Reading: Psalm 119
Your word, LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.
To all perfection I see a limit,
but your commands are boundless (NIV).
One of my hobbies is art. I enjoy drawing. In recent years I have rediscovered my childhood love for pencil crayons. When creating any piece of art there, I find there is a delicate balance that needs to be reached. Anything I do can be improved. Early on in the process there is a lot of improving or refining needed, but eventually you reach a point where further tinkering becomes pointless. I aim for perfection, but perfection always seems illusive. At some point I need to say, “I’m done. This piece is finished.”
In today’s reading the psalmist reached that same conclusion. To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.
We will never reach the limits of God’s holy word. There is always more to be discovered, to comprehend and apply. It is as the psalmist declares, “Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”
St. Paul expresses the same thought. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33). Eternity gives us insufficient time to explore the wisdom of God. But let’s begin the quest; let’s take up the challenge. All of Psalm 119 can be viewed as a grand challenge to discover the wisdom and beauty of God’s word, His commands and precepts.
Let’s continue the journey. This glorious art—the divine art of God’s word—is without beginning or end.
Response: Father God, I love your word. I want to dig deeper in it and know you better thereby. You are a totally awesome God, far beyond my comprehension, but not beyond my appreciation. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you taken up the challenge of studying God’s word?
Reading: Psalm 119
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
contrary to your law.
All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your unfailing love preserve my life,
that I may obey the statutes of your mouth (NIV).
Christians around the world are going through an unprecedented time of persecution. Broadly speaking the news media has done very little reporting on this topic. In China, new church buildings have been bulldozed to the ground. In Syria and Iraq, Christians have fled for their lives as Islamic extremist rampage through their communities raping and killing any who remain. In India several states have passed anti-conversion laws in an attempt to halt the spread of Christianity. Christmas celebrations were cancelled in Manipur state because of clashes and threats of violence from Hindu radicals.
For those who are suffering, these verses from Psalm 119 are particularly pertinent: All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause. They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
Satan and his minions are determined to wipe Christians from the face of the earth. Sensing that his end is near, he has inflamed a host of religious extremists and fanatics to attack the bride of Christ. Though he rages, he will not succeed. Closer to home court rulings have frequently trumped religious freedom, while openly promoting an LGBTQ agenda.
In their suffering, persecuted believers turn to the Lord and to his holy word. These words are their prayer: In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.
We ought to thank the Lord daily for the freedom we have to assemble and worship our Savior. It’s a freedom we may one day lose.
Response: Father God, have mercy on those who are suffering for their
faith. Be with those who are fleeing persecution. Travel with them and be their guide. Show me how I can help. Amen.
Your Turn: Do we take our freedoms for granted? Have you faced opposition because of your faith?
Reading: Psalm 119
Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.
May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.
May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame (NIV).
You have been touched by God. Pause. Consider that for a moment.
When did God touch you? According to the psalmist it happened at the very beginning of your life. Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.
Implied in that statement is God’s personal care—His attention to detail. You are not an accident or an afterthought in the mind of God. He formed you with a plan and a purpose. According to the apostle Paul, a large part of that purpose is that you may know Him, and be conformed to the image of His dear Son. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:28-29).
When we face difficulties, hardship and suffering has God abandoned us? The answer is a resounding no. Consider the psalmist’s response to these things: I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.
Every adversity you face should bring you nearer to God. See it as an opportunity to learn, grow and be changed into someone who is more like Jesus. He did not run from adversity, but instead faced suffering and death head on. God the Father brought Jesus safely to the other side, and it’s His purpose to bring you through to glory too.
Response: Father God, I want to be like Jesus. Thank you for touching my life and forming me with your hands. I am yours—yours by creation—yours by redemption. I will meditate on your precepts. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you questioned God’s love for you? Are you living out His plan?
Reading: Psalm 119
Do good to your servant
according to your word, LORD.
Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (NIV).
For Christmas more than a year ago, my wife gave me a 99.99% pure silver coin. The coin commemorates the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. It’s a beautiful coin that honors in precious metal the history of a beautiful country. Unlike many other gifts, this piece of pure silver will appreciate in value with the passage of time.
In today’s reading from Psalm 119, we are challenged to consider what we truly value. The psalmist writes, “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”
What do you value in this life? What is precious to you? We need to continually assess what is dear to us because from that assessment we determine the course of our actions and the outcome of our life. An accurate assessment depends on sound judgment, so earlier in this psalm the author makes this request: Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.
We live in a world that chases after wealth and material goods. Apparently, that’s where the value is, or so it would seem. But the psalmist reaches a far different conclusion. He values God and His word above all else.
Such thinking is heresy according to the wizards of Wall Street. But silver and gold can’t keep you warm at night. It might buy you sex, but it can’t buy you love. You see real value isn’t found in the gift; it’s found in the giver. My wife is much more valuable to me than thousands of gold coins. As for God, He’s the ultimate Giver—the Giver of all things. We receive true value when we receive Him.
Response: LORD God, I want right values. That starts with loving you with all my heart, soul and strength. Let my actions reflect your values. You value people. That’s why your Son bled and died. Amen.
Your Turn: What do you value in life? Do your actions reflect your values?
Reading: Psalm 119
You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, LORD;
teach me your decrees (NIV).
I just got a phone call from a friend that left me rather embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I had promised to call this friend, but I didn’t follow through. I can think of a half dozen excuses I could offer, but none of them hold much water. I can claim that I’m too busy, but I find time for what I consider important. To make matters worse, this forgetting to call is a recurring problem. To put it bluntly, this friendship is in jeopardy because I have repeatedly failed to keep my word.
My relationship with God also suffers when I make promises to the LORD, and then fail to deliver. I have wonderful intentions to pray—to seek God’s face—to read my Bible. But follow through? Not so much. There’s often a big gap between what we promise and what we actually deliver. The shortfall is often enormous. Of course we have our excuses—a flimsy fig leaf to cover our shame.
Today’s reading from Psalm 119 also begins with a promise: You are my portion, LORD; I have promised to obey your words.
If I were to speak those words, in the back of my mind I can hear a voice saying, “Yeah, Yeah. I’ve heard you say that before. When are you going to deliver?”
The brutal truth is I can’t deliver. On my own I cannot obey God’s word. I’ve tried and it’s impossible. I desperately need the Holy Spirit to help me day by day and moment by moment. St. Paul gives us this reminder: it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).
Response: Father God, help me. I want to obey your word. I want to live out the words of this psalm. I can only succeed by your grace, so give me the will to do your will. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you promised more than you can deliver? Who will help you keep your promises?
I will praise Him!
May my cry come before you, LORD;
give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, LORD,
and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands.
(Psalm 119:169-176, NIV)
I will praise Him!
ש Sin and Shin
Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and detest falsehood
but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
I wait for your salvation, LORD,
and I follow your commands.
I obey your statutes,
for I love them greatly.
I obey your precepts and your statutes,
for all my ways are known to you.
(Psalm 119:153-160, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 119
Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, LORD, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
In the night, LORD, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts (NIV).
Raise your hand if you want a dose of suffering. There aren’t many volunteers when that question is asked. But in all seriousness, we do volunteer for suffering, if we believe there is a benefit.
As a youngster growing up on a farm, I remember getting a sliver in my finger. It took some convincing from my mother to allow her to dig it out with a needle. Once that sliver was gone, the suffering stopped almost immediately. A small dose of short term pain brought long-lasting relief.
There’s a similar principle at work in a statement from today’s reading. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
It’s the promise of a better future that helps us endure suffering in the present. I’ll endure the suffering of surgery, if it comes with the promise of a pain-free future. But the LORD’s promises are on a grand scale. He doesn’t just preserve my life for the present; He promises to preserve it for eternity. That’s an enormous promise, but our God is far beyond enormous. How do you measure infinity?
Now let’s return to that sliver. You can’t walk through this life without picking up mental slivers—foreign objects that lodge in your mind. It could be an erotic picture, an emotional scar, or an errant thought that grows into a bad habit. Brain slivers aren’t easily removed. And yes, they fester and become infected. It isn’t long and they may begin to take over your whole thought pattern. You can try to remove them yourself, but Jesus is the best brain-sliver remover that I know. Go to him. A little repentant pain can bring eternal relief.
Response: Father God, remove my brain slivers. Forgive me for allowing wrong thoughts and habits to fester. I remember, LORD, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them. Preserve my life. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there brain slivers that have invaded your mind? Set your mind on God’s promise.
Reading: Psalm 119
May your unfailing love come to me, LORD,
your salvation, according to your promise;
then I can answer anyone who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
I will always obey your law,
for ever and ever.
I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
I will speak of your statutes before kings
and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands
because I love them.
I reach out for your commands, which I love,
that I may meditate on your decrees (NIV).
We live in uncertain times. I am sure people have been saying words to that effect for generations, but it’s true. Developments in technology have been driving change at an ever increasing tempo. With major political and economic changes on the horizon, there seems to be more uncertainty than ever. The only thing that seems certain is that change will certainly happen.
In times like this, we need certainty. This world can’t offer us certainty, but God’s word can. Isaiah reminds us of the permanence of God’s word. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Jesus offers us the same assurance. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
Jesus fully endorsed a reverence for God’s holy word. This is the reverence that we see expressed here in Psalm 119. We can place our trust in God’s word because it’s not changing with the times. It stands eternal. Good and evil continue as they always have. They war against each other. In uncertain times, we need God’s word in our minds and on our lips more than ever. May this be our prayer: Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.
Response: Father God, help me grow in my love for your word. Help me to read, meditate and apply it to my daily life. I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you spending time daily in God’s word?