In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalms 40:6-8 )
Growing up, I was a naughty kid! My mother had a tough time getting me to listen to her. She would shout at the top her voice or scare me with the stick to get me in line! So obedience and delight never quite went together for me.
King David writes this beautiful song recounting the past mercies of God and trusting him for the challenges that lie ahead. The relationship of his people, the Jews, with their God was a complicated one. From their time in Egypt and the wilderness and now in the promised land, obedience to God never came naturally to them.
Faith had become mechanical, sacrifices had become a routine and idolatry was common among them. It is in this background David talks about a delight in obeying God.
We as Christians are called to obey God. It is expected of us. But what are our motivations to obey God? It is often out of a fear of punishment or from a sense of duty. It could be because of our expectations from God or as a restitution for earlier mistakes.
But think about it - delighting to obey! Now, that is Christian living on a higher plane!
David captures the gist of the Old Testament in this song. He realises that the Mosaic rituals were never meant to be an end in itself nor were they supposed to be a burden to the people. God’s intent for the law and sacrifices was that his children would turn to him and delight in him. In the NT, the writer of Hebrews sees this passage being truly fulfilled in Jesus, who delighted in doing the will of his Father. We as followers of Jesus, are invited to this life of delightful obedience. We need to realise that we cannot please God by our activities, our busyness or our offerings. In John 14:22, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” God desires an obedience that flows out of love. It is like a lover who goes out of his way to please the one he loves.
And what is the reward for such an obedience? Jesus promises, “my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”. There is no greater reward we can imagine!
Obedience without love is a burden and a drudgery. May we ask God for grace to elevate our obedience to a higher plane - one that is not out of duty or fear but out of love and pure delight!