Psalm 119:33-36 — Seeking The Way

Seek Him

Psalm 119:33 He Teach me, O Yahweh, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.

As we begin the fifth octave, we find the psalmist repeating the desire to be taught by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Knowing that we have no hope apart from the revelation of our Lord is truly the beginning of wisdom. This is a prayer—as indicated by the calling out for help from Yahweh. The book of Hebrews tells us that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), and so we trust that such a prayer will be answered by our gracious God. For it is God alone who can put that type of desire into our hearts in the first place.

Melinda Gimpel

Yet, the phrase that I find most exciting here is the psalmist’s commitment to keeping that which the Lord has committed to him “until that day” (2 Tim 1:12). In fact, both the apostle Paul (in his second letter to Timothy) and the author of Psalm 119 have completely entrusted their perseverance in God’s strength and promise, in opposition to man’s. Yes, when we cry out to God for His statutes to be taught to us, we may have confidence that the Holy Spirit He has sent to indwell us will enable us to persevere to the end in faithfulness.

I find it to be a pernicious evil to believe that God who has adopted us as sons (Rom 8:15) and given us the right to be called children of God (John 1:12, 1John 3:2) could possibly let anyone be snatched from His hands (John 10:28-29). The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness, and although this faith is given in measures, it cannot be said that our faith would ever utterly falter.

Seek Understanding

Psalm 119:34 ESV Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Again, after requesting to be taught by the Lord, David then desires a deeper understanding. We saw a similar combination in Psalm 119:26-27 (teach me, then make me understand), and this sentiment, particularly its repetition, ought to be instructive for us. I suppose this is what we mean when we say somebody can be theologically astute yet fail to grasp the point of the theology they’ve learned or to understand the love of God. When we see someone who is able to academically explain the things of God, yet the way that they behave exhibits a shortcoming in their understanding we are rightly repulsed. Everyone hates hypocrisy (in others).

Tim Gouw

So, it is with an eye to keeping God‘s law that the psalmist requests that God make him understand. That is, he requests understanding as a gift from God with the ultimate goal being to observe God’s law with his whole heart. Everyone knows the difference between those who outwardly obey while inwardly rebelling and those who cheerfully submit to authority. No human being desires a begrudging love, yet we, as a race, tend to give our service and affection to God begrudgingly.

We all know the difference between the guy who unhappily hops on a treadmill ever January 1 “because he has to,” and the person who truly loves to run. One of those people will still be running a few months later while the man who was just doing it for the weight loss goal usually falls off. As bodily exercise profits a little, so spiritual exercises ought to be understood the same way. The Christian who does not have any natural affection for Christ, for reading His Word, for prayer, or for gathering with the saints will find these tasks wearisome before too long. May the God of mercy grant our weak-of-faith requests to understand His statutes so that we may observe them whole-heartedly.

Seek His Leading

Psalm 119:35 ESV Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Both verse 33 and 35 use the term “it” which is a singular pronoun to refer back to a way or a path. I confess that this verse caused me distress during my memorization time because I kept seeing the plural “commandments” as that which the psalmist must delight in. But it is the “path” wherein is found the psalmist’s delight in verse 35.

And it is no wonder as we observe the progression through this psalm. In verse 30, our friend chooses the way of faithfulness, and by verse 32, he is committed to running in the way. In verse 33, he acknowledges that he must be taught the way, and his understanding is that the Lord must lead the way (vs 35). Yes, God’s path must be our delight and we must follow His lead.

Karsten Würth (@inf1783)

And what a gift we have in Jesus who came and set the example for us. Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we might follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). He is our leader, and we would do well to carefully observe the patterns He set for us in prayer, reliance upon scripture, boldness, meekness, and humility. Jesus did not look solely to His own interests, but instead to the interests of others (Phil 2:4). He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22). 

It is also notable that there is a single path of God’s Commandments. God’s law is not a random array of arbitrary rules, but rather, God’s moral law is a manifestation (or exhibition) of His perfect character. This is why Jesus’ brother James tells us that if we offend the law in even one point we are guilty of all, for God’s law is, in fact, one, as He is (James 2:10). And this is why, although some sins appear more devastating than others, and may, in fact, be more divergent perversions of God’s good gifts to us—all sin requires death and is heinous rebellion in the sight of our holy God. This is why we do not sin in order to accomplish “a greater good,” for that misrepresents God. (We don’t lie to prevent someone else from murder, for example).

Seek His Glory

Psalm 119:36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.

Here in the fourth verse of the fifth octave, we have a repetition of the true desire of the child of God. For it is the child of God who is “about his Father’s business.” Our heart’s cry is that we might glorify God in our body and not seek to gratify the desires of the flesh. But we see around us that the world even uses the Christian religion and God’s statutes to achieve its own self-gratification.

Having a form of godliness but denying its power, people who carry the name of Christ all over the world are simply using God’s precepts as devices to bring themselves personal gain. When applied, biblical principles often produce wonderful gifts such as prosperity and health (as the Lord permits). You may follow biblical guidelines for spending and working, and likely find a measure of success in business and financial areas. If you follow commands regarding forgiveness and love, even without knowing the Savior, you may enjoy an improved marriage or family relationships.

So it is our hope that God would give us the attitude which says, “I desire to obey you, Jesus, and follow your statutes because you are worthy—regardless of how it turns out for myself.” Yes, following God’s commands ought to keep you out of jail, cause you to accumulate a measure of security in your wealth, or leave an inheritance for your children. A strict letter-of-the-law adherence to God’s ways may keep you from destroying your life and the lives of others through sexual immorality or drunken behavior. But that use of God’s law is not the highest praise nor ultimate duty of man. As the saying goes, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Pray with the psalmist that your heart would be bent towards God’s testimonies and not toward yourself—so that you may not steal His glory. If God grants you that petition you will enjoy great pleasure in your heart.

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