Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,(Ps. 119:33-40 NIV)
that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart towards your statutes
and not towards selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
Fulfil your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life.
Each verse except the last begins with an imperative: teach me, give me, direct me, turn my heart, turn my eyes, fulfil your promise and take away. The repetition of imperatives in this staccato style highlights the desire that the Psalmist has for God’s word. In these petitions a tone of humility and dependence comes through. The Psalmist is depending upon the Lord to interpret the word.
This is a lifelong commitment. He wants to follow God’s word right to the end so that he will finish well. Western culture doesn’t like to think about death, but the Puritans thought about life and death. They desired a well-ordered life and a good death. The Puritan writer William Perkins said, ‘The death of the righteous, that is of every believing and repentant sinner, is a most excellent blessing of God, and brings with it many worthy benefits.’ The Psalmist’s commitment to God’s word is until he dies.
The Psalmist prays for understanding, so that he can obey God’s word with all his heart. The Psalmist has enough experience of obedience to know that the path of the Lord’s commands is not misery, but liberty and delight.
No matter how much we draw from God’s word, our hearts can still grow cold. The Psalmist shows us the importance of keeping the affections of the heart pure. So easily our hearts can be set on selfish gain. That selfish gain is not limited to material things. We could pursue reputation or popularity to the neglect of our own soul.
The Psalmist prays that his eyes will be turned away from worthless things. If the Lord grants us understanding of His word, we will easily see what is worthless and our eyes will turn away from these things. When the Lord grants understanding of His word, and that word is pondered by us and hidden in our hearts, then our lives will be preserved.
All the covenant promises that God has given in His word are desired by the Psalmist to be fulfilled in his life. He wants to fear the Lord, that is to respect God’s holiness and sovereign right to rule. Because he fears the Lord, he does not want to fail the Lord and bring disgrace upon his life. We can agree with the Psalmist that the word of the Lord is good, and then in the next moment behave in a way that is contrary to the Lord’s word. Like the Psalmist we too should long to know the Lord’s word, and through the righteousness revealed in the word our lives will be preserved from sin.
Lord our God, help us to set our life’s goal to live before You, seeking Your word, seeking understanding of that word so that we might fear You in an acceptable way. However short or long our remaining days are upon the earth, help us to serve You because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.