Thursday, 21 August 2014

(234) August 22: Psalm 119:49-104 & 1 Corinthians 4

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

To discover:­
As you read note what causes the psalmist to delight in God’s word.

To ponder:
Psalm 119 continues calling on God to remember his promise to act for those who obey his law. It is in this that the psalmist has hoped and finds comfort in his suffering. And so he declares that although mocked, he hasn’t turned from God’s laws, which he even sings of, remembering God’s name. Moreover, he is angered by the wicked (119v49-56). 119v57-64 then details his faith, which is a model for our own: It is to have God as our “portion,” ie. the one we desire and treasure like a portion of the promised land. It is to seek (ie. know, love, trust and honour) him wholeheartedly, be speedy to obey, and a friend to others who fear him. It is to be so taken up with his will, that we keep it when oppressed (119v61, 69), and even wake in the night to give God thanks for it. And so the psalmist asks that on the basis of God’s worldwide love and goodness, he would give him his great desire by teaching him his decrees, and with it knowledge and good judgement. He confesses that before his affliction he went astray, but now delights in God’s law that he considers more precious than the greatest treasure (119v64-72). He also concludes that God afflicted him in faithfulness, probably as discipline to bring him to obedience. And he knows God can grant him understanding of his commands, because God made him. Moreover, he prays that by granting it, those who fear God would rejoice when they see his hope in God’s word (perhaps expressed in his rule), and turn to him (no doubt with allegiance). On the basis of his delight in God’s law, he therefore asks God to show him compassion, and make him blameless so that he is not shamed. By contrast, he also prays that his arrogant opponents would be shamed for wronging him (119v73-80).
            This whole section displays the delight the believer has in God, his ways and in pleasing him with obedience. We see this supremely in Jesus who came into the world to do the will of his Father (Jn 4v34). It should cause us to beg God to teach us his ways too.
            119v81-87 express the psalmist’s longing for salvation, asking when God will punish his persecutors. In his afflictions, he is like a leather wineskin which is being ruined by being hung in smoke. In our afflictions, we can be tempted to sin in resentment or anger at God for putting us through them. By contrast, the psalmist determines not to forget God’s decrees and prays for God to preserve his life so that he might continue to obey them. He goes on to liken God’s word of law and promise to his word of creation (119v89-96). It stands firm and endures just as the heavens and the earth do, and so God’s faithfulness continues, and his commands are boundless in the sense that they do not pass away. Moreover, just as all creation serves God, so his laws continue to demand obedience. It’s a reminder that although we are under the new covenant, the principles behind God’s law and promises remain binding, even though how exactly they apply to our context as those in Christ may differ (see Matt 5v17-20).
            At this point the psalmist can say that if he hadn’t delighted in God’s law he would have perished in his affliction. So God’s precepts had actually preserved his life (119v92-93). As he still longs for deliverance, he probably means that obeying God’s law kept him from responding to his circumstances in a way that was foolish and might have increased his suffering. This would be why he goes on to declare God’s commands made him wiser than his enemies – as well as teachers and elders (119v98-100). It is for this reason that the psalmist declares how much he loves God’s law that he meditates on all day, and how sweet it is to taste. And it is for this reason that he keeps himself from evil in order to obey it (119v101-104).
            As the psalmist was probably one of Israel’s kings, the understanding the law gives him is not just about personal morality, but also about how to rule his kingdom. Whenever we are tempted to consider God’s commands harsh or restraining, we would do well to remember that they are not only good but wise, keeping us at a personal level from foolish mistakes that would harm us or others, but at a wider level too, providing principles that can only enable our families, workplaces, communities and societies to flourish. As Jesus, the incarnate wisdom of God said, the truth of his teaching sets those who hold to it free (Jn 8v32).
Praying it home:       
Praise God for the goodness and wisdom of his word. Pray that you delight in it as the psalmist did.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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