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God’s Instruction: The Path of the Good Life

What would you say if I asked you where you find delight? 

One of the things I would love to do once Lockdown is lifted is go to a jam-packed theme park, with lots of people, and go on the biggest and fastest roller-coaster I could find. Being right at the top, just as you start to descend, is one of the things that brings me delight! Somehow, I feel relaxed, excited, terrified, and happy all at the same time. I’m sure for some of you, this sounds like your worst nightmare – but there will be something you can think of that brings you delight. We delight in our favourite meals or in a piece of music or in times spent with the people we love. 

Where do you find delight?

As the Psalms point us to the Good Life, to life as it’s meant to be, the Psalms are interested in where we find our delight. Last week we thought about how God’s House – dwelling with him – was the end of the Good Life. Look at how Psalm 84, which talked about how lovely God’s dwelling-place is, speaks about where our hearts should be focused:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.                                      Psalm 84:5

This is a Psalm that knows that our ultimate destination is to be with God, but also that we are on a pilgrimage, or a journey, to get there.

The Path of the Good Life

If the Christian life is a journey towards the house of God, what path do we take to get there? The Psalms are full of references to following God along a ‘path’ which suggests that we have not yet arrived at our destination. We know this don’t we? We know that life is far from perfect and we long for something or somewhere better. This is why the Psalms are so full of laments, of anguished cries to God. The Psalms prepare us for facing wickedness, betrayal, sin, suffering, and a mismatch between future promises and present realities. The Psalms teach miserable sinners like us to call on the name of the Lord in the midst of the trials we face. In the Psalms we are on the way to happiness and blessedness — we haven’t yet fully arrived.

Psalm 119 points us to the path of true and lasting delight. In v.32 the Psalmist writes:

I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding                          Psalm 119:32

The path the Psalmist is taking is to follow God’s commands. He continues:

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.                                              
34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart towards your statutes
    and not towards selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to your word. 
38 Fulfil your promise to your servant,
    so that you may be feared.
39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
    for your laws are good.
40 How I long for your precepts!
    In your righteousness preserve my life.                                Psalm 119:33-40

What we see is that as we seek to live the Christian Life, the Bible is the perfect guide. The path to follow, the way to live on this journey, is to follow and delight in God’s instructions. The path of God’s command is where we find delight. 

Delight in the law of the Lord

This might sound counterintuitive. How can following commands bring us delight in the same way as a bowl of ice cream, or a relaxing holiday, or the embrace of a friend? Well this delight is not the same as those delights; it’s better. Following God’s instructions is living the way we were made to live. Following God’s instructions for our lives brings true delight because it is in his word that we find what our life is really meant to look like. This brings us back to Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.                    Psalm 1:1-2

Blocks on the Path

The struggle of course comes when we try to walk this path and realise that we’re not very good at it. Psalm 119 gets this as well. It knows that our hearts naturally turn towards selfish gain (v.36) or worthless idols. We know that living according to God’s instruction is best for us, but our sinful nature leads us to live according to our own sinful desires. We want to dwell with God in his house, to follow God’s path and obey his instructions.

But we don’t.

We walk in step with the wicked instead of finding delight in the law of the Lord. This is where we trust in the work of Jesus, the only one who ever lived perfectly delighting in and obeying God’s instructions. When the Christian comes to God by faith in Christ, Christ’s obedience becomes ours. Our response then, is to live in response to God’s grace, by walking and delighting in God’s instructions – the path of the Good Life.

As we turn to the Psalms this Easter, we see that God has neither left us in the dark as to how he wants us to live, nor has he given us joyless commands to oppress us. Instead, his commands are to be our delight – because in them we find life as it was made to be. Why not ask God, in the words of the Psalmist, to direct you in the paths of his command, for in them you will find delight?

Psalm 119:33-40 by The Corner Room