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A Legal Heart

Psalm 1:2

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

This verse is a familiar one to many of us. Psalm 1 describes the “blessed man” who avoids the ways of sinners, meditates on the law of God, and is like a tree planted by streams of water that bears its fruit in its season. And this is contrasted with the way of the wicked who, at the end of their lives, aren’t known by God but destroyed.

I wonder, though, how we hear this verse, especially as it relates to regular or daily Bible reading and devotion. If your heart is anything like mine, I imagine you might hear the verse like this:

“The blessed man is the one who meditates on God’s word. He’s righteous. Therefore, if I read my Bible every day and night then I’ll become like the blessed man and be righteous like him.”

This might take different forms for all of us or different struggles, but every one of us has to wrestle with a legal heart. We read verses like these and think that the path to blessed righteousness lies somewhere in what we can do. But we miss the point of the psalm. The blessed man meditates on the law of God not to become righteous, but because he already is righteous and blessed. In other words, it flows from his blessedness rather than for it.

This is one of the hardest things for legal hearts to understand. We need to be made righteous in Christ first, the truly Blessed Man who accomplished all for us, before we can “do” what the righteous and blessed do. The desire to meditate day and night on the law of God and do what God commands us to do and avoid the ways of the wicked flows from a heart changed by the grace of God.

What will drive us to gather with God’s people week in and week out? What will motivate us to wake up and open God’s word and think about it as we lay our heads down at night? What will give rise to love and good deeds toward the body of Christ and our neighbors? Only the grace of God can motivate us. Only the grace of God can transform us day by day into the image of Christ.

We are blessed because we are in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. Compare Psalm 1 with Ephesians 1. We already are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places because of God’s loving election, because of what Jesus accomplished for us, and by the Spirit’s work in our lives, not because of what we’ve done. So when you read the commands of God let them drive you to Christ who is your Blessed Hope and then live as you’ve been called.

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