It is a wonderful surprise that we also find comfort in the Lord’s law. I would suggest that there are two places or ways that the law comforts us. First, it provides order in this chaotic world, and second it tells us that God is pleased with our works and vocation.
The Gift of Order
The ideology of evolution compels us to think that this world is the result of chance, chaos, accident. Relativism says that there is no absolute truth, no universal right and wrong. The fast-paced troubles of the news tempt us to think that this world is out of control. “Not so,” says the Scriptures, says the Law. God created the world with order. Seven speeches in seven days, given by God Himself, and the result is everything in the universe. God created the heavens and the earth to bring forth and support life.
In the Lord’s ordering of things He established institutions: the family, the church, the state, all to deliver to us His gifts. The Ten Commandments protect these institutions. The Law establishes and keeps God’s order.
The first table of the Law (commandments one to three) protect the Divine Service, the worship of the true God. The fourth commandment protects the institutions of the family and the state. The fifth commandment protects God’s order of life. The sixth commandment protects God’s order of husband and wife. The seventh commandment protects God’s ordering of possessions. The eighth commandment protects God’s ordering of truth, of honest conversation, of a good name, etc. The ninth and tenth commandments protect a rightly ordered heart, rightly ordered desires.
But here’s the comfort: there is an order to things. This world is not give to chaos. When we look around at our own lives and the troubles of this world the devil would tempts us to think that there is no order at all, that things are spinning out of control, that there is no up and down, no good and bad. “Take comfort,” the law says, “there is an order to this world. There is a good and a bad. All is not chaos.”
The Gift of Vocation
How do I know what God thinks about what I am doing? The law tells us. The Ten Commandments let us know what God likes, how He wants us to act, and in what ways He would have us serve our neighbor. In other words, the law also comforts us with the confidence that the Lord is pleased with our works.
This might sound strange to our Lutheran ears, but we find this teaching all through the Large Catechism. The Lord gives us vocations (stations in life) and He gives us neighbors, and He tells us how to love and serve them.
Consider this passage from Luther:
Let us, therefore, learn at last, for God’s sake, that, placing all other things out of sight, our youths look first to this commandment [“Honor your father and your mother”], if they wish to serve God with truly good works, that they do what is pleasing to their fathers and mothers, or to those to whom they may be subject in their stead. For every child that knows and does this has, in the first place, this great consolation in his heart, that he can joyfully say and boast (in spite of and against all who are occupied with works of their own choice): “Behold, this work is well pleasing to my God in heaven, that I know for certain.”
Let them all come together with their many great, distressing, and difficult works and make their boast; we will see whether they can show one that is greater and nobler than obedience to father and mother, to whom God has appointed and commanded obedience next to His own majesty; so that if God’s Word and will are in force and being accomplished, nothing shall be esteemed higher than the will and word of parents; yet so that it, too, is subordinated to obedience toward God and is not opposed to the preceding commandments. (Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, I.115-116)
When we serve our neighbor according to our vocation, when the mother tends to her children, when the father works to support his family, when children are obedient to their parents, when the soldier goes off to war, when the pastor stands up to preach God’s Word, in every station and vocation that the Lord has given us we can be confident that the Lord is pleased with these works. We are not making up or inventing our own good works, but following the instructions that the Lord has give us, and we have the confidence, the comfort, that the Lord is pleased with these works.
At last, though, the comfort of the law is not eternal. We fail. We undo the Lord’s ordering of things. We sin against God and our neighbor. The law comforts us with with order and with the confidence of vocation, but that same law always accuses us, shows our sin and death. For eternal comfort we look, at last, to our Lord Jesus, to His cross and suffering, to His death in our place, to His word of forgiveness. The Gospel gives the eternal and abiding comfort that God is not mad at us, that He loves us and delights in us and calls us His own dear children.Every place we look in the Scriptures we find the Lord’s comfort, and this gives us joy in this life, and the sure hope of the resurrection and eternal life to come. Amen.