Friday, 22 August 2014

(235) August 23: Psalm 119:105-176 & 1 Corinthians 5

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


To discover:­
As you read consider how the psalmist’s longing is expressed.

To ponder:
Psalm 119v105-112 repeats many previous themes, famously beginning with the declaration of how God’s word is “a lamp” to the psalmist’s feet, directing his paths so that he doesn’t stumble. He adds that he has actually taken an oath to obey God’s laws, perhaps like the commitment the Christian makes when they repent and are baptised. Whereas he earlier said that the LORD was his portion, here God’s statutes are his “heritage” – a similar idea. Like a valuable inheritance, they are what he rejoices to have. And he hates those who are double-minded, not displaying this absolute devotion to God and his word (119v113). In declaring God is his refuge because he has hoped in God’s word (119v114), the psalmist may be referring to hoping in God’s promise to grant life to the righteous (119v116), or to his placing his hope in the law itself, that by obeying it through faith, he would experience God’s protection (119v121). Of course the latter leads to the former and we should note that neither mean the psalmist is trusting in himself in a legalistic or meritorious way. Rather, he is trusting in God’s covenant commitment to those who truly love him (119v132). He therefore prays that God would sustain him according to his promise, which is to both uphold and deliver him. He adds that knowing the wicked will be discarded, his flesh trembles in fear of God and he stands in awe of his laws (119v115-120). Despite our confidence in God’s salvation, it is still fitting to tremble in the knowledge of how holy he actually is.
            A new thought in what follows is the psalmist’s prayer for discernment so that he might understand God’s statutes (119v125), no doubt seeing exactly how to act in each situation. In our day of moral relativism and complex ethics, how much this needs to be our prayer. We also see him call on God to act because his law is being broken (119v126). It is a prayer that God would do what is just, and purify his kingdom. The psalmist’s longing for God’s commands is then expressed (119v131) in terms similar to Jesus’ description of hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matt 5v6). Our psalmist desires obedience to the honour of God above all things. And because of this he weeps to see his law disobeyed (119v136). We should not allow ourselves to become cold to such compromise within the church.
            In words reminiscent of Psalm 19, the psalmist continues affirming how righteous and trustworthy God’s law is (119v137-138). And his prayer for salvation seems to intensify. He cannot sleep for meditating on God’s covenant promises which are his only hope for deliverance, and wakes before dawn to cry for help on that basis (119v147-149). On the basis of his obedience, his refusal to forget God’s commands even when persecuted, and his hatred of those who do evil, he therefore asks God to see his suffering and preserve his life (119v145-168). He adds in the midst of his turmoil that he praises God “seven times a day” (ie. constantly) for his righteous laws, and can even state that those who love God’s law have “great peace” and “nothing can make them stumble” (119v165). In our deepest suffering too, we can find joy because we know God and have his word to guide us, and we can know peace because we will not therefore fall from him, and so have a certain deliverance to look forward to at Christ’s return.
            The psalm concludes (119v169-176) reiterating the psalmist’s desire that God hear his prayer and so give him understanding of his circumstances and how to respond to them, and of course deliver him according to his covenant promise and because he has chosen God’s precepts. He also affirms his desire to live to praise God for teaching him and for the righteousness of his commands. The final prayer, however, is that God “seek” the psalmist as his “servant” even though he has actually “strayed like a lost sheep” (see 119v67). This great work therefore ends on a note of confession. As such, it is revealed as a great prayer for God’s grace on the basis of his covenant commitment to those who love and obey him. It is therefore a prayer the Christian can pray too. Christ stated that those who truly love him will obey him (Jn 14v15, 21, 23-24), and to them, he promised his Spirit to teach them and enable them to bear fruit (Jn 14v26, 15v5), and his peace in the knowledge that they will one day join him in glory (Jn 14v27, 17v24). Indeed, he promised that by this Spirit he and his Father would make their home in the Christian (Jn 14v23). This inner work and presence of God patterns God’s act of teaching and drawing close to the psalmist, but Jesus implies ours is an even deeper, clearer and so better experience accompanying a new covenant work of the Holy Spirit (Jn 7v38-39).
           
Praying it home:       
Praise God for the gift of his Holy Spirit who teaches, assures, sustains and raises us. Pray that in the knowledge of this, you would know joy and peace even amidst suffering.

Thinking further:                             
None today.


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