“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire; my ears you have opened , burnt offering and sin offering you did not require. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God, and our law is within my heart’” (Psalm 40:6-8). This is the song of one who, after many trials, even many years of struggle, has come to know the faithfulness, the righteousness, and the love of God in his own life. It is a recognition of the connection between God’s law and one’s own life.
I remember being a teenager struggling to break free of my father’s “rules” and how I saw them as nothing less than arbitrary constraints on my freedom to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. It was a matter of great tension between us for a long time. He was also a man of strong and devout faith. He did not hesitate to remind me of God’s law and my duty to learn it, to understand it, and to live in accord with it. But there was too much of youthful ignorance and arrogance in me. I rebelled against what I perceived as my father’s subjective and arbitrary will over me willfully and regularly.
Needless to say, I was not happy and it took me a long time to figure out that my unhappiness was of my own making. I had to discover that real freedom is very different than my imagined sense of it. I had yet to gain the wisdom that is necessary for real happiness. What is that wisdom? It is the wisdom that only comes with maturity, that is, maturity of character and maturity of faith. It is called self-discipline at the character level and submission to the will of God at the faith level. What I finally came to realize was that what my father was telling me about my character was true. His “rules” were tools to help me learn self-discipline. He knew that it was a hard habit to learn, but with practice and a little discipline from him, the chances were better that I might “see the light” than if he just allowed my willful behavior to go on just to avoid the hassles and the tensions. You see, it was hard for him too. But he was mature enough to know the benefits that would eventually come my way if I would simply “open my ears.”
When one matures in the faith one begins to see the wisdom of God’s laws. They are not constraints, rather they are wise directions leading one to right behavior towards God, and as a result, right behavior towards one’s neighbors, and towards oneself. This is the source of the happiness that we all desire. This is the proper understanding of freedom. In learning the righteousness, or goodness of God’s law and willingly choosing to practice living by it, one is able to see the wisdom of self-restraint for the greater good of another, and as a means of giving thanks to God for all of the goodness he has given to you. When one sees this and then makes it a habit in one’s life, it is no longer seen or experienced as a “law” but as the natural and proper way to behave. This is what the psalmist is writing about in this psalm. Though he knows himself a sinner, he is able to say at the end of this psalm, “But I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer…” (verse 17). He has reached a new level of maturity in his character and in his faith. This is what happened to me when I finally “grew up.” I came to the realization that my father was always thinking of me, even though I was always testing his last nerve. His “rules” were for my benefit. The same is even more true of God’s law. Now I can more regularly say to God, “Behold, I [happily] come” (verse 7). I will never forget my surprise when I discovered that my father had been right all along. And the wisdom of God’s law is even richer and more wise than that of my father. And even more freeing!
Lord, Help us to see the true wisdom of you laws. Give us the strength and the courage to then live by your law in our daily lives. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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