Do me a favor and please read Psalm 119:73-80
Our 8 verses today piggyback on what we just read in verses 65-72. The psalmist finds that in their affliction from God is because of God’s faithfulness. That in his love, in his mercy, in his desire to be in relationship with the psalmist they, the psalmist, have been disciplined for breaking the Law of God. What we have new here is the declaration that God created them, and TONS of declarations about loyalty (74, 76, 79) and faithfulness (75) and words that speak of them (like devotion, promise, and commitment).
In the “tradition” of the Christian Church that I belong to (Christian Reformed Church) we hold to a Confession called the Heidelberg Catechism. And in this confession (set in question and answer form) the very first question we get is “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” And the answer, in short form, is that “I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in living and in dying, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” It’s a simple question with a HUGE answer. We are not our own. We belong to Christ. Why? Because he paid for us by his blood. Because, through his sacrifice, Jesus purchased us upon the cross (1 Cor 6:19-20; Rom 14:7-9; 1 Cor 3:23, etc). What our psalm touches upon, that we don’t get in the Q&A #1 of the Heidelberg Catechism, is that the very One who saved us is the very One who created us. And THIS is why these 8 verses speak of loyalty, faithfulness, devotion, promises, and commitment.
I think, as we reflected on in the last 8 verses, there is an absolute truth that God disciplines because he loves. It’s a hard pill to swallow when we are being disciplined but it makes absolute sense. And while we also spoke of “affliction” in the way of pruning one thing we see here is that God’s affliction of us (his discipline of us) reflects his loyalty, faithfulness, devotion, and commitment to us. God could easily walk away when we disobey and abuse his Law – but he doesn’t. Instead, he sticks around and corrects us. He wants us to get it right. He wants us to learn what is a “better way.” He wants us to understand that his Law is here to love and help, lead and guide. And he gave it not only because it’s who he is, not only because we need it, but because it declares just how devoted, loyal, and faithful God is to his children (vs 75-76). And in the end? They recognize God’s faithfulness and love in their own affliction and not only want to be consoled and brought close to God – but they want to be an example unto others as well (vs 78-80). “So use me God…correct my wrongs and afflict me in any way you deem necessary for I know you love me without end and I deserve what I get. And, in the end, if it stirs the hearts of others towards you? Then count me in.” Once more, I’m reminded that this is about God and about others (just as Jesus summarizes the law in Matthew 22:36-40).
The verb “let” is also a reoccurring word that we get with some translations having the word “may” instead-but, in the end, the verb and question still remain. Verses 76-80 are all requests of the psalmist to God. May your love console me… (76); may I experience …(77); may the arrogant …(78); may your loyal followers… (79) and; may I be fully committed… (80). What is it about these that draws me? They are all questions, hopes, and desires…that simply hang there. They are petitions to God that do not find an answer in the text and so they feel like they hang there without answer. HOWEVER, they ARE answered for the psalmist because, as they proclaimed, God gave us his Law. God afflicts in order to correct and He is faithful, just, loyal, and devoted to us. So those verbs of “may” or “let” ARE answered even if we don’t see it in the text.
These 8 verses should challenge us to see the faithful hand of God in our lives and that we have this beautiful relationship with him and each other. That the faithfulness of God is with us regardless of how we feel or what we are going through. That this life is about more than me it’s about righting me with God and helping others in their relationship with him as well – for his Law, his word, his living and his dying upon the cross was not for my benefit but for OUR benefit. Life is bigger than me and you and these verses are a great reminder of that truth.
3 QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CHEW-ON:
- What in this psalm speaks to you? Where are you drawn? Why?
- When was the last time you thought of a punishment you received as helping others too? But it makes sense – doesn’t it? That’s one beauty we have of scripture is that we can learn from others’ mistakes – right?
- How does the truth that God owns you, from living to dying, help you in your faith journey?