Today’s Reading: Psalm 15; Nehemiah 7:73b-8:3, 5-18; Matthew 15:29-39; Revelation 18:21-24
Today’s passage from Nehemiah is a difficult one for many of us Protestants to resonate with. That’s because the passage presents the law in a way that seems very foreign to us.
We are told, for instance, that after the people heard the reading of the law “all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing” (Nehemiah 7:12 from the NRSV). It’s hard to relate to since most of us Protestants have been raised to think of the law as something that limits or restricts us. Consequently, the last thing we would think of doing after hearing the law read is rejoice!
One of my Jewish friends in seminary gave me a new way to think about the law that helped me better understand how the law could be viewed in a positive light. “When you struggle to think about the law in a positive way,” my friend said, “think of the text you Christians are so fond of – John 3:16.”
“Okay…” I replied.
“Good,” she said. “Now go in and take out the words ‘his only begotten son’ from the beginning of the passage and replace them with ‘the law’ so that it reads, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave the law.’ That’s the way many of us Jews think of the law. That’s why the Scriptures can talk about us rejoicing in response to the law!”
My friend’s suggestion was helpful. It helped me get over my bias against the notion of ‘the law’, and embrace it in a healthier manner. So how do you see “the law”? Do you see it negatively - as something restrictive and potentially punitive; or do you see the law as a tool that can draw us into closer relationship with God? Til next time…