Theme: The Sweetness of God’s Law
In this week’s lessons, we see that to love God’s Word is also to hate sin.
Scripture: Psalm 119:97-104
It is hard to read Psalm 119:102 without thinking of Genesis 3:8 and its reference to God “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” The verse suggests that this was God’s regular pattern, that Adam and Eve used to meet God in Eden in the cool evening hours, after the work of the day was done, and that they used to converse with God and be taught by him. The reason they hid from him in Genesis 3 is not that God’s coming was unusual but that they had sinned by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and were now afraid of him.
Christians sometimes think back on those halcyon days before the fall nostalgically, musing on how wonderful it would be to have God walk with us and talk to us in such an intimate way. We sometimes sing about it in the words of C. Austin Miles’ hymn (1912), not really believing what we say:
I come to the garden alone,While the dew is still on the roses;And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,The Son of God discloses.And he walks with me, and he talks with me,And he tells me I am his own,And the joy we share as we tarry thereNone other has ever known.
That is a pretty sentimental piece of bad poetry, and it probably says the wrong thing to most people who sing it. Just me and Jesus! Nobody else, no Bible! No mediated revelation! Yet there is a sense in which the psalmist says that is exactly what he finds when he studies Scripture. It takes him back to Eden, not in an unfallen state to be sure, but to a place where he is himself personally taught of God. And what this means for us is that, although we have forfeited Eden, we have a taste of Eden or, better yet, of heaven, when we come to the Bible and find that God himself speaks to us.
It is this quality of Scripture that the Reformers had in mind when they said that Scripture is “self-authenticating.” They meant that a true Christian does not need a church, a church council or the pope to tell him what Scripture is, since the Bible bears on its very surface the stamp of the divine mind and of God speaking.
The fourth thing the psalmist says about God’s law and why he loves it so much is that it is sweet to his taste:
How sweet are your promises to my taste,sweeter than honey to my mouth! (v. 103)
This is almost exactly what David wrote in Psalm 19:10, which shows that the writer of our later psalm must have been acquainted with the earlier one. David had written that God’s ordinances “are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”
How are we to think (or talk) about the Bible being sweet? We hardly think of anything being sweet except certain kinds of food, like sugar donuts, Godiva chocolates or honey. But even if we did think of other things as being sweet, it is hard to think of God’s Word or laws in this way, the puzzle that C. S. Lewis was wrestling with in the chapter of his book that I referred to earlier. Do we ever think of the Scriptures being sweet? Do we even know what that means?
Explain what self-authenticating means.
What image does the psalmist use to describe Scripture? Who else used this image?
Reflection: What effect does it have on your Bible study to realize God is speaking directly to you?