These are some brief reflections on verses 9-16 of Psalm 119, as they explore the place and role of God’s Word in the Christian life.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word.
The Bible teaches us how to live holy lives. As St. Paul wrote to Timothy, the Scriptures are useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness. Let the Bible be your ethical and moral training ground.
With my whole heart I seek thee; let me not wander from thy commandments!
Wholeheartedly seeking God does not conflict with dutiful obedience. Too often and too easily, we split them apart as if loving God equates to freedom from obedience and duty, or as if someone who focuses on obeying God somehow loves Him less. No, this verse holds both hearty love and steadfast obedience together as one thing.
I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Storing up (hiding in our hearts, memorizing, internalizing) the Bible strengthens us in the fight against sin. We do not have the will or the strength to become holy on our own; the Bible is the Holy Spirit’s primary tool in the work of sanctifying us.
Blessed be thou, O LORD; teach me thy statutes!
Worship and discipleship go together. Again, this is something we often divide up unnecessarily. Many churches today conceive of the Sunday morning service as “worship,” then “teaching.” Although this may be a useful summary of different parts of a worship service, the division between worship and teaching is not a biblical concept. This verse expresses a heart of worship toward God and a request for increased learning in one breath.
With my lips I declare all the ordinances of thy mouth.
Recitation and oral repetition is a valuable discipline. I recently read in a “worship leader” (aka, music leader) magazine that worship is not about “recitation” but about honest expressions to God about who He is. This is another false dichotomy. Worship must include repetition and recitation as we speak and declare God’s words back to Him. This is also useful in our individual lives: reading the Bible out loud and speaking of God’s teachings to others is valuable for training others and strengthening ourselves in God’s way.
In the way of thy testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
A holy life is at least as valuable as earthly wealth. This is challenging to believe and accept, in many cases, but ultimately we’ve got to submit to this truth. The fruit of the spiritual labor is much longer-lasting than the fruit of earthly labors.
I will meditate on thy precepts, and fix my eyes on thy ways.
Attending to the Bible takes concentration. This, too, is challenging in today’s world where a quick Google search or look-up on Youtube can explain almost everything we need to know in a matter of seconds. But God has given us a book, as old-fashioned as that seems, and it takes a lot of meditation, contemplation, pondering, study, and attention to take in its message and teachings. Listening to sermons and attending Bible studies and talking to other Christians about the Bible also helps us to learn and process the Bible’s contents.
I will delight in thy statutes; I will not forget thy word.
Don’t think that you can love God without loving His Word. We aren’t just called to “love God” in isolation. Just as you can’t love Jesus without loving his Bride, the Church, neither can you claim to love God while rejecting the Bible. For, since the Bible is our primary source of knowledge about God, if you reject the Bible you reject God also.