Psalm 119: 17 Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word. 18 Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. 19 I live as an alien in the land; do not hide your commandments from me. 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times.
The laws and ordinances God gave to Israel via Moses (think Ten Commandments) laid out the boundaries God demanded in order for there to be right relationship between God and his people. Follow the ordinances of God and receive the blessings of God. Violate the ordinances of God and suffer the consequences of God’s displeasure. Pretty simple. What I find interesting about our passage is the description of one who is “longing for your ordinances at all times”.
My sense is that the author doesn’t so much long for God’s ordinances as much as he longs for the benefits and blessings of following them. With God there is protection and provision and abundance, things we still value today. Do I long for these blessings? Sure! Do I long for the ordinances that produce them? Not as much.
I was listening to a talk by Nick Saban, legendary head coach of Alabama football. Though I’m not a ‘Bama fan I appreciated what he had to say to his players. He said (I am paraphrasing here) there are players who can be “good” with modest talent and a strong work ethic. Other players can be “good” with above average natural talent and a so-so work ethic. Most “very good” players have both above average natural ability as well as a strong work ethic. But then there are the “elite” players with which one can build a national championship team.
Elite players have God-given ability as well as “a special intensity, a special focus, a special commitment and drive and passion to do things at a high level and high standard all the time”. He is clear that is what he expects from those who are part of his organization – coaches, players, whatever. Why? Because achieving the results they’re looking for simply takes what it takes. There are no shortcuts. Expecting to achieve the results without the work is folly. But if you show up every day with that elite mindset, to function with that sort of focus and intensity, over time, good things will happen.
For whatever reason, this is what I hear in the passage for today. To be “consumed with longing” for God’s ordinances is what it takes to see the blessings which are the goal. Salvation is already mine in Christ Jesus, but there are other elements of the Christian life which require my effort. This morning I’m asking the Lord what is being asked of me today, that I might enjoy the blessings of God.