The Rewards of Patient Obedience: A Meditation on Psalm 119:41-48

“Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word” (Psalm 119:41).

Easily unnoticed, this stanza begins with the Hebrew letter waw, which implies is a continuation of the prayers of the previous stanza: “Let thy mercies come also unto me” (v. 41).  For this reason, we should see both stanzas as part of a larger unit, with the first stanza giving the prayers for causing-grace and the second stanza giving the prayers for the resultant-grace.  In other words, the second stanza answers the question: Having emerged from the vanities and reproaches of this world, what is the reward of dependent obedience and worship?

Three rewards are cited:

First, tangible salvation is the true answer to reproach (vv. 41-42). Instead of immediately answering reproach, in a vain attempt to clear his name, the psalmist chose rather to pray for deliverance (v. 39).  Since God’s loyal-love is eternal, salvation must come eventually; and when it does, the psalmist will be given tangible proof of his integrity in the face of his accusers (cf. Psalm 103:17; 13:5).  Therefore, as the apostle Paul also counseled, let us not be bothered by the opinions of men, as if their judgment counts; rather, let us wait “until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).  In the glory of that day, all false charges will melt away.

Second, thoughtful recitation is the true hope of longevity (vv. 43-46). The psalmist makes persevering obedience, secure freedom, and unashamed testimony the result of this prayer: “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments” (v. 43).  It is as he states, “Even in old age, when my memory may threaten to fail me, do not take the word of truth out of my mouth!”  Not even parroting will do, for he is not speaking God’s words, which can be mindlessly recited, but God’s word (singular), that is, His overall message, revealed to us in the Scriptures (cf. John 17:17).  Until he dies, he desires the seamless incorporation of God’s word into his everyday conversation.

Are you able to pray that God will not take His word from your mouth? To pray thus, you must first have hidden God’s word in your heart (cf. v. 11).  Second, you must also have had God’s word regularly upon your lips, which is a condition that cannot be faked.  The heart may hide for a season, but speech is known to all men.  Do they hear God’s word from your mouth? If not, please note the consequences: You will not have obedience that is steadfast and lasts (vv. 43-44).  We may claim to obey, but empty speech reveals an empty heart, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34).  And if the heart is empty of God’s word, true obedience is impossible, for the bulk of Psalm 119 teaches that obedience requires thoughtful education in God’s word (e.g., vv. 33-34).  Let us not be like those so-called Christians, who attend church for thirty years and cannot yet give a reasoned explanation from the Scriptures for right behavior.  Instead, let us resolve today, by grace, to incorporate the word into our everyday conversation.  Then we will be able not only to obey, but also to “walk at liberty” and to “speak…before kings” (vv. 45, 46).

Third, delightful meditation is the true sport of the righteous (vv. 47-48). Almost as a postscript, the psalmist adds, “And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved” (v. 47).  The Hebrew word for “delight myself” is used elsewhere for children at play (Isaiah 11:8).  Rather than television or athletics, the wise and holy man finds sport in the commandments of God, for he loves them (a point repeated).  As a result, his reward is further meditation: “…[so that] I will meditate in thy statutes” (v. 48).

Imagine!  Finding the commandments of God a sport!  To the regenerate soul, this is not imagination but sweet experience.  Rather than take pride in his “devotions”, as if it were some arduous task to accomplish, the forgiven child of God enjoys listening to the Father’s word of instruction, and eagerly seeks to please Him, finding pleasure in “proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).  As with all lovers, to those who love God’s commandments, meditation is a salient reward that well repays the patience of dependent obedience and worship.

How about you? In a culture that worships sports, how deeply have you been infected?  Does ten minutes in the word seem harder than two hours at the arena, even though deep-down, you really do delight in God’s word?  If so, go back to the previous stanza, and pray for causing-grace.  Life lived in the word brings its own intrinsic reward, and part of that reward is sheer delight.

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