Psalm 119:7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:62 At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.
As the Psalmist ponders God’s word he ends with praise. All those laws, all those commands, all those passages about sacrifice and entrails end with him lifting his voice in thanksgiving to the Lord. In the darkness of midnight he praises God for His rules. Seven times a day, the number of perfection or completeness, he praises the Lord for his mighty word. The proper study of God’s word will lead to the praise of God. But we do not always get there. Many times our study of God’s word becomes an exercise in drudgery, a box to check before we get to Facebook, work, or the kids. Instead of ending our study with praise we end it with a thank goodness that is over. Why?
First, we forget God’s word is personal. We have to be careful here. God’s word is not a love letter written by a smitten man to his lady. Nor is it a book where we can go and find answers for each individual problem in our lives. It is not a moralistic grab-bag for 21st century Christians. But it is book written by a personal God to his people to address their most pressing needs. It was and remains God’s living, infallible, word to His people. It does not become alive. It is alive, full of the Spirit. When we read the Spirit breathed word we encounter God directly.
But too often we study God’s word like we study a map or the Constitution. There is no person who is making the Constitution come alive for us. A map may some exciting parts, but we would never describe it as breathing. Or we study the word so we can judge the world around us. We study it so we can win theological debates or evangelize better. If we teach or preach, we might study God’s Word so we can teach or preach well. While some of these aims of studying are good, none are primary. The Psalmist’s great concern is his relationship to God. His primary aim in learning God’s judgments, precepts, and statutes is personal. He is not asking questions in the third person: Am I obeying God’s Word rightly? Is my heart in line with God’s Word? He is asking those types of questions, but in the 2nd person. Have I transgressed Your word? Are my beliefs about this world, sin, and redemption shaped by Your word? For the psalmist the Word of God is a word from God to him. When we read God’s word this way it ends in praise. We praise him for his wisdom and power. We praise him for the forgiveness or our sins promised in that word. We praise him for freedom we find in his word. If God is in our reading of Scripture then he will be the one we praise when we are done.
The second reason our study of God’s Word does not end in praise is that we are lazy. We read God’s word in a casual, sloppy manner. Over a recent break my father in law and I built a table. This took hard work. We planned. We took numerous trips to the hardware store. We spent money. We measured, cut, and sanded and sanded and sanded. We put on several coats of stain and polyurethane. It took us several days. But when we were done, what a delight it was to sit at that table with my family. When we dig into and work at God’s word we get rewarded. The greatest joys in life usually come from the hardest work. But when it comes to God’s word we expect great treasure to come easily. We want to clock in a few sleepy eyed minutes and get struck by Holy Spirit lightening. We don’t chew on it. We don’t memorize. We don’t seek to apply it in various ways. We don’t ask the Scriptures hard questions and then try to find the answers. We don’t take verses and roll them over time after time. We might read it, but the hard study of it is foreign to us.
When you finish reading, studying, meditating on your passage for the day, pull out something to praise the Lord about. Don’t stop at reading. Push on to thanking him. Only then has the word done it’s deepest work.