Do me a favor and please read Psalm 119:25-32
From the onset of this psalm section we can see that our writer is in a dark place – and not physically. Emotionally we see that their soul is weary (28) and that they need God to strengthen them. That they have been reflecting on the wrongs they have committed (29) and that, ultimately, they consider themselves “dust” (25) or maybe they consider themselves near death? We simply don’t know as both of those images find truth. But ultimately they recognize the wrongs they have committed and the goodness of God’s ways.
I’m struck by verse 26 and 27. The psalmist is declaring that they have “given an account” of THEIR ways. That they have either explained to God what they have done, that they have defended their life and actions to God, or that they have come to the conclusion that their way of living has been atrocious. But now? Now they realize that THEIR way of living has been harmful. That the actions they have taken have brought them down to the “dust” and that in order to live, and have life, they need to understand and live by way of God and his statues. In other words: there is a right way to live and a wrong way to live.
The wrong way: my way.
The right way: God’s way.
As a parent one of the very first things you learn is that your whole job is to not have your kid(s) die, to keep them fed, and teach them to learn some sort of independence that will help them to become self-sustaining adults at some point. And yet it seems like so much of my kids’ younger years were met with frustration, by me, as they had to try to do everything on their own. The frustration doesn’t come by the mere fact that they needed to try to do everything without the guidance of their father, but the simple truth that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. There’s an easy way and a hard way and it seemed like my kids preferred the hard way. And yes I want my kids to try on their own, fail, and get back up and try again but at some point it just gets ridiculous. At some point you just need to stop and let me show you, correct you, and guide you (I like to tease that their stubbornness comes from their mother – but that’d be a lie).
Our psalmist is now at the point where they’ve done things their way and now recognize that THEIR way was the wrong way. And so their prayer here is to be drawn closer to God, to be taught HIS ways (the right way), and for God to strengthen him as he moves from the dust (from the grave) to life. It is now that the psalmist declares that they desire to be faithful to the word of God, to know it, to be strengthened by it, to be encouraged by it, and hopeful from it. And why? Because they recognize that THEIR ways have not only been wrong but that it’s also been harmful.
So where is the challenge here? Well, for me it’s simple: how often do I feel constricted by the Word of God? How often do I feel that things would be “easier” my way as opposed to God’s way? And then why is it that I KNOW God’s word gives life (Proverbs 3:1-2) and is meant to help and not hinder (Psalm 119:50) and yet I still find that I’m trying to do it my way when I know God’s way would be SO MUCH EASIER? Slow learner? Yes. Yes I am.
The brokenness of me, and you, is that there are times when we feel we can do things better on our own. The brokenness of you and me is that while we know God’s word is there to help we still find that there are times we don’t WANT help. Just a like a little child there are moments in our lives where “my way” takes over and “God’s way” gets pushed to the side. And then, just like a child when we’ve realized we couldn’t do it, we come running back to our parent, in tears, frustrated that it didn’t work out the way we wanted/planned/thought/desired.
If we pull back from this part of the psalm and begin to look at Scripture as a whole we begin to get the WHOLE story of God’s “let-me-do-it-on-my-own” children. And within every story we see God’s children failing and failing and failing again. But when we look at the whole “picture” of Scripture we also see an even BIGGER story than failed children. We see God’s patience. We see God’s correction. We see God’s aid and assistance. We see God’s embrace (from when we push him away and say, “Let me do it!”) and ultimately: we see God’s taking over of the situation and removing us from the “dust” and into life. All of scripture is about God’s loving patience with his children and his work to correct them from their deceitful ways. All of Scripture is about Jesus Christ and his correcting us from our wrong ways and giving us the right ways.
- Jesus gives life from the dust (25)
- Jesus preserves our life (25)
- Jesus is God’s “wonderful deed” for us (27)
- Our souls go from “weary with sorrow” (28) to joyful elation as Christ has given us life in his death.
- By Christ’s full adherence and fulfillment of the Law (Romans 10:4) and by his taking us with him in his life and death, we too are kept from deceitful ways (this doesn’t mean we don’t do bad things – it simply means that we are ultimately given forgiveness from them by way of Christ).
Does this mean we’ll still keep trying to do things on our own? Yup. And it also means we’ll keep failing. But hopefully we’ll continue to remember that God’s way is not only the “right” way but it’s the better and easier way too. It’s a lesson marked from eternity and a lesson we’ll keep learning till the day we die.
3 QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CHEW-ON:
- What in this psalm speaks to you? Where are you drawn? Why?
- Is there a lesson you keep failing to learn? Why is it so hard to learn this lesson and stop the repeating of the same mistakes?
- If God knows what’s best for us – why do you think he even allows us to walk down the wrong path or make stupid mistakes at times? Wouldn’t it be easier for all of us if God just kept us on the straight and narrow and/or imparted the right thing to do in certain situations? Why allow us to make mistakes?