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God’s Word for You

Psalm 119:47-48 Your commandments which I love

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, December 15, 2023

47 For I delight myself in your commandments,
    which I love.
48 I lift up my hands to your commandments,
    which I love,
    and I will meditate on your statutes.

We already discussed the rare verb “I delight myself” (eshta’sha) along with verse 16 of this Psalm. It means to delight oneself, like a baby who finds that being bounced on the knee is great fun, and tries to accomplish the feeling all by himself. The Christian is not only delighted by meditating on the word of God, but his greatest joy comes from such study. What does the word of God teach me today? The history, the prophecy, the poetry, the letters—all of it instructs, all of it reveals God’s will; all of it motivates godly living.

When we consider God’s commandments, such as the Ten Commandments, we delight ourselves to discover how they guide us every day. God wants us to be holy. Why? “Because,” he says, “I am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). He invites us to imitate him, to be like him, and to follow after him with our whole life and being.

“Honor your father and mother” is the Fourth Commandment, but God also says, “Each of you must respect his mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3). He invites us to consider how honoring and respecting are similar, and how they are different, and how both commands get at the heart of our behavior. He does not want mere actions from us, but genuine attitudes. He wants us to love by showing love.

“Do not murder” is the Fifth Commandment. But God also explained this by saying: “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s (that is, anyone’s) life” (Leviticus 19:16b), and again, “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17a). These words fall perfectly in line with the way Jesus explained the same commandment: “Anyone who is angry with his brother (that is, with anyone) will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21). But in Leviticus, once again we have the repeated motivation for a life that does not hate, for between Leviticus 19:16 and 19:17 we find the words: “I am the LORD.” In Hebrew, this is just two words: ani adonai. He is the God who makes covenants with mankind, covenants with just one side, God’s side, and he is the God who keeps such covenants. He is the God of love, of life, of the resurrection, of the forgiveness of sins. If God loves and forgives, then surely I find my motive for loving and forgiving in my life. God invites us to imitate him, to be like him, and to follow after him with our whole life and being.

What does it mean to lift up our hands to his commandments? Do we worship God’s commandments? No, we worship God. The commandments teach us to love God and to love each other.

To lift the hand can be to lift the hand in aggression, as David says: “I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:10). So this cannot be that kind of lifting.

To lift the hand can be to pray, as when David says, “I call to you for help as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place” (Psalm 28:2; 1 Timothy 2:8). But we do not pray to the commandments, so this cannot be that kind of lifting.

But to lift the hands also means simply to act. “His angels will lift you up in their hands” (Psalm 91:11; Matthew 4:6). The angels do something with us in God’s service by lifting us up. And in a similar way we do something with the word of God when we lift it up. We do not rescue it (as the angels do with us, day after day), but we use the word of God, apply it, take it in hand and live by it. This must be what David means here.

But let’s let the form of the two verses tell us something more. Hebrew poetry does not depend on rhyme, and not much on meter. Instead, the poet delights in parallel thoughts. In a synthetic parallel verse, the second line continues the thought of the first, such as in Proverbs 10:22, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” The second half of the verse isn’t the same thought as the first, nor the opposite, but a new and delightful idea.

In an antithetic verse, the second line restates the idea of the first line but from a reversed or negative point of view. Hundreds of Proverbs follow this pattern: “What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted” (Proverbs 10:24).

Here we have the most usual type of parallel poetry: synonymous, where the second line simply restates the first. In this case, it means that our three lines say the same thing:

    (a) I delight in your commands
    (b) I lift up my hands to your commands
    (c) I will meditate on your statutes

It’s easy to see that delighting in the word of God and meditating on it can be much the same thing, and from there it is no great leap to see that lifting up the hands (putting the word of God into practice) is all part of the same thing. To meditate on the word leads to doing what it says, and this brings delight. “Do not merely listen to the word,” James says, “Do what it says” (James 1:22).

Remember the promise of God in the middle of his law; indeed, in the middle of the Ten Commandments! “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God… showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

Meditate on his word. Do what it says. And be delighted.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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