“Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.” – Ps. 119:17
Psalm 119 is by far the longest chapter in the bible. It’s 176 verses, arranged according to the Hebrew alphabet in an acrostic, of sorts. The lines of each section begin with the sequential Hebrew letter. Verses 1-8 each begin with ‘aleph’, and so on. You understand. It’s elegantly displayed. One centuries-ago preacher said of Psalm 119, “It is theological matter in a logical manner.” He’s right, too. The entire Psalm is dripping with theological weight.
Throughout the psalm the author is intent on magnifying the Word of the Lord, because steadfast devotion to God through regular time in the Word is the way of the righteous. He even says in verse 105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” You see how the emphasis is on devotion to God through the power of His word? This is the way of the righteous.
But there’s a curiously important turn of phrase in verse 17. “Deal bountifully with your servant…so that I may live and keep your word.” Do you notice the ordering of the words? The psalmist’s desire is to live unto God and keep His word. This is the language of sanctification. It’s the heart of the redeemed that desires to walk with God more and more, die to the flesh more and more. And to walk in a renewed manner according to the power of God. This is what sanctification is. John the Baptist best summarized the entire doctrine of sanctification by the little phrase, “He must increase, I must decrease.” – John 3:30.
We decrease and Christ increases in our lives as we live to God and keep His word. But what do you notice about the way verse 17 is written? Preceding any effort to walk with God or keep His word, is the sure experience and knowledge of God’s gracious bounty and dealing. In other words, the psalmist knows he has no hope of living according to the Word of God unless God has already poured out His love in him.
This is how it always is. Because God has loved us and freely given us all things in His Son, therefore, we love Him and walk according to His ways. What does it mean to ‘walk in His ways’ but to walk in a manner consistent with the scriptures? We, like the psalmist, must put off the things of the flesh and put on the things of the Word of God, by which He reveals himself to us.
The psalmist here is simply remembering that his desire and ability to walk according to the Word of God is entirely dependent on God’s love for him. “Deal bountifully with me…so that I may walk in your ways.” But here’s the rub…you will never walk in the ways of God, nor experience the lavishing bounty of God in your life if you are not committed to regular time in the Word of God.
The Word of God is powerful and sharp as a double edged sword, able to divide even body and soul. Keep the Word of God deep in your heart and let the Word dwell richly within you by spending regular time there. Maybe you need to resolve again to meditate on the Word both day and night (Josh. 1:8). The upshot? You will find your heart’s attitudes and desires changing more and more to reflect the bounty of God’s dealing with you.