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It’s hard to believe that summer is drawing to a close! My summer goals have mostly been achieved… (Get a more detailed update by listening to this podcast episode.) As per usual, I am really never totally satisfied with myself; I always thing that I should have done/been/achieved more! But if I’m being reasonable, I think this summer has been a successful and enjoyable one! School starts for us in about two weeks. I think my son, Grayson, and I feel somewhat similarly about this: we are excited about the new school year but not quite ready to give up the relaxing pace of summer. Ah, well. On it comes, regardless of how we feel!
This summer, I have been focusing my writing and podcasting attention on the book of Psalms for a short “Summer of Psalms” series. I am a little surprised to be composing the last installment of this series on the longest chapter of the Bible: Psalm 119. However, I will only be focusing on a portion of the scriptures. (There are 176 verses total!)
Psalm 119 is verse after beautiful verse extolling the virtues of God’s law. That perhaps doesn’t sound exciting or even like something that would be “beautiful” at face value, but let me tell you, the Psalmist is truly inspired as he lifts up the Law and the one who follows after it with all of her heart! The inspired Word brings revelation like nothing else.
All scripture excerpts are from the New Living Translation.
The Joyful Obedient
1 Joyful are people of integrity,
who follow the instructions of the Lord.
2 Joyful are those who obey his laws
and search for him with all their hearts.
3 They do not compromise with evil,
and they walk only in his paths.
The world and our culture would teach us the opposite of what these verses say: that obedience brings sorrow and imprisonment. But the Word of God is revelatory! People who do right and are obedient to the statutes of the Lord – with all of their hearts, not just for appearance’s sake – are truly the light and joyful ones.
4 You have charged us
to keep your commandments carefully.
5 Oh, that my actions would consistently
reflect your decrees!
6 Then I will not be ashamed
when I compare my life with your commands.
Careful consistency creates confidence! We are to be careful to follow God’s commands, not sloppy or lackadaisical. Yes, it requires effort and focus. But looks what is reaped? A consistent and faithful life filled with a holy confidence.
Little by Little
There is nothing so beautiful as the one coming to know Jesus for the first time who is so hungry to learn and grow. This walk with our Lord, it takes time…We learn, we fail, we get up again…And the cycle repeats. The Psalmist says, “please don’t give up on me!” And, you know what? He doesn’t!
And I just have to take a second and highlight this gorgeous phrase: “I will thank you by living as I should!” Wow! What inspiring humility! Thank You, God, for teaching me Your ways. I will respond with a glad and obedient heart to thank you for saving me!
A Full Heart = A Pure Life
9 How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying your word.
10 I have tried hard to find you—
don’t let me wander from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Temptation surrounds us, and it can be particularly difficult for the young to navigate successfully. (Though it’s not easy for any of us!) The key is this: hiding God’s Word in our hearts! No, memorizing or meditating on scripture is not a guarantee to sinless behavior. However, when that Word is not only known but also loved, it creates a much greater obstacle to sin and wrongdoing.
God’s Word > Riches
I love the determination of the author: I have recited aloud all the regulations… This is no passive student. This Psalmist is in passionate pursuit of understanding! The Law of God is greater than all wealth and riches, yet how often do we find ourselves rejoicing more over financial or material gain? We should much more rejoice that our names are written in heaven! (See Luke 10:20.)
I WILL study….I WILL delight… Sometimes it is merely a matter of our wills! I can hear the steel behind the words. I will do these things because I know they are right and will ultimately lead me to heaven!
Revived by the Word
25 I lie in the dust;
revive me by your word.
When we are discouraged, sometimes a sincere, loving word from a friend can bring us up from our pit. This is also true for the Word of God. Perhaps we often think of the Word as “instructions for life” and not “encouragement for life,” but it is actually both and so much more! Reading and loving the Law of God is a continual way to recalibrate our lives when we get off track, and often, being off track is what has caused our despondency in the first place. Go to the Word for an instant lift!
The Best Laid Plans
When we have no fixed point by which to measure our ever-changing plans and schemes, they easily run amok! We are supremely talented at lying to ourselves, as the Psalmist here acknowledges. One of the most glorious benefits of filling our hearts and minds with the Word of God is that we then have a faithful measurement by which to compare our life’s goals and intentions.
Choose, Cling to, Pursue
30 I have chosen to be faithful;
I have determined to live by your regulations.
31 I cling to your laws.
Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
32 I will pursue your commands,
for you expand my understanding.
Faithfulness is never something that just “happens;” it must be a conscious, determined choice. The life lived for God is no different. Our faithfulness will flow out of our consistent commitment to cling to the Law of God. To cling to it. That is a very different thing than merely reading or hearing it. It is as if you are drowning and your only lifeline is the Word of God! You cling to it. As we do this, we will live our lives with expanded understanding and without shame. This is a very precious thing!
Psalm 119 is such a rich read; yes, it’s long, but somehow still refreshing, even though the message echoes itself over and over. God’s Word is a firm foundation on which to build a fulfilling life. The principles found within will not fail, though they be counter to popular thought. Read it, love it, be changed.