“You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently” (Psalm 119:4).
Only 172 verses to go. (I’m blogging one verse from Psalm 119 each Sunday.) And you thought I wouldn’t make it this far.
A dramatic shift occurs in the psalm at verse 4. In verses 1-3, God is referred to in third person language. He is YHWH (“the LORD” in most English translations.) or the text speaks of “him” and “his ways”. But starting in verse, third person language changes to second person. Instead of God being “he”, he is “you”. He is no longer spoken about, he is spoken to.
This shift is emphasized by the Hebrew pronoun for you, ‘atah at the beginning of the verse. In Hebrew, the pronoun is implied by the verb form (like a lot of modern languages other than English), so when the pronoun is used for emphasis. “YOU have commanded…” The pronoun begins with the letter Aleph, thus fitting into this Aleph section of the psalm.
Since God is being referred to as “you” it makes the psalm a prayer. The longest chapter in Scripture is a prayer about Scripture. Scripture, Prayer. Nice. That’s part of why I love this psalm.
So the psalmist informs God that God commanded God’s precepts to be kept diligently. Why tell God something that he so obviously knows? It’s hard to say definitively since we don’t know can’t read the mind of the psalmist. (Bible teachers need to be a little more cautious about declaring to their audiences the mind of the biblical author.) But one possible reason is that by stating this the psalmist is giving themself a reminder, and a reminder to their audience of this important truth that is easy to forget, ignore or rationalize away.
God wants to be obeyed, diligently obeyed. Sometimes Christians think that this is just an Old Testament idea, and that God changed his mind in the New Testament and decided that he longer wanted his people to obey his commands. There are two problems with this. First, it makes no sense. Second, Jesus, Paul, James, John and Peter and all the NT authors make it clear that obedience is still important.
Why do you think the psalmist tells God what God already knows?