My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (Psalm 119:20)
I got engaged in college. For Christmas break my wife-to-be went to her home in Oregon and I went to my home in Mississippi. Our wedding was scheduled for March. I planned on going out to Oregon closer to wedding. One day in late December my father approached me and said something like this, “Son you are useless here. Why don’t you drive out to Oregon and spend the months leading up to the wedding near your bride to be.” That was wise counsel. My body was in Mississippi, but my heart and mind were in Oregon. At different times in life we all long for things. Often the deepest longing comes when we meet the person we are going to marry. I longed to be with Julie. There are other longings, such as a desire for particular job, a deep desire for rest and peace, or even a longing for wealth. But for the psalmist there is something else he longs for. There is something else that fills his vision; God’s Word.
In Psalm 119:20 the writer expresses a longing for God’s Word. The ESV translates it as “consumed,” the NKJV translates it as “breaks.” The word means to be crushed by something. What is the psalmist crushed by? A longing for God’s Word. The psalmist has a deep desire to see the judgments of God come forth. There is no moderation here. This is not a mild desire to occasionally read the Word. It is a desire that consumes all other desires. The psalmist hungers and thirsts for the Scriptures.
But why? Why are the Scriptures what he pursues? In them he finds God. In them he finds salvation. In them he finds answers to the most important of questions. In them a thirsty man finds water. In them a hungry man finds bread. In them the sinner finds forgiveness. In them he finds the path to holiness. In them he finds Christ. Anything of consequence is found in the Word of God. The better question is why anyone would not be consumed with longing for the Word of God?
For the psalmist this is not a passing concern for God’s judgments. His longing for God’s Word is not like the dew which is here at 9 and gone by 10. He longs for God’s judgments “at all times.” We all hunger for God’s Word at certain times in our lives. If we are sick or lose our job or there are difficulties in our marriage or with our children we might long for God’s Word. If we have a secret sin that has been discovered we might run to God’s Word. That is good and we should let circumstances drive us back to God’s Word. But that is not our goal. Our goal is a constant hunger for the living bread of God’s Word. Our aim should be a life of persevering faith that is characterized by a love for God’s Word. Admittedly we all grow slack in this area at times. Our love for the Word God goes up and down. Yet we must strive to be a people who break with longing for God’s Word at all times.
What are some practical ways to learn to long for God’s Word?
- Ask the Lord to give you a hunger for His Word. A good way to do this is pray through a section of Psalm 119 each day. Why would the Lord not answer this prayer?
- Listen carefully to the preaching of God’s Word. Often pastors will open up the Word for us in ways we cannot ourselves.
- Hang around people who love God’s Word, read it regularly, and are showing signs of spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is infectious.
- Read God’s Word. There are many ways to do this. Some read through the Bible in a year. I have done that. Currently I am reading a couple of Psalms, one Proverb and a portion of an OT book and NT book each day. But I read the same book all month. This month I have read through Micah 3 times and will probably get one more reading in before I am done. The NT book is II Corinthians. I have read that twice. Vary up your Bible reading, especially if it gets stale.
- Persevere in faith as you read and hear God’s Word. In this life, there will always be times where we are dull to God’s Word, where we don’t want to read it, or hear it preached. We must believe that even in those times the Spirit is working through the Word. Even if it is hard, we must keep ourselves planted in the Word. In the long run, the Lord will reward this often with a renewed joy for Scripture.
I want to end with Westminster Larger Catechism Question 155:
Q 155: How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A 155: The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
Why would those of us who have been saved by God’s grace, love Jesus, and want to be conformed to His image not long for more of this marvelous book?