On a recent morning I was reading Psalm 119 when verses 44-45 caught my attention.
44 I will always obey your law,
for ever and ever.
45 I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
Springing from the “Enlightenment” of the West, much of the world uses the word “freedom” to mean “license” – permission to do wrong without penalty for one’s actions. In fact, people who pursue license often put the responsibility for the consequences of their choices on others. They often look to others to bail them out of their troubles.
On the other hand, true freedom is liberty to govern one’s self, the freedom to do the right thing. Michael Novak put it this way: “License is the freedom to follow one’s instincts and do as one desires, as naturally as cats and dogs do. Liberty is the duty to do what … one knows that one ought to do.”
Here we see the relationship between obeying God’s laws and freedom.
Freedom is always found within the framework of law. Or to put it differently, we walk in the “widest world” when we walk within the framework of God’s ordinances. God has designed us for freedom. His intention is that we discover our calling, that we fulfill our God-given potential. Becoming all we have been made to be is found within the order of God’s creation. People who self-govern based on God’s laws are the freest people in the world.
In the modern and postmodern worlds, people seek freedom outside the law, beyond their human design. But this is not freedom. Rather, it is license to live without boundaries. This is lawlessness. It leads, not to the wide boundaries of freedom, but to slavery in a world of disorder.
Matthew Henry, the 17th century British Non-conformist pastor and perhaps one of the greatest Bible expositors of all time, beautifully captures the thoughts of David. Henry intimates that the law of God is not only good in itself, because it reveals God’s nature and his mind, but it is also good for you and me. When we walk in God’s laws we walk in liberty.
Here’s Matthew Henry on Psalm 119:45:
What David experienced of an affection to the law of God: “I seek thy precepts, v. 45. I desire to know and do my duty, and consult thy word accordingly; I do all I can to understand what the will of the Lord is and to discover the intimations of his mind. I seek thy precepts, for I have loved them, v. 47, 48. I not only give consent to them as good, but take complacency in them as good for me.
All that love God love his government and therefore love all his commandments.
What he expected from this. Five things he promises himself here in the strength of God’s grace:—(1.) That he should be free and easy in his duty: “I will walk at liberty, freed from that which is evil, not hampered with the fetters of my own corruptions, and free to that which is good, doing it not by constraint, but willingly.” The service of sin is perfect slavery; the service of God is perfect liberty. Licentiousness is bondage to the greatest of tyrants; conscientiousness is freedom to the meanest of prisoners, Jn. 8:32, 36; Lu. 1:74, 75 …
We will either put chains on our sin and live as free men and women, or we will live lives of excess and be enslaved by our lawlessness.
Let us find life, abundant life, by living in “the perfect law of liberty.”
- Darrow Miller