Do me a favor and please read Psalm 119:153-160
There is a love here, of God’s law, that is read, seen, and felt. The psalmist declares that they haven’t “forgotten” the Law (153), that they recognize and declare God’s promise (as seen in the Law) (154), that seeking the decrees of the Law leads to salvation (155), and that preservation happens because of God’s Law and his love for those that abide and obey him. And while there are some things mentioned in this text that bring me pause, which I’ll get to, we must remember voice, time, place, and context.
The people of God, while in a covenantal relationship with him, it was based off of Law-abiding actions. God gave his Word to them that they must obey him and follow his commands less they be cut-off and removed – and this is the context our psalmist is living in. And so it makes sense that in their time of need here, when affliction is upon them (153), when their cause and need of God to step in and preserve their life is ever-before them because the wicked (who do not abide by his decrees) are surrounding, persecuting, and oppressing them (154-155, 157), they remind God just how faithful to His Law they are. Again, it was a feeling and relationship where the people of God lived into his Law and in response God kept his promise of deliverance and life. But what about today? How does this work today?
Many of us still live into this feeling, and living, that what I do, how I respond, the life I live, prompts God to act, love, and keep to his word. That as I go through life I will be blessed, loved, and ultimately SAVED based on what I do as my actions usher in God’s grace. The problem, however, is that that is not scriptural. We believe in a God of grace. What is grace? Grace is undeserved, unmerited, unearned, without credit, complete forgiveness. Grace is a free gift, given by God, and not based off of anything you can say, do, or ever deserve. We read in John 1:17 that the “law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” We read in Acts 15:11 that we are saved through the grace of Jesus Christ. And we see that again in Romans 3:24; 4:16; 5:2; 5:15, and countless other texts. Grace is the complete forgiveness and washing away of sins that is given, by God and through Jesus Christ. It’s not done by work and it’s not done by God’s looking into the future to SEE what we would do either. It’s just a free gift of God by way of Jesus. So what are we supposed to do with this text?
On one hand, we need to recognize the way things were and the fact that Christ comes is because they didn’t work. Nobody could do “enough” or abide in the Law “enough” to encourage and prompt God to come. It simply didn’t, and cannot, work that way. Our sin is too great and just because we obey one part of the Law we must recognize that we would be neglecting, and abusing, other parts of the Law.
Secondly, this text SCREAMS of Jesus Christ and not only because of the Law fulfillment. The psalmist needs deliverance for their suffering. The psalmist needs to be defended and redeemed. The psalmist needs salvation from the wicked. The psalmist needs to be saved from those that persecute them. The psalmist declares the compassion of God, the preserving work and righteousness of God as well. Are not all of those seen in God, delivered through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and given to his children? Yes…yes they are.
This psalm is beautiful in how, historically, it reminds us of just how things were – and yet it leaps us forward to remind us just how much we needed God to enter into this world by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to live into the Law and fulfill it for us.
3 QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CHEW-ON:
- What in this psalm speaks to you? Where are you drawn? Why?
- Grace is a beautiful, and yet deeply complex, word. Would life be easier if God still worked in this way where our “works” led towards our justification and salvation? Wouldn’t life be easier if we had a “works of the Law” meter on our arm that told us where we were at and if we had “done enough” for God?
- Should we look upon the “faithless with loathing” (158)? Is that helpful? How should we look upon those who do not believe?