“You are my portion, O Lord. I have promised to obey your words . . . ”
The ‘Great Commandment’ and ‘Great Commission’ is essentially capsuled in the initial verse of the strophe (or ‘stanza’); to the psalmist, God is his beloved and he therefore has committed himself to obey him (cf. Matthew 22:36-40; 28:18-20). In a declaration to the Lord, the psalmist declares that God himself is his ‘allotment’ and inheritance – God, therefore, is the psalmist’s hope, provision, and security. God is not a mere provider of material goods, however; in that case, God alone would not be the psalmist’s ‘portion’. To be sure, the psalmist considered God trustworthy to sustain his life with necessities, but that same life is in actuality purposed in loving, obedient interchange with God. “In him we live and move and have our being,” Paul once quoted with approval. To live is more than survival – it is the constant flow of God’s resourceful presence and power in every dimension of human personhood (heart, soul, mind, strength, and personal relations). To the psalmist, God is the one personal being of such immense capacities that intimate knowledge of him is humanity’s very life force. As a result, the psalmist considered it unthinkable that he would not obey God and therefore pledges his obedience.
Love and obedience are always inseparable. “Love the Lord your God”, Moses relayed from him to the descendants of Israel’s patriarchs . . . “fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 13). Jesus said that he loved God the Father and always did what he commanded him” (John 14:31). The same love and obedience is to animate Jesus’ followers (John 14:23). Love and obedience are never coercive. They flow from a freely-disposed heart indelibly impacted by God’s goodness and love.