Love Quickens Me

A brief study of Psalm 119:49-56, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 26 July 2013


The 8th song of Psalm 119 is characterised by the Hebrew letter j (cheth). Not surprisingly, the keyword for this song would be ds,j, (checed), which may be translated “mercy” (v. 64) or “love” or “loving-kindness” or more fully “covenant loving-kindness.” The theme of this song may be given as “Love Quickens Me.”

This is a song which the Lord Jesus more than anyone else could sing with sincerity. This is a song which He has given us to sing in union with him as a prayer and confession to the Father.

It is hard to detect a structure in this song. There are two petitions: “Be merciful unto me according to thy word” (v. 58) and “teach me thy statutes” (v. 64).

The rest of the statements are affirmation of love and devotion to God. Its is like love song, like what the Shulamite woman would sing to her lover; only that this is to be sung by a child to his Father. In any case, it seem  best to look at this song verse by verse without trying to tease out a structure.

It begins with the words, verse 57—

57 Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.

A portion (ql,je) is a share or an inheritance. If I have a portion of land, it would be land assigned to me. If I have a portion of food it would be the parcel of food that is given to me. If I have a portion of an inheritance, it is the part that is bequeathed to me. I will be rich if the portion is great.

But if Jehovah is my portion, then I shall have no lack whatsoever. Whatever needs I have will be satisfied. Whatever void I have in my heart will be filled.

How can Jehovah be my portion? Obviously He can’t belong to me the way that a parcel of land can belong to me. But I can, in a sense, own Him if my heart is filled with love for Him as well as with an assurance of His love for me. And this is possible because He has given His Spirit to dwell within me as the earnest of my inheritance (Eph 1:14). In this way the LORD is my portion. And I enjoy and experience Him as my portion for His love is shed abroad in my heart by His Spirit (Rom 5:5). Thus we may sing wholeheartedly with the Lord our Saviour that Jehovah is our portion.

If Jehovah is my portion, my heart is full of Him. Then I can do no other but love Him and hide His words in my heart. But not only will I treasure His word, I will do what pleases Him, I will keep His commandments. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn 5:3). It is not grievous because the heart is overflowing with love.

It is with this same heart full of love that we come to the Father to seek His mercy or His grace and pity (÷n"j;) which He promises to bless us with, verse 58—

58 I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word. 

The word “favour” translates the a Hebrew word (µynIP;) that means “face.” When my heart is filled with God’s love, then I will come to Him with sincerity and undivided devotion to seek His face. I want to see His heavenly smile, and I want to taste of His lovingkindness that He has reserved for me: “be merciful unto me according to thy word.

It is with this same heart filled with love that we consider our ways and seek to please our Father by keeping His commandments, verse 59—

59 I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. 60 I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.

The child who loves not his father cares not to please him. He may obey him for fear of chastisement, but he drags his feet to obey him. This is not so for us when our heart is filled with love for our Father. We shall think of our ways and lament how we have grieved Him. We shall turn our feet that we may follow Him. We shall quicken our steps, anxious to demonstrate our love to Him by keeping His commandments.

No, no, we shall not keep His commandments out of a mere sense of duty and unwillingness. Rather love quickens us. We cannot do any other.

Beloved brethren and children, is this true of you? Is your heart filled with your Father’s love? Is your heart in tune with the heart of your Elder Brother, your Saviour? Is your heart like that of Simon the Pharisee, or is it like that of the immoral woman who washed the Lord’s feet with her tears? Oh think about your ways and your failures, and think about how much you have been forgiven, and let your heart be filled with love. He who is forgiven much will love much. He who loves much will delight much in the ways of the Lord.

Again, when our heart is filled with our Father’s love, we are not easily shaken by persecution or trials so that we despair to remember or to keep His commandments. Verse 61—

61 The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law. 

We have no record of our Lord being robbed during His earthly sojourn. He did not have much to be worth robbing. But when He was on the cross, He was indeed robbed by a band wicked soldiers who even cast lots for his garments. Yet our Lord did not forget His Father’s law. He did not try to avenge himself. He did not curse and swear.

What about you beloved brethren and children? You may not have been robbed physically, but have you not been robbed of your peace—such as when someone hurt you by his decision? Have you not been robbed of your honour—such as when your children did something that displeases you? Have you not been rob of your pleasure—such as when someone spoil your day by his words or when someone refuses to give you what you want?

Have you at such times forgotten the law of God and given yourself to intemperate outbursts. Did you forget momentarily that you are accountable to God for your words and actions?

Oh may the love of God so fill our heart that we be like our saviour, meek and constantly bearing in mind the law of God.

Again, when our heart is filled with our Father’s love, we shall have occasions to thank God in the darkest night. Verse 62—

62 At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.

 

Unless you drink a lot of coffee, you may not have the habit of waking up in the middle of the night. But I am sure you have experienced dark nights in your soul.

Our Lord experienced it in the wilderness when He was tempted by the devil. He would have experienced it again when His brothers spoke condescendingly to Him, not believing that He was truly the Messiah. Again, He would have experienced it when He was rejected by the people in His hometown, or when many of his disciples forsook Him, or when He was betrayed and arrested, or when His closest disciples fled from Him, or when He was tortured and crucified.

I have had many dark nights too. They are not pleasant. They evoke confusion, fear, sadness, anger and all sorts of other feelings. It is hard to describe.

What shall we do when the darkness of night fall over our soul? Sometimes we allow ours confusion drag us down to make us doubtful and depressed.

But this need not be the case, for if our heart is filled with the love of God, then love quickens us. Love does not allow us to continue under the grip of the nightmare that blinds our spiritual eyes. Love wakes us up in the middle of the night when the situation is so bad that it can’t seem to get worst. Love reminds us that God our Father who loves us in control of everything. Love stirs us to give thanks unto our Father for His righteous judgements and love towards us even in the midst of the darkest night.

The apostle Paul must have been thinking of such dark nights when he says: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil 4:6). A heart filled with the Father’s love can indeed give thanks at midnight.

Again when our heart is overflowing with the Father’s love, then we cannot stand to walk or to sit with such as hate Him. Rather, we would seek out fellowship with those who fear Him, love Him and keep His precepts, verse 63—

63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.

Very few in the world understand our Father’s love for us. Very few understand why we love Him. But those who fear Him understand. They do not fear Him with cringing trepidation. They fear Him with reverence and love that wants to draw nigh to Him to behold His wondrous face. These are those who like our Saviour seek to keep God’s precepts.

When our heart is filled with love, we will find it uncomfortable to spend much time with those who fear not our Father. We want to spend time with those who fear Him. We would rather spend time with individuals who are quiet and not so sociable, than with those who are the life of the party who fear not the Lord.

Love quickens us to love those whom the Father loves, who bears the image of His Son.

And we must not think that we have no choice but to have fellowship with worldly people. The fact is that the world is full of God’s mercy. No only do we see His fingerprint of creation in nature, but we see His fingerprint of redemption in His children.

But that does not eliminate our need for the Father’s help to do that which is right. Thus, we are given to close this song with  verse 64—

64 The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.

Who would see that the earth is full of the LORD’s mercy, except those who heart is full of the love of God? If your heart is full of the love of God, you will no doubt see that the mercy or loving kindness of God everywhere upon the earth—in creation and in redemption.

Love quickened me to obedience, but Lord I need thy help if I am to obey. Teach me thy statute, lead me in the way everlasting. Grant me the life abundant and free that Christ my saviour promised me.

Conclusion

This is the 8th song of Psalm 119.

Oh beloved brethren and children, the LORD’s love for you is unquenchable and firm. Is your love for him also very strong? If so, let us sing of our love warmly, and let us walk in His love gratefully. Amen.

—JJ Lim