Day 193 (July 12): Joy through God, Your laws give purity and wisdom, arrogance will not win over Your commands, shame is dodged by following Your decrees, life is trying but I believe in You, sadness for those who don’t obey Your commandments, powerful people do not sway me, I only fear You, rescue me when I stray

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Psalm 119

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 119):  Who or what is Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, etc.?

A. They are the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Though you wouldn’t be able to tell from an English translation, each stanza begins with the corresponding Hebrew letter.  This is another example of what we would call an acrostic.

Q. (Psalm 119:11): This sounds like a familiar verse.  “Hidden” just means that the author carries it within him, right?  Not like he’s trying to hide his faith?

A. Yes, I think it is quite clear that sharing about God is commonplace for the writer.

Q. (119:17-24): This verse’s author seems to have some self-pity.

A. It seems likely that he has been through a lot, for the sake of sharing the truth he sees in the goodness of God’s law, but its impossible to say exactly what.

O. (119:25-32): I love this stanza because it talks about the struggle to give up our own life plans and trust in God’s plan for us.  I really like “keep me from lying to myself.”  I was so proud of my husband the other day.  He could use a new vehicle for his work, but it’s not a necessity … yet.  We were going to trade in two of our cars and see if that would get us enough cash to afford a new one.  Sometimes when we get a notion to buy something, it’s so strong that we just go with it.  Well, this time would not be a great time for us to make such a big purchase.  He prayed about it and decided it was not in our best interest and walked away from it.  I know it’s hard for a guy to give up a new toy like that.  But, he did it with honor!  We know God will keep Him safe at work.  God chose the job for Him, so He’ll keep hubby safe.

O. (119:37): I love this lady that I started helping with her specialty paint business.  She isn’t making much money on the job she just finished.  She keeps willingly adding stuff to the job and not asking for more money.  Today, she bought lots more paint sparkles for a young girl’s room.  She said, “I don’t care.  (The client) is awesome.  She’s worth it.”

Q. (119:43): Why the fear that God will abandon?

A. I don’t think he fears losing God.  The verse implies that he will no longer be able to “speak” God’s word, so perhaps he fears forgetting in old age, or that God would cause him to forget these words he loves so much because of punishment for sin.

Q. (119:67): I don’t think I have seen this before in the Bible where someone is thankful for God’s discipline setting them on the right path.

A. I’m sure it’s not unique, but it can certainly feel uncommon.  The Prophets will have some similar words like this one, but this sure sets a good example, doesn’t it?

Q. (119:79): And, here is another first — I think — about wanting to be united with other believers.

A. That desire will certainly be a part of the nation’s hope as they are scattered into foreign lands.  It is possible that this person is writing from some sort of exile, or in its aftermath.

Q. (119:81-88): I haven’t been inspired by this tone of scripture, but now that I think about it, I do see a purpose in it.  It’s good for readers to see how far God can test us and that some really do cry out wholeheartedly for God to rescue them.  So, we should be prepared if dire circumstances come knocking on our door.  Then, other scripture praises God for rescuing them.

A. Unfortunately, dire circumstances are just a few heartbeats away at any given time in a fallen world, so we should always be prepared — though it is frankly in our nature to not be mostly because we too often take our blessings for granted until they are gone.  But calling out to God with our whole heart is at the very center of seeking His mercy and grace.

Q. (119:97-104): I guess it’s OK to reflect on yourself and be proud of the person that you are because of your obedience to (love for) God.  I know I get welled up with joy when I think about how God is changing me.  But, we are supposed to be humble.  But this author, I think, is praising God for making him feel so good.

A. He is pouring his true thoughts down in these lines, no holding back, no beating around the bush.  I love the freedom of expression he feels, both in sharing his praise for God — and God’s law specifically — and asking God to watch over him in times of trouble.

O. (119:109): I like this author’s resolve.  I am glad this verse is here because sometimes you feel like God is being very pokey with his aid.  Sometimes I think this, but really we only endure a rough spot for a small amount of time.  I was just talking to a friend of mine about people who have long difficulties or downers.  I have a sister who has Down’s syndrome.  She is my oldest sibling.  So, the first shot at a kid that my parents had was mentally handicapped.  My friend said she had a cousin who had a child that was mentally handicapped also.  He is constantly doing something wrong and the mom’s day is filled with mess after mess.  These people need prayers, especially from those of us who don’t have those stresses in our lives.  Many say that these handicapped children are wonderful and they are.  God created them and gave them to us.  I’m sure it’s part of some plan, but I haven’t discovered that.  (I am learning that I can’t know all of God’s reasons, but I have no grounds to question His intentions because as we have seen — and are about to see a lot more in the NT — He loves us immensely!)  Anyway, although they are a blessing, you cannot know the added energy they take until you are in the shoes of someone who takes care of them.  So, please pray for these people!

Q. (119:121-128): Thinking about all of the wickedness that we have read about in Israel and Judah, and all the mercy God had for them and how much time He gave them to correct themselves, the patience of the godly people — probably what few there were — waiting for God to show justice to the evildoers must have been tested to the max.

A. You can think about it that way, but we still tend to approach thinking about such things as human beings (how can we not?), and if scripture teaches us anything, it is the God is NOT human.  He is so much more, in a way that is not even fully comprehendible to us.  I often wonder if people can ever do enough to test the infinite patience of a loving God.  Now that does not mean (as we have seen and will see) that God will spare them punishment, but He knows ultimately that it is the only way for His people to return to Him.  He knows that Israel then and people now, we still learn the hard way.

Q. (119:129-136): The other night I told of how I was walking with God.  I felt like a glow was gushing out of me.  Anyway, it was such an awesome feeling that I would love to have more of it or all of the time.  Can we get close enough to God where those feelings happen more?  Is this a question that is on a person-to-person basis?

A. From what I know of personal experience and the history of the Saints — one of my history hobbies — the emotional “high” of knowing God is something that most often occurs in those of us taking our first steps in our walk with Him, no matter how old we are.  There is no way around it: part of the power of the Gospel is its effect on our emotions.  We are powerfully moved by the story of Jesus, and we have seen the powerful ways that God worked in the OT.  They still get me emotionally.  But what I have personally seen and learned about is that the closer we come to God, the less emotional “highs” we need.  Part of that is our nature, and I suspect that part of that is God’s design.  Too many Christians seek the emotional high you are describing, almost like an addiction!  And, sadly, many of them — I’ve talked to several myself — feel that they have not truly encountered God unless they have had the emotional experience that goes with it.  I suspect that is not what God desires, so part of the natural effect of walking with Him is that it will come to appear more and more normal — which is not to say it cannot be emotionally powerful, so hear that clearly.  God desires that we become more mature in our walk, and frankly part of that is learning to do it without the emotional reward.  God is seeking mature spiritual adults, not infants, and that requires a maturing process.  God as parent must withdraw His hand and proximity if we are ever going to walk — as C.S. Lewis shared in Screwtape Letters.  The “walk” and the maturity that comes with it, are what God is ultimately seeking.

O. (119:143-144): This happened to my husband when he was making a decision about buying a new vehicle.  Also, about a year-and-a-half ago, we were trying to make a decision to retire.  My husband was eligible to retire from the Navy, but he had a year left on his current tour and we weren’t set up where it looked like we were financially ready.  But, he did the math and said if he stayed in, he would be in for another 5 years or so.  That was daunting because we had put up with him being out to sea for what to us — other Navy people thought we were wimps because their husbands had been out to sea most of their career — seemed like a long time.  And, we probably wouldn’t be more financially sound the next year either.  Anyway, I was really stressing about it.  As I was doing some cleaning and mulling over it, God shouted, “Just let him retire.”  Enough said.  I know what happened to Lot’s wife.  I didn’t question God’s call and we started the retirement process.  After that, everything fell into place.

Q. (119:153-160): This author of this scripture comes across as selfish, as do the other ones who have a pity party.  I don’t think we have talked about selfishness much in the OT.  Will we get into it in the NT?

A. I would say that while selfishness has not been addressed specifically in the OT, the implicit focus on caring about others (and being in relationship with God), especially the people you can specifically exploit (the poor or immigrant), should do wonders to prevent people from being selfish.  As we have seen, the Psalms are very honest with God: if you have feelings of selfishness, it’s okay to share what you are feeling.  God certainly desires for us to grow, but is fully understanding of our emotions and the toll they can take on us.  As to whether the NT will become more explicit in dealing with selfishness, I submit to you to read the entire text of Philippians 2 and tell me what you think.  There are many more examples like it.

O. (119:161-168): I love this stanza how it states that manipulative people are around, but the author shrugs that off and only pays attention to the seriousness of God’s commands.

Q. (119:171-172): Rob, what are your thoughts on this author’s request for God to help him praise God.  In my prayers I ask God to help me do His work, but I never asked Him for His assistance in helping me praise Him.  That seems odd.

A. It is one of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit within us (a strictly NT doctrine, by the way) to help us connect with God the Father using the power and gifts that He (the Spirit) gives to us.  So I would say it’s a wonderful idea, and also that far too few Christians take advantage of the power the Spirit offers.  Go nuts!  I am quite certain your request honors God.

 

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