A Reading from Psalm 119:145-176
145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord.
I will keep your statutes.
146 I cry to you; save me,
that I may observe your decrees.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I put my hope in your words.
148 My eyes are awake before each watch of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
149 In your steadfast love hear my voice;
O Lord, in your justice preserve my life.
150 Those who persecute me with evil purpose draw near;
they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, O Lord,
and all your commandments are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your decrees
that you have established them forever.
153 Look on my misery and rescue me,
for I do not forget your law.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me;
give me life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek your statutes.
156 Great is your mercy, O Lord;
be gracious to me according to your justice.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries,
yet I do not swerve from your decrees.
158 I look at the faithless with disgust
because they do not keep your commands.
159 Consider how I love your precepts;
be gracious to me according to your steadfast love.
160 The sum of your word is truth,
and every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.
161 Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
162 I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous ordinances.
165 Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.
166 I hope for your salvation, O Lord,
and I fulfill your commandments.
167 My soul keeps your decrees;
I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep your precepts and decrees,
for all my ways are before you.
169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word.
170 Let my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
171 My lips will pour forth praise,
because you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue will sing of your promise,
for all your commandments are right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
and let your ordinances help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
In Psalm 119, we encounter a person who has staked their life on the promises of God. A person fully alive in God’s world. We learn from them and we pray with them, hoping that their prayer might become ours.
Psalm 119 is like a love ballad to the commands of God — it is the words of a person who is dumbstruck with the goodness of God’s law. Metaphors abound, God’s law is like a lamp, a path, fine gold, and a great spoil.
A love song to God’s command seems so remote to us. We are steeped in a world of zero-sum games — my freedom versus God’s command. In this world the commands of God cease to be heard in the loving voice of our God. They become cold words apart from God’s character or action among us. The commands of God were always meant to be heard issuing forth from the mouth of the one who is “ slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Num. 14:18).
When we hear the commands of God in the loving voice of God, they are never anything but kindness and firm places for our feet to tread. The commands of God heard in the voice of our Savior become open places for us to roam without fear. We come to love them exceedingly, and to delight in them like the great spoil that they are.
This love song concludes with the psalmist asking God to seek him out for he has gone astray. Loving the commandments of God does not preclude the psalmist from wandering off on his own way, but he knows the way home. The one who gave him the steady footholds of the law will seek him out, bringing him once more to green pasture.
Hannah Howland lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, Curtis. She is in her final semester at Duke Divinity School and worships at All Saints Anglican Church.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Middleham and St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Lusby, Maryland
The Diocese of Ruvuma – The Anglican Church of Tanzania