The ordinances of the LORD are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; In keeping them there is great reward. Ps 19:10-11
“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around about with sex and drink and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis
Introduction: Because of God’s holiness and our sinfulness, the Bible is filled with “don’ts.” But, because of God’s beauty and His grace there are even more “do’s”. It is crucial for us to keep this distinction. The “don’ts” will only last our lifetime, but the “do’s” will go on into eternity. Perhaps Ephesians 2:5-8 will help explain what I am trying to say. Paul writes, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
That is what Lewis is saying. Our desires are not too great, They are too small. We settle for mediocre desires that are inspired by the “mud pies” of this world, rather than pursuing “infinite joy” that is offered to us in our eternal “holiday at sea.” Paul tells us the reason God has raised us up and seated us in heavenly realms is so that in eternity, the incomparable riches of his grace would be plainly seen. In other words, we are raised up to enjoy those riches that will take an eternity to fully appreciate. What I am trying to show is that the great motivation for right living is not just the fear of punishment, but the joy of reward in Christ Jesus. The beauty of Jesus Christ and the joy and satisfaction he brings to our hearts is the ultimate motive for ending our piddling in the passing pleasures of this world. Instead, we passionately pursue the Person who delights our hearts with riches which begins now and will go on for an eternity.
The Scriptures are like a telescope that enables us to see the incomparable riches of Christ that are displayed in a universe beyond our earthly perception. So, if we are opening the Book motivated only by a sense of duty, we fall far short of what God intended. If Jesus speaks there, if he reveals the pathway to joy in his presence and eternal pleasures at his right hand [Ps 16:11], it seems that delight and expectation should be our grand motive. And, that is exactly the sentiments that the psalmist displays in our text. May the Spirit of God open our eyes so that we can join him in discovery of the wonderful things God has hidden in His law [Ps 119:18].
Exposition: With eyes wide open, the psalmist goes to the law looking for treasure. He knows God speaks from its pages. Think about the Author. Our God has all power, all wisdom, and all joy. He needs nothing. He is totally satisfied in the love that is found within the fellowship of the Trinity. He creates not out of necessity but out of an overflowing pleasure and purpose to share his glory with created beings. It is true that he is “Holy, Holy, Holy!” Fearing Him is the beginning of wisdom. But, at the same time, we are commanded to come to Him and enjoy Him. Psalm 34:8, tells us to “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 16:11 declares, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 100, adds:
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
We learned in our last edition that our God issues edicts that are “sure and all together righteous.” There is an unquestioned and settled authority in all that God reveals. He rules His universe by His law. All laws are an expression of his sovereign will. God is not accountable to any laws outside himself. God acts according to His moral character which is not only morally perfect, but is the ultimate standard of perfection of all other things. He and His laws never change. His actions are perfect because his nature is perfect. As his creatures, we are required to do what He says is right. We discover what we are to do and not do by hearing Him speak to us in His Word, the Bible. We are promised great blessings as we obey and live our lives according to His Word.
The unchanging law of God is the foundation for the confidence and freedom he gives us. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [John 8:31-32] His truth delivers us from the obstacle of sin that keeps us from discovering and delighting in God’s beauty. We now live by faith, not sight; by truth, not feelings; in freedom, not bondage. Our “wanter” is being transformed. Our thinking is being transformed. The old things have passed away and all things are now new.
We stand in stark contrast to our postmodern world which denies the possibility of knowing ultimate truth. All is not relative. We are not left to our subjective perspectives and prejudices. Something, or better yet, Someone, has invaded our lives with Truth and has called us out from the world to know and glorify Him in our living. We are a holy people, an owned people, called out to live a miraculous existence for the glory of God and the deep satisfaction of our hearts.
That is why the psalmist says that the ordinances of the Lord are “more precious than gold.” Who needs gold that passes away when you have eternal treasure that lasts forever? When we are faced with the decision of choosing money or obeying God’s Word, we go for obedience! Why? “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” [Ps 119:72 72]. The Word of God is the means to a life filled with all things that are really good and last forever.
The psalmist goes on to affirm that the decrees of the law are also sweeter than honey. Jeremiah said it like this: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.” [Jeremiah 15:16] Recently my wife, Barbara, surprised me with my favorite apple pie. What really made it neat was the fact that she used my mom’s recipe. It was delicious, just like mom used to make it. As I ate it, each bite became a joy and my heart’s delight. Why? Not only did it taste good, it tasted good because it was Mom’s recipe. It was special because I shared her name. It reminded me of her love for me. We were linked. It just tasted “love” and “family.” That is what I think the psalmist and Jeremiah are trying to say. To eat God’s Word and let it settle in our hearts, just seems right to those of us who are His family. The Holy Spirit has made us God’s family. We don’t have to reason from premise to conclusion. God’s Word simply tastes good to His children!
The psalmist goes on to give more detail as to why he finds the law precious and tasty. It warns us and rewards us. Sin is deceptive on the surface of the moment. It looks and tastes good up front. But, like a McDonald’s Big Mac, you will pay for it later. St Augustine once said, “Sin is its only punishment.” What he meant is that we rightfully warn about the disastrous results of sinful acts, but sin itself is great punishment, for it cuts us off from fellowship with God, our great joy. Psalm 119:127 says it like this: “Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.”
If one day I were to tell my son that he could not ride home with a friend of his because he was known to be a reckless driver, and later we found out that the friend did indeed have a deadly accident because of his foolishness, my words of warning would be seen as “precious” and “sweet” to my boy. Likewise, when we open God’s Word and our eyes are opened by God’s Spirit, His law enables us to see behind the glitzy temptation to its deadly effects. All around we can see those who have not heeded the warnings of God’s Word and have made wrecks of their lives. Precious words keep us from things that rob us of what is most precious.
On the other hand, the law shows us the road to reward. It does not just keep us from evil, it ushers us into unbelievable joy. The Word gives us the strength for a joyful and fruitful life. [Psalm 1]. The greatest reward, the ultimate discovery, is seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ [2 Cor. 4:6]. The commands are given to remove the obstacles from fellowship with Christ and to put us on the pathway to ever increasing joy. The more we “see” the glory of Christ as he is revealed in the Scriptures, the more we reflect that awesome glory to the world. [2 Cor. 3:18]
The psalmist does not go to the Scriptures just because he has to. He gets to. He has tasted and found the Lord is good. As we chew on God’s principles and savor his promises, our souls will also be satisfied and our lives will be edified. The idea that we should go to scriptures out of duty should be jettisoned. It makes no more sense for you to do that than for me to put a piece of Mom’s apple pie in my mouth just because it honors her memory. She made it for my joy. God gave His law for our joy. So, let us learn to devour His law and learn to love His will and His ways. The most important things we can do is stir up our appetite for those tasty morsels that satisfy us and please us most joyfully and eternally. That is why God’s law is sweeter than mom’s apple pie!
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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