God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:15-16 Do not neglect his word
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, April 16, 2023
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your statutes;
I will not neglect your word.
These verses conclude the beth or second stanza of the Psalm. We see the poet delighted by the word of God, a thought that repeats many times. In these two verses, he describes his journey of study in the word: I meditate, I consider, I delight. The word “delight” in the first line of verse 16 is an unusual form. Most readers will not be very enlightened to know the details of this word. (It is an obscure hithpalpel imperfect form of the verb sha’a’ but formed by metathesis into the word ‘eshta’sha’). But a little study will help us to observe that the root word usually means “to delight in” something or to play, such as when a baby is “bounced on the knee” (Isaiah 66:12). Here it seems to mean “I delighted myself” with the word of God. So meditation on the word, long consideration of the meaning of what God has said, has become a delight, so dear that it is like the sport we enjoy with babies, making them giggle and laugh in the pure delight of play with no sin attached in any way. The word of God gives a sinless joy, free from temptations and doubts, a lightness that comes from the true freedom given by God in his promises of forgiveness, salvation, and peace. His ways lead us to such joy.
Then verse 16 concludes with a negative statement which is nothing less than the third use of the law: “I will not neglect your word.” This is a roundabout way of saying: “I will keep up my study of your word, day by day.” The turn of phrase, “do not neglect,” is not uncommon:
“Do not neglect to do good and share what you have” (Hebrews 13:16).
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
“Do not neglect the ministers (Levites) living in your town” (Deuteronomy 14:27).
“Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Timothy 4:14).
“We will not neglect the house of our God” (Nehemiah 10:39).
And although it is in the apocrypha it is most certainly true: “Do not neglect your mother” (Tobit 4:3).
Finally: “Listen to instruction and do not neglect it” (Proverbs 8:33).
This isn’t just a verse for a scholar. Ordinary Christians benefit from regular, daily study of the word of God. And there are different benefits from different kinds of study. Tearing through many chapters in a day can serve to keep the big picture in sight. About a year ago I got hold of a small notebook and decided that for my annual read through the Bible I would write down one verse from every chapter. It could be something profound, something I had not given much thought to before, something that struck me, or (I imagined) just the last verse if nothing else turned up. I thought the process might slow me down, but it did just the opposite. I was constantly eager to read just a little more, and I ended up reading through from cover to cover in about eleven weeks. On the other hand, a slower path, especially through the Gospels and Epistles, can cause the reader to consider details that are easily overlooked.
Another way of “not neglecting” the Word is to change commonly used verses for similar ones when we write, speak, teach, or pray. For example, when I feed my pets I pray a meal prayer, giving thanks to God for taking care of them. Usually I end with Proverbs 12:10, “The righteous man cares for the needs of his animal,” but sometimes another verse comes to mind, like Psalm 50:10, “Every animal of the forest is [yours, O Lord], and the cattle on a thousand hills.” Or a version of Genesis 8:1, “God remembers the man, and all the wild animals, and the livestock with him.” There is more than one proof passage for every doctrine, and although we want to keep things simple and clear when we teach our children, we benefit from meditating on all of God’s precepts, from considering his ways, from delighting ourselves with his statutes, and from not neglecting his word.
Pastor Timothy Smith