When I ask my son to ride his bike with shoes on, it may seem to him that I am being stiff, restrictive and maybe even mean, depending on his reception in the moment (and you might agree with him on some level). However, I give this direction because I love him. I don’t want to clean out and bandage bloody toes; I know the pain that would cause. Should my son not heed my direction and an accident occur, he will promptly realize what I asked of him was not restrictive or mean, but a command given out of love. The command actually frees him up to enjoy his bike riding all the more.
"I run in the path of Your commands for You have broadened my understanding.” Psalm 119:32
The 1984 NIV version of this verse says, “I run in the path of Your commands for You have set my heart free.” The Hebrew word rachab used for “broadened my understanding” and “set my heart free” is also used in 1 Samuel 2:1 and Isaiah 60:5 to describe a heart that is expanded with joy. Following God’s commands (primarily dispersed through His Word—the Bible) is not at all restrictive, stiff, or boring. Instead, following God’s ways leads to broader understanding and a heart that is free and expanded with joy! The more-together-every-day life Jesus desires for us is full of joy and freedom! Do you want to enjoy God? Do you want to live a life full of joy and freedom? The answer is found in delighting in His law, thereby becoming a life-giving, fruitful tree, prospering and flourishing (Psalm 1). Our tendency is to mistake “delighting in His law” for legalistic rule-following. The problem here is that the focus turns from God to ourselves. Rather, we should fix our eyes on Him. Enjoying his presence, delighting in His ways, and walking in freedom because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, lead to this kind of joy.
Psalm 119 in total has provided much encouragement in this area. Spend time reading observing how often the writer mentions God’s law, His ways, His commands, etc. The author is not dragged down by God’s commands but rather finds himself loving them, meditating on them, and enjoying the fruit of obedience. He desires to be taught God’s ways and commits them to his heart to keep himself from sin (Psalm 119:11). In all of this, the writer finds himself blessed, free, joyful, pure.
“Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” Psalm 119:111
So may we find ourselves delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). May our sleepless nights not be from anxiety or fear but filled with meditation on His promises (Psalm 119:48). May His promises, truth, and commands penetrate deep into our hearts to keep us from believing Satan’s lies. And may we find our hearts expanded with joy as we run in His ways. Amen