The word of the Lord is the overall theme of Psalm 119, but I notice other themes as I read it.
Last week, I wrote about God’s steadfast love. This week, I see the author write about the heart at least twelve times, and six of those describe the heart as whole. A whole heart is mentioned within the first few verses of the psalm.
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.verse 2
The whole heart verses are spread throughout the psalm. The author asks the Lord to help him observe the law with his whole heart in verse 34. He entreats God’s favor with all his heart in verse 58, and states he keeps the Lord’s precepts with his whole heart in verse 69. In verse 145, he cries out to the Lord with his whole heart.
These verses take me back to Deuteronomy 6:5. Moses spoke the commandments to the people of Israel and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Jesus repeated those words when asked by a scribe which commandment was the greatest. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
Prone to Wander
How can I love God like that? I know my heart and I’m prone to wander. I tend to be stubborn and rebellious. How can I love him with all my mind when I tend to forget His goodness? How can I love him with all my strength when I’m busy trying to fix what only He can fix?
The author wonders the same. He declares his wholeheartedness in verse 10, but asks God to keep him from wandering: With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Again and again, the heart shows up in the psalm.
- I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. verse 7
- Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! verse 36
- I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. verse 112
- I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! verse 32
- Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. verse 111
- Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. verse 161
The authors knows the steadfast love of God. He knows it in his heart, and he knows that without it, he has no way of loving God wholeheartedly.
God’s love to us is prior to our love to him; his love is from everlasting, as well as to everlasting;John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible on 1 John 4:19
I think of a circle when I think of a whole heart. A filled-in circle is even better. The kind we filled in on answer sheets with a number two pencil on yearly standardized tests at school. Except the circle is filled in completely and perfectly. No smudges. No erase marks. No white space within the circle. Perfectly whole.
For now, it’s smudged and imperfect. Messy and incomplete.
Jesus said we shall love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.
We will love Him like that. The One who loves us fully is making us love Him wholly.
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19