What we don’t seem to realize is that God’s boundary lines are an authoritative gift of his grace. In fact, the giving of the Law itself to the Israelites in the book of Exodus is a loving act of God’s favor extended to his people.
Now, authoritative law-giving and grace aren’t often closely associated with one another in the minds of many, because Mount Sinai generally correlates in our thoughts with thunder, lightning, thick clouds, fire, trembling, and rules. We see the giving of the Law as pretty scary, but all of the jarring noise and breathtaking visuals were more likely akin to a school teacher in front of an unruly room of students, calling for their attention and shouting, “Class! Class! Listen up! I’m going to speak now about something that’s extremely important.”
The Israelites are an accurate depiction of humanity at large—they don’t have a clue how to live. They need the Ten Commandments. They need the Mosaic Law. Their quickly wandering hearts need instruction on how to thrive amongst community, how to care for their bodies, how to behave in their relationship with God and others, how to atone for sin, et cetera. They’re completely inept, so without the proper instruction from the Law God gives them, they’d end up totally destroying themselves. This is why the giving of the Law is a gift of grace. God comes and says, “I’m going to exercise my authority over you and specifically communicate how you should live because I love you.”
Again, we don’t often see the Law this way, but take a moment to think about a little kid. When a child is born and begins to grow up, he has no idea how to live. Whoever raises him most likely understands his need for authority, so guidelines are put in place to protect him from danger. Norms are communicated in a way that shapes how he forms relationships with other people. Rules are established so that he can thrive as a student, a friend, a family member, and a human being. Authoritative boundaries are set up in his life not because he is being oppressed, but because he is loved.
When our first daughter started walking, my wife and I became “those parents” who put safety latches on everything in our place. I set up a baby gate with a ridiculously long extension between our dining room and the little den because there was a single step down between one room and the other that might make our daughter fall while toddling around the house. Cabinet doors were locked, doorknobs were kid-proofed, and anything breakable was moved to a higher shelf, out of reach from curious little chubby fingers.
And while all of this was a bit neurotic on our part, every possible injury-inducing variable was accounted for in our home because my wife and I loved our daughter. We wanted to make our home safe for our child because we knew what was best for her. We knew what might be dangerous. We knew what could harm her, hurt her, damage her, or wound her. We knew the risks, so boundary lines were established out of hearts of love for our little one.
Children, much like the Israelites, and much like you and I, have a massive need for authority. We are all born with wandering hearts that innately know how to rebel, challenge, and run from the loving, gracious authority of God. The giving of the authoritative Law was a gift of grace by not only showing us how to live, but that we would always be in need of a Savior to live it for us. Humanity’s subversion of God’s authority is an open invitation to a life of injury and destruction, because the Lord will always know what’s best for us. He is our Father, we are his children, and the boundary lines have been placed as a loving act of his grace.