As I was reading my daily Magnificat recently, a passage from the first psalm caught my attention, “He who ponders the law of the Lord day and night will yield his fruit in due season.” (Ps 1:2-3). How can one ponder the law? One either knows it, or they don’t, what’s there to think about? So I began to ponder what it means to ponder the law.
What really is the law? While that could be a whole topic for a post, I like the way Sonja Corbitt explains it in her Fulfilled series. Within the Old Testament, there are three types of laws: first moral or natural laws — like the 10 Commandments, second ceremonial laws — like how to celebrate Passover, and third judicial laws that govern the civil actions. While the latter two can change, the one type of law that cannot change is the moral law. I think it is this law that we are meant to ponder.
Ponder is a verb of action; it is purposeful and intentional. One makes a choice to ponder. If someone is to ponder a list of dos and don’ts, at first glance it may sound like a useless way to spend time. However, if you start to think about why those laws are important, you begin to realize that they are not just arbitrary rules to restrict your activities, but rather they are guidelines for how to live as a child of God. They are guidelines because we are supposed to go deeper than the surface definition. For example, you shall not kill certainly means not taking the physical life of another, but it also means not damaging any part of their total being: body, mind, or soul.
Reflecting on God’s moral laws is not a once-and-done action, rather we are meant to ponder them over a lifetime in three ways: to know, to keep, and to love. While many have learned the 10 Commandments as a child, a periodic refreshing of our memory by prayerfully reading Exodus (chapter 20) can help us go deeper into their meaning. As our understanding of the nuances of the law grows, we must review how we are living our lives according to those laws. It’s not enough to intellectually know the law, we must also keep it by making decisions and choices that are in alignment. Over time, loving the law will come as we practice knowing and keeping the laws. We see the value of the laws as an expression of love towards God and all of His creation, leading us to looking deeper to know and to keep the laws better than we have in the past.
Meditating on God’s law for us is a tool He gave us to draw us into a closer relationship, not only with Him, but also with each other. We can be sure our efforts will bear fruit, both in this life and in the next.