God’s Love is “Better Than Life”… What Does That Even Mean?

Daily Scripture readings for August, set #16:

Deuteronomy, chapters 4-5
Psalm 63
Matthew 26:17-35
Romans 10

The first thing written in my notes on today’s Deuteronomy readings is this: “DEUTERONOMY 4 RULES SO HARD.” Seriously, what a great chapter. Moses is so direct and inspiring. I actually took a bunch of time and memorized verses 32-40 last year because they moved me so much. For today, I just want to comment on verse 6, where Moses says of the laws that he’s given to Israel: “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” It’s noteworthy to me that the law functions in two ways in this text – both a source of wisdom/understanding AND a proclamation/sign to the surrounding nations.

Psalm 63 contains another text that, at least at my church, we sing a lot. I think the tune was written by Tommy Walker, and it uses verse 3 as the basis for the lyric: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Now, I’m a huge proponent of using direct Scripture quotations in worship songs, but I have to say that I have never understood this one. What does it mean to say that God’s love is better than life? The term “life” is used in many ways throughout Scripture, and even in this particular Psalm. Anybody want to take a shot at paraphrasing or explaining this verse?

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most intense doctrinal wrestlings for me is the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability. Matthew 26:24 is a great example of this, capturing the paradox in a single verse: “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Speaking of sovereignty…

A common reaction to the Romans 9 teaching that God sovereignly chooses those who will be saved is a loss of motivation (at least in theory) for evangelism. It goes something like this: “Well, if God just chooses who it is that he’s gonna save then why should I go out and preach?” Paul sees this objection coming and addresses it in chapter 10, and it’s a good reminder that the bible both calls us to action AND gives God control over the outcome. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (vs 13-15).

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