Oh, how I love your law!(Ps. 119:97-104 NIV)
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
The first verse of this section feels like the Psalmist has been silently thinking about God’s word and then he just bursts out and exclaims, ‘O how I love Your law.’ He so loves God’s word that he can’t get enough of it, he meditates on it all day long. I don’t think that he is sitting all day reading God’s word but rather he has a portion of God’s word in his mind, and as he goes about the normal daily activities he thinks about what that passage of God’s word means. Because the Psalmist has been mediating daily on God’s word, the Lord’s commands are always with him. When he has to decide a course of action or choose an activity, he will be able to bring God’s word to his mind to guide him according to God’s word.
The Psalmist is wiser than his enemies because the Lord’s commands are always with him. The enemies are those who do not follow God’s word and they persecute the Psalmist because of his commitment to God’s word. The Psalmist’s teachers are the teachers of wisdom. The Psalmist has more insight than his teachers, not because he is cleverer than they are, but because he meditates upon God’s word. God’s word is for light and life and the person who spends time in the word of God will have a clearer insight into life. The elders were those who sat in judgement at the city gates. They would hear cases of dispute and make judgements. They had a great knowledge of the law and the experience of much case law. The Psalmist excels them because of his commitment to the word of God.
We face many paths in life, some are good, others are evil, and some are best. The Psalmist has kept himself from pursuing paths of evil. He has to be able to see that the path is evil, and that requires insight, because many times it is not clear whether a pathway is good or evil. It also requires commitment to God’s word to decide to avoid the evil path.
The Psalmist has not departed from God’s word. Notice that God has taught the Psalmist the word. It is not a matter of just studying the word of God, though that is required, but we need to be taught by God. We are taught as we study and meditate upon God’s word. Some people decry reading commentaries on God’s word and say that they would rather be taught by God. That is a mistake in my view. The people who write commentaries have been taught by God and they are sharing that teaching with us. We may be small in the Kingdom of God, but when we read what others have been taught, we stand on the shoulders of giants.
The word of the Lord tastes sweet, sweeter than honey. As we hear the Gospel preached, or when we sense the presence of God, we can begin to grasp what the Psalmist means.
The Psalmist has spent so much time in the word of God that he has become aware of what God’s ways are like. He knows what God hates, and he has come to hate the same thing. It would be good to be able to despise sin, and to flee from it on every occasion.
Lord God we pray that as we read Your word or hear Your word preached upon, You would guide us and be our teacher. There are vast volumes of things to learn and to learn well. Help us to retain what we learn, and help us to pursue that which is best, so that we might bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ because we pray in His name. Amen.