I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
Psalm 119:44 ESV
After the twofold petition that the psalmist made in verses 41-43 (first for salvation, then for God’s Word not to be taken from him), the psalmist now moves into a series of declarations that will last the remainder of stanza waw.
He begins with the simple pledge: I will keep your law continually, forever and ever. He responds to salvation with obedience. Indeed, notice how his reference to the Scriptures changes. When he is need of salvation, they are the promise of God and the word of truth to weather the flood of taunts made to him. Now they are God’s law, His rules, upon which his hope is set as he resolves to obey them. Of course, we should expect for obedience to follow salvation. Refusal to obey God after being delivered by Him only compounds sin even further. Take King Ahab for example. The LORD rescued him twice from the hand of the Syrian king, but the wicked ruler was only left more prideful and arrogant in the end. He hardened his heart rather than repenting and keeping God’s law. The psalmist is resolved not to fall into such company. He is determined to obey his God.
Of course, while the intention of the psalmist is continuous obedience to God’s law, as should be the aim of all who love God, we know that reality is against both him and us. Tragically, we do not, we cannot keep God’s law continually, forever and ever. Even after our salvation in Christ and after receiving the Holy Spirit, we still continue to sin. What then do we make of this verse?
First, praise be to God that our salvation is not contingent upon our own obedience. We cannot keep God’s law continually, and of course even if we were miraculously able, one sin still constitutes a breach of the whole thing. Christ has lived perfectly under God’s law in our place, just as He has also taken the penalty for our breaking of the law upon Himself. Our salvation thankfully does not rest upon our obedience to the law, nor is it maintained by our obedience. Rather, it is both established and sustained by Christ.
Second, even so, we are not excused entirely from obedience. Indeed, obedience to God is still the aim of every child of God, just as every child longs to make proud their father. Our obedience, however, now comes from a place of security in Christ. God Himself has become our Father, so we do not fear being cast away when we fall. Instead, we now latch ourselves by faith onto the grace of Christ and the love of the Father and we pray for the Spirit to strengthen our feeble bodies and souls to walk in continual obedience. When we fall, we repent and set our gaze upon the day when we will be given new bodies that no longer are under the corruption of sin, so that upon the new earth and with our new bodies we will, by God’s exceedingly great grace, keep His law continually, forever and ever.