it was originally meant in the Bible shows us that what we have come to see as “the law” from the world’s perspective is not the final answer.
To further examine this point, let’s look at a few of the Ten Commandments.
You shall not murder. Seems simple enough, right? I don’t see a problem with this one… I don’t see God as a judge, bellering out the words in a deep voice before slamming a gavel down. I see it more like a loving father speaking to his children, saying, “You know, you guys have to treat each other better, don’t hurt one another; don’t kill anyone. The world is going to be a much better place if you’re not running around killing people.” Makes sense, don’t you think?
You shall not commit adultery. Again, very simple. Don’t hurt your spouse. Honor the heart of your marriage. Your life will be much easier if you stay away from that temptation that leads to this kind of hurt. God is looking out for our best interest, not just choosing to rule us with an iron fist.
You shall not steal. We shouldn’t need to be told this, right? Leave people’s stuff alone! It is not yours. You wouldn’t like it if someone took your stuff. God is again just trying to teach us that we would have a much better world, a much easier life, if we would not steal things.
Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy. God is advising us that we would do very well to take a day off from our labors, from our stresses, from our day to day life. Could you imagine how our lives would be different if we took just one day a week and STOPPED! Stopped the rushing, stopped the electronics… the Facebook, texting, T.V., computer, stopped the work, stopped the phone calls. What if we chose to spend the day with the people in our lives, focusing on one another and the blessings God has poured into our lives? What if we took just one day to really, honestly appreciate God and honor Him by turning off the noise in our lives? I don’t think this “law” was to keep us in any kind of bondage but rather to bring us to freedom. When we take the time to focus on a big, awesome, super-capable God, our problems may not seem so huge!
I hope you are seeing this the way I am. I love the freedom I am seeing in God’s law. I feel like I don’t have to be in control of each and every situation. I am not looking over my shoulder, wondering if I broke one of God’s laws and He’s coming after me to discipline me out of anger and harsh judgment. That’s NOT my God. I know that He absolutely loves me and when I do mess up, He will take that opportunity to teach me a better way to handle that kind of situation. He will point the way, light the path I should take, and walk quietly and gently beside me each step of the way!
I think this is why the original verse in James grabbed at my heart so strongly. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Speak and act like people who will be judged by the law that sets us free.
I want to live my life this coming year THAT way!! I want to treat others in a way that reminds me I am free… a way that shows them that I am free. I am free to love them, free to be kind to them, free to give of myself. I want to act like someone who is going to be judged by my loving Father and His instruction. Yes, I may screw up from time to time but with His loving teaching, those times will become fewer and further between. I will learn from each situation. When I have made a mistake I will not run from my Father as if He is out to punish me in His anger and frustration, but rather I will run to Him. I know His arms are open to me and He is always ready to forgive me and teach me a better way.
I think of the lyrics to the Newsboys’ song, I Am Free… I am free to run, I am free to dance, I am free to live for You, I am FREE!!