Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
Psalm 119:33 ESV
The psalmist begins the fifth stanza, he, with a prayer that is quickly becoming a refrain of this psalm: teach me your statutes. We should notice, of course, that while both verse 12 and verse 26 both used the exact same wording and placed the prayer in the second line of the verse, this particular instance begins the verse (rather than concluding it) and uses a slightly different wording. The additional words are O LORD, the way of. Thus, while he is again crying out for God to teach him His statutes, two things are now being added: first, a plea to God by name, and second, the recognition that God’s statutes constitute a way of living.
First, he prays to be taught, calling upon the LORD by name. From Exodus 3 onward, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made Himself known by His name to the His chosen people, which in Hebrew consists of four letters YHWH and is often spoken as Yahweh or Jehovah. This name was to be a marker of the covenant that He made with His people. He would know them, and they alone would call Him by His holy name. In most English Bibles, this name of God is represented by using the title, LORD (with each letter capitalized). Although the psalmist has prayed to God by this name already, his usage at the beginning of this stanza is a notable appeal to God’s covenantal love.
Second, he prays to be taught by the LORD the way of His statutes. The notion of life as a way, of course, was present within the very first verse of the Psalm; however, this stanza will lean into that “life as walking” imagery (quite similarly to beth). What is important to note is that the psalmist clearly does not view the laws and commandments of God simply as a long list of do’s and do-not’s. Instead, God’s statutes are a way of life that ultimately ends in the blessings of God Himself. He, therefore, does not simply long to be taught God’s law; rather, He longs to live in accordance with what God has commanded, knowing that obedience to the Creator is the path of ultimate joy and blessing.
Our verse concludes with a rather astounding claim: and I will keep it to the end. Is the psalmist here boasting in his ability to keep God’s statutes through the end of his life of his own efforts? If so, we should know that such a boast will ultimately fall short, for like all of us the psalmist most assuredly did still continue to sin. But I think not. Instead, I believe that the psalmist is making explicit his commitment to follow the path of God’s statutes until the very end of his life and that even if he veers away into sin he will repent and return to God’s way. Yet he is also clearly reliant upon God’s grace, since his cry to be taught the way of God’s statutes is a prayer for God’s own guidance down the path. The psalmist is not looking to God merely as a tutor but as a shepherd that will lead him in the paths of righteous for His name’s sake. Today, of course, we have the bodily example of Christ, who is our Good Shepherd. Through His Word and by His Spirit, our Lord teaches us by example the way of His statutes, and it is only by His steadfast hand that we will keep them to the end.