The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. —Psalm 19:9-11
Though Psalm 19 calls us to obey God’s law, it doesn’t command us to earn His favor. Far from it. He compels us with love to embrace His laws that are, themselves, desirable and sweet. How desirable? More than great riches. How sweet? More than your favorite dessert.
As in our day, in the ancient world wealth was the measure of value. So it is that the Psalmist, wanting to help us get a sense of the worth of God’s Word, says it is more desirable than gold. But he doesn’t stop there. He ups the value ante even more saying it is better than fine gold. And not just that, but much fine gold.
When the Psalmist was writing, honey was the primary and most precious of sweeteners. It was the ancient world’s fine chocolate. Think of your favorite dessert. You should want God’s Word more.
What does this mean? It means we should crave God’s laws more than what we want to buy and what we want to eat. Why? Because God’s law and testimony, precepts and rules, are perfect, sure, right, pure, clear, and true. And unlike vast riches and banquet tables groaning with food, they revive the soul, make us wise, enlighten our eyes, never fail, and never lead us astray. They are righteous. And when we obey them, we resemble our righteous Father.
Not only are they better than money and honey, there are rewards for keeping God’s law. They are a bonus. We see this in the way the Psalmist introduces the ideas of warning and reward by the word moreover. It’s as if he’s saying, nothing is as desirable or as sweet as the Word of God. Full stop. But also, His Word is filled with warnings that, if heeded, will spare you from trouble and hardship in this life, and coming judgment in the next. And if obeyed, will lead to great reward: blessings in this life and eternity in the presence of the Lord.
I remember a banquet at the close of middle school when the administrators said they were going to give awards to outstanding students. I felt anxious, and hopeful that I’d be chosen. I didn’t really have reason to feel either because we didn’t know till that moment that there were awards to earn, nor what the qualifications were. You can imagine my delight, and shock, when my name was called. It was an unexpected surprise. But I could just as easily have been passed over.
God is not so arbitrary with His children. He tells us repeatedly, clearly, that the wicked will face judgment and eternal punishment, and the righteous will receive rewards and pleasures forevermore (John 3:36, 5:29, Psalm 16:11).
Heaven will certainly be full of surprises, but there are things we can know now, and expect, and yes, even work toward. This is not the work of a laborer trying to earn his pay. We are saved by grace; our entrance to heaven is secured by Christ’s blood on the cross. But rather, our striving to obey is like the striving of an athlete who, having already qualified for the Olympics, is trying to win the gold medal. He pushes through pain and hardship, making costly sacrifices in the present for the love of his sport, as well as the possibility of future glory (1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1).
God has spoken in creation (vv. 1-6) and His Word (vv. 7-11), and we are without excuse. We must respond to these testimonies. If we reject Him, we will live under His judgment, cut off from His beauty, forever. If we trust and obey Him, we will live in His presence with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
The metaphors of money and rich food help us feel the longing we should have for God’s Word. Do you feel such longings?
Pray–Ask God to intensify your desire for His truth, and to focus your pursuit of knowing His Word.
Plan–Set a regular time in your daily routine to read the Bible and think about what it says (2 Timothy 2:7). This is greatly aided by reading your Bible before you look at your phone in the morning, as well as reading it in a quiet place, away from screens and technology.
Plead–Ask God to give you understanding (Proverbs 2:3), to open His Word to you (Psalm 119:18), and to cause you to be satisfied by Him (Psalm 63:5) more than by anything else.