Psalm 119:2-4~Running Full Speed After Obedience

Christians know that God’s Word is to be the center of their lives. We know that obedience is part of the call to follow Christ. We are not his disciples if we are not obeying his Word. But obedience is often stale for us. It is like a plate of vegetables we do not like. We know we are supposed to eat it, but we are not excited about it. What is striking about the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is not that all one-hundred and seventy-six verses are about Scripture. The most striking thing is how much David loves Scripture. David loves God’s Word, delights in God’s Word, rejoices in God’s Word more than heaps of gold, and longs for God’s Word. For David knowledge of and obedience to God’s Word is the greatest pursuit. 

The first few verses, Psalm 119:1-4, are not a call to reluctant obedience or a casual part-time pursuit of the Word. But it is a call to have our entire lives, thoughts, emotions, interpretation of events, fears, and desires shaped by the judgments, statutes, precepts, commandments, and laws found in the Word. 

First, we are told to seek God with our whole heart (vs. 2).  There is parallelism between the two lines in verse 2.  Parallelism is where two lines of Hebrew poetry compare, expand, or contrast with each other. Here parallelism is used to compare two ideas and show that they are similar, if not exactly the same. 

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies

who seek him with their whole heart

“Those who keep his testimonies” and “who seek Him with the whole heart” are the same people. These two lines are saying the same basic message. We cannot seek God with our whole heart if we are not keeping His testimonies.  The one who keeps His testimonies is the one who is seeking him with their whole heart. Obedience to God and loving him with our whole heart are synonyms.  

Later in verse 4 the psalmist says that God has commanded us to “keep Your precepts diligently.” The word “diligently” means to keep with abundance or with much force. The word is used in Genesis 1:31 where God says all that he made was very good. It is used in Genesis 15:1 where God is Abram’s exceedingly great reward. In II Samuel 2:17 it is translated by the ESV as “fierce” in describing a battle.  One might paraphrase Psalm 119:4 as “You have commanded us to try with all our might and with full intensity to keep your commandments.” 

These two verses tell us that knowing God’s Word is not sufficient. Even trying at times, occasionally to obey is not enough. Ours should not be the obedience of a casual religious observer or Sunday only believer nor an obedience that reluctantly listens and after much persuasion obeys nor the obedience of a dog being drug on a leash or a child whipped into submission. We are to obey with our whole heart.  We are to search the horizon for ways to obey. Obedience is a treasure. Obedience is glory. We are to run after it full speed. 

We sell ourselves short in our sanctification. Maybe we do not want to look like legalists.  Maybe we don’t think we can see victory over the sins which besiege us. Maybe we just love our sin too much.Whatever the reason, it is wrong. God has not called us to sluggishly obey his commands when we feel like. But rather he has called us to obey all his commands with a heart fully devoted to him. This was David’s desire in Psalm 119 and should be the desire of all who follow after the One who is greater than David.