My soul is consumed with longing
for your rules at all times.
Psalm 119:20 ESV
Because each of Psalm 119‘s twenty-two stanzas contains eight verses, we conclude the first half of gimel with our meditation upon this verse. The relationship between the two lines of this verse is much more immediate than many of the ones we have already studied. Line one declares the psalmist’s condition (“my soul is consumed with longing”), while line two tells us the object and duration of his longing (“for your rules at all times”).
Let us first address his longing. His soul, the entirety of his being, is consumed by his great desire. Whatever some might argue, Christianity is not a passionless religion. We must only take heed of sinful desires. For instance, the Tenth Commandment forbids coveting, yet David used the same word in Psalm 19:10 to describe his great desire for the God’s perfect Word. Coveting is nothing more than God-designed desire gone wrong. Paul called it idolatry because it elevates God’s good gifts into the place of God Himself. A desire for God and for His Word, however, is the longing that our hearts were made for. He alone can satisfy our deepest longings, yet He also never runs dry for all eternity. We will spend life beyond the count of time going “further up and further in” (as Lewis said) to the heart of God. This never-ending pursuit of our soul’s deepest desire will, nevertheless, be a pursuit of both rest and wonder. Perfect contentment and unquenched yearning will be flawless mingled together.
That restful longing and yearning contentment cannot fully be reached in this life, but the pursuit after the One Whom our hearts love does begin now. In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus revealed that knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3), which means that eternal life does not begin after death. It begins as soon as we begin to know God. Likewise, our longing pursuit of God begins in this life through His Word. Thus, the psalmist’s longing is for God’s rules. Like a love-stricken man hangs upon every word of his bride when they are apart, we are not yet face-to-face with our Beloved, so we ought to cling with deep yearnings to His Word that He has spoken to us.
Furthermore, this should be a continuous longing, for he writes, “at all times.” Our call to meditate upon the Scriptures day and night would come quite naturally if we were always consumed with longing for the Word. However, we should also not remove the possibility of the reverse. Perhaps it is through our constant mediation that we gain this continuous longing. Let us certainly meditate deeply upon God’s perfect law, trusting that our desire for its sweetness will only grow more and more.