Wednesday, 20 August 2014

(233) August 21: Psalm 119:1-48 & 1 Corinthians 3

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note the different attitudes to God’s word.

To ponder:
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm and another acrostic comprising twenty two sections of eight verses, where each verse of each section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It celebrates God’s “word” and “law,” which in the psalm includes God’s commands and the promises that accompany them. These must be his covenant promises to bless the righteous and curse the wicked (Deut 28-30), but if the psalmists is a king, may include God’s promise to David (2 Sam 7v10-16). As these elements are worked out and applied in the rest of the Old Testament, there is also a sense in which the psalm looks to the entirety of God’s word. And it clearly affirms that a true relationship with God, and so true spirituality, is word-centered. In doing so, it prepares the way for the Christ scripture looks to, who is the Word made flesh, and who the believer is to delight in, trust, obey etc, just as the psalmist does God’s law.
            The psalm begins, as Psalm 1, affirming the blessedness and so joy those who walk according to God’s law experience. Again, “blamelessness” refers to general uprightness not perfection. With enemies in mind (119v23), the psalmist (possibly David) longs to be obedient so that he would not be put to shame, committing himself to praising God and learning his decrees with the prayer that he wouldn’t be totally forsaken (119v1-8). It seems he is young, and affirms his way can be kept pure only be living by God’s word. And in order to do this, he seeks God wholeheartedly. In context this entails absorbing, meditating on and delighting in his word, but also praying that God would teach him and keep him from straying from his commands. This focus on prayer throughout mustn’t be forgotten if we desire to please God. The psalmist sees God’s word as a great treasure, and commits to praising God for it and not neglecting it (119v9-16). In this section then, we see both the attitude we should have to God’s word and the way to obeying it.
           The psalmist goes on to pray God would be good to him so that he can live and so obey. Indeed, by describing himself as “a stranger on earth” he sees his home as in heaven. He is therefore living for the LORD and is “consumed” with longing for God’s laws “at all times.” As citizens of heaven, are we so devoted to Christ and his will? In praying that he would live, the psalmist prays for God to rebuke the arrogant by removing the scorn of the rulers who together slander him. By calling God’s statutes his “counsellors” he contrasts these rulers with God’s law as a trustworthy source of wisdom (119v17-24). He prays that God would “preserve his life” according to his word and in response to his recounting his ways (presumably his own obedience). This is probably therefore an appeal for God to act according to his promises to Israel or to David, both of which depended on the individual’s righteousness. The psalmist can therefore pray not to be put to shame because he keeps God’s statutes. His prayer to “understand” God’s precepts in order to meditate on God’s wonders implies that God’s action in Israel (and perhaps the world) cannot be grasped without grasping his moral will, as his actions ultimately stem from his attributes the law reflects, and the principles of justice it elicits. So his request that his weary sorrow be strengthened according to God’s word may be a prayer for a renewed perspective as to what God is doing. We also see God’s law as a means of his grace, in keeping people from deceit and so sin; and as a response to that grace, as the psalmist commits to obedience because God has set him “free” – probably from sin. This commitment to “chose” and “hold fast to” and “run in the path of” God’s commands, describes the decision, determination and delight of the godly life (119v25-32).
            What follows is further prayer for God to teach the psalmist his law for four reasons: because he delights in it, so that he can obey it to the end, to keep his focus from selfish and worthless things, and in order to preserve his life. The latter refers to the psalmist being saved from those who taunt him (119v41-42), and is in God’s “righteousness” because it reflects his doing right by his promises. We will always we drawn back to the things of the world that will ultimately result in our destruction, unless we seek God’s word in the way outlined (119v33-40). The psalmist prays for the salvation he seeks on the basis of God’s unfailing love. In asking God not to “snatch the word of truth from his mouth” he seems to mean his response to his enemy that God will act according to his word and so the principles of his law (119v42-43, 46). It is this that the psalmist hopes in when hoping for his deliverance. Because he commits to obeying God’s laws, and because he delights in and loves them, he is therefore confident he will experience freedom. He even commits to revering God’s commands (119v45-48). It is striking that because God’s word is an extension of his being, the language of love and reverence that would be idolatrous referred to anything else, is rightly referred to his word. This is how highly we should regard it. And, as we do, seen supremely in our attitude to Christ and his teaching, we will have an answer for the devil as he taunts us, and we will be confident that our life will be preserved everlastingly. 
Praying it home:       
Praise God for the wonder of his word. Pray that you would so love and revere him that you would love and revere his word.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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