*Excerpt from the Bible In One Year App (Day 72) with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel
I remember, years ago, a soccer match that had been arranged involving twenty-two young boys (including one of my sons, aged eight at the time). A friend of mine, Andy, was going to referee. Unfortunately, by 2:30 pm he had not turned up. The boys could wait no longer. I was press-ganged into being the substitute referee. But, I had no whistle, there were no markings for the boundaries of the pitch, and I did not know the rules nearly as well as some of the boys.
The game soon descended into complete chaos. Some shouted that the ball was in. Others said that it was out. I wasn’t at all sure, so I let things run. Then the fouls started. Some cried, ‘Foul.’ Others said, ‘No foul.’ I didn’t know who was right. So I let them play on. Then people began to get hurt. By the time Andy arrived, there were three boys lying ‘injured’ on the ground and all the rest were shouting, mainly at me!
But the moment Andy arrived, he blew his whistle, arranged the teams, told them where the boundaries were, and had them under complete control. The boys then enjoyed a great game of soccer.
Were the boys freer without the rules, or were they in fact less free? Without any effective authority, they could do exactly what they wanted. But people were confused and hurt. They much preferred it when the game was played according to the rules. Then they were free to enjoy the game. The rules of soccer are not designed to take away the fun of the game. They are designed to enable the game to be enjoyed to the full.
God’s ‘rules’ are his boundaries for life, given out of his love for us. His boundaries are not designed to restrict our freedom but rather to give us freedom. Like the rules of soccer, they do not stop the enjoyment of the game. Rather, they enable the game of life to be enjoyed to the full.
My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.” They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words.
God’s loving boundaries. God does not invite us to follow his laws; he commands. But these are not the commandments of a dictator, they are the commands of a loving Father, designed to ensure justice, peace, and fullness of life.
The writer of Proverbs is like a parent encouraging their children and passing on God’s commands to them. He urges his children: ‘Store up my commands within you’ (v.1); ‘Keep my commands and you will live’ (v.2a); ‘Keep my law...as the apple (the pupil) of your eye’ (v.2b, AMP); ‘Write them on the tablet of your heart’ (v.3b). This is what the Holy Spirit does. He writes God’s laws on your heart and gives you the ability to keep them (Jeremiah 31:33–34).
God’s commands bring ‘wisdom’ – and wisdom should be our ‘intimate friend’ (Proverbs 7:4, AMP). They bring ‘insight’ (v.4), and they keep us out of trouble (v.5).
Loving Spirit of God, you have written your rules in my heart. Help me to keep your boundaries and live life in all its fullness.