Uphold me that I may be safe, that I may have regard for Your statutes continually. Psalm 119:117
Regard – How do you look upon God’s instructions? Oh, I know that you will probably say you treat them with respect and honor. Of course, if you don’t follow them then your honor is nothing more than lip service. But that’s not the question here. The question is framed by David’s opening phrase. David pleads that God will “uphold” him. That word means to refresh, sustain and support. David knows that looking on God’s statutes with proper obedient involvement is not something that he can do without God’s strength. So, looking begins with dependence, not sufficiency.
Of course, being refreshed, sustained and supported has an objective. That objective is yasha’. To be delivered. To be saved. The objective of God’s sustenance is my salvation. Did you notice that it is all up to God? David is the recipient of God’s favorable action, not the initiator. Grace comes before a commitment to active obedience. “Lord, sustain me so that I may be saved.”
But salvation also has an objective, and it is not escape from this broken world or a free pass to heaven. The objective of being saved is a proper, obedient regard for God’s instructions. “Lord, sustain me so that I may be saved in order that I may obey You.” If you disconnect the objective of salvation from the act of salvation, you defeat God’s grace. You are not saved for nothing in this world. You are saved precisely because you have a job to do here and now, and that job is to obey Him in this world. His Kingdom needs to come on earth through you.
It is a popular heresy of contemporary Christianity to separate salvation from obedience. This is a tragic mistake, but not because obedience results in salvation. It doesn’t. Salvation is the result of God’s favorable action toward us. It depends entirely on Him. Nevertheless, salvation is ineffective if it does not result in obedience. My lack of obedience and my disregard for God’s statutes renders the whole process null and void. It’s not that God doesn’t accomplish His will. It’s that I reject the purpose of His plan by separating His action from my obligation.
Once again we see another facet of the Hebrew verb sha’ah, from the story of Cain and Abel. The purpose of our offering is obedience. The relationship that makes the offering possible is established by God. The offering we bring honors the fact that He has acted favorably toward us. Those offerings do not earn us one single cent when it comes to God’s salvation. The offering is a symbolic representation of our gratitude toward God for upholding us. Its purpose is to provide me with a means to express my gratitude in obedience but its goal is to restore the broken world to its proper relationship with the Creator. From a Hebrew perspective, I do not regard God’s statutes until I am actively engaged in restoring His world according to His instructions. That was Cain’s problem. He wanted to change the rules for restoration. He wanted to determine how he would regard God’s statutes. But God doesn’t work that way. We don’t have the option of selective application or alternative arrangements. If God provides the grace for our salvation, then He gets to determine what the appropriate response shall be. So, we’re left with this choice: God’s objective or Cain’s.
Topical Index: Sin