Too often, Christians reflect on only what they should believe about the word of God. But Psalm 119 will not let us stop there. This love poem forces us to consider how we feel about the word of God. We see that the psalmist has three fundamental affections for God’s word.
First, He Delights In It
Testimonies, commandments, law—they are all his delight (vv. 24, 47, 70, 77, 143, 174). The psalmist can’t help but speak of God’s word in the deepest emotive language. The words of Scripture are sweet like honey (v. 103), the joy of his heart (v. 111), and positively wonderful (v. 129). “My soul hath kept Thy testimonies” writes the psalmist; “I love them exceedingly” (v. 167).
But some people say, “I will never love the word of God like this. I’m not an intellectual. I don’t listen to sermons all day. I don’t read all the time. I’m not the sort of person who delights in words.” That may be true as a general rule, but I’ll bet there are times you get passionate about words on a page. We all pay attention when the words we are hearing or reading are of great benefit to us, like a will or an acceptance letter. We can read carefully when the text before us warns of great danger, like instructions on an electrical panel. We delight to read stories about us and about those we love.
Do you see how I’ve just described the Bible? It’s a book with great benefit to us, and one with grave warnings. It is a book about us and those we love. And most of all, it brings us face-to-face with One who possesses all greatness, beauty, and power. The Bible is the greatest story ever told, and those who know it best are usually those who delight in it most.
Second, He Desires It
I count at least six times where the psalmist expresses his longing to keep the commands of God (vv. 5, 10, 17, 20, 40, 131). I count at least fourteen times when he expresses a desire to know and understand the word of God (vv. 18, 19, 27, 29, 33, 34, 35, 64, 66, 73, 124, 125, 135, 169). Our lives are animated by desire. It’s what literally gets us up in the morning. Desire is what we think about, what we dream about, what we pray about. Most of us have strong desires related to marriage, children, grandchildren, jobs, promotions, houses, vacations, revenge, recognition, and on and on. Some desires are good; some are bad. But consider, in that jumble of longings and passions, how strong is your desire to know and to understand and to keep the word of God? The psalmist so desired the word of God that he considered suffering to be a blessing in his life if it helped him become more obedient to God’s commands (vv. 67–68, 71).
Third, He Depends On It
The psalmist is constantly aware of his need for the word of God. “I have stuck unto Thy testimonies: O Lord, put me not to shame” (v. 31). He is desperate for the encouragement found in God’s promises and rules (vv. 50, 52). There are a lot of things we want in life, but there are few things we really need. The word of God is one of those things. In Amos’s day the most severe punishment to fall on the people of God was a “famine … of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). There is no calamity like the silence of God. We cannot know the truth or know ourselves or know God’s ways or know God’s salvation unless God speaks to us. Every true Christian should feel deep in his bones an utter dependence on God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).
The New Testament teaches that Jesus is the word made flesh, which means (among other things) that all the attributes of God’s verbal revelation (truth, righteousness, power, wisdom, omniscience) will be found in the person of Christ. All that the psalmist believed and felt about the words from God is all that we should feel and believe about the word of God incarnate. Our desire, delight, and dependence on the words of Scripture and our desire, delight, and dependence on Jesus Christ must always rise together. The most mature Christians thrill to hear every love poem that speaks about the word made flesh and every love poem that celebrates the words of God.
—Condensed from Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung.