"The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17:8
“Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all thy commandments.”
-Psalm 119:6 (RSV)
This verse, in particular the second half of it, is translated in a variety of different ways. The KJV says “when I have respect unto all thy commandments”, the NASB prefers “when I look”, while the popular NIV goes with “when I consider.” Personally, I’m partial to the power of the RSV translation here. God didn’t want a people who would only look at or consider His laws. And even respecting the commandments wasn’t enough. He has, from the beginning, sought men and women who fixed their eyes on His laws, and thus on Him.
There’s a danger in merely looking at God’s laws. There are people all over the world who take time to look at God each week. They go through the motions of prayer before eating or bed. They go to church on Sunday morning. They may even read the Bible occasionally. But their gaze is primarily fixed on the world around them. Their minds are set on “earthly things” and not “on things above” (Colossians 3:2). If anything, their gaze is fixed on the events, people, and controversies of this world; only to be interrupted when God forces His way into their lives. This isn’t the focus of a Christian.
At the same time, some people go a step beyond simply looking at God each week. They go on to consider Him. They spend time reflecting and meditating on “things above” but it’s mere consideration. Their focus isn’t seeing Christ as “all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Instead, he’s a means to a lesser end. They seek the scriptures that they might argue more effectively or condemn others more efficiently. They get entangled in the “foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law” that Paul warned Titus about (Titus 3:9). They argue about preferred days of worship, keeping the Jewish law, the end times, and any number of other issues that are either personal preference or without practical value. They’ve only considered Christ.
But what of respecting His commandments? By respecting His commandments, we listen and obey. But the Pharisees obeyed the letter of God’s law and totally missed the Spirit underlying it. We mustn’t get caught in this trap either! It will leave us hypocritical, judgmental, and apathetic towards the plight of others just as it did the Pharisees.
Instead, we ought to fix our eyes on Christ and His Commandments. Have you ever looked at a written word so long that it begins to look foreign? When we fix our eyes on something and allow our whole mind to focus, we often see things in a new light. By fixing our eyes on Christ, the Word of God, and on the commandments to love God and our neighbor, the Spirit of God will open our eyes to the Almighty, His Love, and His desire to work through us in new ways. Unfortunately, we can’t get it by attending one church service a week, praying before meals, and reading scripture occasionally. We also can’t get it by obeying the letter of the law. And we most certainly can’t get it by studying scripture to add notches to our belt or ammunition to our rhetorical rifles. We can only enter into God’s presence in this way by fixing our eyes on Him.