God’s Preserving Word

Psalm 119:33-40
Teach me, O LORD, the way of
your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall
keep your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my
whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in your way.
Establish your word to your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing you.
Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For your judgments are good.
Behold, I long for your precepts;
Revive me in your righteousness.

One of my favorite hymns, Come, Thou Fount, conveys a similar sentiment to the Psalmist in this stanza, when it says,O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be. Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

With a heart so captivated by the fleeting things of this life, I, like the Psalmist, recognize my own tendency to wander from obedience to the truth, and so I cry out with him for God’s grace to be found in me, that I might finish my course bringing pleasure to my Heavenly Father. It is not as though I were an innocent bystander, helplessly watching as my body committed sin, but I recognize that I am a willing participant in the rebellion of my heart against God. Rather than be overwhelmed by the futility of any attempt at self-reformation, I choose to believe the words of this Psalm, drawing on the mercy of God who has given his Word to graciously transform a repentant heart and enable all who choose to keep his law with a whole heart unto the very end.

It is not enough to simply read God’s Word, but, as the Psalmist declares, God must instruct us in it, give us understanding, and train us to walk according to the truth. I find it interesting that the writer of this Psalm confesses that he delights in the way of God’s commands and is devoted to fearing him, but his delight is not enough to ensure that he will follow that path and his devotion will not continue to the end. Even the most well-intentioned of us makes resolutions which we fail to carry out, begins diets we fail to keep, starts books we do not finish, and dreams of projects which we will never do. If that is true in the physical and relational realm, how much more is it true of us when our sin nature conspires against our spiritual desire to please God in word and deed? The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are ever-present enemies, and it takes supernatural ability to keep our eyes focused on God’s Word and his way. Our only hope is for God to change our appetites, giving us an inclination to hear and obey the truth. When this becomes our desire, we will find that righteousness and true holiness are the source of life, not of mere existence, but of the richness of eternal life without the fear of judgment or shame.

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