Wednesday of Pentecost 7 – Psalm 119:57-64
57 The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words. 58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. 59 When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; 60 I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. 61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. 62 At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. 63 I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. 64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
The psalmist liked to play with words. As we have noted in earlier devotions, this psalm is an acrostic psalm. Each verse in this section begins with the 8th letter of the Hebrew alphabet: Heth. Each verse of this very long psalm also has some synonym for God’s Word in it. One could almost think this was a game of sorts. But I think the psalmist is lulling us into a comfortable place so he can catch us and enter our hearts.
Look at verse 61. Our world has been convulsed lately by protests which often have occasionally turned violent and destructive. I drive around the city in which I live and see the graffiti and other signs of a protest from the night before. There is something that observers of human nature have noted about us when we get into a crowd of people. Often our inhibitions are suppressed. When everyone is shouting and we are angry about some injustice, it is an easy thing to pick up a stone and throw it or shout some venom at another human being. By ourselves, in normal times or even most abnormal times, we would not dream of doing that. Yet, surrounded by an encouraging mob, we do it.
Scholars have coined a term for this sort of thing. They call it “anomie” which is a technical term for “without law.” We see it in moments of stress and conflict. We are seeing it now, on all sides. The angry young person hurling stones at the police or the suburbanite melting down in Walmart because there is a mask requirement may have far more in common than either would like to admit. They are both evidencing the same anomie. The psalmist does not let us cop an excuse here. Though ensnared in the cords of the wicked, he remembers the law of God, the laws which command us to respect the lives, dignity, property, and reputation of others. I cannot just go along with the crowd, whether it be a crowd of protesters or a crowd of another sort.
But the psalmist also knows his failings in this regard. Turn to verse 64. The world is full of God’s steadfast love. That word for steadfast love in Hebrew begins with a Heth and it starts this verse. It is a powerful word which speaks of God’s unfailing, eternal, gracious love for his creation. Based on that love, the psalmist begs God to teach him God’s statutes. He and you and I all need that instruction. Join the psalmist today in praying that prayer. God’s steadfast love, despite appearances, indeed fills the whole world. Today as I go forth into these difficult days, God will teach us his commandments.
Rev. Phillip Brandt, MDiv, PhD
Blessed Green Season!