SIN/SHIN - Loving and Longing
(161) Rulers persecute me undeservedly, but my heart trembles (in awe) at your word. (162) I rejoice in your promise like one who finds unexpected treasure. (163) I hate and abhor deception, but your law I love. (164) Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous judgments. (165) Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can cause them to stumble. (166) I wait for your salvation, Yahweh, and I keep your commandments. (167) My soul keeps your statutes. I love them exceedingly. (168) I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are before you.
Seven of the eight verses in this stanza are expressed in the first person singular, an intensely personal testimony of devotion to Yahweh’s Word. The one verse not in the first person is the centerpiece and key verse of the stanza which emphasizes the peace and serenity experienced by those who love God’s law (vs. 165). Two words are repeated three times in this paragraph and thus receive particular emphasis: “love” for Yahweh’s Word (vss. 163, 165, & 167) and “obey” all in reference to God’s Word (vss. 166-68). The psalmist reminds us again, as he has throughout the psalm, that all who love Yahweh’s Word demonstrate that love through obedience.
In several verses, the author expresses a deep emotional response to Scripture. First, he “trembles” in awe (vs. 161). Then he “rejoices” in God’s promise (vs. 162). In the third verse he expresses strong aversion to falsehood with words translated “hate and abhor” in contrast to the love he has for God’s Word (vs. 163). Later, he speaks of “great peace” experienced by those who love God’s law (vs. 165). Toward the end of the stanza, he describes a fondness for God’s Word with a term which means “exceedingly” or “to the maximum” (vs. 167). Out of these powerful emotions flows a great resolve to obey.
I. Evidences of a love for God’s Word (161-165)
II. A wholehearted desire to obey God’s Word (166-168)
Those who love God’s Word deeply manifest that love by obeying it wholeheartedly.
When we place our faith in Christ as Savior, we enter into fellowship with the triune God. In this fellowship, we should constantly experience a two-way communication with the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. The means by which we commune with God is set forth in this stanza. Believers are to express themselves to God in prayers of praise and petition in response to his self-revelation in the Scriptures.
Our reading and studying of God’s Word should never be reduced to an intellectual exercise. While there is nothing wrong with biblical scholarship, the main purpose for Bible study should always be to deepen our personal relationship with the living God. Our approach to the Bible should never be merely that of the historian or the textual critic who dispassionately approaches an ancient text out of intellectual curiosity. Rather we should demonstrate the same passion that a bride-to-be experiences while reading a love letter from her fiancé.
The intense personal emotion expressed in this stanza, as well as in the rest of the psalm, should encourage us to develop a deepening love for and devotion to the God who so clearly cherishes us. Scripture should always touch our hearts and fan the flames of our desire for a deepening fellowship with Yahweh as well as an increase in our spiritual understanding. When that happens, our prayer lives will be transformed from cold, intellectual exercises into warm, earnest times of interaction and intercession. Only when we grasp how much God loves us will our love for him deepen and mature. Then we become capable of expressing the kind of love that honors and pleases him, love that motivates us to a ready obedience and an unreserved submission to his will.