Psalm 119:33-34 says this: “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees, that I may keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will follow your law and obey it with all my heart.” I love that – “Give me understanding, and I will keep your law.” I think that is a key concept in our spiritual walk.
Many of us have been taught the Word of God. In my case, I have been to seminary, I have been raised by an awesome family, and I have gone to a Bible-teaching church all my life. I know the Word of God. I know what it says.
But there is a difference between knowing and having understanding, and it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the understanding. I love what Jesus says about the Spirit: “He will lead you into all truth.” The Word of God, fully God’s Word, still needs the light and understanding that the Spirit gives as we read through Scripture.
Oftentimes, RobAnne and I will have a discussion, and our words are communicated in a loving way, but we still have to go back two or three times to understand the other person’s feelings and what they’re really trying to say. In the same way, we need to understand God’s laws, which are full of love and compassion.
The Ten Commandments bring us to our knees in terms of our own sinfulness and our own inability to do the right things to get God’s favor, and the grace of God allows us to understand His love and His character. We understand His grace with the backdrop of the law and our inability to live it and obey it fully.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen on a prayer list a request that God would give us understanding, that He would give us, through His Spirit, a full understanding of what He is doing in and through His people and what He is saying to us in His Word, but it seems to me in Psalm 119:34 that when we have understanding we will keep His law and obey it with all our hearts. It’s more than knowing; it’s understanding.