I will keep Your statutes … Psalm cxix:8
The longest chapter in the Bible – Psalm 119 – extols the value of the Scriptures. It is not a detached, objective description of God’s Law. Instead, the psalmist, out of his personal experience, waxes eloquent about the sweetness of the revealed Word. The key theme that stands out in the first stanza of this acrostic psalm, in verses 1-8, is the psalmist’s resolution and eagerness to obey God. Besides, he describes the blessed state of all who walk according to God’s statutes.
1 Happy are people of integrity, who follow the law of the LORD.
2 Happy are those who obey his decrees and search for him with all their hearts.
3 They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.
4 You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.
5 Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your principles!
6 Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with your commands.
7 When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should!
8 I will obey your principles. Please don’t give up on me!
The goal of all Bible study must be careful obedience to God. If obedience to God is not the primary purpose of all our efforts to read, understand and proclaim God’s Word, we are no better than the devil. The devil knows the Scriptures better than most of us; he even trembles before God! Yet, his ‘knowledge’ does not produce the fruit of obedience.
It is sometimes distressing to observe how much time and effort Christians expend in the study of the Bible so that they can find excuses for not obeying certain portions of God’s Word! Such Christians unwittingly follow H. D. Thoreau’s view: “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” The psalmist’s attitude to God’s Word is diametrically opposed to such tendencies of rebellion. Besides, the words of Jesus stand in stark contrast to popular teachings that discount the necessity of continuous and persistent obedience to Jesus’ Word. Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John viii. 31-23 NLT).
True liberty can only be found in slavery to God and His Word. Christian life is a life of slavery to God and to Jesus Christ. Contrary to what many Christians might think, God did not set us free from sin so that we might float around in absolute freedom! If God has indeed set us free from our sinful past and from slavery to sinful tendencies (the flesh), it is so that we would in turn voluntarily yield ourselves to a life of slavery (obedience) to God. This is expressed so well in the writings of St Paul who said, “But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life” (Romans vi.22; emphasis added). “The things that lead to holiness” are by no means occurrences of chance. They are deliberate results of a consecrated life. It is these “things that lead to holiness” that “result in eternal life.” Paul couldn’t have stated more clearly the need for sustained obedience and holiness in a Christian’s life.
“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.” ― Elisabeth Elliot