Psalm 119:48

My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved;
and I will meditate in thy statutes.
~ Psalm 119:48

My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved;

The word love first appears in this Psalm in verse forty-seven. It is soon repeated in verse forty-eight. In both places, the Psalmist declares his love for God’s commandments, a word which is often used collectively to speak of God’s law. So he is professing strong affection for God’s law.

Using these words seems odd to our contemporary minds. First of all, the mention of law does not usually provoke good thoughts. Law sounds more like duty than delight. It sounds more like obligation and restraint than refreshment and enjoyment. Secondly, law makes us think of courts, lawyers, and legal code like the tax law or OSHA regulations. Those things are some of the driest and boring material in existence. Who delights or reaches out to the building codes or tax codes?

The expression of love is striking but is it proper? The language almost sounds worshipful. Should it be expressed about God’s law or only about God? Love is actually the key and I will try to illustrate it. Let’s say I’m apart from my wife on a long trip. The situation is such that I cannot see her or talk with her. After a while I receive a letter from her. I will read and savor that letter. In her absence it will bring me joy and I can honestly say I love that letter. So in that context, the question of whether I love her or her letter makes no sense. I love her and therefore I love the letter from her. It expresses her mind and heart to me.

I see the Psalmist’s expression here in similar fashion. God’s law is written by Him. It reveals Him in a way that the glorious stars in sky do not. Because he loves God, he loves His law.

and I will meditate in thy statutes.

Jesus taught that the thoughts of our heart will be of what we truly treasure (Matthew 6:21). We will readily meditate on what we delight in. For the Psalmist it is God’s law. The blessed man of God meditates in God’s law day and night (Psalm 1:2).

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Psalm 119:16

I will delight myself in thy statutes:
I will not forget thy word.
~ Psalm 119:16

I will delight myself in thy statutes
The seeds of meditation in verse 15 have yielded the fruit of delight in verse 16. Delight refers to satisfaction, contentment, and a deep, abiding joy. The statutes of God are His commandments, His law. The blessed man of God delights in God’s law and meditates in it continually (Psalm 1:2). The wicked do not delight in God’s law. They are described variously as forsaking it (Psalm 119:53), breaking it (Ezra 9:14), refusing to keep it (Exodus 16:8), not hearing it (Nehemiah 9:16. 29, 34), and despising it (Amos 2:4) 1.

I will not forget thy word
Treasuring up the Word, meditating in the Word, and delighting in the Word lead us to remember God’s Word. Sooner could a mother forget her nursing child than could we forget God’s Word (Isaiah 49:15) when we have counted it greater riches than earthly wealth (Psalm 119:72) and made it our daily counselor. Forgetting the Word comes through neglecting it. We cannot drift into remembering it but we do drift into forgetting it. We must take heed to hold fast God’s Word that we not let it slip (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:13).

The second stanza of this Psalm, verses 9-16, follow a progression: treasuring the Word in verse 11, declaring the Word in verse 13, rejoicing in the Word in verse 14, meditating in the Word in verse 15, and delighting in the Word in verse 16. The delight is produced through the previous efforts. They are testing, trying, and proving the Word of God in real life. The further the Psalmist walks with the Word, the more precious God’s Word becomes to him.

The stanza opened with a question and answer: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9). Verses 10-16 expand and explain what it means to take heed according to the Word.

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Notes:

  1. Craft, Bert 2013. Learning to Delight in the Law of God. Oaxaca, Oaxaca Mexico: Ministerio Gracia Abundante.

Psalm 119:15

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
~ Psalm 119:15

I will meditate in thy precepts
To meditate is turn over in your mind. It is to think on something, turn it over, look at it mentally from different angles, and to search a matter out thoroughly. Among various eastern idolatries, meditation is the pursuit of an alternative consciousness or even sought as an end in itself where the mind is emptied. This is done to relieve stress or to bring yourself into one with all things. Regardless of any benefit, real or imagined, that is not the meditation taught in the Bible.

God instructs us to meditate on His Word, that is to think on His Word (Psalm 1:2). Those who do not meditate on Scripture are called forgetful hearers (James 1:23-25). It is through thinking deeply on the Word that we hide it in our hearts.

Biblical meditation always has a good object. Here it is God’s “precepts.” The Psalmist is resolved to think carefully on the commands of God. He is going to savor the sweetness to bring out every drop of goodness from God’s law.

And have respect unto thy ways
Respect is similar to meditation. It means to look at intently and connotes to regard with pleasure, favor, or care. The “ways” refers to a well-trodden path. The whole statement is that he will meditate on the words of God and behold the works of God with joy.

We don’t want to overstate the case, but this verse reveals an important principle. We cannot understand, much less behold with pleasure, the works of God apart from the words of God. To some, the rigorous study of Scripture, including the mental discipline of meditation, is too scholastic. They prefer experience or a relationship. However, apart from the words of God we cannot understand His works and then we don’t really know Him.

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