I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.
Today’s Scripture: Psalm 119:129-136 (Common English Bible)
129 Your laws are wonderful!
That’s why I guard them.
130 Access to your words[a] gives light,
giving simple folk understanding.
131 I open my mouth up wide, panting,
because I long for your commandments.
132 Come back to me and have mercy on me;
that’s only right for those who love your name.
133 Keep my steps steady by your word;
don’t let any sin rule me.
134 Redeem me from the people who oppress me
so I can keep your precepts.
135 Shine your face on your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
136 Rivers of tears stream from my eyes
because your Instruction isn’t being kept.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Psalm 119 has 176 verses making it the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible.
Psalm 119 is one of several acrostic poems found in the Bible. Its 176 verses are divided into 22 stanzas, one for each of the 22 characters that make up the Hebrew alphabet. In the Hebrew text, each of the eight verses of each stanza begins with the same Hebrew letter. You will probably notice in your translation that each of the 22 sections of 8 verses is subheaded with the name of a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and most printed editions show the Hebrew letters also.
In most of the verses of this psalm, the writer uses a synonym for Torah, the first five books of the Bible—words like law, word, precepts, ordinances, decrees, and commandment. The psalm is an extended prayer with an elaborate structure. The psalmist is both praising and committing to the teachings found in the Torah.
I think we have a kind of love/hate relationship with the concept of “law” or “ordinances” or “commandments.” We understand their importance, and we certainly want everyone (else?) to behave, yet, there is something within us that doesn’t want anyone telling us what to do or how we ought to be. In the Christian tradition, we have the apostle Paul’s words against the law as a means of self-justification and the reliance on God’s grace. We have the notion of salvation by grace through faith—not by adherence to a set of laws. Such ideas can lead us to view the law in the Hebrew scriptures negatively. But not the psalmist! In the 103rd verse of this psalm, the psalmist declares, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (vs. 103)
I invite you to think about the commandments and teachings in the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament today. What would life be like if those weren’t part of our understanding of how we should treat one another? Your answer depends on how you have been treated by those wielding a Bible. If you have been the recipient of the love and grace of God inspired by the pages of the Bible, then you would imagine a world with more hatred and less forgiveness. If you have been the victim of self-righteous, condemning zeal, then you may imagine that the world would be a better place without those commandments and teaching.
I remember a standup routine by the Reverend Grady Nutt, a Baptist Pastor and comedian. He said that a true evangelist would have a big floppy Bible with long ribbon markers that he can crack like a whip. He claimed to have seen one such evangelist take a man’s ear off on the front row. He was poking fun at the self-righteous, condemning zeal that is contrary to the nature of God that we see in Jesus.
Every year we give Bibles to the third graders in our church. Part of the presentation service is a pledge that the children and the congregation say. It goes like this:
This is the Bible – the book of God’s love. It is full of amazing stories of faith, amazing people of faith, and amazing deeds of faith.
The Bible may have been written long ago, but it has great meaning in my life today!
Its words can inspire me, comfort me, teach me, and challenge me to be my best self – a true servant of God.
The Bible is not a weapon. I will not throw it at anyone. I will not use its words to hurt others just so I can feel better about myself.
This is the Bible – the book of God’s love.
Hymn: “Lead Me, Lord,” the words of Psalms 5:8 and 4:8; music by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1861)
Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness,
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.
Teach me, Lord, teach me truly how to live,
that I may come to know thee,
and in thy presence serve thee with gladness,
and sing songs of praise to thy glory.
Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture. I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster