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Psalm 119 Journal - Stanzas 13 and 14


97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. 101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. 102 I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

In American society much is made of the word values. Nowadays 'values' usually means the thing(s) that I or my group hold most dear. The emphasis is placed on the person(s) holding the thing rather than the things held. A worthwhile critique of this view is presented by Anthony Kronman in Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life. He argues that everyone has something(s) they hold most highly and believes that no one should be coerced into valuing something most highly. The choice of our deepest affections is subjective in the sense that we choose them. But Kronman quickly adds, the thing chosen must also have value-in-itself. If it has no inherent or objective value (i.e., its only value is that I/we value it) then choosing has no consequence. If vanilla and chocolate ice cream are the same except for my choice, then choosing is a meaninglessness and futile act.

Where does the Psalmist turn to find reliable objective value? He says, Oh God, I love your law because it does not come from human beings. It describes your character God; therefore, your speech has transcendent objective value. Moreover, it is supremely valuable to humanity because it is life-giving. It is so attractive to the regenerated human heart that the mind cannot stop thinking about it (v. 97). There is no meaning or purpose apart from it. Why would I care to look elsewhere?

What are the benefits of recognizing the ultimate value of God himself (and by extension God’s Word):

  • Everlasting wisdom (v.98)

  • Understanding (v. 99)

  • Holy discipline/obedience (v. 100)

  • Avoidance of evil (v. 101)

  • Faithfulness (v. 102)

  • Delight (v. 103)

Why did classical liberal education focus on truth, goodness and beauty? The Psalmist knows the reason – they are objective and lifegiving characteristics of God's nature communicated to humanity by God himself.


105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. 107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word! 108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules. 109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. 111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. 112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

In an important sense, God does not tell us how to live our lives. He is not coercive. He invites us to live according to his character because he knows that will produce our highest good and greatest delight. To be wholly realized and truly sanctified our character must be formed to resemble and reflect his simply because he created us in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). And character is formed by the discipline of walking faithfully with God – not ahead of Him, and not away. But which way to do I walk? You don’t have to see the entire path ahead. Seeing the entire path would distract you from living in the moment and by faith in God. Simply follow the lighted path (v. 105). As long as you follow God’s leading you will never get lost and never stumble. If, or when, you look away you are bound to do one, the other, or both.

It is in this sense that the people of God take their lives in their own hands (v. 109). It is up to each of us to make the most of life, or not. We will do so as we follow God’s leading and trust in his abundant provision for us. And we will fail as we try to walk apart from the path and light he provides. One of my early literary mentors, Francis Schaeffer, put it this way:

No work of art is more important than the Christian’s own life, and every Christian is called upon to be an artist in this sense. He may have no gift of writing, no gift of composing or singing, but each man has the gift of creativity in terms of the way he lives his life. In this sense, the Christian’s life is to be an art work. The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world. (Art and the Bible)

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