Oh Charming Law
Jean-Baptiste Racine, a French dramatist and one of the three great playwrights of 17th-century France, composed his final tragedy called Athalie. It is hailed as his masterpiece. Within it, a chorus of Jewish girls sing an ode about the original giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. It contains this noteworthy refrain o charmante loi, translated from French to English, “oh charming Law.”
Perhaps Racine’s words echo the Psalmists words more than any other modern day writer to date. Within the nineteenth chapter of Psalms we find these words in verse 10, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Gold and honey in this verse are referring to those “statutes” that “rejoice the heart” (verse 8).
His law rejoices the heart. His law rejoices my heart.
Rejoices the Heart
My eight-year-old has always had trouble going to sleep at night. When I was a new mom, there were times I thought I might lose my mind as Lyric did not take a nap until she was 18 months old. I used to drive to Starbucks and pray the drive thru attendant did not wake her up, because that was my only shot to get her to sleep for a few minutes with the lulling of the car. She is always thinking, always moving, always soaking up the best of life. So, when it comes time to lay her body down for the night, her mind is still going a million miles a minute.
But lately, Lyric has taken up a new habit. I’m not sure how it started. I can’t take credit for it. But my pixie has begun reading her Bible in bed to go to sleep, notebook in hand, recording all the passages she loves or wants to learn more about. Often she will come downstairs to ask us where a particular passage is found in the Bible so she can record it in her journal. Her heart is rejoicing in the Law.
I remember when my heart once burned for His statutes like that. When His Words were sweeter than honey, where I tasted and saw that the Lord, He is good.
Give us a hunger and appetite for Your statutes …
In Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis talks about how the Law of Yahweh rose in sharp contrast to the surrounding Paganisms of the day of the Psalter.
“ ... when a Jew in some happier hour ... looked at those worships (of the Pagans)--when he thought of sacred prostitution, sacred sodomy, and the babies thrown into the fire for Moloch--his own “Law” as he turned back to it must have shone with an extraordinary radiance.”
The Law’s sweetness and purity juxtaposed sharply against the Pagan practices that were common in those days. Assyrians were skinning their enemies, the Ammonites were sacrificing their children to Moloch, yet the Law shone with a luminous quality that made the Hebrews rejoice.
The Law still does this today. When we read the news headlines, hear another story of child trafficking, or watch Isis attacking the innocent, the Law is like a breath of fresh air. It speaks of goodness, righteousness, truth. It is a light unto our path, making the darkness tremble in the wake of its radiance.
Lewis was afraid that in his age, people would take the Law for granted as they were not surrounded by such pagan cultures as those of the Hebrews. “Perhaps we shall all learn, sharply enough, to value the clean air and ‘sweet reasonableness’ of the Christian ethics which in a more Christian age we might have taken for granted.”
We can no longer take this charming law for granted. It is a beacon of hope in a bleak world. The Law is a radiant light in times of terrifying darkness. Oh charming law, we long for you. We long for the statutes that are true and good and right.
“His laws have emeth “truth”, intrinsic validity, rock-bottom reality, being rooted in His own nature, and are therefore as solid as that Nature which He has created.” We stand on the firmness of Your charming law.
All who look to it are radiant.