Psalm 40:8 “I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
This is another Psalm that I am torn when it comes to writing on just a little bit of it. There are several dearly loved verses in it, and verses 1-4 have been put to music numerous times. However, this verse resonates most with me at the moment. The Japanese renders the first line as, “I have made it a joy to do your will.” Sometimes we do God’s will grudgingly and sometimes pretty willingly, but how often do we genuinely rejoice to do it? The key to that is in the second half of the verse: having God’s commands in our heart. That idea is famously expressed in Psalm 119:11, and it’s still as true today as it was thousands of years ago. I am frequently reminded of my seminary-professor-grandfather’s question to his students: “How big is your Bible?” By that he didn’t mean printed matter, but what was actually in their heart, as David says here. This is far more than memorization. Memorization isn’t bad, and in situation like China where believers are often imprisoned without access to Bibles it is essential, but many of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had huge chunks of the Old Testament memorized, yet had their hearts closed to the Holy Spirit. As Paul cautions us, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6) It is my observation that those who are most set on a particular translation of the Bible are least likely to be open to allowing the Spirit to bring the Word to life within them. Our joy is not to be in legalism (which is a pretty cold joy at best) but in the living Lord we serve.
Memorization has tended to be somewhat problematic for me because of my exposure to so many different translations in different languages. I have a lot of the Bible in my memory, but the Lord only knows how many translations are involved. It is interesting at times to enter a particular phrase into Bible search software and see which translation comes up! That has contributed to my personal focus on what the Holy Spirit is saying through the words on the page. I know very well that failing to listen obediently to the Holy Spirit is just fooling myself. (James 1:22) It is when I am obedient that God’s joy wells up within me, just as David says here.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Your grace in allowing me to be addicted to the Bible, as one of the believers here once said. May I indeed allow it to dwell in me richly, as Paul said, (Colossians 3:16) accomplishing everything for which You send it, (Isaiah 55:10-11) for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!