57 The LORD is my portion;
I have promised to keep Your words.
58 I sought Your favor with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to Your word.
59 I considered my ways
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
60 I hastened and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
61 The cords of the wicked have encircled me,
But I have not forgotten Your law.
62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You
Because of Your righteous ordinances.
63 I am a companion of all those who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.
64 The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.
What can we learn about obedience from this psalm? There are six truths the psalmist reveals in these verses: his motive for obedience (119:57), God's grace in obedience (119:58), the need to "consider" our obedience (119:59), the importance of hurrying to obey (119:60), obedience will be tested (119:61), fellowship encourages obedience (119:63).
After Israel entered and conquered the Promised Land, the land was divided and each of the tribes of Israel was given a portion of the land as an inheritance. The priestly tribe of Levi, however, did not receive an inheritance in the land because the LORD was to be their portion (Numbers 18:20). That is the picture the psalmist evokes when he writes, The LORD is my portion (119:57). It is the blessing of having the LORD as his portion that motivates the psalmist to keep God’s words. And so it is with us. The LORD is our portion and we are to obey Him because of who He is, the greatest treasure and inheritance we could have. As our portion, He is our hope (Lamentations 3:24), our security (Psalm 16:5), our strength (Psalm 73:26), our refuge (Psalm 142:5). Do we need any better reasons to obey Him?
We all know that obedience does not come easily. We all stumble and fall, but the psalmist reminds us of God’s grace and favor (119:58). When we seek Him, we find that He is gracious even when we fail. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22). Our obedience will not be perfect, and we will fail God at times, but He will never fail us. That is grace.
To help us obey, 119:59 reveals the importance of taking a critical look at our lives. The psalmist says he considered his ways. If we want to obey, we need to “consider” our lives. We need to evaluate our words and our actions. And how do we do that? We dig into God’s Word to learn what He requires of us. We hold His Word up as a mirror to see how our obedience measures up. The apostle James warned about looking in the mirror of God's Word, turning away, and promptly forgetting what we saw there (James 1:22-24). An honest consideration of our ways should turn our feet to obedience -- immediately!
The psalmist says he hastened and did not delay (119:60) to obey. In the New Testament alone, we see numerous encouraging examples of people who did not delay but responded “immediately” when they were healed, called, prompted, or commanded by the Lord. See Mark 2:12, 5:42; Luke 4:39, 8:55; Acts 9:20, 9:34, 10:33, 16:10. Will you follow their example? It is human nature to put things off. But if you procrastinate, you will never obey, and like Pharaoh, your heart will grow hard. It has been said that delayed obedience is disobedience. It is rebellion!
Even in the toughest times, when we see wickedness all around us (119:61), we need to follow the psalmist's example to remember God’s Word and obey. James 1:2-4 says that trials are a testing of our faith and we can’t just give up or give in. We need to patiently endure and obey, no matter what. Do you place limits on your obedience or are you determined to obey God no matter what? Do you find it easy to compromise with the world or do you cling to God (Deuteronomy 10:20). It is necessary to practice obedience daily, moment by moment, even in seemingly insignificant things. Then we will have the capacity to endure in the face of trials instead of being overcome by the wickedness of the world. If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5).
The psalmist shows us that our friends impact our obedience. He chose companions who feared God and kept His word (His precepts, 119:63). We tend to become like those we hang out with the most. Are your closest friends those who honor God and obey His Word? Do you have friends who set an example and encourage you to obey. Being in a Bible study like Disciplers where you study, share what you’ve learned, and apply it to your life will help you make obedience a way of life. Obedience thrives on godly fellowship!
We all make many choices every day, and in these few verses the psalmist has shown us how to make positive choices for obedience. None of us will ever be perfect this side of heaven, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want to be the best we can be right now. Of course, we’ll all fall short at times, and it’s good to know that we’re saved by God’s grace and not because of our obedience (119:58 and Ephesians 2:8-9). However, our obedience -- our works (our actions, and even our words) -- offer proof that we are saved, for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ will love His words and obey Him.
We’re just beginning a New Year. What a great time to begin practicing obedience and putting Psalm 119 to work in our lives. Let's inspire one another by being examples and encouragers. I pray that we will all find joy in obedience in 2017!