The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Psalm 19:8 (Hebrew World translation)
Right – Take a piece of paper at least 10 inches wide. Now cut a perfectly straight line across that paper. I’ll bet you can’t do it without a straight-edge of some kind. Carpenters know all about this tool. So do seamstresses and engineers. Without a hard edge guide, our attempts to make straight cuts waver. The same principle applies to living. Without a hard edge alongside, the path wavers.
The Hebrew adjective yashar means straight, just or right. It can refer to both physical and ethical applications. Its root means “to go straight, to make right, to lead, to be made level, to be upright.” Here we see the tangible grounding of Hebraic thought. What do the statutes of the Lord provide? A straight edge for life, a level that determines our alignment, a way of leadership, the standard of uprightness. What are these statutes? The word is mitzvah. It can mean human commands like those of a king, but in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) it is always applied to the commands of God.
Let’s apply the psalmist’s insight. In a world where men make their own standard, we find nothing but crooked paths. God’s way is a hard, straight edge. If we want true leaders, we must look for those who adhere to His commands. Leadership is not about “vision casting.” It is about strict obedience. Following a man who does not level his life according to God’s commands is utter foolishness. When it comes to personal decisions, God’s mitzvah set the standard. They provide us with the guide we need to stay on the path. They do not change. Whenever we find men and women who waver from His hard edge, we find ethical and moral chaos.
Notice that the result of a strict standard of straight action is rejoicing. Most people in the modern world would be surprised by the psalmist’s choice here. They think of standards for moral actions as limitations or impediments. They don’t rejoice over commands. They resist. They view God’s straight edge as imposed obligation, not the way to freedom. Instead of rejoicing that God cares enough to offer a holy guide to living, they express bitterness or rebellion. They want the world to be shaped according to their idea of a straight line.
If you want to know who really loves the Lord, look for those who rejoice over His commands. Those who are gladdened by His instructions, those who love to follow His directions are the ones who truly love Him. They know that the straight edge keeps them on the right path. They look forward to correction. They want to cut the perfect line.
Examine yourself. Are you rejoicing over God’s commands? Are you glad for His chastisement? Or is there a flaw in your ruler that you’re not willing to smooth away?
Topical Index: right, yashar, statutes, mitzvah, straight edge, Psalm 19:8