Theme: Results of Knowing God’s Love
This stanza of Psalm 119 speaks of finding God, his love, and his comfort.
Scripture: Psalm 119:41-64
We have already discovered that the author of this psalm is a practical man in the matter of his religion. So at this point he does not dwell at length on God’s love itself but instead mentions two important results of getting to know God’s love personally.
1. Obedience. “I will always obey your law, for ever and ever” (v. 44). Does it seem surprising that one of the first results of coming to know God as a God of love is obedience? It does to many people, but the reason it does is that they have an inadequate and even warped idea of what love means. We think of love as mere sentimentality, a feeling to be enjoyed and wallowed in. But in the Bible love is a relationship issuing in moral actions. Jesus taught this to his disciples. He told them, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
It is worth noting that the words translated “always,” “for ever” and “ever” (NIV) render three different Hebrew words that come at the very end of verse 44, like this: always, eternally and for ever. It is an effective way of saying that the psalmist’s obedience is going to go on and on. There will never be a time when the godly stop obeying God.
2. Speaking about God’s love to others. The second result of getting to know about God’s love is a compulsion to speak about God and his love to others. This point is emphasized strongly in this stanza, particularly the writer’s desire to speak about God to those who are opposed to him and ridicule righteous persons like himself. “Then I will answer the one who taunts me,” says the psalmist (v. 42). “Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth,” he adds (v. 43). And still again,
I will speak of your statutes before kingsand will not be put to shame. (v. 46)
This last verse has often been referred to by historians to describe Martin Luther’s heroic stand before the Diet of Worms. Luther had been summoned to Worms to appear before the newly elected emperor Charles V and the assembled champions of the church to answer for heresies that were believed to appear in his writings. It was a moment ominous with danger, because others who had been similarly summoned had been arrested and then cruelly executed for their supposed offenses against both church and state. Everyone remembered Jan Hus, who had been burnt at Constance on the Rhine about a hundred years before. Like Hus, Luther could have been martyred.
When Luther arrived on that fateful day, after a night of prayer and serious self-examination, the moderator of the assembly pointed to a table containing Luther’s books. “Will you retract these writings?” he asked.
Earlier Luther had attempted to draw the council into a discussion of the teachings themselves. But nobody wanted to debate with Luther. Instead, he was confronted with a yes or no reaction. “Will you, or will you not retract?” The demand was insistent.
Since your most serene majesty and your high mightiness require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear to me as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning—unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted—and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.1
In this way Martin Luther did exactly what Psalm 119:46 is describing. He spoke of God’s statutes before kings, and he was not put to shame.2
1The quotations are from J. H. Merle D’Aubigné, The Life and Times of Martin Luther, trans. H. White (Chicago: Moody Press, 1958), pp. 423-434.
2Psalm 119:46 also appears at the head of the Augsburg Confession, in Latin from the Vulgate version: Et loquebar de testimoniis tuis in conspectu regum et non confundebar. Its choice as a theme verse for this confession of the German-speaking church reflects the Reformation experience.
What are two results of knowing God’s love?
Describe what love means in the Bible.
What verse has been used to describe Martin Luther’s stand, and how does it fit Luther’s experience?
Reflection: Examine your everyday conversation. Does it reflect a compulsion to speak of God’s love?