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Keeping the Law – For What Purpose?

A simple word study can reinforce the truth that to keep God’s law means to be under His protection, again reinforcing that the primary purpose of God’s law is for our protection.

We are told to keep God’s law:

“And it shall be with him (the future king of Israel), and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:” (Deut 17:19)

In this verse, keep, (“shamar;” Strong’s H8104) means to keep the law, to do what it says, to be obedient. Other verses that use “shamar’ in the same way include: Deut 30:10, Josh 22:5, 23:6, 1 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 17:13 and Psa 119:44.

Here is one more that makes an interesting connection:

Keep (“shamar”) my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.” (Pro 7:2)

It gives the result of keeping God’s law which is to “live.” What is it about keeping the law that results in life? The same word “shamar,” that we understand as the keeping of God’s law can also mean to “hedge about” or “protect”To keep the law  as in these uses:

“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” (Gen 28:15

“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.” (Exo 23:20)

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:” (Num 6:24)

“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Psa 91:11)

“When thou goest, it (the commandments) shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.” (Pro 6:22)

“To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.” (Pro 6:24)

All the verses above translate “keep” from the Hebrew “shamar” and say “keep thee.” They are all promises by God not to keep as in “to obey thee” but to keep as in “to protect thee.” There is therefore, through this word, a very close connection between keeping (obeying) the law and God keeping (protecting) the obedient one.

The following verse is part of Solomon’s temple-dedication prayer in which he asked God to continue to protect and honor the promises made to David because of David’s obedience:

“Now therefore, O LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that which thou hast promised him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit upon the throne of Israel; yet so that thy children take heed to their way to walk in my law, as thou hast walked before me.” (2 Chron 6:16)

Of course, that promise to David was conditional on obedience and remained so in Solomon’s time and beyond – there is no king on the throne of Israel today.

So a close examination of verses and original words has shown that “shamar,” when you allow the Bible to define its own terms through the context in which they are used, can also mean to be protected.

The idea that a word translated as “keep” can have both these meanings is reinforced by the fact that there is also a Greek word that is similar – “tereo;” Strong’s G5083. It is also used with both these meanings:

“Because thou hast kept (“tereo”) the word of my patience, I also will keep (“tereo”) thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev 3:10)

It is used in the same way as “shamar” to mean both “to keep” as in be obedient (“kept the word”) and “to keep” as in to protect (“keep thee from hour of temptation”).

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