In Deuteronomy 6, God says, “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” God is establishing a pattern for life, a rhythm crafted by the Word. Just as we see in the beginning the Word creating and forming all things, so are our lives formed by hearing the Word. And this life is a very generational life. It reaches back and is founded on the Word spoken to our fathers and it very intentionally lays down the groundwork for our children’s children.
This law that God establishes, these commandments and statutes and rules that He gives are founded on the fact that He has already saved His people. He says, when your son asks you what all this means, you tell him, we were slaves in Egypt and God saved us. We were slaves in a foreign land and God brought us here and gave us our own land. And then he gave us His Word for our good. He breathed into us His breath of life so that we might live.
We see the same thing in the giving of the law on Sinai. “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” The gospel comes first, then the law. Why? It’s not so God can say, “I saved you and now you owe me” or ” I brought you out of Egypt so I can keep my thumb on you.” It’s God saying, “I’ve set you free from this bondage, this slavery to sin – go and sin no more. Go and live in the freedom of the life I’ve given you.”
Our worship service follows this same pattern. We are called by God to come in. We receive assurance of pardon, reminder of our salvation in Christ, when we confess our sin and then we are prepared to hear the Word. Then He sends us out to live according to all that He has given us. The worship service is a stylized and symbolic life pattern. It is designed to get this rhythm in your bones. And then it spreads.
The last five chapters of Romans are packed with a very practical picture of what this looks like. It shows the outworking of the Word as it transforms our lives and renews our minds. It is by hearing and reading the scriptures that we learn the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Bonhoeffer goes so far as to say, “one who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.” And he’s right. How can someone say the Bible has authority if he doesn’t read it or know it? How could he possibly apply it? How can we live in the freedom that the gospel brings if we don’t know the Word? God doesn’t give the law as merely a checklist of Things You Must Do. He fills us with His Word and His Spirit and then it comes out and gets all over everything.