97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
I know there are a lot of folks who dread cracking open their Bibles and reading their “daily bread.” Maybe they are following a reading plan [“Read the Bible in One Year” “Read the Bible in Chronological order”] or perhaps they are just reading the few verses found in a daily devotional, but they open dutifully to the daily passage, read only the “assigned” portion, and then close their Bibles as quickly as they can. Then off they go to get ready for work or take the kids to school or do whatever else the day has for them. I was no better. In my first time through the Bible, I diligently got up about twenty minutes early each day to be sure I got in a portion of Scripture. A year-and-a-half later, I finally finished it. Whew!
Then I started again, reading God’s Word with no plan and no time limits. I took my Bible to work with me to read at lunch time. I took it to doctors’ waiting rooms, on short vacations, and I even read it before going to bed many nights. I read Scripture aloud to my wife when she was ill, and we sometimes sat up late discussing passages we had read. And I took notes. Yes, that’s a bit “nerdy” – okay, it’s very nerdy – but it helped me to remember what I was reading, phrases and passages that spoke to what I was facing at the time.
As you can see, I still read my Bible every day – but I do not limit myself to the passage about which I write. I travel throughout the Word of God, reading and taking notes, savoring His many voices, enjoying the subtlety and the simplicity of His gospel. And now I do so not so much diligently or dutifully but JOYFULLY. It took a while for it to become joyful, and I will admit there are times I read a passage and just scratch my head and wonder what He’s talking about. Over time, I find He reveals things to me as if I am working a Chinese puzzle box – one part doesn’t move unless another part has been moved first. In short, the more I learn from God’s Word, the more I WANT to learn from His Word.
In today’s verses from Psalms 119:97-104, I feel like the psalmist is speaking with my own voice. It may seem like the psalmist is betting a bit cocky in saying he is “wiser than [his] enemies” and has “more understanding than all [his] teachers” and that he understands “more than the ancients.” But you would be surprised how many people know next to nothing about the Word of God and yet lay claim to the labels “Christian” or “born-again” or even “elder.” As I said before, many people just dread reading their Bibles. In most homes, the Bible is no longer a part of everyday life, and so very few church-going believers were brought up on the Word of God. They don’t know it, and they are easily overwhelmed by its complexity and size and language. I can understand that very well, because that was my position.
Untrained, unschooled in the Bible, and yet born again in Christ, I couldn’t avoid the fact that my faith was based on little more than gut instinct – or, if you will, spiritual insight. I found myself loving the God who’d saved me from my self-destructive path, and yet I really knew almost nothing about Him. Well, if you want to learn about God, don’t start with books about Him, start with the Book written BY Him. And the more I read, the more I love Him, and the more I desire to know Him.
I cannot say that I have “restrained my feet from every evil way” (and I honestly think the psalmist is presumptuous to say he has), but I know when I have strayed, and I use God’s Word to direct my path aright. I allow myself to be taught by the Lord God – through His Word and through the several shepherds He has brought into my life – so that I get better and better at not departing from His judgments. I continue to gain understanding, wisdom, and a joyful heart for God. And most of all, the more I read the Bible, the more I savor His Word as “sweeter than honey to my mouth,” because the Bible is more familiar, more rich, and more dear to me than any other book I have ever read.
Seek His Word every day – and not just through daily writings like this but through your own plan. Read the Bible and make a point of listening to His voice as you read. Do so dutifully at first, diligently always, and someday you will find that you will seek His Word joyfully. You will gain wisdom and understanding beyond your peers and perhaps beyond your parents and friends, and you will find your life guided more and more by God’s commandments, His law, His precepts. And then, not too long from now, you, too, may say to God, “How sweet are Your words to my taste!”
Heavenly Father, how sweet indeed are Your words! How amazing it is that You have shared so much of Your will and Your promise with us, that You Yourself spoke through the patriarchs and prophets, the poets and the apostles, to give Your own Word to us in this modern day and age. Given such a gift, how can we not love, cherish, and savor Your Word? Teach me, Lord, to keep my feet from evil paths, and guide my heart to always seek Your will, just as Your beloved Son did on His way to the Cross. Though times may be bitter, dear God, give me Your Word to always make life sweeter. Amen.