PSALMS: The Law, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Prayer Book of the Bible

The Law, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The three psalms (1, 19, 119) which in a special way make the law of God the object of thanks, praise, and petition seek to show us, above all, the blessing of the law.  Under “law,” then, is to be understood usually the entire salvation act of God and the direction for a new life in obedience.  Joy in the law and in the commands of God comes to us if God has given the great new direction to our life through Jesus Christ.  That God could at one time conceal his command from me (Psalm 119:19), that he could allow me one day not to recognize his will, is the deepest anxiety of the new life.

It is grace to know God’s commands.  They release us from self-made plans and conflicts.  They make our steps certain and our way joyful.  God gives his commands in order that we may fulfill them, and “his commandments are not burdensome,” (1 John 5:3), for him who has found all salvation in Jesus Christ.  Jesus has himself been under the law and has fulfilled it in total obedience to the Father.  God’s will becomes his joy, his nourishment.  So he gives thanks in us for the grace of the law and grants to us joy in its fulfillment.  Now we confess our love for the law, we affirm that we gladly keep it, and we ask that we may continue to be kept blameless in it.  We do that not in our own power, but we pray it in the name of Jesus Christ who is for us and in us.

Psalm 119 becomes especially difficult for us, perhaps, because of its length and monotony.  In this case a rather slow, quiet, patient advance from word to word, from sentence to sentence, is helpful.  Then we recognize that the apparent repetitions are always new variations on one theme, namely the love of God’s word.  As this love can never cease, so also the words which confess it can never cease.  They want to accompany us through all of life, and they become in their simplicity the prayer of the child, of the young man, and of the old man.

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  1. PSALMS: The Law, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – The Value of Sparrows – Empty Nest Man

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