I made haste, and delayed not
To keep thy commandments (Psa 119.60).
“Obey right away.” This is a slogan which was drilled into the minds of the children of our household from their toddlerhood. True obedience is prompt obedience. Procrastination is “soft rebellion,” insubordination wearing a thin mask. It is saying “I won’t” even when the lips do not move. A great danger of it is that we may flatter ourselves into thinking we will obey eventually, even though, without realizing it, we have no serious intention of obedience whatsoever. Then, because we can convince ourselves that we are willing to be willing later instead of now, we think we are safe from God’s displeasure. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” intentions that are never carried out. “Not to decide is to decide” (Harvey Cox). “He that saith he will be good tomorrow, he saith he will be wicked today” (James Janeway).
Our psalm text is very straightforward. We linger over it a few moments for the sake of meditation more than explanation. Then consider a few reasons and applications of prompt obedience.
Again, the psalmist is praying, giving testimony of what was in his heart and life. He is speaking directly to God, and so the words are solemn and sincere. Remember also that they are given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the psalmist who functions here as an infallible prophet of God.
The promptness of his obedience is greatly stressed by joint positive and negative statements. “I made haste;” i.e., I went quickly to do it, I rushed, I did it with great rapidity of motion, with an associated meaning of great energy (BSD #2590). This is exemplary service to God. Have you ever been to a “fast-food” restaurant where the food is not fast because the workers are dull and slow, almost lifeless, when they move as if in slow motion and as if you have all day? Why do they think you are in a fast-food place instead of a sit-down-dinner restaurant after all? But oh, when they are cheerful, responsive, paying full attention to your order and what they are doing for you, and moving about with energy and all promptness—how much better that is! We ought to serve God with even more than the diligent energy we like so much in those serving us.
Negatively, the psalmist says, “I delayed not.” There was no indecision. The other day I picked up a couple items in a store and I delayed checking out for at least 15 minutes because I had to make an ethical decision about paying for them. The psalmist is saying in his case there was no lingering and loitering, once God’s commandment was known. “I did not procrastinate. I did not make excuses. I did not hem and haw about why such actions were not the best at this particular time of my life, or in the day. No! But with all speed I leaped into action.”
Note also the purpose of his promptness: “to keep thy commandments.” God’s revealed will in Scripture, rightly interpreted and applied, was his standard—not his own feelings, not his unguided conscience, much less the mixed advice of family and friends. This prompt commandment-keeping implies his love for God’s person, faith in God’s Word, and wisdom in the application of Scripture to real life. Then, from the highest of motives, the psalmist could testify to God that he made haste, and did not delay to keep His commandments.
Let us now consider some reasons for prompt obedience to God, and some applications of it.
Prompt Obedience Glorifies God; Delayed Obedience Is Arrogant. By prompt obedience the psalmist showed in what high regard he held God, even as his sovereign King, worthy of all fealty (intense fidelity to one’s Lord). And this regard was not excessive because of God’s inherent dignity as the eternally-existent Creator and Governor of all creatures. Further, the psalmist showed loyalty to his covenant Redeemer by prompt obedience to the covenantal terms. The saints are doubly-bound to render prompt obedience to God, for He is both our Maker and our Savior.
God is tender of His own honor, even jealous for it. When true religion waned in Israel, the people began to offer moldy bread and defective animals for sacrifice instead of their best which God had required in His law. The Lord was offended and complained about it, calling for their repentance.
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts (Mal 1.6-8).
Their bad behavior expressed a disregard for God’s person, and that is fundamentally why it was such a serious fault. This is the case with delayed obedience. When we remain “in the driver’s seat” of our lives even for a second, we commit arrogant self-idolatry and dishonor God with a back seat.
Prompt Obedience Exhibits Faith; Delayed Obedience Proves Unbelief. The most faith-filled believer immediately sets about to fulfill God’s commandments. Abraham is a premier example. Even when the Lord required him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac—the son of the promise and the son of his old age—he obeyed promptly. “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Gen 22.3).
Conversely, as long as he would not have gone, he would not really have been believing, because true, saving faith produces good works, as surely as rays stream from the sun, and the spring flows from an active fountain. “Some people treat Christian truth like chewing gum. They will chew it over in discussion for hours, but never swallow it” (Kenneth W. Prior). “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (Jas 2.18). Obedience to God’s Word is the only way a living faith can be seen. If there are no works, we may surely conclude there is no faith.
Prompt Obedience Leads to Blessing; Delayed Obedience Is Dangerous. With respect to human responsibility, the gospel promise is conditional—if and only if you believe and keep on believing will you be saved (John 3.36; Matt 24.12-13). Those who promptly close with Christ will have Christ and His salvation, the greatest blessing of all. And the most obedient believers know most of the joy of the Lord in this life, whatever trials they suffer.
But when a true believer uncharacteristically postpones obedience, he invites the Father’s chastening rod, even as a principled parent disciplines his own child when he does not “obey right away.”
Where procrastination in spiritual things belongs to an unbeliever, God’s righteous indignation is stirred up and His mercy alone keeps the ground from opening up and swallowing him alive into hell.
The same word translated “delayed” appears in the story of Lot’s flight from Sodom. The angels of God had exhorted him to flee the doomed city but Lot “lingered.” Mercifully, the Lord was merciful to him. The angelic men laid hold of his hands, along with the hands of his wife and daughters, and brought them forth out of the city (Gen 19.15-16). The righteous man Lot was “scarcely saved” because of his dilly-dallying with the explicit command of God (1 Pet 4.18). He came about as close to hell fire as one can come in this life without being consumed in it. Delayed obedience is dangerous!
The psalmist’s testimony exhorts us to prompt obedience after his worthy example. Essentially, the application is to seek God promptly, early, earnestly. To His honor, as an expression of our faith, and to pull down the blessings of heaven upon us, let us always offer God prompt obedience.
Let us seek Him early in our lives. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Eccl 12.1). Children should be counseled to religious seriousness from their youngest days of moral consciousness. Teenage-years should not be wasted in dissipation but the flowering of the bud of a mature spirituality. “Those that seek me early shall find me” (Prov 1.28).
Let us seek God early in the day. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee” (Psa 63.1). “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Psa 5.3). If we are really God’s eager servants, we will think of Him when we first open our eyes, seeking our orders from Scripture and begging His grace to carry them out.
Let us seek God early in His sanctuary. In general, as church gatherings are a moral and spiritual duty, so is principled punctuality to those meetings. Those who come avoidably late commit sin. When this bad habit of lateness is also chronic, it exposes either a gross ignorance of duty or an alarming hardness of heart respecting God’s honor, not to mention an offensive disrespect for others.
These are just a few suggestions of how such prompt obedience fleshes out in real life. Now let us be done with excuses and repent immediately, committing ourselves, in our relationship with God, to “obey right away.” Amen.
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