God’s Precepts


As finite human beings, we can not know everything. But because we are made in the image and likeness of God, our deepest desire is to seek and to know the truth about things. For this reason we humbly seek the will of God. His will is perfect and is revealed in his precepts. This is why our greatest effort as Christians is not only to know God’s decrees, his precepts and commands, but to willingly choose them, to live them out in our daily lives.

If our faith is sincere, like the psalmist’s, we will conduct our whole lives as a constant effort to learn God’s precepts more clearly and to live them out more dearly. In the reality of our imperfect human lives we can only choose and carry out our actions in accord with what we know at this moment in time. We must do so in all humility, for in our finite weaknesses, we might be wrong. Because we are finite and, as yet, imperfect beings, the fact of the matter is that sometimes our knowledge about God’s precepts can be either incomplete, or misinformed, or it can even be wrong. Like the psalmist, if we are humble enough to accept the fact that we do not yet know and practice God’s precepts perfectly, if we have the courage to learn from our errors and failings; if we truly love God, and if we have sufficient faith in his love for us, we will be able to ask God for his help in teaching us the meaning of his decrees. For he will come to our aid and, “Cause [us] to understand the way of [his] precepts, so that we may meditate on [his] wonderful deeds,” with greater wisdom.

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This part of psalm 119 is all about our relationship with God. Are we humble, or are we proud? Do we recognize God’s law, or are we a law unto ourselves? It is humility that causes us to desire to know and to live in accord with God’s precepts. Because he is ever-faithful to us, we have all the reason in the world to be faithful to him. Because he is so willingly and lovingly generous to us in giving us life, in forgiving all of our sins, we have cause to love him willingly in return. God is perfect. He made all of creation out of his perfect goodness. Unlike any other thing in creation, he made man and woman in his very own image and likeness. What is that image and likeness? It is our free will. In the image of God, we are free to choose. In the likeness of God, we are free to choose aright, in order to avoid sin, and we are free to carry out our choices. While in the image of God we are always free to choose, we often choose wrongly; we fall short of living in accord with God’s likeness. Most often this happens because of our ignorance. But it is also possible for us to know God’s law and yet choose purposefully, with willful intent, to defy it. And we are also free to carry out all of our choices. In any of these cases our choices will have their consequences in the real world. If we are humble enough, we will see the error of our ways, and we will be free to choose to submit to the precepts of God once again. The more we do this, the more holy and righteous we can become. The more holy and righteous we become the more we will be living in accord with the image and the likeness of God in which we are made.

To know your law is our deepest desire, Lord. Help us to know and to “hold fast to your statutes. Do not let us be put to shame.” (verse 31) Forgive us our tresspasses, our misuses of our freedom, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Teach us the truth of your ways, Lord, so that we too can say, like the psalmist, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.” (verse 32) In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.