Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Best Way (Psalm 119:9-16)

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart; 
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

Psalm 119:9-16

There are a couple of well-known verses in this passage, including the opening verse, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word." This hearkens strongly back to verse one, "Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord." So there's not much theoretical about this chapter - from the get-to, we're talking about our everyday life, where the rubber meets the road, and there is an explicit, three-way connection between the good/happy life ("blessed"), the way we live, and the law of God.

So much for the Bible being a bunch of outdated, irrelevant mumbo-jumbo (admit it, you still sometimes think that when you crack open the OT ... no, it's just me? Well, I've admitted it, to my shame).

All this makes me want to be more diligent in learning from God in his Word, and to do my best to encourage my children to do so, too. Hmm, next verse: "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands." This feels like one of those 100% God, 100% me verses -- I recognize that it is incumbent upon me to seek God with all my heart, but I also recognize that it is ultimately God who will guide me and keep me. So many of my favorite hymn lines speak to this truth: "Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home." And, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, O take seal it, seal it for thy courts above."

And now the verse that makes me want to put my kiddos in AWANA: "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Now that I really think about it, that's a pretty audacious claim: Scripture memory (thoughtful memory, I presume) will help us to keep our way pure. Scripture is, afterall, God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that we might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. I'm reminded of stories of WWII POWs who kept themselves going or encouraged others by writing Scripture on scraps or cell walls. But I'm also mindful that the Holy Spirit can bring Scripture to mind at opportune moments, encouraging, nudging or even halting me ... provided that the Scripture is there to begin with, and provided that I haven't seared my conscience to the point that I ignore the Holy Spirit when he works. God's Word + his Spirit are a powerful combination that we far too easily discount.

And yet God's law isn't all "Don't do this [thing that you want to do]" and "Do this [thing that you don't want to do]." Thrice in this stanza, the psalmist throws out words like "rejoice" and "delight." The object of this delight? God's decrees! And it's not even, "Do this and you'll get a prize," like we entice our son to eat his veggies with the promise of dessert (hello, dinner last night). Instead, it's delighting in the entire meal. In the parenting class at church that we took last year, the leader kept defining wisdom as "Knowing and loving what is best," like the fantastic ratatouille-poached egg dish that I made for lunch, that was 100% delicious and 100% good for us.

If, as we've said (and I hope we've agreed), God's law is his revelation to us of his perfections, and his law is also a way of inviting us to draw near to him and enjoy sweet fellowship with the most perfect being in the most perfect way, loving God's law truly is knowing and loving what is best. And so we declare (and we pray): "I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

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