As I meditated on Psalm 119:5-8 this week, I was overwhelmed by the psalmist’s obvious love for the Lord Jesus Christ. What is remarkable about my observation is that nowhere in the first 40 verses of this glorious psalm does the term love even appear. The legalist that still resides in my dead flesh wants me to see these verses as a set of rules to follow in order that God would love me. But, thankfully, the revelation of Jesus Christ enables us to think much deeper and higher. Let’s dive in.
Psalms 119:5-8 ESV Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
Where is the Love?
Alright, I told you this set of verses exhibit the psalmist’s love for God, but how do I see that? Let’s take a look at what the psalmist actually wrote:
- He desires that his ways be steadfast in keeping God’s statutes
- He desires to have his eyes fixed on all of God’s commandments
- He wants to learn God’s righteous rules
- He wants to keep God’s statutes
It looks like a list of rules. Learn God’s rules, keep your eyes fixed upon them, then keep them, right? These are certainly noble ideas, and the reason they are noble is that only someone who loves
God would even desire to do these things. Jesus said in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” And again John tells us that the love of God is in keeping His commandments (1 John 5:2-3). And it’s more explicit in John 14:
John 14:15 ESV “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
You see, one of the problems in our world is our tendency to separate things which we have trouble reconciling in our minds, but in reality, cannot be separated. A primary example of this is our collective inability to simply enjoy the fact that loving God and obeying God go hand in hand. We tend to think of obedience as a duty rather than a pleasure. And this is not entirely irrational—there are, in fact, a lot of things we must do which we do not want to do.
So we look around at the visible church and we see people apparently trying to obey God while clenching their teeth in anguish. We see people who appear to be fighting sin, and what they communicate is because I am a Christian I cannot do this fun thing I really want to do. But that isn’t Christianity at all. Because of the new birth, Christianity is the existence of new and changed affections. Because we love God, we actually desire to keep His statutes. We cling to His commandments, not with white knuckles like a dry drunk holding onto a sobriety chip, but we grasp His righteous rules like a starving man would cling to a cheeseburger!
Where is Jesus?
When we look at the virtue of the man in this portion, we see once again that this is a man who is committing to some lofty goals: keeping God’s statutes, learning His righteous rules, rejoicing and praising God with an upright heart and maintaining an unwavering fixation on the things of God. While we, like the psalmist, ought to strive for these virtues, as we saw in the first four verses, it is only Jesus Christ who actually fulfilled all these good things on our behalf.
Yes, dear saint, Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of your faith, and the reason you “shall not be put to shame” is that He fulfilled all righteousness on your behalf. The reason God will not “utterly forsake you” is that it was Jesus who “kept His statutes” in your place. Jesus was steadfast in keeping God’s statutes, and Jesus is the one whose focus never wavered from His Father’s perfect commandments.
Even more, it is Jesus who actually bore the consequences of our failure to praise God with an upright heart! Jesus was utterly forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:4). Despised, rejected, oppressed, afflicted, smitten, stricken, pierced, crushed, put to grief and cut off from the land of the living! (Isaiah 53) Jesus is the One who took on all the wrath of God for His people. It was ONLY Jesus who could drink that cup of God’s wrath—and drink it to the dregs He did! He had done no violence and there was no deceit in His mouth (Isaiah 53:9;1 Peter 2:22). But He did it all for you, my brethren. He did it for us!1
Isaiah 53:11 ESV Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
How Then Shall We Live?
Now that we’ve established the amazing vicarious atonement of Christ on our behalf as the basis for our desire to learn about God and follow Him and obey Him, how do we apply these truths and these verses to our lives? Yes, Jesus is sufficient for your soul and your needs, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility in this life. As we saw earlier, loving Jesus means doing certain things. Now that we’ve been born again, we walk this pilgrim’s journey toward that celestial city and must represent our God and Savior well, since we cannot help but be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). You are an ambassador. Whether you are a faithful one or a worthless one (or probably somewhere in between), is up to you to work toward (Phil 2:12).
Well, it starts with doing what the Psalm says and remembering Christ’s power to accomplish all these good things. His resurrection doesn’t just promise that you’ll be resurrected. His resurrection and the sealing of the Holy Spirit promises you power in this life to do battle with the flesh and win. Defeated Christians are the saddest of folks—but not because they’ve failed—we all fail. Defeated Christians are the most miserable of all people because they live as if Jesus doesn’t live. Read from Paul’s letter to Philippi which he wrote while in prison:
Philippians 3:10-11 ESV 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul understood and taught that there is such a thing as resurrection power. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees your ultimate salvation, yes—but it also guarantees your current sanctification. Since Jesus cannot be defeated, a defeated Christian is one who is not faithfully drawing on the power God has already supplied! We read earlier in 1 John that our love moves us to keep His commandments, yet look at the verses following:
1 John 5:4-5 ESV For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This! This, my friend, is victory over the world—freedom to resist sin. Christianity isn’t about doing all the things we hate and not doing all the things we love (a Paul Washer paraphrase). No, my friend, Christianity is about seeing that Jesus already accomplished everything on our behalf—and walking in that victory. Christianity is daily remembering that you are an adopted son or daughter of the King of the universe! No prince is concerned with what those outside of the kingdom are thinking of him. No, he knows His place. Know yours, my friend! You belong to Jesus.
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1 Not to the exclusion of His own glory! But in order that He may glorify His Father in Heaven and be glorified Himself!