Oh, that my ways were steadfast!

You have laid down precepts
     that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
     in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
     when I consider all your commands
            --Psalm 119:4-6 NIV®

Sometimes Bible or “church” words get overused until they no longer have heart-meaning, or current connotations reflect shadily on the character of God, the Law-Giver. I wanted to look at this in a fresh way and make it intimate and practical to my soul. So I did a bit of etymology work to paint fresh pictures in my mind and heart.

The Hebrew word used for precept is piqqud, which means “a thing appointed”, a mandate or commandment. A thing “appointed” means “pointed toward”, a targeted direction. A mandate is a command, taken from the Latin root mandare, or man = “hand” and dare = “give”. The picture is of a Giver pointing His hand toward a direction with the intent that the other follows in that direction. The Law-Giver is a Guide. Immediately I see God differently!

Giver of Life

More than that, I see that the Giver requires that one follows in the directed way. It is a rule that is meant to be followed. The prefix of the Latin root for command, is com (an intensifier) + mandare. It is, therefore, intensely crucial (from the word “cross”, “crisis”, or “crux”) that we obey! Obedience is not an option. I’m listening.

The words that are used to describe all this are interesting. To direct means to put down straight (di= “distinctly”, or de = “down” + regere = to put straight). We get the word “rectangle” from the same root, meaning a “right” angle. A right angle is perpendicular; one remembers the plumbline of Isaiah 28:17 or the metaphor of Jesus as the Cornerstone in Acts 4:11.[1]

We talk in this way of being “right with God”, of having the righteousness of God on us because of Christ. God is true, man is skewed. God calls us to be rightly aligned, or “plumb”, with His own character. We can’t get there, so He provided Christ, our Cornerstone, who laid a new foundation by His death on the Cross, and is building His Church upward from that foundation–not based on our own failed attempts, but on His perfectionthrough Grace. I’m seeing more clearly here.

I no longer see God in a judge’s robe handing down restrictive rules, a lawbook of do’s and don’ts that we have to strain to obey or we’re punished or cast away into utter darkness. God calls us in His Word to be like Himself in a love relationship.

I take time to think about this. When I love someone, don’t I want them to come alongside me and come to love that which I also love? God is truth. God wants us to come alongside Him in that truth. He is CALLING us, guiding and directing us to that which is Truth. This is a positive call up, not an angry, painfully strict denunciation.

The relationship here is different than any human relationship. The Giver of the Law is the only Standard, the only one Righteous enough to command my obedience. He’s not just ‘someone’. The stakes are very high here, because He is Sovereign (“sole ruler”). To disobey, to reject this call to righteousness, is to pay a consequence much like a call to stop at the edge of a cliff.

Those precious lives that were lost in the Grand Canyon from taking selfies on the cliff’s edge come to mind. I felt the utter senselessness of that destruction. God, in His Love, calls us back to safety by calling us to Himself. That is love.

A precept is a forewarning (prae = “before + capere = “take”). God, in His great love, calls us to right living–to LIFE–before it is too late. This is mercy and love, not power-heavy and harsh. His commands are about giving, not taking; life, not death; reconciliation, not isolation; power, not fear.

And now it is up to me

Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying His life-giving decrees (L. decretum = “something decided”)! God has decided what way I should walk to be safe in life-giving fellowship with Him.

  • I don’t have to wonder how to live a good life that will be soul-satisfying.
  • I don’t have to wonder how to please our Creator God!
  • I don’t have to wonder about the meaning of life or my purpose in it!
  • I don’t have to wonder if I am loved and valued or not.
  • I don’t have to wonder what will happen to me when I die.

God has done the heavy work of all that for me. God’s sure promises of love and life accompany His commands to be obeyed. His law is love, His way is grace.

I must walk diligently, steadily, in those ways. But I am distracted by the lust of my heart toward deceptive self-pleasure. This always ends in shame in one way or another. We don’t have to be told this, we have all experienced it.

God’s ways, however, bring honor, not shame. I may feel embarrassed or lowly when holding to God’s decrees at first, but honor will surely come if I only hold fast to the humble truth and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31). Fear no longer has to be my master, for God’s Word is power. God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

I’m calling all this to mind–because I want to remember (Lamentations 3:21-23).

         Father of Love, I need your commands.  How precious they are to me! I am confused, 
frustrated, distracted, and tired. I am grieved at my sloth. You call me to all that is good and
satisfying, but my sinful soul resists. Make Your Word real to me today and give me the strength
of character to follow without swerving in all that You give me. I'm thinking of specific things
that face me today, Lord. You know those things.  Lift up my head, Lord, when I do fail and set
me back on the right path. Give me the humility to confess my wrong and the grace to forgive
others in the same way I am forgiven. Draw us out of our shame together, Lord, and into the
Light of Your Love and Mercy in rich fellowship with You. I pray this for those who are reading
this post. Enrich us. Open our minds and heart to receive Your Truth.  Just for today, Lord. In
Christ, Who gives us power to obey, we pray with thankful hearts. Amen.
You have laid down ___________
     that are to be _________ _________.
Oh, that my ______ were __________
     in ________ your __________!
Then I would not be put to ________
     when I ________ all your __________
            --Psalm 119:4-6 NIV®

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered by Biblica, Inc.®

Further Resources

What is a plumbline in the Bible?” by GotQuestions.org at https://www.gotquestions.org/plumb-line-Bible.html. A very good, brief illustration.

Aleph Prayer and Memorization Downloads at ReadPsalm119.com

Worship Together!

Father of Lights, by Third Day, uploaded by Jeru Luke, May 18, 2016. [YouTube; 3:25 min.]. Celebrate in worship! (Lyrics on screen).

His Mercy Is More performed by Shane & Shane, uploaded by Shane & Shane Music, February 14, 2019. [YouTube; 5:02 min.]. The song was written by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell.

Verse 1:
What love could remember, 'no wrongs' we have done
Omniscient, all-knowing, He counts not their sum
Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

     Chorus:
     Praise the Lord!
     His mercy is more
     Stronger than darkness
     New every morn’
     Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Verse 2:
What patience would wait as we constantly roam
What Father so tender is calling us home
He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Verse 3:
What riches of kindness He lavished on us
His blood was the payment His life was the cost
We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Chorus:
Praise the Lord
His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness
New every morn’
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

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