"So Shall I Keep Your Law Continually"
Most Bible students know that the longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119. The subject matter of this psalm, which many scholars believe was written by David, is the word of God. Nearly every verse in the psalm uses some synonym for God's word. The psalm is divided into sections of eight verses apiece, and each section has one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet at its heading. In verse 44 the psalmist says, "So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever." This should be our aim in life too. But how do we go about it?
In the next three verses, the psalmist tells us what he plans to do in keeping God's law. And when we do the same things, we shall keep His law continually as well.
I Seek Your Precepts
"And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts" (verse 45). To walk at liberty is to be free from all sin that would hinder us from keeping God's law (Romans 6:17-18). This liberty is not a license to do anything we want (Galatians 5:1-13). Rather it is the freedom to do and be what God wants. Thus, we can have this liberty only when we seek God's precepts. All people are seeking for something. It may be pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, power, fame, fortune, or whatever.
Some find what they are seeking, some do not, and some who find what they are seeking learn that it really was not what they wanted after all. Jesus promises that there is something which we can seek and find, and it will always be what we really need (Matthew 7:7-11). So, what we really need to seek is God's precepts. The word "precept" means "a direction meant as a rule of action or conduct." When one makes a recipe, he need to follow the directions. In life, God has certain directions for us to follow. "You came down also on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments" (Nehemiah 9:14). Just as God did for Israel in the Old Testament, He has done for us in the New Testament, and the only way that we can keep His law is to seek His precepts so that we can walk at liberty.
I Will Speak of Your Testimonies
"I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed" (verse 46). Keeping God's law involves not only our actions in seeking His precepts but also our speech in declaring His testimonies before others. To do this, we must first make sure that our speech is not characterized by things which God hates (Ephesians 4:29). Rather, we should use speech that will help, build up, and encourage others (Colossians 4:6). Specifically, the psalmist said that he would speak God's testimonies before kings. David, if he be the author, certainly had communications with the various kings of the nations round about Israel and may have used them to talk about God.
We may not necessarily have the opportunity to speak before kings, but one way that we can always use our speech to help, build up, and encourage others is by telling them the good news of salvation in Christ (Acts 8:4, 1 Peter 3:15). The psalmist also says that he would not be ashamed. This may mean that he would not have anything to be ashamed about, but it may also mean that he was resolved not to feel ashamed (Romans 1:16, 2 Timothy 1:8). When people say that they believe something but never talk about it, it is almost as if they are ashamed of it, and they can often be more easily persuaded to turn away from it.
But if we really believe strongly enough in God's testimonies to speak them before others, we are much more likely to keep God's law continually.
I Will Delight Myself in Your Commandments
"And I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love" (verse 47). We have seen that keeping God's law continually requires our actions in seeking His precepts, and our speech in declaring His testimonies. Now we find that it also requires our very minds, our thinking, our attitude of heart in delighting in His commandments.
Often, the character of a person's life is determined by what he delights in (Psalm 1:1-2). Therefore, we should always delight in God's commandments because they are important. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). And the beloved apostle wrote, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
Sometimes people will say that there is more to following God than just keeping commandments, and that is true. But the simple fact is that if we do not keep God's commandments, we do not love Him and we are not right in His sight. Yet, it is not enough just to keep His commandments. We need to love them. "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97). The truth is that we usually do that in which we delight, which we love. So when we truly delight in God's commandments and love them, then we will keep His law continually.
Therefore, if it is our desire to keep God's law continually, these are some things that we need to do to help us achieve our goal. We must seek God's precepts in all our actions. We must speak of His testimonies. And we must delight ourselves in His commandments.
Please do not misunderstand. The Bible does not teach that these things will always be easy. They will take dedication, effort, and commitment. But the Bible does teach that if we follow the prescription found in these verses, we shall be able to keep God's law continually. And God has surely promised to help us do so.
By Wayne S. Walker
From Expository Files 9-9; September 2002