Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Run Free (Psalm 119:25-32)

I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
I recounted my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts;
then I will meditate on your wonders.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:25-32

This stanza strikes me as a sort of love-letter about God's law. Here, as I can see them in these eight verses, are the reasons the psalmist loves God's law:
  • It contains God's promise to preserve his life
  • God teaches us -- and answers our questions -- through his decrees
  • It contains/displays wonders upon which we can meditate
  • It contains God's promise (and means?) to strengthen a weary and sorrowful soul
  • It keeps us from deceitful ways
  • It is a means of God's grace to us
  • When we hold fast to God's statutes, he will keep us from shame
  • Running in the path of God's commands sets our hearts free
What an beautiful contrast this passage provides to the way we (and the world) so typically regard God's revelation to us in his law. Rather than a joy, it is a burden and a killer of our joy. I especially love how this stanza ends, what an amazing verse! I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. This verse brings to mind a racehorse stretching out for the homestretch of a race -- the beauty that is on display when this magnificent creature is doing exactly what he was created to do. Or the glee of my dogs when we set them loose at our cabin as they bound through the grass. Or the pleasure of my toddler that I mentioned yesterday, as within the safety of our yard ("the path of your commands"), he is free to run and explore without any fear and with total joy.

I am reminded of one of our pastor's sermon illustrations as he is preaching through Romans. Have I mentioned this before? I loved this ... he described a (theoretical) social experiment in which a playground was built on the edge of a cliff. The children were admonished, "Do not fall off the cliff," but they were given no protective measures. The kids laughed and ran and played soccer and were close to the edge of the cliff without fear, until one fell off. The children then lost their mirth, they did not play; they merely huddled together as far away from the edge as they could, now knowing the consequences and being afraid of the same. Now imagine a very tall, very strong fence placed along the edge of that cliff. At first, it seems constraining and oppressive -- what children want a big fence around their playground when they could be running free? But the truth is, that fence gives them freedom; they can again run and laugh and play right up to the edge of the cliff with no fear of falling off. Yes, it constrains, but it protects to give them unlimited freedom and joy.

Let me belabor the point, because I'm not sure that our "deceitful above all things" hearts can ever be reminded enough that God's law is good and trustworthy and perfect and revives our souls and sets us free. In a Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, a devotional book for children by Sally Lloyd Jones, she asks children,
Have you ever seen a fish swimming? It dives, darts, glides, turns, flashes through the water. A fish was made for water. That's its natural habitat - the place where it belongs.

And the Bible says we were made for God - to be loved by him and to love him. That's where we belong.

But when we run from God, we run away from everything that makes us alive and free. We run away from our happiness.

We leave our place where we belong - close to his heart.

"Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'" (Matthew 11:28)
This is our God, and he is good.

This picture is out of focus, but you get the point, right?

1 comment:

Annette said...

I am printing out this post to use this weekend. :) Thank you!