97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way (ESV).
The opening line of this stanza exclaims, “oh how I love Your Law!” (v 97a). What is really amazing me about this psalm is how personal, heartfelt and worshipful it is. Because the psalmist loves the Law, he mediates on it all the day (v 97b).
This psalm and especially the above verse humbles me with how much he loves the Lord’s Law. “In Psalm 119 the psalmist does not just learn God’s word, but he loves it. His love for God’s instruction causes him to meditate on it continually (cf. Ps 1:2); and as he contemplates God’s truth, it is assimilated into his life so that he learns it, loves it, and lives it” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 423).
Dr. Michael Heiser makes an excellent point when he says, “We tend to think of the law as though every one of its 613 commandments [this includes the 10 commandments given in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21] were an oppressive lynchpin in a relationship to Yahweh. We tend to view the law negatively, as though it were given to produce feelings of guilt or to frustrate Israelites with the impossibility of pleasing God. This is misguided…An Israelite would have known that believing was at the heart of right relationship with Yahweh, not mere mechanical observance of a list of do’s and don’ts. For sure some Israelites would have lapsed into this mistaken thinking, particularly after the shock of the exile, but that wasn’t what the law was about” (The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, 2015, p. 163).
The commitment that the psalmist has to the Lord’s commandments makes him wiser than his enemies (v 98a). “Obviously, people attacking the psalmist without reason and/or with deceit ignore both the content of Yhwh’s commands and the promises attached to them. They are stupid. They are ultimately bound to fail” (J. Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 90-150, 2006, p. 418).
Because the Lord’s Word is always with him (v 98b) he has more wisdom (understanding) than all his teachers (v 99a). The psalmist here has caused himself more wisdom because the Lord’s testimonies are his meditation (v 99b). The Word of God NEVER fails to make wise a person who is open, receptive and willing to obey what He says!
In verse 100a the psalmist compares himself to the aged. While it is widely assumed that older individuals have more discernment (understanding) than the young, the psalmist here flips this, stating that he has more discernment than the aged because he keeps the Lord’s precepts (v 100b).
The psalmist holds back his feet from every evil way so that he may keep the Lord’s Word (v 101). He also does not turn to the right or to the left from the rules that the Lord has taught him (v 102). “[The psalmist] always keeps in mind that he is a student in the Lord’s school, and his chief purpose is to stay true to what the Lord has taught him” (Estes, p. 424).
The Lord’s Words are a sweet taste to his mouth, sweeter than honey (v 103). “In biblical times honey was a highly valued delicacy and a rare sweetener, so it is a fitting image for how delectable God’s word is to him. As frequently throughout Psalm 119, God’s word is viewed in terms of delight and enjoyment because to the psalmist it is a sweet delight, not a bitter duty” (Estes, p. 424). Believers today also know how sweet His Words taste in their mouths, which is why they can say along with David, “o taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8).
The psalmist concludes this stanza restating that it is through the Lord’s precepts that he gets discernment; as such, he hates every false way (v 104). The psalmist is able to discern false ways because he knows what the Lord his God requires both from the Law and because of having a personal relationship with Him. “In the light of God’s word, he can see through sin for what it is and where it leads, and this understanding enables him to reject every false way (cf. v. 163). God’s word guards him against making wrong turns that lead to bad consequences” (Estes, p. 424).
Lord God, thank You and praise You for Your Law! Lord God, may we love Your Law like the psalmist. Lord God, may we seek to read and practice Your Word so that we will be wise people! Lord God, wise people seek wise people. May we seek to do life with the wise and not the popular. Lord God, Your Word will cause us to grow if we are actively reading and putting it into practice. Help us to desire Your Word so that we will know how to discern truth from error. Lord God, there is so much error in our world today, help us to be grounded and guarded in Your Truth!
Lord God, help us to keep our feet from moving toward evil. May we stay focused on You and what You have taught us rather than looking to our right and to our left. Lord God, Your Words have the sweetness of life. May we never forget to taste and see that You are good, even in the midst of pain, hardship and suffering. Thank You Lord that You cause Your people who are earnestly seeking You to have wisdom and discernment. Lord God, may we practice common sense; helping us to hate every false way! Lord God, thank You for this reader! May this reader grow in their desire for You. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.