Psalm 119:41-48 (The Message) "Let your love, GOD, shape my life with salvation, exactly as you promised. Then I'll be able to stand up to mockery because I trusted your Word. Don't ever deprive me of truth, not ever - your commandments are what I depend on. Oh, I'll guard with my life what you've revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; and I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom. Then I'll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed. I cherish your commandments - oh, how I love them - relishing every fragment of your counsel."
Our lives are shaped by many things - the attitudes we encounter, the challenges we face, the impact of media, to name just a few. Nothing is a more powerful and transforming force of affect in our lives than the love of God. It is because of the intense love of God that we are given the gift of salvation through his son, Jesus. It is that same love that holds us in the palm of his hand, protecting us, guiding us, and drawing us close to his heart. His love shapes us in the image of Jesus - bringing us out of darkness and into light.
To shape implies the power to create or form, making that which is formed fit for his use. God's "shaping" of our lives includes "creating anew" what sin has left pretty marred and charred. He directs our course in order to shape our lives. The "potholes" of life - the challenges of relationships gone bad, the intense times of personal failure, or the painstaking battle of our wills - afford the Master Creator that which he uses to reshape us into the image of his dear son. They are uniquely created by his hand as "forming" devices that help to bring us to a place that we take on maturity and walk straight down the path he has defined for our lives.
David restates his utter dependence on the Word of God as a "shaping force" in his life. It is the commandments of God that keep him on course, just as much as it is the promises of God that keep his spirit bolstered and hopeful in times of trial. David's passion for the Word of God is emphasized in his attitude toward that which God has revealed to him in his times of meditation - he will guard it with his life. It is a "staying force" in his life - giving him stability when all else seems to be tumbling down at his feet.
It is through the Word and the revelation provided by the Holy Spirit that we can learn of the love of God. David's attitude of heart describes that inner connection that God honors. David cried out, "I cherish your commandments, relishing every fragment of your counsel." When we truly cherish something we have more than a casual relationship with it. To cherish means that we entertain, or harbor in our minds deeply and with extreme resolution that which God reveals through his Word. It is more than a casual appreciation of the "good stuff" contained within the Word of God - it is a deep-seated drive to get at the "good stuff", incorporate it into our daily walk, and to rehearse it over-and-over again until it becomes so much a part of us that we stand stronger because of what we have "cherished".
When we have an attitude of relishing the Word of God, we are showing that we do more than allow it into our thoughts. We allow it to satisfy our desires, meet our needs, and incline our hearts toward godly actions. David said every fragment of God's Word is as valuable as the next and something to be cherished and relished as wise counsel. It may not seem like it at first, but when God begins to reveal bits and pieces of his character to us through the various verses of Scripture we expose ourselves to daily, we are impacted by his intense love for us as his children. Notice, I said that we expose ourselves to the Word - letting it in is the first step to letting it affect us deeply. If we don't take it in regularly, we become less in-tune with God's direction and his tender guidance through life's "potholes".
The Word is a powerful instrument - bringing a conviction of sin, renewal of our attitudes; teaching us about the necessity of obedience; and changing the very thrust of our inner being. In order to receive from the Word, we must first "value" what we are receiving. The intimate treasures contained in the Word are not just there for us to become acquainted with, but they are to become part-and-parcel with how we respond, what we stand for, and how we relate to others. It is through the Holy Spirit that we become intimately aware of the love of God for us, comprehending the mind of Christ, and developing within us the fruits of God's heart.
We must hunger and thirst for the truths of God's revealed heart. There must be a persistence in our diligent study of the Word. We must not be afraid to boldly say, "I just don't get it, God", and then wait in expectation for him to reveal his heart in what we have read. God never has an unreasonable expectation of us in the study of his Word - he simply asks us to come to him with an open and expectant heart, willing to be exposed to truth that will change us deeply. In coming, we are saying we want to be obedient. In expressing our willingness to obey, we are giving permission to the Holy Spirit to begin to increase our ability to obey - changing our heart so that our actions are changed in turn.
So, as we close today, let us examine our attitude toward the Word. Do we find ourselves approaching our times in the Word as something we simply "do" because Christians are "supposed to" study the Word? Or do we approach our times in the Word with an open heart, an attitude of cherishing every nougat revealed therein, and in earnest expectation of the freshness of grace that will be outpoured to us as its truths enter into our minds and hearts? You can find great treasures today - start digging!