Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Instructions

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked . . . His delight is in the Law of the Lord and on his Law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1,2).

Marnie and I were painting our basement last week – a project that started out as a touch-up job and then blossomed into a full blown face-lift. More than once we were interrupted in our work by our two children who wanted to help paint. My first answer was a firm, “stay out of here until we finish.”

After a while I gave in - but I didn’t turn them loose with the paint and the brush. I stood next to them and gave instruction. What made the experience pleasant was not the quality of their work, but the simple fact that they listened to me. They received my instruction. That their interest in the work was short lived and their painting was less than perfect didn’t bother me at all.

The word for “Law” in Psalm 1:2 is a word that means “instruction.” God’s law is more than rules that tell us to do one thing and not do another. God’s law is God’s instruction. The Law is God’s “way” of living. It is direction and guidance and help. A righteous person doesn’t simply try to do what God instructs. A righteous person delights in the instruction. That’s the “way” of life that stands in sharp contrast to the worthless way of the wicked.

But that’s the hard part. How do we delight in God’s instruction?


We are peculiar creatures when it comes to how we regard and use instructions. Some of us ignore the instructions and dive right in to whatever the project might be. We are convinced we can figure it out as we go. Sometimes we do. At other times we make such a mess of the whole thing that we are forced to go back and consult the instructions, but we do so reluctantly and with wounded pride.

Others of us try to master the instructions thoroughly before we take anything out of the box. We sit patiently with the manual, reading every section, occasionally taking stock of the various parts and pieces as we consult the diagrams, checking to make sure we have the necessary tools. Errors are to be avoided at all costs. Messes are intolerable. We want to master the instructions before we attempt the task.

Perhaps the best way to use the instructions is to execute the task, allowing the instructions to guide us along the way. I’d like to suggest that this gives us a way to understand what it means to “meditate on the Law day and night.” The Hebrew verb carries the meaning of “chew on.” It’s what a dog does with a bone, a playful gnawing at it.[1]

Maybe we meditate as we allow the instruction to enter into a dialog with real life. We live each day and in our living we ponder and consult what God has said. The living and the instruction are brought into an on-going conversation. We don’t ignore the instructions as we do the best we can, and we don’t master the instructions before we start living. We simply wake up each day and live, and as we do so we listen to the instruction God has given.

This kind of meditation is what it means to “delight in the Law of the Lord.” Delight comes as we mingle practice and pondering, living and listening. One need not live a perfect life to live a blessed life. To choose the “way” of the righteous means to be open and receptive to instruction. A blessed life is one in which it is hard to tell the difference between the living and the listening.

What kinds of things do you “delight” in? How will you listen as you live this day?

May the words I have read, O Lord, become real in the living of this day. Teach me to delight in your word. Help me to live this day with a listening heart, ready to receive your instruction, willing to do as you say. Amen.


[1] See Eugene H. Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, page 26.

1 comment:

Victoria said...

"Delighting" in the instruction of the Lord is one of those thoughts that could lead to a paradigm shift for me -- I think I waver between resisting the instruction of the Lord and resigning myself to the instruction of the Lord. Thank you for such a thought provoking blog!!