Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.
The Lord’s teaching is eternally effective because it changes our character, instead of simply describing the way things are to us.
Give me understanding and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
To try to keep God’s law without understanding what it is, or what it is for, or how it works, is not the point. We are no longer slaves but sons and heirs and he wants us to join the family business and participate in his way with a whole-hearted response, just as he does. Has it ever occurred to you that God is not above the law? He keeps it pure and undefiled, in his son, in his spirit and in himself.
Direct me in the path of your commands
for there I find my delight.
My search for joy can finish in his command – in his Word – if I care to think about it in that light. If we seek delight there, we will find it.
Turn my heart towards your statutes
and not towards selfish gain.
Yes, that all my ambitions might find a place in you, Lord. We are very broken – we can’t turn our own hearts at all! This is a real symptom of the disease of sin – a disobedient heart that longs for and lusts after unholy things – but this is a true proof of God’s grace: he will turn our heart for us. And God’s laws run exactly opposite to selfishness: we need have no worry or guilt or self-criticism when our hearts are after the things he says.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
To stay fixed on the valuable things is to remain alive! Life is not worth living if all we can see are diseased things. But the things we let into our spirit through our eyes will extend and preserve our life.
Fulfil your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
Testimony is powerful, isn’t it? It is awe-inspiring and intended to shock us with God’s gracefulness and faithfulness. If God were to keep all his promises – just consider how many that is for a moment – wouldn’t that unutterably change our lives? Now consider: God will keep all his promises! His promises to Adam, to Eve, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to David, Solomon, to Hannah and to Simeon and Anna and Mary and Elizabeth and to Jonah and to Jeremiah and every secret promise he has made to every king, prophet, teacher, labourer, designer, musician, angel, messenger, translator, builder, farmer, meteorologist, child and grandparent. Consider the scope of these promises! All the promises he made to Jesus and to John! If you have ever had the Spirit assure you of something, that too will be fulfilled – and if, like me, you are too forgetful of the promises God has made to you, testify to them, write them down, record them for your children, tell them abroad. All the little ones – the ones we consider little – about the weather and the mood of someone we have to talk to and the ones about work and money. All the great ones about our name in the book of life. When we speak them with our mouth our brain records them in our experience and we build our faith. We redesign our life.
Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
Fear is the enemy of satisfaction. So we make a good swap with the Lord – our disgrace for his law! Seek to please God, rather than any other authority, and fear no disgrace! We cannot be disgraced before God – dis-graced! Because Grace is not revoked.
How I long for your precepts!
Preserve my life in your righteousness.
With all this in mind, can’t we say we long to hear from God, through Scripture, through the still small voice, through a song or dance of worship, through the wind in the trees! To understand his law and his way of living, his new covenant of grace, his sacrifice in our place, his healing power, his life where there was death! These are the things that will bring us life as we understand them, experience them, make them primary in our lives. His righteousness – his unique characteristic – is what we seek! And we were promised that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be satisfied.
It was around this point that I had my own personal revelation. I wrote, on the 12.1.14; In my teaching, in my writing, I want to please God. There’s all this talk of pleasing Ofsted – none of pleasing our creator, who cares for us, who’s nearby. That was when I decided to leave teaching and seek a new way.