“How I Do Love Your Law!”
“How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.”—PSALM 119:97.
1, 2. (a) What situation did the inspired writer of Psalm 119 face? (b) How did he react, and why?
THE writer of Psalm 119 faced a severe trial. Presumptuous enemies who disregarded God’s law derided him and smeared him with falsehood. Princes took counsel against him and persecuted him. The wicked surrounded him, and his very life was endangered. All of this made him “sleepless from grief.” (Psalm 119:9, 23, 28, 51, 61, 69, 85, 87, 161) In the face of this trial, the psalmist sang: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.”—Psalm 119:97.
2 You would do well to ask, “How could God’s law be a source of solace and comfort to the psalmist?” What sustained him was his confidence that Jehovah was interested in him. Being acquainted with the loving provisions of that law made the psalmist happy, despite the hardships brought upon him by his opposers. He recognized that Jehovah had dealt well with him. Moreover, applying the guidance from God’s law made the psalmist wiser than his enemies and had even preserved him alive. Obeying the law gave him peace and a good conscience.—Psalm 119:1, 9, 65, 93, 98, 165.
3. Why is it a challenge for Christians to live according to godly standards today?
3 Some of God’s servants today are also undergoing grueling tests of their faith. We may not face a life-threatening crisis as the psalmist did, but we do live in “critical times hard to deal with.” Many people with whom we are in daily contact have no love for spiritual values—their goals are self-centered and materialistic, their attitude arrogant and irreverent. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Young Christians regularly have to deal with threats to their moral integrity. In such an environment, it can be difficult to maintain our love for Jehovah and for what is right. How can we protect ourselves?
4. How did the psalmist show appreciation for God’s law, and should Christians do likewise?
4 What helped the psalmist to withstand the pressures he experienced was his dedicating time to pore over God’s law with appreciation. In that way he came to love it. Indeed, almost every verse of Psalm 119 mentions some facet of Jehovah’s law.* Christians today are not bound by the Mosaic Law, which God gave to the ancient nation of Israel. (Colossians 2:14) However, the principles expressed in that Law are of enduring value. These principles were a comfort to the psalmist, as they can be for God’s servants who are struggling to deal with the difficulties of modern life.
5. What aspects of the Mosaic Law are we going to consider?
5 Let us see what encouragement we can gain from just three aspects of the Mosaic Law: the Sabbath arrangement, the provision for gleaning, and the commandment against covetousness. In each case, we will find that an appreciation for the principles behind these laws is vital if we are to meet the challenges that characterize our times.
Satisfying Our Spiritual Need
6. What fundamental needs do all people have?
6 Mankind was created with a number of needs. Food, drink, and shelter, for example, are essential if a person is to remain in good physical health. Yet, man also has to care for his “spiritual need.” He will not be truly happy unless he does that. (Matthew 5:3) Jehovah considered the satisfying of this innate need to be so fundamental that he commanded his people to interrupt their normal activities for one whole day each week in order to give attention to spiritual matters.
7, 8. (a) How did God make a distinction between the Sabbath and other days? (b) What purpose did the Sabbath serve?
7 The Sabbath arrangement emphasized the importance of spiritual pursuits. The first occurrence of the word “sabbath” in the Bible is in connection with the provision of manna in the wilderness. The Israelites were told that they should collect this miraculous bread for six days. On the sixth day, they were to collect “the bread of two days,” for on the seventh, none would be provided. The seventh day would be “a holy sabbath to Jehovah,” during which each one should keep sitting in his own place. (Exodus 16:13-30) One of the Ten Commandments mandated that no work at all was to be done on the Sabbath. The day was sacred. The penalty for not observing it was death.—Exodus 20:8-11; Numbers 15:32-36.
8 The Sabbath law showed Jehovah’s concern for both the physical and the spiritual welfare of his people. “The sabbath came into existence for the sake of man,” said Jesus. (Mark 2:27) It not only allowed the Israelites to rest but also gave them the opportunity to draw close to and show love for their Creator. (Deuteronomy 5:12) It was a day dedicated exclusively to spiritual interests. That included family worship, prayer, and meditation on God’s Law. The arrangement served to protect the Israelites from using all their time and energy in material pursuits. The Sabbath reminded them that their relationship with Jehovah was the most important thing in their lives. Jesus reiterated that unchanging principle when he said: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’”—Matthew 4:4.
9. What lesson does the Sabbath arrangement provide for Christians?
9 God’s people are no longer required to observe a literal 24-hour sabbath rest, but the Sabbath arrangement remains much more than a historical curiosity. (Colossians 2:16) Is it not a reminder that we too must give spiritual activities priority? Sacred interests must not be overshadowed by material preoccupations or recreational pursuits. (Hebrews 4:9, 10) So we might ask ourselves: “What takes first place in my life? Am I giving priority to study, prayer, attendance at Christian meetings, and the sharing of the good news of the Kingdom? Or are other interests crowding out such activities?” If we put spiritual matters first in our lives, Jehovah assures us that we will not lack the necessities of life.—Matthew 6:24-33.
10. How can we benefit from dedicating time to spiritual matters?
10 Periods spent studying the Bible and related publications, as well as thinking deeply about their message, can help us to draw closer to Jehovah. (James 4:8) Susan, who some 40 years ago began setting aside time for regular Bible study, acknowledges that at first it was not fun. It was a chore. But the more she read, the more she enjoyed it. Now she really misses her personal study if for some reason she cannot get to it. “Study has helped me to get to know Jehovah as a Father,” she says. “I can trust him, rely upon him, and freely approach him in prayer. It is really overwhelming to see how much Jehovah loves his servants, how he cares for me personally, and how he has acted in my behalf.” What great joy we too can have from regularly attending to our spiritual needs!
God’s Law on Gleaning
11. How did the gleaning arrangement work?
11 A second aspect of the Mosaic Law that reflected God’s concern for his people’s welfare was the right to glean. Jehovah ordered that when an Israelite farmer reaped the fruits of his field, the needy should be allowed to collect what harvest workers left behind. Farmers were not to reap the edges of their fields completely, nor were they to gather the leftover grapes or olives. Sheaves of grain inadvertently left in the fields should not be retrieved. This was a loving arrangement in behalf of the poor, the alien residents, the orphans, and the widows. Granted, gleaning required hard work on their part, yet by means of it, they could avoid having to beg.—Leviticus 19:9, 10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Psalm 37:25.
12. What opportunity did the gleaning arrangement give to farmers?
12 The law on gleaning did not stipulate how much produce farmers were to leave for the needy. It was up to them whether the borders of unreaped grain around the edges of their fields would be wide or narrow. In this, the arrangement taught generosity. It gave farmers the opportunity to show their appreciation to the Provider of the harvest, since “the one showing favor to the poor one is glorifying [his Maker].” (Proverbs 14:31) Boaz was one who did so. He kindly made sure that Ruth, a widow who gleaned in his fields, would collect a good quantity of grain. Jehovah amply rewarded Boaz for his generosity.—Ruth 2:15, 16; 4:21, 22; Proverbs 19:17.
13. What does the ancient law on gleaning teach us?
13 The principle behind the law on gleaning has not changed. Jehovah expects his servants to be generous, especially toward the needy. The more generous we are, the greater our blessings will be. “Practice giving, and people will give to you,” said Jesus. “They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.”—Luke 6:38.
14, 15. How can we manifest generosity, and with what possible benefits both to us and to those whom we help?
14 The apostle Paul recommended that we “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Thus, we certainly need to be concerned that fellow Christians receive spiritual help whenever they face tests of their faith. But might they also need practical help, for example, in getting to the Kingdom Hall or in doing their grocery shopping? Are there any elderly, sick, or housebound ones in your congregation who would appreciate an encouraging visit or a helping hand? If we make an effort to be sensitive to such needs, then Jehovah might be able to use us to answer the prayers of a needy one. While caring for one another is a Christian obligation, doing so also helps the caregiver. Showing genuine love to fellow worshippers is a source of great joy and deep satisfaction that wins us Jehovah’s smile of approval.—Proverbs 15:29.
15 Another important way in which Christians show an unselfish attitude is by using their time and energy to speak about God’s purposes. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Anyone who has had the joy of helping another person to arrive at the point of dedicating his life to Jehovah knows the truth of Jesus’ words: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Guarding Against Covetousness
16, 17. What did the tenth commandment prohibit, and why?
16 The third aspect of God’s Law to Israel that we are going to consider is the tenth commandment, which prohibited covetousness. The Law stated: “You must not desire your fellowman’s house. You must not desire your fellowman’s wife, nor his slave man nor his slave girl nor his bull nor his ass nor anything that belongs to your fellowman.” (Exodus 20:17) No human could enforce such a commandment, since no one can read hearts. That commandment, however, elevated the Law to a plane higher than that of human justice. It made each Israelite aware that he was directly accountable to Jehovah, who can read the inclinations of the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) Moreover, this commandment got to the very root of many illicit acts.—James 1:14.
17 The law against covetousness encouraged God’s people to avoid materialism, greed, and grumbling about their lot in life. It also safeguarded them from the temptation to commit theft or immorality. There will always be those who have material possessions that we admire or who in one way or another seem to be more successful than we are. If we fail to control our thinking in such situations, we could become unhappy and feel envious of others. The Bible calls covetousness a manifestation of “a disapproved mental state.” We are far better off without it.—Romans 1:28-30.
18. What spirit prevails in the world today, and what negative effects can it produce?
18 The spirit prevailing in the world today promotes materialism and competition. Through advertising, commerce arouses desires for new products and often conveys the idea that we are not going to be happy unless we acquire them. This is exactly the kind of spirit that Jehovah’s Law condemned. Related to it is the desire to get ahead in life at any cost and to accumulate wealth. The apostle Paul warned: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
19, 20. (a) For the lover of Jehovah’s law, what things are truly valuable? (b) What will be the subject of the next article?
19 Those who love God’s law recognize the dangers of a materialistic spirit and are protected from it. The psalmist, for example, prayed to Jehovah: “Incline my heart to your reminders, and not to profits. The law of your mouth is good for me, more so than thousands of pieces of gold and silver.” (Psalm 119:36, 72) Being convinced of the truth of these words will help us to maintain the balance necessary to avoid the snares of materialism, greed, and dissatisfaction with our lot in life. “Godly devotion,” not the amassing of possessions, is the key to the greatest gain possible.—1 Timothy 6:6.
20 The principles behind the Law that Jehovah gave to the ancient nation of Israel are as valuable in our difficult times as they were when Jehovah gave that Law to Moses. The more we apply these principles in our lives, the more we will appreciate them, the more we will come to love them, and the happier we will be. The Law preserves many valuable lessons for us, and vivid reminders of their worth are presented by the lives and experiences of Bible characters. Some of these will be considered in the following article.
All but 4 of the 176 verses of this psalm mention either Jehovah’s commandments, judicial decisions, law, orders, regulations, reminders, sayings, statutes, ways, or word.
How Would You Answer?
• Why did the writer of Psalm 119 love Jehovah’s law?
• What can Christians learn from the Sabbath arrangement?
• Of what lasting value is God’s law on gleaning?
• How does the commandment against covetousness protect us?
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What did the Sabbath law emphasize?
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What does the law on gleaning teach us?