Do good to your servant
According to your word, O Lord.
He will only do good, since for God to do is to do good. We can have no other expectation: he only does good and he only does it well. Scripture is our witness to this, that he has done good since the very beginning and will continue to do good endlessly. Scripture is to be trusted since scripture tells us of our Saviour – which no-one else and nothing else does. So we should seek those books and points of view that reinforce our understanding and show us God being good. And when we make ourselves his servant, this inevitable good is promised to us and his breathed Spirit confirms it.
Teach me knowledge and good judgement
for believe in your commands.
Faith is the key here: believing God’s word to be good makes us teachable. Without an attitude of wonder and gratitude, we won’t ever gain understanding. Here knowledge and good judgement are inescapably paired – for without one another, each is senseless. We are called not simply to know what is right but to exercise judgement and to use our knowledge to live differently, and so prove our faith, as James encourages. This is God’s teaching style: first he gives us faith to believe him, then he gives us better and truer information and the opportunity to embed it by using it. The more we follow this pattern, the more drastic the change in our life.
Before I was afflicted I went astray
But now I obey your word.
Yes indeed – conviction, shame and reshaping are God’s tools. He does not want us astray – better afflicted with grief or suffering and on the correct path than ignorant and in bliss- stupid bliss. Better the daily challenge to our self! Lord, how I thank you for this time – this rest. Remain in me, O Lord, so that I may continue to find rest.
You are good and what you do is good;
Teach me your decrees.
Here is the proof! We know God is good and free from imperfection, because we see his goodness in the things he does. His actions are essential to him – unsurprising (once you know him well) – suited – fitting – proper – and he must act to be true to himself. He is, after all, the Living God. And he wants us to mirror this integrity. O God, that my deeds befitted what you have made me! Teach me!
Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
Lies are sticky, but only touch the outside. Lying is an act of arrogance – to believe that you are bigger than the truth. But a whole heart will survive that – and a whole heart is needed to follow God’s law, since it is not an outwardly thing but an inwardly, spiritual law of the heart.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling
But I delight in your law.
A heart of flesh loves instruction from God – loves being changed, being directed, being contradicted, because it means relationship with one who is good and does only good. A fleshly heart is keen for its own changed life, for the effects on the people around. It is not only callous, unfeeling and insensitive to reject God’s purpose in sanctifying and changing us – it is stupid and selfish! Stupid because we cannot pretend that faith has any other purpose, selfish because it prevents others from receiving God’s truth. Every believer must whole-heartedly give themselves to God’s process of change.
It was good for me to be afflicted
So that I might learn your decrees.
Amen – even at a considerable price, to say this brings us determination and helps us to value what is valuable. Because even if I knew many things previously, then I had not learnt from them because I had done little It was good, Lord, that I should suffer and be prompted into action. Recalled to life!
The law from your mouth is more precious to me
Than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
Now I can say this for real. Our true riches are the words of God spoken to us in Scripture, made living and real by his spirit. With them comes such wisdom that we can solve problems in the world, we can change our relationships for more beautiful and worthwhile ways. With these words come challenges to our selfishness, our egocentricity, our remaining sins. May it ever be so, Lord God! Not dead words recalling a past, as some think, but your living law that teaches me and explains everything I observe in the world around – your law that brings me now to an attitude of worship – shows your great love for me, Father, as so good! So good! Amen.