Once again, the Bible Gateway ‘verse of the day’ gives us words of encouragement drawn from a context of discouragement. The first word of this section of Psalm 119 (which begins with the Hebrew letter ‘shin’ and thus follows the acrostic pattern of the whole psalm) is ‘rulers’ (sarim, v 161) — and it is these rulers who make life difficult for the psalmist.
As Derek Kidner writes,
... the prevailing temper [in the psalmist’s day] seems to have been a religious scepticism ... ranging from the non-committal ... to the thoroughly profane ... (IVP OT Commentary, 422)
We may be inclined to respond, ‘Not much change there, then.’ And we may equally be inclined to say that the psalmist nevertheless finds strength in God.
Simply to put it that way, however, would be to miss almost the entire point of Psalm 119, for the focus is not on God per se as an object of contemplation, so much as God’s word as a vehicle of communication: “Rulers persecute me without cause,” writes the psalmist, “but my heart trembles at your word.”
It is not just the idea of what God is like that sustains the psalmist, it is the specifics of what he regards God as having said: his word, his promise, his law, his statutes, his precepts. It is these which produce in the psalmist trembling (v161), rejoicing (v162), love (v163), praise (v164) and, of course in v 165, calmness and inward security:
Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
Surely, if we know and love God, we ought to find the same response in ourselves towards God’s word as we also have received it in Scripture? Indeed, an awakened awe of Scripture — a trembling at God’s word — is one sign of spiritual regeneration. We may not always comprehend what the Bible says, but we will always be eager to discover the truth of God’s word and to follow it. And therein lies salvation. As the psalmist concludes,
I wait for your salvation, O 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. (vv 166-168)
John RichardsonAnonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select 'preview', then close the preview box. When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may be deleted.
25 August 2010
25 August 2010