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A New Law

With a thanks to MTH, I recently downloaded an album entitled Mockingbird, by Derek Webb. You can get it here. Having known Derek for several years while he was with Caedmon’s Call, I was excited for him when he went out on his own. He has already put out quite a bit of work, and this album did not disappoint. He has become known as a bit of a prophet with a guitar, one who has the wisdom to see things as they ought to be and the courage to say that they often are not, and I appreciate that. He is mastering the art of the gentle rebuke.
After playing this new album a couple of times, one of the tracks stood out- it has a message that seemed particularly intriguing in the light of recent discussion on the anti-intellectual comments of certain former Hollywood tv star. While on the surface this track appears to mirror the sentiments of the actor-turned evangelist, it is in fact a poignant commentary on the tendency on the part of many milquetoast believers who shy away from anything that is not spoon-fed, shallow, or generally easy to handle when it comes to matters of theological or philosophical import. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

don’t teach me about politics or government,
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law
I don’t want to know if the answers aren’t easy
just bring it down from the mountain to me
I want a new law
I want a new law
Just give me that new law

I am reminded of the Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai while Moses went up to speak to the Lord. When given an opportunity to speak to Him, they too shied away and told Moses that they just wanted him to do it for them.

Derek goes on to plead with the listener:

Cause what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything?
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid.

Why do we want to trade a law we cannot keep? Because we feel better if we have one that we can keep? No just that. If we can keep it, then it is something that we can do. God gave us the Law precisely because we cannot keep it, and therefore we have no other recourse but to totally and completely depend upon Him for everything. There is absolutely nothing that we can do for ourselves apart from Him. Galatians makes it clear that the Law was given to educate us as to exactly how sinful we are as people. Without understanding that the Law was meant to point us to a place of dependence on Him rather than on our ability to be holy through keeping the Law (which is obviously not possible), then we would likely be consumed with the rules rather than living in humility and submission to Him. Jesus said to come to Him and let Him bear our burdens while He gives us a share in His (and He helps us bear that too).
Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.


Comment from Michelle
Time: 9 September, 2006, 11:45 am

this is an excellent post.

But I can’t help that my favorite thing about it is that you used the word “milquetoast.” It’s a great word and no one says it nearly enough. (“Goodonya!”)

Comment from the Travel-junkie
Time: 9 September, 2006, 1:14 pm

thanks, Michelle. I appreciate the thought- but I had to use a dictionary to find out how to spell milquetoast! Not spelled as I would have thought.

To clarify a point or two for a couple who have emailed me:
Derek (and I know this from conversations I have had with him) is not saying that we need more laws, nor is he saying that we have a freedom that allows us to act in any way we choose. Paul rebuked that sentiment handily in Romans 6 when he reminded us that we are not to continue to sin that grace might increase, but rather we are to count ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God. Paul also instructs us on our freedom in Galatians 5. We are admonished that our freedom is not to be abused with sin but to be instead used to glorify God. Balancing these statements with what Paul wrote to the Colossians (particularly in the last few verses of chapter 2), makes it more simple to understand what freedom in Christ and liberty are. They are not licenses to do whatever we desire (for certainly we all have sinful desires from time to time); they are gifts that allow us to celebrate God without being bound to a sense of duty or obligation. It is anti-legalism that allows us to practice the disciplines of the Christian life without being a slave to the disciplines themselves.

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