Savoring the Sweetness and Getting Smarter

Mem (m) Stanza (97-104)

This stanza shouts, “Daniel!” We will see why shortly. This stanza also distinguishes itself as an all-out celebration of the Word. There is no plea or petition in this stanza, which is a major contrast with the others. It is an explosion of love for the Word of God and what it does in our lives.

Declaration of Love and Dedication to the Law (97)

97 O how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.

The Psalmist’s emotions are fully engaged. For those who think the emotions are unimportant in the Christian life, the Psalmist contradicts such a notion. To be sure, this is more than sentiment, it is deep love and devotion. The believer loves the Word of God because it is his life. We cannot miss the explosive exclamation, “O how I love Your Law!” But not only is there deep love and devotion, but there is serious dedication. The Psalmist is committed to meditating on the Law, that is musing on and memorizing it. This is no occasional hobby, it is day and night, which is a figure of speech for constantly, regularly. Spurgeon said, “When thy law and my meditation are together all the day, the day grows holy, devout, and happy, and the heart lives with God.”1

The Word’s Comparative Power (98-100)

98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
For they are ever mine.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
Because I have observed Your precepts.

Seeing Daniel here, instead of David, makes sense. This stanza links together adversity, academics, and age. The Psalmist recognizes that he is wiser, has more insight, and understanding than all those around him because he possesses God’s Law, meditates on it, and obeys it.

For the Psalmist, possession of God’s commandments certainly makes him wiser than his enemies, that is, his unbelieving opponents. He has internalized the Word, he has God’s commandments in his heart, and this gives him a superior advantage over his enemies. He also has more insight than his teachers. Who would have been David’s teachers in Israel? Priests and prophets, for sure. But for Daniel, pressed into the Babylonian university system, he would have had the professors of Babylon. The Psalmist’s preoccupation with the Word gives him a worldview advantage over the PhDs of his day.

He also claims more understanding than the aged. Again, a problem if David is the author. But if it is Daniel, it could be referring to the supposed wise-men of Babylon or even the backslidden priests and elders of the exile (Ezek. 7:26). Either way, obedience to the Word gives understanding. Disobedience makes us dumber and dumber. Obedience gives us spiritual insight (e.g., John 7:17). Immorality hampers our ability to reason correctly (e.g., Eph. 4:17-19). The more a person indulges in sin, the less he or she understands. The corollary is true, the more one walks in obedience to the Law of God, the more understanding he has.

The Word’s Sanctifying Power (101-102)

101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances,
For You Yourself have taught me.

The Word not only gives insight and understanding, but it also sanctifies. Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in Truth, Thy Word is Truth” (John 17:17). The Psalmist, because he loves and mediates on the Word, maintains a strong commitment to stay away from evil and walk in God’s ways. The Psalmist sees his obedience as a result of being taught by God. As he meditates, God teaches, as God teaches, he grows in holiness. “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” (Prov. 4:18).

Tasting the Word’s Sweetness (103)

103 How sweet are Your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

The whole of Psalm 119 is filled with language of enjoyment, delight, pleasure. The Psalmist loves the Word so much that it is sweeter to him than honey! (See also Psa. 19:11; Prov. 16:24; Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 3:3). The Word electrifies the Psalmist’s spiritual taste-buds. Matthew Henry says, “There is such a thing as a spiritual taste, an inward savor and relish of divine things, such an evidence of them to ourselves, by experience, we cannot give to others… To this Scripture-taste the Word of God is sweet, very sweet, sweeter than any of the gratifications of sense, even those that are most delicious.”2

Tasting the Word’s Repulsing Power (104)

104 From Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

The Word certainly informs our minds, it teaches us, and there is a sweet delight. But the Word also stirs up hatred. We could call this, “Word-inspired loathing.” There is emotion and morality. The Word’s sweetness creates a repulsion for evil and sin. When the Psalmist says, “I hate every false way,” he means everything false, from heresy to moral falsehood. Delitzsch notes, “From God’s Law he acquires the capacity for proving the spirits, therefore he hates every path of falsehood.”3

Application

This stanza celebrates the sweetness and sufficiency of the Word. If we possess the Word, are preoccupied with the Word, marinate in the Word, practice the Word, our spiritual joy will increase and so will our insight and wisdom. We will grow in sanctification, sin less and obey more.

There is, of course, a wonderful application to those who are in secular colleges (and even some so-called Christian colleges). The Word of God can keep you, morally and mentally. Savoring the sweetness of the Word will make you smarter and wiser than your unbelieving teachers. Depart from the path of the Word and you will become gullible and denser like an unreasoning animal. Immorality will erode understanding. Savor the Word’s sweetness and walk in obedience to it.

1 Spurgeon, Psalms, 221.
2 Matthew Henry, Vol. 3, 708.
3 Delitzsch, 256.