You may have noticed that there’s a lot of talk about borders and boundaries today–what politicians are calling “border security.” But the idea of borders and boundaries can also refer to a term used in the Bible about God’s regulations. It’s the Hebrew word “Choqim” and it’s frequently translated “statutes.” The word is derived from the idea of “engraving” or “scratching.” It gives the picture of an inscription. The idea of a statute may have developed because in the ancient world, rulers would often inscribe their rules and regulations on stone. But, it came to be thought of as a boundary or a border, a marked out line in the sand. And when used in Scripture, it refers to the boundary lines that God has established for us.
So often when we consider God’s statutes, people think of them as somehow designed by God to keep us from having fun. As if God’s boundaries mark out the land of good times and says, “Don’t cross that line—God may catch us being happy.” But that’s not how Psalm 119 understands the boundaries that God laid down. Here’s just a few of the ideas associated with God’s statutes in Psalm 119.
First, God’s boundaries bring us delight. Psalm 119:16 says, “I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget your wordd.” The word for delight in this verse is one that means the happiness that’s derived from having fun. In Isaiah 11:8 it’s used of the fun a child has while playing.
Also, God’s boundaries are joyful. The psalmist declared, “Your statutes are the theme of my song during my earthly life” (Psalm 119:54). The image is of someone so joyful that they sing of God’s statutes.
Further, God gave us boundaries for our good. Look at Psalm 119:68, which links God’s goodness to His giving us boundaries. It says, “You are good, and You do what is good; teach me your statutes” God knows what is best for us and He has prescribed boundaries that keep us in the realm of His goodness.
Additionally, God’s boundaries keep us safe. In Psalm 119:117 it says “Sustain me so that I can be safe and always be concerned about Your statutes.” There God’s regulations are associated with our safety. This was a concept I tried to help my kids understand when they were teens. Just as their curfew and our rules about using our car were designed to keep them safe, in the same way God wants to keep His children safe and gives us boundary lines. Staying within them keeps us secure.
Another idea from Psalm 119:124 is that God’s boundaries are a reflection of His faithful love. That verse says, “Deal with Your servant based on Your faithful love; teach me Your statutes.” God is loyal to us and in His kindness and concern for us He has laid out boundaries.
One final idea is that God will show us favor when we stay within His boundaries. Psalm 119:135 prays, “Show favor to Your servant, and teach me Your statutes.” The literal prayer asks God to “shine His face upon” His servant. The psalmist sees God’s boundaries as His “look of love” upon us.
But is this just propaganda for God’s boundaries? Are they really for our good and safety? I thought about all the good that would come about if we stayed within God’s prescriptions. If we did there’d be no broken homes with hurt children, no sexually transmitted diseases, no accidents because of drunkenness, no shattered lives and families from drug addiction. I could go on and on. God has given us great freedom to enjoy His good creation and enjoy life. But He’s also provided boundaries so that we can enjoy life to the full.
It made me think of cold winter days—Eva and I so enjoy having a fireplace in our living room. We put a few logs on the fire, pull out a good novel, and enjoy both the physical and emotional warmth of the fire. But I want that fire to stay within the fireplace, within its boundaries. If it crosses that line into my living room it will lead to disaster. That’s why the Psalmist loved God’s boundaries and we should too. They are God’s way of keeping the fire in the fireplace.