Divine Laws Are for Our Benefit
“How I do love your law!”—PSALM 119:97.
1. What is the prevalent attitude toward obedience to divine laws?
OBEYING divine laws is not popular today. For many, deferring to an invisible higher authority seems pointless. We live in an era of moral relativism, of blurred boundaries between right and wrong, and of huge gray areas. (Proverbs 17:15; Isaiah 5:20) Reflecting a way of thinking that is common in many secularized societies, a recent poll noted that “most Americans want to decide for themselves what is right, good and meaningful.” They opt for “no strong God. No strong rules. No strong superiors, moral or otherwise.” A social analyst observed that today “individuals are expected to determine for themselves what it means to lead a good and virtuous life.” He continued: “Any form of higher authority has to tailor its commandments to the needs of real people.”
2. How is the first mention of law in the Bible closely related to divine blessing and approval?
2 Since so many are second-guessing the value of Jehovah’s laws, we need to fortify our conviction that divine standards are for our benefit. It is of interest to consider the account where law is first mentioned in the Bible. At Genesis 26:5, we read God’s words: “Abraham . . . continued to keep his obligations to me, my commands, my statutes, and my laws.” Those words were uttered centuries before Jehovah gave a detailed law code to Abraham’s descendants. How did God reward Abraham’s obedience, including obedience to His laws? Jehovah God promised him: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18) Obedience to divine laws is thus closely linked to divine blessing and approval.
3. (a) What feeling toward Jehovah’s law did one psalmist express? (b) What questions merit our attention?
3 One of the psalmists—likely a prince of Judah and a future king—expressed a feeling that is not usually associated with law. He exclaimed to God: “How I do love your law!” (Psalm 119:97) This was no mere emotional outburst. It was an expression of love for God’s will as set out in his law. Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, had similar feelings. Jesus was prophetically described as saying: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” (Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 10:9) What about us? Do we find delight in doing God’s will? Are we convinced of the usefulness and benefits of Jehovah’s laws? What place does obedience to God’s laws have in our worship, in our daily life, in our decision-making, and in our relationships with others? To love divine law, we do well to understand why God has the right to formulate and enforce laws.
Jehovah—The Rightful Lawgiver
4. Why is Jehovah the ultimate, rightful Lawgiver?
4 As the Creator, Jehovah is the ultimate, rightful Lawgiver in the universe. (Revelation 4:11) The prophet Isaiah stated: “Jehovah is our Statute-giver.” (Isaiah 33:22) He has set the physical laws governing animate and inanimate creation. (Job 38:4-38; 39:1-12; Psalm 104:5-19) As a creation of God, man is subject to Jehovah’s physical laws. And although man is a free moral agent, capable of reasoning on his own, he is happy only when he subjects himself to God’s moral and spiritual laws.—Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16.
5. How does the principle at Galatians 6:7 prove true regarding divine laws?
5 As we know, Jehovah’s physical laws are unbreakable. (Jeremiah 33:20, 21) If a person goes contrary to some physical laws, such as the law of gravity, he experiences the consequences. Similarly, the moral laws of God are irrevocable and cannot be circumvented or violated with impunity. They are enforced as surely as are his natural laws, though the outcome may not be as immediate. “God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Galatians 6:7; 1 Timothy 5:24.
The Scope of Jehovah’s Law
6. How inclusive are divine laws?
6 An outstanding expression of divine law was the Law of Moses. (Romans 7:12) In time, Jehovah God replaced the Mosaic Law with “the law of the Christ.”* (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21) As Christians under “the perfect law that belongs to freedom,” we appreciate that God does not limit his directives to certain aspects of our life, such as doctrinal beliefs or ceremonial rites. His standards cover all aspects of life, including family affairs, business dealings, conduct toward those of the opposite sex, attitudes toward fellow Christians, and participation in true worship.—James 1:25, 27.
7. Give examples of important divine laws.
7 For example, the Bible says: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Yes, adultery and fornication are not just “love affairs.” Homosexual acts are not merely an “alternative life-style.” These are violations of Jehovah’s law. And so are such things as stealing, lying, and slander. (Psalm 101:5; Colossians 3:9; 1 Peter 4:15) James condemned bragging, while Paul advised us to avoid foolish talking and obscene jesting. (Ephesians 5:4; James 4:16) For Christians, all these rules of conduct are part of the perfect law of God.—Psalm 19:7.
8. (a) What is the nature of Jehovah’s law? (b) What is the basic meaning behind the Hebrew word for “law”?
8 Such fundamental regulations in Jehovah’s Word reveal that his law is much more than just a list of cold, legalistic statutes. It forms the basis for a balanced, productive life, with all aspects of conduct being affected for good. Divine law is edifying, ethical, and instructive. (Psalm 119:72) The word “law” as used by the psalmist is translated from the Hebrew word toh·rahʹ. One Bible scholar says: “This word is formed from a verb which means to direct, to guide, to aim, to shoot forwards. Its . . . meaning, then, would be a rule of conduct.” To the psalmist the law was a gift from God. Should we not esteem it similarly, allowing it to shape our life pattern?
9, 10. (a) Why do we need dependable direction? (b) How only can we have a delightful and successful life?
9 All creatures need dependable direction and trustworthy guidance. This is true of Jesus and other angels, who are higher than man. (Psalm 8:5; John 5:30; 6:38; Hebrews 2:7; Revelation 22:8, 9) If these perfect creatures can benefit from divine guidance, how much more that is so for imperfect humans! Human history and our personal experience have proved the validity of the prophet Jeremiah’s observation: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
10 If we desire to have a delightful and successful life, we must look to God for guidance. King Solomon recognized the danger of living according to personal standards, independent of divine guidance: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.”—Proverbs 14:12.
Reasons for Cherishing Jehovah’s Law
11. Why should we desire to understand God’s law?
11 We do well to cultivate a deep desire to understand Jehovah’s law. The psalmist expressed such a yearning when he said: “Uncover my eyes, that I may look at the wonderful things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) The more we come to know God and his ways, the deeper will be our appreciation of the truth of Isaiah’s words: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments!” (Isaiah 48:17, 18) It is Jehovah’s earnest desire that his people avoid calamity and enjoy life by paying attention to his commandments. Let us examine some major reasons why we should cherish God’s law.
12. How does Jehovah’s knowledge of us make him the best Lawgiver?
12 Divine law comes from the One who knows us best. Since Jehovah is our Creator, it is logical that he would know humans through and through. (Psalm 139:1, 2; Acts 17:24-28) Close friends, relatives, even parents cannot know us as well as Jehovah does. Why, God knows us even better than we know ourselves! Our Maker has unparalleled comprehension of our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical needs. As he directs his attention to us, he shows an intimate understanding of our makeup, our desires, and our aspirations. Jehovah understands our limitations, but he also knows our potential for good. Says the psalmist: “He himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) Thus, we can have a sense of spiritual security as we seek to walk in his law, willingly submitting ourselves to divine guidance.—Proverbs 3:19-26.
13. Why can we be confident that Jehovah has our best interests at heart?
13 Divine law comes from the One who loves us. God is deeply concerned about our lasting welfare. Did he not at great cost to himself give his Son as “a ransom in exchange for many”? (Matthew 20:28) Has Jehovah not promised that ‘he will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear’? (1 Corinthians 10:13) Does not the Bible assure us that he ‘cares for us’? (1 Peter 5:7) No one is more lovingly interested in providing beneficial guidelines for human creation than Jehovah is. He knows what is good for us and where the line between happiness and sorrow is drawn. Even though we are imperfect and make mistakes, if we pursue righteousness, he shows his love for us in ways that will result in life and blessings.—Ezekiel 33:11.
14. In what important way does God’s law differ from human ideas?
14 God’s law is reassuringly unchangeable. In the turbulent times in which we live, Jehovah is a rock of stability, existing from everlasting to everlasting. (Psalm 90:2) He said of himself: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Malachi 3:6) God’s standards, as recorded in the Bible, are completely reliable—unlike the quicksand of constantly changing human ideas. (James 1:17) For example, for years psychologists advocated permissive child rearing, but later some changed their minds and admitted that their advice was a mistake. Worldly standards and guidelines on this matter sway to and fro as though buffeted by winds. However, Jehovah’s Word is unwavering. For centuries the Bible has provided counsel on how to rear children with love. The apostle Paul wrote: “Fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) How reassuring it is to know that we can rely on Jehovah’s standards; they will not change!
Blessings for Those Obeying God’s Laws
15, 16. (a) What will result if we apply Jehovah’s standards? (b) How can God’s laws prove to be a sound guide in marriage?
15 Through his prophet Isaiah, God said: “My word that goes forth from my mouth . . . will have certain success.” (Isaiah 55:11) Just as surely, when we earnestly strive to follow the standards found in his Word, we will have success, accomplish good, and find happiness.
16 Consider how God’s laws are a sound guide to a successful marriage. “Let marriage be honorable among all,” wrote Paul, “and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) Marriage mates are to be respectful and loving toward each other: “Let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) The kind of love that is needed is described at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” A marriage marked by this kind of love will not fail.
17. What benefits come from applying Jehovah’s standards on the use of alcohol?
17 Another evidence that Jehovah’s standards are beneficial, is the fact that he condemns drunkenness. He even disapproves of ‘giving oneself to a lot of wine.’ (1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Romans 13:13) Many who ignore God’s standards on this matter suffer diseases caused or aggravated by excessive drinking. Ignoring the Bible’s counsel on moderation, some have got into the habit of heavy drinking to “help them relax.” The problems resulting from overdrinking are many, including loss of respect, strained family relationships or family breakup, wasted income, and loss of employment. (Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-35) Are not Jehovah’s standards regarding the use of alcohol a safeguard?
18. Are God’s laws practical in financial matters? Explain.
18 God’s standards have also proved to be practical in financial matters. The Bible urges Christians to be honest and diligent. (Luke 16:10; Ephesians 4:28; Colossians 3:23) Because they follow this counsel, many Christians have been promoted or have kept their jobs when others were laid off. Financial benefits also result when a person avoids such unscriptural habits and addictions as gambling, smoking, and drug abuse. No doubt you can think of other examples of the economic practicality of God’s standards.
19, 20. Why is it the course of wisdom to accept and hold to divine laws?
19 It is easy for imperfect humans to stray from God’s laws and standards. Think about the Israelites at Mount Sinai. God said to them: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples.” They responded: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” Yet, how contrary was the course they chose to follow! (Exodus 19:5, 8; Psalm 106:12-43) In contrast, let us accept and hold to God’s standards.
20 The course of wisdom and happiness is to stick closely to the incomparable laws that Jehovah has provided to help guide our lives. (Psalm 19:7-11) In order to do this successfully, we also need to appreciate the value of godly principles. This is the subject of the following article.
For a detailed discussion of “the law of the Christ,” see The Watchtower, September 1, 1996, pages 14-24.
Do You Recall?
• Why can we trust that God’s laws are for our benefit?
• For what reasons should we cherish Jehovah’s law?
• In what ways are God’s laws beneficial?
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Abraham was richly blessed for obeying Jehovah’s law
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Anxieties of today’s busy life distract many from divine law
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Like a lighthouse on a rock-mass, divine law is stable and unchangeable