July 21, 2014.
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Today I just want to focus on one chapter of the bible. In doing so, we will see how this one chapter actually focuses on the entirety of the word of God, in some sense at least. Psalm 119 is often known as the longest chapter in the bible, consisting of 176 verses. Indeed it is, but seldom do I hear someone go beyond this description. I find this chapter to be so much more than the longest chapter or the longest Psalm. Today’s reading will simply be this chapter in order to meditate on what it is saying and gleam some truth.
If you had to guess (without using clues from the opening passage…) what the longest chapter in the bible would be about, what would you think? Christ? Israel? The coming Messiah? Sin? Heaven? All of these and more would be good guesses, but they are not what the Psalmist dwells on here. Psalm 119 is all about the word of God, his wondrous laws and statutes. To us it may sound weird to call the law and commandments beautiful, or even good. Aren’t we past law? Isn’t law what Jesus got on to the Pharisees for? Well, yes and no. Jesus didn’t get mad at the Pharisees for keeping the law; he himself kept the law of Moses perfectly. He called them vipers and hypocrites for binding beyond what the law bound and condemning the people for things that neither they or the law did. Jesus never condemned righteousness or keeping the commandments, as the people were under that law at the time. I believe Jesus would have had a much different idea about the law than we might see. I think it would have been much closer, if not exactly what the Psalmist’s attitude was.
Notice the Psalmist’s love for the scriptures. “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” “I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.” “The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!” The Psalmist does only keep the commandments, he loves them. He wants to keep them. There is no drudgery, no obligation. It is a plea to keep the commandments, a begging to be allowed to walk in His statutes. The dedication of the Psalmist doesn’t seem to come from responsibility, but more from an honest desire to know the ways and laws of the Lord and to be able to walk in them. Talk about dedication and love!
Do we have this today? Do you honestly want to know the commandments of the Lord in order to perfectly walk in them without complaint? Today, I think we see commandments as more of a restriction. “What do you mean I shouldn’t get drunk?” or “I have to go to church with a bunch of people who I don’t really know well?” Commandments are seen as God’s way of not letting us have the freedoms we want. It is him keeping us from fun. Or at least that’s what we think. But that isn’t the point of commandments. God give us statutes so that we might walk with him and be in his presence. His “rules,” to use what some would consider a bad word in religion, are in place that we might have life to the full. They are not to be seen in an obligatory sense. God doesn’t want us to keep his commandments because we feel like we have to; he wants us to keep them because we love Him, and by extension we love His commandments. This is what Jesus said:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. […] Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
(John 14:15, 23-24)
There was no separating love and obedience with Jesus. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Period. There is something to say about the simplistic beauty of this. This is about trust and love. It is about sacrificing our wants for the will of the Father. It is about letting go and letting him take control. And that is beautiful. It negates the need for arguing over opinions and trying to figure out which human is right. We keep the law of God, not the law of man. If it is in there, we do it. If not, we do not bind where nothing is bound. This is how we have to obtain unity. We have to learn to love the law of Christ again. We have to go back to the attitude of the Psalmist.
What about you? Do you love the law of Christ? Do you study and meditate on it daily so as to ascertain what the will of God is? Are rules and statutes a turn off for you? Let us all take a step back and meditate on Psalm 119, to see if our heart is in the same place. And when we get there, may we spread the love of Christ to all who will hear.
Suggested Daily Reading: Psalm 119.
The love of the Lord be with you always.