From Your Pastor, July 20

From Your Pastor, July 20

Pe (Part 16)
Ps 119.129  Your testimonies are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.

It’s been a little while since we posted a devotion from Psalm 119, so I’ll briefly recap what this psalm is all about.  Psalm 119 is structured according to letters of the alphabet. Each 8 verse section is named after the next letter. “Pe” is the 16th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. With 22 letters, the math works out to 176 verses! But, there is a good reason Psalm 119 is so long. It is a deliberate, worshipful meditation by a mature believer. There is a lot of beauty in God and his kindness to us to think over.
That’s what the Psalmist is doing in v. 129, as he starts this portion of his prayer, he writes,

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.

I wonder, is that how you would have worded it? Many of us would probably have changed a single word or maybe two words. But, the difference in word would reflect a totally different mindset.  We might have expressed the thought like this:

Your testimonies are right;
therefore I keep them.

It’s a subtle shift. Changing the words in red doesn’t make the sentiment untrue at all. It is, of course, good to do the right thing. That’s a truism and not at all a profound thought. But, that’s also not what the psalmist is meditating about.  He’s not calling God’s words “right” but “wonderful.”  And he’s not simply stating that he keeps them––that could reflect dull outward conformity. Instead, he’s saying that he keeps them with his whole soul. That’s a statement of affection, not just obedience.  He LOVES to keep them, not just because they’re right, but because he’s enraptured with the beauty of God speaking.  

The difference is important, isn’t it?  We can “toe the line,” as far as the rules go, without ever appreciating the fact that the rules are undergirded by a loving, personal, gracious, and kind God. The principles he gives are meant to value life and lead us to it. Like a hand in a glove, the truth that sets us free is imbued into his testimonies and gives them their shape.

Our keeping of God’s testimonies should come from delight not just from acknowledgment. In other words, true obedience arises from true worship. And so, it is not full obedience without that worship.

Dear Christian, today, in the big things as well as in the smallest of things, you have an opportunity to worship, heart and soul.  Will you make this your prayer, that your soul would keep God’s testimonies because they are wonderful?

––Pastor Barry

Chapter 27