Teach me to “delight” in your commandments…

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Psalm 119: 33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 

This morning I’m struck by the word “delight” in v.35. When I think about the law (the commandments and other ordinances of God in scripture) the words that describe my experience of them would be “challenge”, “respect”, “aspiration”. It is one thing to know that commands of God, but quite another to actual do them consistently. It’s that “sin” thing that gets in the way over and over.

Yet the writer of this passage appears to experience the commandments differently. If you read the rest of this psalm it’s obvious the writer is under duress and struggling to see a way forward. There are lots of questions and few answers. What to do? Instead of figuring out the details of his situation he turns to the statutes and commandments of God. In essence, it is his hope that by following God’s ways the Lord will provide the wisdom and insight he needs to successfully navigate the many threats before him.

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.”

Again, it’s the word “delight” that gets my attention. What does that word mean in the original language of Hebrew? Is “delight” the right English translation or is there something missing here? So I did a study of the Hebrew word “חָפֵץ (ḥāpēṣ)” and found some interesting variations on the meaning of this word. One such variation is the use of this Hebrew word to describe the state of a nursing baby at its mother’s breast. Interesting!

Have you ever seen a nursing baby at the breast? Or even nursed a child yourself? Usually there is a sense of calm in the child at the breast, and why not? The child is snuggled up to the mother. She is warm and soft and nurturing. I would guess the child, whose head lays against mother’s chest, hears the mother’s comforting heartbeat. It’s a very intimate act which I’m sure is intended by God. It solidifies the bond between child and mother which is important for the child’s development and growth. Many times the child will even fall asleep while nursing, at peace wrapped in mother’s warmth and love – with a belly full of mother’s milk.

Now recall how this word is used by the psalmist. This is a person struggling with hardship, uncertain as to the way forward, and yet takes “delight” in the commandments of God – which provide this kind of calm in the midst of the storm. So this morning I share in the prayer of the psalmist. O God, lead me in the path of your commandments that I might “delight” in it – and be at peace. Amen.

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