Psalm 119: 97-104 (NIV)
97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
Through the words of Scripture we encounter God speaking to us, the humans he has created, however in the Psalms we tend to find the words of human poets crying out to God. Here, in Psalm 119, the poet expresses his love for God in the references to his love for God’s law (or laws), commands (or commandments), statutes, precepts, word (or words), ordinances, testimonies, promises and decrees.
Not only does the poet love God’s law, he claims to have gained from God’s teaching of these laws obedience to the extent that he has “kept (his) feet from every evil path” and has “not departed from (God’s) laws”.
Does this grate with you? Does it seem to be unjustifiable arrogance on the part of the poet? Do you read these verses to be self-congratulatory or do you consider that the poet is expressing aspirations which demonstrate how valuable to him are the laws of God? Perhaps there is an element of the prophetic here, for each of verses 97-104 could truly have been spoken by our Lord during his earthly ministry.
In those verses, I regard the poet’s references to the “law(s)” of God to extend beyond the “Law” (meaning the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures) to encompass all that God has revealed through Holy Scripture to his chosen people.
Should not we also love God’s law? Is it not appropriate that we should seek to gain the wisdom, insight and understanding to which the poet refers? The poet has not claimed fully to understand God and his ways. He “gain(s) understanding from (God’s) precepts” and as a consequence of his study of God’s precepts and of his desire to obey, he has “more understanding than the elders” and “more insight than all (his) teachers”.
In military planning, the senior commander will issue orders for an operation and in addition will make clear his/her overall intentions. This enables the commander’s subordinates to use initiative when the battle develops beyond what was foreseen in the operation order. Subordinates can exercise initiative, confident that their battlefield decisions will be in compliance with the already-expressed intentions of the senior commander.
As members of the body of which Christ is the head, we have been granted access, through his word, to “the commander’s intentions”. We are called to gain as full an understanding of his intentions as is possible through the study of his word so that, encountering the unexpected, we are equipped to respond, in word or in action, in a way that will advance the coming of his kingdom and not hinder it. Recall, for example, this verse from 2 Peter 3:
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.