‘…his delight is in the law of the LORD…’ (Psalm 1:2)
Though this certainly means delighting in his word as a whole, this verse gives specific reference to the law. The blessed one of God, the one in God’s favor, delights in the commandments of God and doing them, for it is to this he has been saved. For the one blessed of God, no longer is obedience a burdensome task of trying to find acceptance with Him (justification) since that has already been obtained through Christ and His work through faith, granted as a gift. Christ has provided the righteousness necessary to stand in the Father’s presence, out of His sheer mercy. But now, having been accepted, obedience stems from the joy of the believers heart, because of God’s work on his behalf. The one in God’s favor delights in obedience out of the overflow of His heart.
Long story short, he delights and takes joy in pleasing the One who rescued him and showers him with grace day in and day out. Obedience and conformity to His character and actions is what pleases His heart, and this is most clearly articulated in the law. Therefore the one blessed of God loves the law because God does. It is an essential reflection of His nature, righteousness and justice, displaying what pleases and displeases Him.
It’s also a mirror to be held up showing us our shortcomings, sins and iniquities that we may confess and be cleansed. This mirror isn’t a bad thing because of the ugliness it displays in our hearts. Rather the mirror is pure, holy and right. Also, we don’t conquer this sin we see reflected back by trying harder “to be good” but we fight it by the Spirit. Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The law merely exposes these “deeds of the body” but it is only by the Spirit that we can overcome them, namely because Christ has already conquered them and their power over us through the cross.
In our day and age in evangelicalism in America, the law has become a dirty word, something to be eschewed… because legalism/fundamentalism. However, the law is right and good. It serves a purpose. The purpose is not that we follow it to be accepted by God (justification) but that out of our acceptance in His presence forever, we now obey because of the fact we’ve been rescued from sin, that is, the breaking of the law. Obedience to the law is a response of joy now instead of a weight. We are freed from the condemnation of the law because of Jesus’ adherence to the law and perfect intercession, in order that we may now uphold it. Paul states this emphatically in Romans 3:31: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Let’s also take 1 John 2:4-5: “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” (1 John 2:4-5) The first part is the negative way of saying that the one who says ‘I know him’ does what he commands. Whoever keeps His word, the love of God is perfected. The measure of God’s grace in our souls is inextricably tied to keeping His word, His commandments. We obey because of our love toward Him, because He first loved us.
As we see in this Psalm, what is clear is the joy the one blessed by God possesses (verse 3): “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” There is life, there is joy, there is prosperity in His soul, there is the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Notice Paul is specific: against these things that characterize a believer (fruit), there is no law; in other words, lawlessness. The fruit of the Spirit are things that characterize one who takes delight in the law of God, for from adherence to it, it produces a well spring of life.
Motivation unto obedience only comes by viewing ourselves positioned in relation to Christ’s perfect reign as king, His perfect adherence to the law in our place, His perfect sacrificial death in the place of your sinful soul that deserved eternal death, His perfect resurrection that is a proof and foretaste of our resurrection when we will live and reign with Him forever, and seeing that out of His abundance He has made us children of God. He has accomplished the good work necessary to present you holy and blameless before Him. Rest in that and follow Him now, obeying Him because of His love.
This can all be summed up in Psalm 40:8: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”