Those Who Do Not Delight Will Perish (A Meditation on Psalm 119:92-93)
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. Psalm 119:92-93
Imagine with me that Jesus has gone away to pray. He has left the crowds who are desperate for food, desperate for His healing, and desperate for His teaching. He has left the disciples who are just as needy, and still lacking faith. He has gone to be alone to pray… what does He pray?
Jesus prayed the Psalms.
When Jesus was suffering for our sins on the cross under the wrath of God, He cried out to God saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). Though this is the only mention in the gospels of Jesus actually praying the Psalms (He did quote from the Psalms more than any other book), I would have to believe that the bulk of the moments Jesus went away to pray was filled with praying the Word of God, namely the Psalms (Mark 1:35; Luke 3:21; Luke 9:18; Luke 11:1; Luke 22:39).
In Luke 24:44, Jesus says that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of God’s Law, every Messianic prophecy, and also left us a beautifully perfect example. Both Psalm 1:2 and Joshua 1:8 discuss the command and the blessing of meditating on God’s Law day and night. Jesus did this. We see this specifically in Matthew 4 when Jesus resists the temptation of the devil by quoting Scripture (Psalm 119:11).
Jesus Endured Because of Joy
When I read Psalm 119:92-93, I see Jesus. I see Jesus fulfilling these verses, praying these verses, and leaving us an example with these verses. If God’s Law had not been Jesus’ delight, He would have perished in His affliction. But Jesus never forgot God’s precepts. And in light of God’s precepts, though He died, He was given life according to the Word of God and by the Power of God who raised Him from the dead. The Pastor of Hebrews basically rewords these verses by saying that Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus, for the joy set before Him (Psalm 119:92 - the law which was His delight – namely that God would reveal the riches of His glory by redeeming a people for Himself through the death and resurrection of Christ), endured the cross (vs 92 - affliction), despised the shame (affliction), and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (vs 93 - He has been given life).
There are two main reasons that Jesus fulfilled the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. First, for His glory which He shared with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). Secondly, for the many of whom He came to save completely (John 17:6-10, 20-26). You should stop right now and read those verses in John. Let me quote one to show you the depth of Christ’s work, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:22-24).
Jesus Purchased our Righteousness and our Joyful Obedience
Jesus fulfilled Psalm 119:92-93 not just because we couldn’t, but so that we finally could. This is, in part, the point of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and it is the point of what the Pastor is saying in Hebrews 12. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus...” (Hebrews 12:1-2a). Run, he says! How? Look to Jesus! What did He do? He Delighted in God’s Law (Psalm 119:92)! He endured and even chose affliction with great joy (Psalm 119:92)! He didn’t forget God’s precepts (Psalm 119:93)! Look to Jesus who did all of this for your righteousness and your sanctification. He gave you life and called you to Himself in order that you may be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:3-5; 2:10). We can endure because Christ endured for us. What I once could not do, I can now do, in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He purchased my justification, and He purchased my sanctification.
Those Who Do Not Delight Will Perish
The inverse of this verse is a scary reality. Those who do not delight in God’s Law will perish. Notice the word used is delight, not obey. Because true obedience is inseparable from biblical joy. You cannot have one without the other. There is a head belief, and an “obedience” of words that does not bring life, but rather leads to destruction. The Bible says this is not the kind of belief that grants salvation unto eternal life. Think of the rich young ruler, think of Esau, think of Judas. These are examples of those who desired the benefits of God but not God Himself. They failed to realize that God Himself is the greatest benefit, the greatest treasure. Therefore, they perished in their affliction, and so will everyone else who lives in such a way.
Paul says, “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). The old man does not delight in God’s Law because he either rejects, neglects, or forgets God’s precepts. But really it is because he loves deceitful desires. Therefore, he perishes in affliction. How could he do anything else? He is dead. But the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, is renewed in his mind. His obedience is fueled by joy in Christ and fuels his joy in Christ. Therefore, he abides (Psalm 119:93), he delights (Psalm 119:92), and he obeys. Brother and sister look to Jesus and do the same. Your delights will either kill you or give you life.