Psalm 119:97-104 (The Message) "Oh, how I love all you've revealed; I reverently ponder it all the day long. Your commands give me an edge on my enemies; they never become obsolete. I've even become smarter than my teachers since I've pondered and absorbed your counsel. I've become wiser than the wise old sages simply by doing what you tell me. I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil so I can spend all my time keeping your Word. I never make detours from the route you laid out; you gave me such good directions. Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking. With your instruction, I understand life; that's why I hate false propaganda."
Anyone want an edge over their enemies? Well, David gives us some “clues” as to how we get that edge. He has learned to take what he has discovered in the Word of God and use it to his advantage. Perhaps he uses it to give an answer to his enemy’s accusations, or maybe he uses it to give him the assurance that his enemy’s words only carry power if he allows those words to have influence over him. Regardless of the enemy's actions, David comes back to the Word of God as his source of having “one up” on his enemies.
Our psalmist gives us some insight into how we can make God’s Word that source of our strength, our answer in times of persecution, and our hope in times of unrealistic expectation. First and foremost, David has learned the tremendous value of daily intake of the Word. He “ponders” the Word of God reverently. To ponder carries a similar meaning as a cow chewing on its cud. The cow keeps “processing” what she has taken in until all the nourishment is taken out of that cud. That processing allows what she is chewing on over and over again to become part of her body – useful to her as she goes about her day. David “chews” on the Word, allowing it to give him nourishment for his spirit and soul in much the same way the cow finds nourishment for its body. In turn, he has what he needs when he is facing his enemy’s attacks.
This “pondering” of God’s Word is done with a reverence. To revere something is to give it a place of honor, to defer to it as the source of what we need. As we take time to turn God’s Word over in our hearts, giving it a place of devoted attention and respect in our lives as the source of all that is good for us, we are reverencing the Word as a valuable and trustworthy thing.
David expands upon how God’s Word gives him the edge on his enemies – he says he absorbs it. His life has been deeply impacted because of what he has exposed himself to in God’s Word. Most of us hear the Word “absorb” and quickly think of a sponge that “sucks up” the fluid that it is placed in. The sponge is made to do just that – take in and hold onto that which it is exposed to. Yet we limit our understanding of what David is saying here if we just interpret “absorb” as taking something in and holding onto it.
In Webster’s we find several other meanings of “absorb” that can enlarge our interpretation. To absorb means to engage and or engross wholly so as to assimilate. Okay, let’s break that down a little. When we are “engaged” in something, we are attentive, focused, and intent on it. When we are “engrossed” in something, we are so “in tune” with it that we find it hard to be distracted by anything else. Webster adds to this definition the idea that we receive without recoil, allowing what is received to transform us. Now, see how looking a little deeper into the meaning of a simple word can open up our understanding? David is letting us know that God’s Word has a transforming and focusing affect in our lives if we allow it into the core of our being – affecting us where it counts.
If I were to take this passage at face value and never explore anything about David’s life on this earth, I would think that he was such an upright man, never wavering in his faith, always walking the straight-and-narrow. I would get depressed because he would seem to be so “perfect” in his beliefs, his actions, and his responses to tough situations. But…I have looked into his life on this earth and found that he was just a “regular guy” like you and me! He fell flat on his face in the depths of wrong choices (like committing adultery with Bathsheba). He tried to cover up his sins (like trying to have Bathsheba’s husband “offed” when he finds his adulterous relationship has made her pregnant). He spends hours and hours agonizing over his sinfulness, much like we do, recounting the failures, living in the misery of that sin, all the while forgetting how responsive his God is to his intense need for forgiveness.
David was a “regular guy” – yet he drew the strength for his daily walk from God’s Word, made it part of who he was, and allowed it to be his defense in times of attack. He learned that setting his heart on following God involved getting to know God by whatever means were available to him – study of the Word, times of worship, seeking wise counsel, and choosing the right associations in life, to name a few. He allowed God to set the course for his life. Yes, he veered from it once in a while, but he had a determination to allow God to set him back on the right path when that happened. He allowed what he “took in” (absorbed) to impact the “output” of his life. Sometimes it was through trial and error – other times, it was just through simple obedience to what God showed him. The latter is always the smoothest course – yet obedience costs us something. It costs us our desire to be in control and our willingness to allow a much wiser guide to direct our steps. Today, let God direct your path – take him in, absorbing him into the core of all you are. Let him give you an “edge” on all that you face today!