In [Psalm] 1:2, we are told that the good man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he will exercise himself day and night.”  To “exercise himself” in it apparently does not mean to obey it (though, of course, the good man will do that, too) but to study it, as Dr. Moffatt says, to “pore over it.”  Of course, “the law” does not here mean simply the Ten Commandments, it means the whole complex legislation (religious, moral, civil, criminal, and even constitutional) contained in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  The man who “pores upon it” is obeying Joshua’s command (Joshua 1:8), “the book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.”  This means, among other things, that the law was a study or, as we should say, a “subject,” a thing on which there would be commentaries, lectures, and examinations.  There were.  Thus part (religiously, the least important part) of what an ancient Jew meant when he said he “delighted in the law” was very like what one of us would mean if he said that somebody “loved” history or physics or archaeology.  This might imply a wholly innocent – though, of course, merely natural – delight in one’s favorite subject or, on the other hand, the pleasures of conceit, pride in one’s own learning and consequent contempt for the outsiders who don’t share it, or even a venal admiration for the studies which secure one’s own stipend and social position.

From: Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1958), pp. 65-66.


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