Theme: Hating Every Wrong Path
In this week’s lessons, we see that to love God’s Word is also to hate sin.
Scripture: Psalm 119:97-104
What does it mean to think of the Bible as sweet? One place we might start in trying to get some understanding is by noting that what the psalmist says is sweet are the “promises” or “sayings” of God.
This might mean that what he is thinking about is not the whole of God’s book, considered as a gigantic block of revelation, but of individual verses which he had learned, is turning around in his head and, yes, to use the phrase of the well-known Anglican collect, trying to “inwardly digest.” No one is able to take it all in, to master the Bible as a whole. But what the writer was able to do, and commends to us, is to take the specific sayings of God and learn to love them one by one.
This is a hard matter to get across, first, because most of us do not love the words of God like this and therefore do not know what someone who really does is talking about; and second, because this is a personal matter even for those who do, and different verses have spoken and will continue to speak to different people. But let me try to give the flavor of it.
Take the Twenty-Third Psalm as an example. Many people love it. Why? It is because the picture it paints of God as our loving, caring and ever faithful Shepherd is truly a beautiful one. I love all kinds of poetry, but I confess that there is something exquisite about the shepherd image in this psalm. Is anything more beautiful than this? More sweet to the taste?
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lacknothing. He makes me lie down in greenpastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,he restores my soul….
I am sure the psalmist himself knew that and turned it over and over again both in his mind and on his tongue. So should we. If you can’t find anything beautiful or sweet in that, your taste buds are terribly dulled and your eyes horribly glazed over by the tawdry glitz of our culture.
Or how about this?
O LORD, our Lord,how majestic is your name in all the earth!
That comes from my favorite psalm (Psalm 8:1, 9). I think every syllable of that great psalm is a treasure.
Or how about John 3:16 or Romans 8:28 or 11:32-36? How about the very last promise of the Bible, Revelation 22:20: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.'” Or our response to it: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” We live in a garish, loud, mean, harsh, strident, ugly and abusive age. Can’t you find it sweet to turn aside from all that, at least from time to time, and fill your heart with something really beautiful? If you have never done it, why don’t you try? Try memorizing some particularly delightful parts of Scripture. You will find that it will make you a bit more delightful, too. It will soothe the bitter experiences of life with God’s sweetness, the ugly things with God’s beauty, and the sad times with a genuine joy.
Yes, but the Christian life is not all sweetness. To say that would be wrongly to sentimentalize it. It has its sweet moments, and there is great beauty in God. But we still live in a sour, ugly world, and it is equally important that we learn to hate evil as well as love the good. That is the fifth thing the psalmist says God did for him through his study of the Bible and why he came to love God’s law:
I gain understanding from your precepts;therefore I hate every wrong path.” (v. 104)
Isn’t it interesting that the psalmist ends on this note? It is the exact opposite of how the stanza began. It began with love: “Oh, how I love your law.” It ends with hate: “therefore I hate every wrong path.” We never learn that anything is really good unless we also learn to understand that its opposite is not good and turn from it. For us “attraction to the true and revulsion against the false are… acquired tastes,” says Derek Kidner.1 And he is right. Discrimination is the only real test of wisdom, and hatred of evil is the only ultimate proof that we love God.
Are you indifferent to the Bible? Do you find it boring, unattractive? If so, you will not be kept from sin or from what is ugly and offensive in this world. You will make your home in it. Don’t do that. Instead, read, study, learn and meditate upon God’s Word, and you will find that it grows sweeter and sweeter to your taste. And what is equally important, you will learn that sin is to be avoided at all costs.
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975), p. 427.
How does the psalmist end this stanza? How does this contrast with the beginning?
How do we learn to hate the wrong path?
Have you used Scripture to soothe the bitter experiences of life? If not, begin today.
Reflect on your attitude toward the Bible. Do you love it as much as when you first became a Christian and started to grow spiritually? Or has your love for Scripture decreased with time? What would you like to work on for the future?
Prayer: Ask God to show you the sweetness of his Word.
Application: Resolve to emulate the psalmist by looking up some of the sayings of God throughout Scripture and learning them one by one.
For Further Study: Throughout church history, God’s people have turned to the Psalms time and again, whether in the midst of the highest points or life or in the lowest. James Boice’s careful and practical studies of all 150 psalms will help you to understand better this treasured portion of Scripture. Order your copy of his three-volume paperback set, and take 25% off the regular price.