Let Your Rules Help Me: Psalms 119:169-176

Psalms 119:169-176

After many weeks of work, we have come to the end of the longest psalm in the Bible. Congratulations! I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

OK, I admit that sometimes, the work was difficult and I battled the temptation to give up, but here at the end as I try to cram the last few verses into memory, I am truly glad I did not quit. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

I absolutely adore the way David ends this psalm. The entire thing began with “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord…” and it ends with “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.”

He begins with the knowledge that walking according to God’s rules leads to blessedness, and he concludes with the realization that he cannot actually do this on his own, asking God to seek him like a lost sheep. Can you relate? I surely can.

The longer I walk with God and the more I read, meditate on, and trust in His words, the more humbled I become. The more I see myself as a poor and foolish little sheep, ever straying from the safety of my Shepherd’s side, needing Him to constantly keep me under His care. So to wrap this project up, I’m going to walk line-by-line through this final stanza and personalize it into my own prayer.

Again, thanks for coming along with me on this journey, and may the Spirit of God whisper the living words of God to you again and again in time of need! I hope this is not the end of memory work for you but only a beginning. May a deep and abiding hunger for the things of God be awakened within all of us, consuming us with a passion for His Kingdom and enduring until the end of time.

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.

My Sovereign, I need You to guide my understanding. Please hear my cries and answer my pleas. Grant that Your servant may be filled with Your Holy Spirit so that each new day brings a deeper understanding of Your word and of what You would have me to do.

My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.

As long as You teach me, I will praise Your name. Make me an eternal student of the living God, and remind me to sing for joy of the Living Word who is full of compassion, goodness, truth, and wisdom. Teach my tongue to rejoice and bring glory to You. Sanctify my mouth and make it a holy tool for Your use. 

 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.

And how I need Your help! The longer I walk with You, the more clearly I see the truth behind Jesus’ words, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Please give me the help I need when I stagger from weariness or stray from weakness, for I truly desire to belong to Your fold. I long for that day when my salvation will be complete, when I can delight myself in Your presence and Your law without the corrupting influence of sin and selfishness. 

Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

Lord, I can think of no better way to end than this. Let Your rules help me. Seek me, for I am lost and I am prone to wander, yet I remain Your servant and even in times of weakness, Your commandments are close to my mind and heart. I am Yours; save me!

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Great Peace: Psalms 119:161-168

Psalms 119:161-168

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble…

Oh, how I need to remind myself of these words at this season of life! The ceaseless, 24/7 parenting of a home school family can, at times, be emotionally exhausting during the teen and tween years. For one thing, it can be difficult to remember not to take the things they say and do personally, especially when many of the words and actions seem so personal.

This morning, I was reminded of a section in the book, For Parents Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. In her book, she lays out the results of extensive research she has conducted about what is going on in the minds of the young men and women who have, quite suddenly, replaced the little boys and little girls in our families (or will one day soon for those of you who are still surrounded by little ones).

In one chapter, Mrs. Feldhahn writes about the somewhat harrowing process that our young people go through as they grow, a time when each child reaches a point where they take a hard look at the values we, as parents, have worked so hard to pass on to them. No matter what, there will come a time where the child will examine every single principle we have instilled with a critical eye, mulling over all they know of this world and wondering to themselves, “This is a part of who my parents are, but is it a part of who I am?”

Maybe it’s just me, or maybe this process seems especially painful for the homeschool mom who has devoted the bulk of her adult life, not to career building nor personal satisfaction, but to investing most of her waking hours to teaching, training, and hopefully discipling her children in Christ. Each examination of my values feels very personal; each apparent rejection seems to be evidence of a cataclysmic failure to do the job even reasonably well.

However, my hope is ultimately not in my children nor their choices, but in my Lord and His word. I admit that do not always feel great peace, and in my actions and attitudes I do stumble, yet He is greater than it all. Though my faith may ebb at times, the core of my trust in God does not actually stumble. I still know that He is good, that His faithfulness is great and His mercy never ceases.

When I am tempted to despair, it is love for Him and His Word that keeps me from sinking. Even when I do not see how, I know in the very core of my being that He can bring revival to the coldest and darkest of hearts. When I look at my own little brood, I see a mirror of all my deficiencies and mistakes, yet I also see that their hearts are nowhere near as dark nor as cold as mine was at their age.

And so I do love His law. Perhaps especially in this emotionally draining season.of parenting, I love the law of God and I need it like oxygen. I have to remind myself that they, too, must experience Him personally, so I will pray diligently for them, giving my all to whatever He gives my hand to do, and trusting Him for the results.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4).  Indeed.

God, You are my Rock. Thank You that You have chosen to reveal Yourself to we who are the work of Your hands. Teach our hearts to love Your law, teach our children’s hearts to love it, and let nothing make us stumble. Please, O Lord, in Your goodness, grant us the great peace of a steadfast and unshakable commitment to You. 

 

 

The Sum: Psalm 119:153-160

Psalms 119:153-160

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

As we draw nearer the end of this Psalm, I am reminded of the reason I began working through committing it to memory in the first place. My desire, my goal, was that God would awaken a greater hunger for His word and for His truth within myself and possibly even others. It is still my prayer that we will be reminded of the true life that is lived in Christ, not just during this time, but abiding in the Living Word of God from this time forward.

And so, on we go…

Reading through this stanza as David pleads for life not once but three times in eight lines, I can’t help but wonder if his own moments of faithlessness inspired both the pleas and the expressions of disgust. I can’t speak for him, but I do know that my own wickedness is a source of great distress for me. It is when I am faced with my own stubborn pride and my sin that I feel both crushing sorrow and unbelievable gratitude for the Lord’s mercy.

As I have meditated on these words, I lift my voice in prayer that God will grant spiritual life, not only to my family and myself, but to all His people. I am asking for a great awakening, for all our eyes to be open to our sin, for contrite and humble hearts, for repentance, and for zeal for His Kingdom to consume us.

It is not earthly pleasures and physical life we need the most right now, but a great rousing of spiritual life. At this point in history, perhaps especially in America, the life we need most desperately is this other-worldly life that comes of being dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. I pray today for this abundant life to flow through God’s people as we abide in Christ and make His truth our firm foundation.

On this holy week as we look back at the sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection, it is a good time to be reminded that the sum of God’s word is truth. The world seems to be crumbling around us, and even those who identify themselves as Christian seem to be in confusion over what Jesus did as well as what His followers should do about it.

This is why I pray so fervently and frequently for a return to the Word of God. Even within the Church, there are many who doubt the veracity of the Bible. Many believe its authority has been dimmed with time, that its precepts are quaint and old-fashioned; that the Bible itself is an interesting book with an overall good moral message but that it is full of holes, myths, and irrelevant sayings.

My friends, this is simply not true. Nor is it true that we can take the bits of the Bible that are convenient and leave behind those hard truths that make us uncomfortable or bring conviction. No, indeed, sometimes the Word that brings the sorrow of contrition are the parts we need to hear the most. The sum of His word is truth.

Mathematically speaking, a sum requires that all parts are added to make the whole. Even so, God’s word cannot be taken piecemeal, nor can some bits be embraced while others are discarded. The sum — the totality of the whole word — is truth.  His righteous rules will endure forever. When I think on these things, I am reminded of my frailty and I thank the Lord again that His mercy is great!

Lord, grant that we never take Your mercy for granted, but live in a state of gratitude for it. May we, Your people, wake up and become serious about knowing and loving all parts of Your Word. May we, guided by the Holy Spirit, accurately total the sum. May it be said of us that we love Your precepts, and may we live lives of gentle and reverent boldness based not on a portion of the Word of God, but on the sum. 

 

Founded Forever: Psalm 119:145-152

Psalm 119:145-152

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep Your statutes.
I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.

 

In the present season of my life, these words perfectly express my increasing sense both of my dependence on God and of my own weakness. Today, I find myself in the midst of prayerful and expectant waiting; a time of pruning in which even some branches I believed might bear fruit are being stripped away.

Ugly and bare as my life looks now (at least to me), I know that the Vinedresser is experienced and wise. His shears never trim any shoot useful to Him but only the suckers which may look innocent or even beautiful, yet sap the strength of the plant, robbing it of maximum potential.

Yet I do not wait passively as He removes the excess. As I wait, I cry out to Him with my whole heart, just as David writes. I, too, long to keep His statutes, but I also know from experience the extend of my feebleness in doing so. It is only through His grace that I can stay on the narrow path at all.

Other heart-cries are for His intervention in situations beyond my control; some unnameable, others are requests that my children or other loved ones to choose always to walk in His ways. I find myself frequently rising before dawn to cry for His help in these matters; believing that He will save, redeem, and restore but persisting in asking as I recall Jesus’ on words in Luke 11:8-9.

In addition to these, I voice my wholehearted appeal before God to guide my family well, to give my husband Godly wisdom in his leadership, and to make clear our understanding for all decisions we make. In numerous ways I am at a crossroads during this time of pruning, and I desperately desire my Lord’s direction and His counsel. When the time comes to move forward, I want to know which way to direct my feet.

And so I pray and I wait for His answers, but I do not wait alone. Many friends are also waiting on decisions, wisdom from God, or His help in troubled times. In my prayers, I make supplication to the Almighty for them as well.

When my mind becomes anxious or afraid, I have taken to meditating on His promises, as David writes; sometimes early and sometimes late.  Again, as the morning dawns, I raise my voice again, calling on the Lord of Hosts to fight for His people, to guide His people, to grant us wisdom, to wake us up.

When He seems to delay in His answers, while waiting on a clear purpose or direction I simply hope in His words. His ways are good, and I take comfort that His testimonies are established forever, from a time more ancient than stone and continuing through the reach of eternity far beyond that point at which my mind falters and fails.

So long as I remain planted among the thorns of the earth, it is good to know that He is near and that all His commandments are true. This knowledge brings great joy in times of uncertainty, and for that I am thankful.

Mighty God, we wait on You to quicken us to life, and while we wait we cry out to You for help, asking that You answer us and guide us in the way we should go. Teach us to keep Your statutes, to meditate on Your promises, to rise early with our heart-cries on our lips. Thank You that You are unchanging and that Your testimonies are established forever. Thank You for being the firm Foundation on which we can stand and build!

 

Righteous Forever:Psalm 119:137-144

Psalms 119:137-144

Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules…Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true…

Concrete words for an abstract society.

I cannot help but be puzzled by this society we live in today; this odd place in human history where opinion and sensation are elevated above logic and reason to the extent that even biologically evident facts are called into question. Indeed, the modern definition of truth is so fluid that the very ground beneath our feet often seems to morph and shift with the unstable currents of pop-culture fancy. In this place and at this moment, we are in desperate need of solid ground.

I am reminded of a book I recently read; the true story of an acquaintance of my dad’s who survived more than 24 hours of ruthless pounding by an angry sea after being washed overboard in a colossal storm. His captain was also thrown into the sea with him, and the two men strove to help one another until the captain’s strength finally gave out and he perished.

My dad’s acquaintance remained tethered to the dead man, fighting to stay alive and resolving bring the captain’s body back to his family. Ultimately, he was rescued at night against all odds; one tiny life plucked from a vast and furious ocean.

As I reflected on this week’s passage, I kept thinking of the survivor’s story. Among us today are so many confused and weary people, worn from treading water in the restless seas of human inclination. There are multitudes who need to know that as vast and variable as mankind’s ideology is,  God is even more vast yet He is entirely unchanging. The very reality of hope in Him, the solidity of our Rock, is sorely needed in the unpredictable and raging seas through which we navigate.

Many of these, too, are desperately thirsty. Sorrowfully, many look to the surging waves hoping to slake their parched lips, yet they find themselves in the same hopeless position as Coleridge’s ancient mariner:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

But we who are in Christ have access to the Fount of Living Water; we stand upon the Rock of Ages. We know that His promise is well-tried and we love it!

Brothers and sisters, we must not be afraid to share a drop of truth, of cool and life-giving water, with a world rapidly dying from its unhealthy appetite for contamination. We must strive to maintain our footing on the solid Rock and resist being caught up into the shifting, restless seas.

Even if we are mocked (and we will be), even if we are persecuted (and we will be), love compels us to try even to the death. We acknowledge to our Lord, “Your testimonies are righteous forever,” and we plead with Him, “Give me understanding that I may live.”

And as we gain understanding, we share it. We allow Him to expose our sin then we lay it bare, confessing our own wrongs and joyfully telling of the great and unlikely forgiveness that our God has bestowed on us. Who knows? Perhaps one soul caught in the crazy, roiling depths will be plucked out and rescued by Him because we were not ashamed to live and speak as though we truly, honestly believe that our God’s righteousness really is righteous forever.

Though the societal tides may rage and foam, surge and recede, You, O God, do not change. You have appointed Your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.  Cleanse us and use us as vessels filled with Living Water to share with all whom we meet.  Though trouble and anguish may find us because of You, Your commandments will remain our delight. Grant us the faith to make it so, Lord, for You are righteous forever!

Psalm 119:129-136

Psalms 119:129-136

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me…

… because, O Lord, I need You. I am so weak, so unsteady, so prone to wander from Your side on the narrow path. Forgive me my wayward heart, my easy-come, easy-go attention. Help me to keep my mind steadfast on You and Your ways. Help me to throw aside the sin which clings so closely and run this race with endurance. Lend me Your strength when I grow weary and lift me up on wings like eagles’.  Keep me safe in Your sovereign grace and do not let any iniquity gain the upper hand in my heart.

Despite the years I have already learned from You, I am still Your child, Your pupil, a branch of Your life-giving Vine. I will always need Your nourishment, for apart from You I truly can do nothing at all. So teach me, my Rabbi, that I may grow deeper in Your love and in Your ways. Teach me to abide more fully, to walk more carefully; to love more freely and spur me to greater and even greater generosity. Prune away all that is dead or useless in me, and make me into a more fruitful vine for Your vineyard.

And Lord, please renew Your works among us today. Send Your Spirit to prepare the hearts of mankind, and draw the nations to Yourself. Show us Your glory, Lord! Show Yourself as the Almighty, the Most High. Oh, my King, there is so much darkness; such rampant wickedness and so much fear and hate. Please change the hearts of man and teach us once and for all to fear You. Fight for Your people and for the victims for the suffering and broken. It is for this reason that…

My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

 

Give Me Understanding: Psalm 119:121-128

Psalm 119:121-128

My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; give me understanding that I may know your testimonies. . .

As I have worked to commit this section to memory, it delights me that what David’s eyes longed to see so long ago echoes my own longing. Though centuries have passed, we are united in this yearning. Yet there is one major difference. David longed to see Messiah revealed; those of us who now long for Him are longing for His return. He has already been revealed!

The first advent of Jesus was the literal realization of the longing David expresses in this psalm, for Jesus’ name rendered in Hebrew means “salvation.” I find it intriguing to think that my eyes long for the very same thing. Only, unlike David, I am not waiting for the Messiah to arrive but to return. Last time, He came as a servant; next time, He will come as a Conquering King.

And I do long to see this thing with my own eyes, but yet… there are so many who do not yet know Him, so many who do not believe or even scoff at Him. So many who, if He came again right now, would be caught in the hardness of their hearts, and too late for repentance, would die in their sin, forever doomed to a place that is described by Jesus Himself as a place of eternal and unquenchable fire (Matthew 25:41, Mark 9:43).

For this reason alone, I am conflicted. I eagerly desire to see Him restore all creation to its intended splendor. On one hand, I cry, “It is time for the Lord to act, for Your law has been broken,” especially when I see the news and hear of human trafficking, people forced to flee their homes in terror, rampant immorality, murders, disease, abortion, rape… such a sea of human suffering. At these times, I long for the end to come and the great Day to dawn.

Then a gentle voice invades my thoughts and reminds me how many who suffer do not yet know the Truth. Not only those, but how many who perpetrate such atrocities are not purely evil but only deceived, having swallowed wholesale the lies of the enemy of our souls and may even now only need a word of forgiveness, a word of hope in order to turn from their sin and believe.

They are human, too, also made in the image of God and stained, twisted, and distorted by sin. Not all their hearts are hardened beyond reach. Who knows what internal anguish has brought them to afflict pain on others?

For their sake, I ask that the Lord will give me understanding that I may know His testimonies. May He give them understanding, as well, and teach His statutes abundantly. When I think of the many lost souls, my prayer becomes more fervently, “My eyes long to see Your salvation,” for I long to see the darkness and evil dispelled by the light of Truth. I long to see even the wicked brought to repentance and saved.

Justice, O Lord, I leave to You and I do pray that You will act. Please act in mighty ways and reveal Your glory to this sickened world. Let those of us who are called by Your name no longer be distracted with what is petty and transient, but teach us Your statues and how we may walk in them as Your ambassadors here behind enemy lines. We are Your servants; do with us as You will. Use us to reach the lost, the hurting, the tormented.