June 17, 2013
READ: Psalm 119:161-176
O Lord, listen to my cry; give me the discerning mind You promised (v.169).
The Bible can intimidate me sometimes. Certain statements bring on the guilt. Here are just a few of them: “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48); “You must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy”(1 Peter 1:15). Psalm 119 elicits enough guilt to last a lifetime: “I have devoted myself to Your commandments” (v.45); “I rise at midnight to thank You for Your just regulations” (v.62); “I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of Your laws” (v.99);“I have done what is just and right” (v.121).
Yet, when read closely, Psalm 119 holds much help and encouragement for us. The poem expresses the longings and musings of a fellow struggler who constantly implores God for help. “Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your decrees!” (v.5). That’s a plaintive cry I can relate to. “I have tried hard to find You—don’t let me wander from Your commands” (v.10). Yes! That’s my prayer. “You made me; You created me. Now give me the sense to follow Your commands” (v.73). This guy speaks for me!
The ‘impossible’ statements—the ones that seem to make absolute declarations of fidelity to God and righteousness—comprise an ideal. They put words to the goal we’re to pursue. We hunger for a perfect God. Anything less would be—well—ungodly. Our uneasy awareness of God’s holy standard informs us of our need for a Saviour. We grow acutely aware of the fact that we can’t do it!
And so, this longest of psalms with its ‘impossible’ aspirations to spiritual greatness concludes so very humanly: “I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten Your commands” (v.176).—Tim Gustafson
Hebrews 10 blends some difficult warnings with some of the best encouragement in the Bible. Read verses 8-14 and ask yourself what makes you holy.
What’s causing guilt in your life, and why? What would the psalmist do with such guilt?