HETH - A Clinic in Obedience
(57) (You are) my portion, Yahweh. I have promised to obey your words. (58) I have sought your face with all my heart. Be gracious to me according to your promise. (59) I have given thought to my ways and have turned my feet to (follow) your statutes. (60) I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. (61) With ropes the wicked surround me. (Yet), I will not forget your law (Torah). (62) At midnight I rise to give thanks to you for your righteous judgments. (63) I am a friend to all who fear you and (to all who) obey your precepts. (64) The earth is full of your steadfast love, Yahweh. Teach me your decrees.
Two strategic words are repeated in this stanza: “obey” three times (vss. 57, 60, & 63) and “Yahweh” twice (vss. 57 & 64). The stanza both opens and closes with the psalmist addressing Yahweh regarding obedience. At the outset, he makes a promise to obey. At the end, he asks Yahweh to teach him more truth so that he might fulfill his initial commitment to obedience.
In essence, the psalmist throughout this stanza is probing the nature of obedience. The clearest way to structure this passage may be to view it as a “question answered”.
- The question: what is the nature of obedience?
- The answers: (explored in each verse)
I. Question: what is the nature of obedience?
- Obedience is based on a commitment to a loving God. (57)
- Obedience grows out of seeking to know God better. (58)
- Obedience emerges from adopting God’s ways. (59)
- Obedience should be immediate, without hesitation or delay. (60)
- Obedience should not be affected by opposition from the godless. (61)
- Obedience requires a full-time commitment. (62)
- Obedience flourishes in the fellowship of the likeminded. (63)
- The more I know of God’s love, the more I will desire to obey him. (64)
In order to love God more we must continually seek to obey him more.
Jesus taught his disciples the same truth that the psalmist sets forth in this stanza: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (Jn. 14:15). In John’s next chapter, we find this same truth restated and expanded: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (Jn. 15:10). In relating to God, love and obedience are always two sides of the same coin.
Each of the statements the psalmist makes about the nature of obedience is worthy of extended meditation on its implications for followers of Jesus. As an example, take the issue of struggling to obey immediately (vs. 60). We might ask ourselves, “When impressed by the Holy Spirit with the sense of what we should do, how quickly do we respond? Do we take immediate action, or do we procrastinate, putting off until tomorrow, or next week, or never, what we should do right now?” With God, good intentions never take the place of actually doing his will.
Or maybe it is verse 61 that brings a sense of conviction. While we know that obedience should be our first priority, we readily admit that others’ sins can sidetrack us and provide a flimsy excuse for our failing to obey God’s will. Obedience is a commitment to the Lord that should never be impacted by the behavior of others. The challenges found in every verse of this segment can be summed up in the following question: “Will we strive to obey Yahweh or will we be content with less than a wholehearted pursuit of his will in our lives?”