Duty a Delight
Psalm 40:8
I delight to do your will, O my God: yes, your law is within my heart.

"I delight to do Thy will, O my God." In other words, God's pleasure is his pleasure. "Yea, Thy law is within my heart," the object of choice and love.

I. We instinctively recognize here AN EXPRESSION OF THE HIGHEST TYPE OF PIETY, This marks the psalm as Messianic, since it was fulfilled only in Christ. The piety here breathed is not to be thought of as beyond the imitation of every disciple. Jesus stands as the Divine model and pattern of a believer's life. When we look at the believer's experience we find it in three stages. First, a sense of danger, when fear rouses him to flee from the wrath to come; then a sense of duty, when conscience urges him to do that which he feels to be right; and last, a sense of delight, when choice impels him to do and bear God's will. Duty has become delight. This last stage of experience is the highest, and heaven only is higher.

II. To DELIGHT IN GOD'S WILL SUPPLIES THE NOBLEST MOTIVE, The roads of duty and delight never cross each other. Piety is not so much any conformity of outward life, as it is a disposition toward the divine, which, in a growing Christian will become more and more habitual as a law of life, and in a sense unconscious. A young disciple is like the musical pupil, who, in playing his exercises, keeps thinking how he is sitting, holding his hands, and managing his fingers. The mature disciple is more like the master in whom practice and habit have made it possible to lose sight of what is merely mechanical in what is spiritual about music, till he forgets the instrument in the inspiration of musical enthusiasm, and becomes no longer merely a practiser of scales or an imitator of others, but a creator and composer of musical harmonies. He who makes it his habit to aim after true holiness will find more and more that it ceases to be an effort to be good and to do good, as he rises to real and almost unconscious sympathy with goodness.

III. The text expresses also THE HIGHEST SPIRITUAL LIBERTY. In civil government, the nearer we get to a true idea or ideal of liberty, the less does government seem to exist at all, for the highest freedom involves unconsciousness of restraint or constraint. The Christian is the Lord's freeman; it is the sinner who is wearing a yoke of bondage; and he who has escaped the obedience of fear and learned the subjection of love enjoys the highest liberty of the sons of God. And we misrepresent Christianity before others whenever we lead them to suppose that it rules by the iron sceptre of duty. He who will surrender himself completely to its sway shall find the Christian experience such a blending of God's life with man's life as maketh His will our will, and His service perfect freedom!

IV. The text expresses THE TRUEST PREPARATION FOR A LIFE OF SERVICE TO CHRIST. When duty becomes delight we are fitted for our highest usefulness, for that is inseparable from the highest piety, the noblest motive, and the truest liberty. Those who most win souls are those who delight to do God's will. If others see that it makes us happy to be disciples of Christ, that we are under no constraint, galled by no fetters of conscience, confined by no severe restrictions; that we are simply walking at liberty because we love to do God's will, we become to them living epistles. Men may feel little interest in hearing another say what he is forced to utter because he feels that he ought; but no man will lack attentive audience who speaks from a full heart, which would burst if denied expression. Ordinarily a sculptor does not himself work the marble: he fashions the clay model, leaving to the mechanical workman to work out in stone what he has not the imagination to invent, or think out in mind. What a wide difference between them! The workman, for a certain sum, undertakes the task of giving to the creation of the artist's genius simply a more enduring form. He feels, perhaps, but little interest in his wearisome work. His aim at most is to be rigidly accurate and correct in copying the model. Everything is done by rule. How different the experience of the sculptor! He finds in his work a rest, a relief. An image is stamped upon his mind, his brain burns, his heart throbs! The Greeks called such a state of mind "enthusiasm" — an inspiration from God. We are too often only the mechanical workmen when we ought to be sculptors of life.


1. We must habituate ourselves to think of God's law in its true light. We do great injustice to Him when we construe the rule of duty as an arbitrary regulation. The more we learn to interpret His commands by His benevolence the more shall we delight to do His will.

2. There must be holy fellowship with God. No unregenerate man can know such experience of delight in duty, for it is born only of the Spirit.

3. There must be a full surrender to God. No man delights to do God's will whose whole will is not given up to God.

4. Duty will become delight in proportion to our faithful discharge of duty itself. The more complete your obedience, the more positive your happiness. We are reminded of the beautiful myth about the "wingless birds," who first took up their wings as burdens to be borne, but found them changing to pinions, which, in the end, bore them. We are the birds without wings. God puts our duties before us to be patiently assumed for His sake. But, though at first they are loads, we shall be able afterwards to say, with Rutherford, "The cross is the sweetest burden that ever I bore: such a burden as wings are to the bird," that help it to soar; "or, as sails are to the ship," that help it to catch the breeze that wafts it to the desired haven.

(A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

WEB: I delight to do your will, my God. Yes, your law is within my heart."

The Heart of Messiah
Top of Page
Top of Page