25“I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. 26I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. 27Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. 28My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. 29Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law, 30I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. 31I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. 32I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:25–32).
Freedom and Boundaries
“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (v. 32).
Chopping up vegetables is not my favorite activity. After my husband and I invested in decent knives, however, this became a much more enjoyable task. The knives zip through cauliflower and broccoli as easily as through butter. It’s almost fun. The other night, as I was cutting up carrots, I became lost in thought and stopped paying attention to what I was doing. The knife jerked through a particularly tough carrot and sliced deep into my left thumb.
My thumb throbbed as it bled—I could feel the shock all the way down my arm. I lectured myself as I cleaned up the mess. “Olivia Nicole! What were you thinking!?” (I sound a lot like my mom when I’m lecturing myself.) I know the right way to use kitchen knives: I know better than to cut toward my fingers and that I should always pay attention to what I’m doing. I know the rules of cutting, but I stopped paying attention. And now I was paying the price of not following the rules.
All of us, whether we live in New Jersey or Papua New Guinea, live by laws. If you cut your thumb, it bleeds. If you drop a pencil, it falls—every time! Living on Earth, we are subject to many laws, including the laws of mortality (death) and gravity.
Paul writes about how you and I are slaves to the law of sin. He writes in Romans 7:21–23: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” The law of sin leads to pain, frustration and death.
The law of God, however, offers us freedom to live a life of peace with Him. Like gravity, temptation is always there. But, God’s Holy Spirit acts as a fence around the path of God’s plan, giving us the power to resist sin. Within the boundaries He sets, we are free to roam. We are also free to jump the fence and go our own way—free will means that God will never force you to love Him. But, you cannot love God AND follow your own path. That’s one of the rules we have to live by. First John 2:3-4 calls the person who says he loves God, but doesn’t follow His commands, a liar. Strong words!
The story of Eric Liddell amazes me every time I hear it. He won the gold medal—the first for Scotland in the 400-meter dash—at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. God gave him a gift in running, and as in everything he did, Eric ran full-throttle for the Lord. He was called the “Flying Scotsman” because he was so fast.
Eric knew and loved God’s laws, he placed his faith in Christ ahead of his own dreams and ambitions. Many races were scheduled for Sundays and Eric struggled with the commandment, “Keep the Sabbath Day Holy.” But, he felt the Spirit’s voice clearly telling him that keeping the Sabbath day holy meant, for him, no Sunday races. He made a firm decision that he would not give in to temptation. People made fun of Eric and he sacrificed some important races, but he stood firm. God’s opinion was more important than anyone else’s.
God blessed Eric abundantly. He won the gold medal, but more importantly he ran the race Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 9:24–26: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
The Law of God has given us freedom and in that freedom, you and I can find joy, peace and purpose. We must make a choice, however: jump the fence or “run in the path of (God’s) commands.” There is no middle ground.
The Lord lead Eric Liddell away from Scotland and his Olympic fame to become a missionary in China. His life in China was difficult: he faced extreme poverty, terrible living conditions, disease and the constant threat of war. A friend once asked him if he had any regrets. “Never,” Eric said. “I have never had so much joy!” (Eric Liddell, Ellen Caughey, 2000).
Underline all of the terms used for the Law in Psalm 119:25–32.
Circle the action words or phrases that show how the writer relates to the law.
Which of these actions describes your relationship with God’s Word?
Read Romans 7:14–25. What is Paul’s frustration?
Paul talks about the law of sin and temptation. What does this law do according to verse 23?
Who is it that rescues Paul, and us, from “this body of death”?
How does the story of Eric Liddell exhibit Psalm 119:30?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:24–26 again. What is the crown that lasts forever?
Question for personal consideration: Have you jumped the fence, running on your own? Or, are you running the race Paul talks about?