89 Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless. [NIV]
Learning how to be taught today from left to right:
“In the heavens Lord, your word stands firm and is eternal. You established the earth and it endures. Your faithfulness continues through all generations. All things serve you for your laws endure to this day. I would have perished in my affliction if your law had not been my delight. You have preserved my life by them and I will never forget your precepts. I have sought out you precepts; save me for I am yours. I will ponder your statutes but the wicked are waiting to destroy me. Your commands are boundless but to all perfection I see a limit.”
My challenge is trying to read and write about this section of Psalm 119 with fresh thinking. The Psalmist has focused his belief on the faithfulness of God enduring despite the risk of his own circumstances. Several things were clear to him. Endurance came packaged with correction and learning. His own endurance was dependent on God’s boundless laws, precepts and statutes even when faced with dramatic events that called into question his own security. The final clarity of truth the Psalmist’s grappled with, were his words that the Lord’s “commands are boundless, but to all perfection I see a limit.”
The circumstances we have seen with our own eyes this last week in the Capital of the United States have shown us how much we need to read and ponder these words of the Psalmist in a contemporary way. His clarity must become ours. As limited as perfection may be it never looks like an angry mob causing chaos, destruction and death. Lamedh is the powerful reminder the Psalmist has given us this week; every person of faith must deliberately make the choice every day to let God’s boundless laws, precepts and statutes teach them to be willing to learn.
Psalm 119 [NIV]
73 Give me understanding to learn your commands and how your hands made me and formed me
74 I have put my hope in your word so those who fear you can rejoice when they see me
75 You have afflicted me in faithfulness I know Lord and your laws are righteous
76 According to your promise to your servant, may your unfailing love be my comfort.
77 Your law is my delight that I may live and your compassion come to me
78 I will meditate on your precepts, may the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause
79 May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes.
80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.
The mention of hands in v73 was distracting in terms of that small Hebrew subtitle, “Bent.” Reading each individual section of Psalm 119 backwards and rewriting them without changing their intent [I hope] has made them seem more like a personal prayer to me. The last two verses today couldn’t possibly have been any more personal so I haven’t changed them. I hope they’ll be your personal prayer too.
My first thoughts about “bent” evoked the imagery of the gently bent hand of God reaching toward us. I don’t think that’s what the Psalmist had in mind, as true and welcoming as that is. “Bent” is something more than a description of the physical hand of God. Instead I believe the Psalmist has discovered “Bent” is God’s purpose for His laws, precepts, statutes, decrees and commands. God’s promise was to change His servant’s natural “bent,”* so his inclination would be the determination to do or have all that God was offering him: hope, faithfulness, unfailing love, comfort and compassion.
*Bent: determined to do or have or a natural talent or inclination
Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, [b]weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of [c]sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. NASB
Everything that led up to that day of condemnation so long ago has led you to this day we’ve come to call Good Friday. We get a lot of practice learning about the crucifixion of Christ being the bridge of forgiveness between us and God and between himself and us. There’s a third reality to that sacrifice that’s much harder to wrap our heads around. It was a sacrifice to set us “free from the law of sin and of death… free to believe “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
That’s what what this solemn day is about. The sinless Savior did what no law, priest, pastor or counselor could do. He condemned the sin that our human flesh could so easily use against us and replaced it with his promise that we could be free to walk according to his Spirit. This day the promise of forgiveness became our reality.