July 21, 2016


Psalm 119:1-3 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.

Psalm 119 has something of a bad rap. It’s the longest chapter in the whole Bible, and that doesn’t sit well with today’s “sound bite” culture. On top of that, it is an acrostic poem, with every verse in each successive stanza starting with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which makes it seem dully mechanical, at least in theory. The problem with those objections is that they don’t hold water at all. The writer was someone who deeply loved God and His Word, and this Psalm is an expression of that. As such it has a great deal to teach us about practical faith in the face of all the pitfalls of life. These first three verses set that tone. The casual reader today might dismiss them because of the superlatives: “blameless” and “nothing wrong.” They would insist that no one lives that way! However, the key to that is in verse 2: “seek Him with all their heart.” It is true that none of us does things perfectly, but we will get it right to the degree we seek God with our whole heart. Honest self-examination tells us that we live most of the time with a divided heart, perhaps seeking God but seeking other things as well. Too often, God isn’t even in the top few in our priorities, much less the focus of our lives. Verse 11 is one of the most famous in this Psalm, and it gives a practical key to keeping it all straight: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” There is no better way to maintain our focus on God than to fill our hearts with His Word. This isn’t the same thing as memorization, though that isn’t bad. Rather, this is meditating on, thinking about, what God has said so that it becomes part of us, guiding our thoughts and helping us stand against the constant barrage to lies that come at us. That is the way to walk in the good path that God has laid out for us, recognizing and receiving the abundant blessings He has prepared for us.

My life is a good case in point. Raised in a missionary family, the Bible was a given in my life, always there and hardly ever questioned. However, my seeking God was sporadic, and whereas I learned quite a few Scriptures, I didn’t take them in to make them part of me; they were simply intellectual property. I was doing what James warns against, deceiving myself. (James 1:22) It was only when God got through to me to show me my twisted heart that I repented and fell in love with His Word. In the years since, by the grace of God I have become addicted to the Bible, and I think I have that in common with the writer of Psalm 119. One of the high points of my life was when one of our church members, a recovered alcoholic, said in a Bible study we were having that I was addicted to the Bible, because he knew addiction first-hand. I can’t say I never lapse, any more than Paul could, (Philippians 3:12) but I do know that the course of my life is set, and that gives me great peace, joy, and satisfaction.

Father, thank You for the Bible. Thank You that it is so readily available, and that it was so present in my home as a child. Help me be an effective interpreter of Your Word to others, communicating Your truth in love so that more and more may be set free from the traps of the enemy to walk in Your glorious light, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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