It was your hands that made me and shaped me;
help me to learn your commands.
Your faithful will see me and rejoice
for I trust in your word.
LORD, I know that your decrees are right,
that you afflicted me justly.
Let your love be ready to console me
by your promise to your servant.
Let your love come and I shall live
for your law is my delight.
Shame the proud who harm me with lies
while I ponder your precepts.
Let your faithful turn to me,
those who know your will.
Let my heart be blameless in your statutes
lest I be ashamed.
I yearn for your saving help;
I hope in your word.
My eyes yearn to see your promise.
When will you console me?
Though parched and exhausted with waiting
I remember your statutes.
How long must your servant suffer?
When will you judge my foes?
For me the proud have dug pitfalls,
against your law.
Your commands are all true; then help me
when lies oppress me.
They almost made an end of me on earth,
but I kept your precepts.
Because of your love give me life
and I will do your will.
Your word, O LORD, for ever
stands firm in the heavens:
your truth lasts from age to age,
like the earth you created.
By your decree it endures to this day;
for all things serve you.
Had your law not been my delight
I would have died in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts
for with them you give me life.
Save me, for I am yours
since I seek your precepts.
Though the wicked lie in wait to destroy me
yet I ponder your will.
I have seen that all perfection has an end
but your command is boundless.
A song of praise for the beauty and comfort of God's law, Psalm 119 has one verse for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Today's lectionary reading carves out three from the middle.
The yearning of these words is almost palpable.
The psalmist yearns
for the orderly beauty of the law,
for deliverance from enemies,
for judgment against those who have hounded him.
Oh, how I love the way all of that is jumbled together in this song.
All the love and angst and pain and anger and desire for vengeance.
I love it because it sounds like...
And probably you, too.
We're always a mangled up mish-mash of emotions and experiences,
sometimes one thing floating to the fore, sometimes another.
And these three stanzas have bits of a whole lot of that.
Sometimes the singer seems to have an almost magical view of God's justice - a tit-for-tat kind of thinking.
Sometimes I slide into that pattern myself.
Sometimes the song literally cries out for relief, wondering when comfort will come, when the struggle will end.
And I often find myself crying out for the very same things.
But over and around and in between the anguish and the anger, this singer has a recurring lyrical theme:
the goodness of God;
the beauty of God's law;
a deep desire to live out the law day by day,
whether the day bring victory or defeat,
consolation or desolation.
How I want to sing that song!
Teach me to sing with the psalmist, O LORD. To pour out my heart honestly - lousy theology and all. To seek your face, your justice, your word. To weave through all my cries a song of joyful praise for who you are and how you have shown yourself to us through the Word - the Word written, and the Word living, even Jesus Christ. Amen.
Click here for day one of this series and an explanation of what it's all about.