Wednesday of Pentecost 4 – Psalm 119:153-160
153 Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. 154 Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise! 155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes. 156 Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules. 157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies. 158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands. 159 Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. 160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
Psalm 119 often makes me more than a little nervous. Just consider verse 153. Do I really want God to deliver me because I have remembered his Law? What if we did a survey of my browser search history or my spending habits. Would that reflect my devotion to God’s rules or my devotion to something else? Go a little further in the psalm and look at verse 159. Do I want God to consider how I love His precepts? Too often my life would reveal my love of myself and the desires of my broken humanity. Singing/praying this psalm should make us a little afraid. This fear is the beginning of wisdom, but it is not the end of wisdom.
God’s word is always Law and Gospel. Read verse 154, 156, and the second half of verse 159. The psalmist begs God to give life according to His promise, from God’s mercy, and according to His steadfast love. The fear of the Lord begins our wisdom, but fear is not the end of Wisdom. It does not stop there. True wisdom, the faith which trusts in God, is carried by the Spirit to another spot, not rooted in fear, but of love. And when we love, something strange happens. The rules which made us afraid earlier become very different. We embrace them. The 10 Commandments which once accused and terrified me now perfectly describe Jesus and the life he has given to me. Now I want to keep them.
Our lives will always be lived in the grip of this tension. The tension will not be resolved until we enter that heavenly city upon our death. The fear which begins wisdom will, this side of the grave, always be leading us toward its end. Today you find yourself somewhere on that spectrum of fear and love, pulled in two directions. That is normal; that is the fallen and redeemed human condition. Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm, the greatest of several acrostic psalms. The psalm is broken into sections, each containing 8 lines. Within each section every line begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Every verse in this section begins with the Hebrew letter “Resh.” The psalm is the longest chapter in the whole bible, 176 verses! It rigidly, or better, joyfully follows this rule.
Rev. Phillip Brandt, MDiv, PhD
Blessed Green Season!