If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 28:20–68, Psalm 119:25–48, Isaiah 55, Matthew 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Psalm 119:25–48.
Today’s passage in Deuteronomy spells out dire consequences from the Lord for Israel’s disobedience. Later generations experienced most of these consequences because God’s people repeatedly chose to disobey God’s word rather than do what God said and experience the blessings we read about yesterday. With such great promises for obedience and such painful promises for disobedience, it is surprising that God’s people did not simply follow his laws carefully. Well…, it is surprising until you consider human nature. People have a hard time with rules—even ones they agree with—because rules are incapable of changing human desires. Our hearts long for the freedom to do what we want; we are deceived and deceive ourselves into thinking that we can sin without consequences. We see God’s laws, then, not as lights to illumine our choices so that we know right from wrong, truth from error, or wisdom from folly; rather, we perceive God’s laws as fences that would seek to restrict our freedom to run.
What does all this have to do with Psalm 119? Verse 32: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.” This lengthy Psalm is an acrostic poem. Each stanza begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in alphabetical order. The subject of this poem is God’s law; someone once called it a “love letter to God’s law,” and that is a good description. Nobody in our culture writes 26 poetic verses—one for each letter of our alphabet—extolling the virtues of federal law but some inspired Psalmist did. Why? What made the difference between the vast number of Israelites who worshipped idols and disregarded God’s laws and its promised blessings? The answer is a changed heart. The Psalmist who wrote these lines had experienced the new birth we call salvation. He had received regeneration—the gift of spiritual life to someone who is spiritually dead. One result of that regeneration was a changed attitude toward God’s word. Instead of experiencing God’s commands as fences that restrict freedom, the believer now sees God’s laws as a flat, smooth footpath that provides moral and spiritual guidance. He can “run in the path of your commands” like a child runs across the backyard—free, happy, and secure. He can do this because “you have broadened my understanding” (v. 32b; see also verse 45). This is what God’s grace does; it teaches us to understand that God’s word is a blessing to be treasured, loved, and most importantly obeyed. A believer receives and obeys God’s word with joy because it frees him from the bondage of sin and its consequences. It also holds out the promise that, if the believer does what God says to do, there will be rewards. That’s faith—obey first to experience blessings later.
This is not to say that the Psalmist never struggled with the sin nature any more. In verse 29, he begs the Lord to “keep my from deceitful ways.” In verses 36-37 he asks that Lord to turn his heart and his eyes away from sin and toward God’s word. Your struggles with obedience are proof that God has not completed his work of salvation. Salvation is a fact if you’re in Christ; it is certain because it is based on God’s promises but it won’t be completed until we are with Christ. Until then, we need God’s word to guide us and we need to continually ask the Lord to give us the desire to obey his word as he changes us within by its power. Some of you have been reading God’s word more faithfully than you ever have before this year. You’ve told me that; you’ve also mentioned how much it is doing in your Christian life. Keep showing up each day to read with me; much truth still awaits. But let’s be sure to do what the word tells us to do so that we can grow in our faith and be liberated to follow the Lord.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.