On command

A couple of Sundays ago, the psalm response was “Lord, I love your commands.”

If your first reaction was along the lines of “I don’t really, of course,” then slide over on the bench because I’m with you. I don’t love the laws of the United States of America, and I don’t find myself falling over with glee when I look at God’s commands either. Is that a failing? Regardless, even for deeply personal ones, where I feel like God wanted me to do something and I did it, I don’t react by saying, “♥♥♥Okay, God!!!♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥I’m totally not stealing anything today!♥♥♥♥”

This time, though, I thought about it a bit longer, and I twisted it around. Let’s take it out of Thou Shalt Not territory.

The sonnet is a highly regimented literary form. Fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. I’ve written sonnets. You didn’t know that? You want to know why? Because they were terrible and never got beyond first draft.

But look at what some writers have done with that highly regimented form. The beauty, the encapsulation of the human spirit, and I would argue (as they might too) that without the regimented form, they wouldn’t have dug as deep to create as well as they did.

In music, the classical symphony also had a very complex but regimented form, and listeners of the time would have been able to dissect a symphony on the first listen-through, identifying the introduction, exposition, modulating bridge, and so on. And those are just the parts, let alone the theory behind it all (key, tempo, harmony, rhythm…) A regimented form, but listen to what Haydn did with it, what Mozart did.

What if we looked at God’s commands that way? That each of our souls is a poem, a symphony, a work of art, and the Creator has certain guidelines for the work. In order to conform to these guidelines, the soul has to reach deeper and become more perfectly itself, at the same time conforming and becoming more individual. It’s difficult work. (I say this in perfect ignorance, having never attempted to write more than one line of music, for one hand, on the piano.)

If the form itself forces the piece to intensify and become more itself, then yeah, I guess we could say we love it.

Speaking of regimented forms, just to be a tad bit silly…

All through the Bible you’ll read,
God loves all His people indeed.
He gives us commands
and He opens His hands
to give us the things that we need.


  1. mgski

    Last night we heard a local orchestra of strings students perform Corelli’s La Folia and Grieg’s Holberg Suite. So beautiful! Reading your post makes me think of that gorgeous music. Which makes me think of the rules that underlie it. Your analogy between creative rules and God’s commands is such a good one.

  2. MNdragonlady

    I love this analogy. You are so right on. God’s rules give us the space to work within and there is so much to explore within those boundaries. I wonder what I have already missed by trying to go outside the lines instead of going deep within. Good things to think about.

    Oh, and if you ever want to read some more stuff along these lines, check out Jeremy Begbie. He writes really thick stuff, but it’s really fascinating.

  3. Ken Rolph

    You need to look at this from a wider perspective. How can you not love a commandment which tells other people not to murder you, not to steal from you? I am especially pleased to remember that you are specifically forbidden from sitting over there coveting my ass.

    1. philangelus

      And I guess it’s good that I’m forbidden to do that. 🙂

      I hadn’t thought about it as having a protective effect, but that makes sense…assuming everyone obeys. But even if not, “there oughta be a law…” will come to the rescue. God can point to a specific law and say, “Sorry, dude…” and then the rest of the machinery comes into play.

  4. tgz

    Odd, in my language I don’t remember having heard that Psalm answer. What Psalm was it?

    1. philangelus

      It’s from psalm 119, and I found it here, although keep in mind this is the NAB translation which is…er, sometimes regrettable?

      From http://dsrmissal.blogspot.com/2011/07/24-jul-2011-seventeenth-sunday-in.html

      119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
      Responsorial Psalm R. (97a)

      R. Lord, I love your commands.
      I have said, O LORD, that my part
      is to keep your words.
      The law of your mouth is to me more precious
      than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
      R. Lord, I love your commands.
      Let your kindness comfort me
      according to your promise to your servants.
      Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
      for your law is my delight.
      R. Lord, I love your commands.
      For I love your command
      more than gold, however fine.
      For in all your precepts I go forward;
      every false way I hate.
      R. Lord, I love your commands.
      Wonderful are your decrees;
      therefore I observe them.
      The revelation of your words sheds light,
      giving understanding to the simple.
      R. Lord, I love your commands.

  5. tgz

    OK, as soon as I leave work I’ll check the Portuguese (sung) version(s) of this Psalm and the response. Thanks!