Confusion abounds regarding what it means to love the Lord. In our day, the most common view of loving God is the idea that we love our Creator if we have a feeling of warm affection toward Him. Though we do not want to downplay the importance of affection for the Lord, loving Him is not exhausted by mere feeling. The Apostle John, for example, says that we do not love God if we do not love other believers: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
In his exposition of Psalm 119:97, Augustine of Hippo asks an important question: “How can it be that what God commandeth to be loved, be loved, and yet the commandment itself be not loved?” Love for God and for what He has commanded us to love is inseparable from love for the very commands of God. If we love the Lord, we will love His law, for His law is a reflection of who He is. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 models this truth for us.
Today’s passage features a list of several reasons why the psalmist loves God’s law. Fundamental to his love for the Lord’s statutes is the fact that they are taught by the Creator Himself (v. 102). The psalmist loves the law of God because it is from God and is taught by God. His affection for the law is not due to its being mere law but because it is the teaching and revelation of our most holy Creator. Consequently, one cannot be a Christian and have a disdain for the law of God. To hate the law of God is to hate God Himself. This means that we cannot love the law unless we truly love God. If we truly love God, we will truly love His law, and if we truly love God’s law, we truly love God. Such love, of course, requires the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Unless we are brought out of the realm of sin and death by the sovereign exercise of the Lord’s will to take from us our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh, we will remain dead in sin, hating God and His law (Ezek. 36:26–27; Rom. 3:9–18; Eph. 2:1–10).
The author of Psalm 119 also loves the law of God because of the wisdom and understanding that it grants. He surpasses his teachers in understanding because he meditates on the testimonies and commands of the Lord (v. 99). This is not to deny the importance of qualified teachers in helping us understand God’s Word. Instead, it locates the true source of wisdom for the covenant community. What is it that makes our pastors and teachers wise? It is the Word of God, as the Spirit enables them to understand and instruct us in it.