Theme: Delighting in God’s Laws
In this week’s lessons, we see that to love God’s Word is also to hate sin.
Scripture: Psalm 119:97-104
What an uplifting stanza this is, the mem stanza! It is filled with joy and with love for God’s law, so much so that there is not even a single petition in it. Can this be the same poet who was sunk in near despair just two stanzas earlier? We know the answer, of course. It is the same person exactly, and the reason for the change is precisely that for which the poet is now praising God, namely, the Bible or God’s law. The first verse (v. 97) says,
Oh, how I love your law!I meditate on it all day long.
This verse sets the theme of the stanza, which is the writer’s love for the Bible. He has mentioned loving God’s law before (in vv. 47, 48), but not as often as we might have expected. Here it is his chief emphasis.
In his short study of the psalms, Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis has a chapter on the love of God’s law, which the various psalm writers express. He confesses how strange this seemed to him when he was starting to study the psalms. He understood how a writer could respect a good law and try to obey it. But to love it or delight in it seemed to him a bit like loving the instruments with which a dentist pulls out teeth, or the front line of a battlefield. Part of the answer to this problem is that law means more than mere laws. It means the whole of God’s written revelation, including promises as well as warnings, blessings as well as judgments. Yet this cannot be the whole answer, because the psalmists seem to be rejoicing in, at least in part, perhaps even emphasizing, those specific commandments of the Bible that keep them from every evil path. In other words, it is not just the promises that delight them, but the laws as well.
What Lewis came to see is that the characteristic of the law of God that the psalmists came to love is what Lewis calls the engaging moral order of the divine mind, which is why Psalm 119, of all the psalms, particularly speaks of loving God’s law. We think of love primarily as an emotion. But this is not a particularly emotional psalm. It is an ordered, carefully constructed psalm, reflecting in its very pattern something of what the psalmist saw in the mind of God and not only respected but loved deeply.
The Order of the Divine mind, embodied in the Divine Law, is beautiful. [Therefore] what should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life? His “delight” is in those statutes (16); to study them is like finding treasure (14); they affect him like music, are his “songs” (54); they taste like honey (103); they are better than silver and gold (72). As one’s eyes are more and more opened, one sees more and more in them, and it excites wonder (18). This is not priggery nor even scrupulosity; it is the language of a man ravished by a moral beauty. If we cannot at all share his experience, we shall be the losers.
Lewis concludes by suggesting that a Chinese Christian might be able to appreciate Psalm 119 better than most Westerners, because it is a part of that culture to value a life that is arranged according to a cosmic order.1
In this stanza the writer gives five reasons why he has learned to love God’s law and thus why we should love it, too. It is because: 1) it is the source of true wisdom; 2) it keeps us on the right path and off wrong ones; 3) when we study it we have God himself as our teacher; 4) the law is sweet to our spiritual taste, like honey; and 5) it not only keeps us from evil, it also causes us to hate every wrong path.
1C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), pp. 59, 60. The whole discussion is on pages 54-65.
Give a good definition of God’s law.
Describe what character of God the pattern of Psalm 119 reflects.
What did C. S. Lewis mean by “the engaging moral order of the divine mind”? How did he come to love the law?
For what five reasons should we love God’s law?
Application: Ask God to give you love for his law. Each day this week include in your prayers one reason why you should love God’s law.
For Further Study: For more on the subject of loving God’s Word, download and listen for free to Mark Ross’ message, “Oh, How I Love Thy Law!” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)