I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands; for you have set my heart free. NIV
I am still wishing for a comprehensive commentary of the Bible. Never having owned one or shopped for one, I was overwhelmed by the choices the last time I looked into this. Silly me, I thought that there would be one book that I could just pick up. No! There are dozens and dozens in every shape and size, some are volumes long, some are entire books that cover just one book of the Bible.
Since I never know where this project will take me, I walked away from the commentary search empty handed.
But, this morning, I am thinking that I would like one just on the Book of Psalms. I would like to know what is known about this book, and especially about this chapter, which I find so meaningful.
Chapter 119 is divided into subsections. Each has a Hebrew title (untranslated) in my NIV Bible, and, in The Message, each section is separated by a symbol.
I can see that it is poetry, and it is beautiful.
These verses comprise one whole section, which, when translated into modern English, speaks directly to my project.
Verse one says, “I’m feeling terrible — I couldn’t feel worse” MSG. The thing about worry, is that it is both an activity that distracts you from everything else, but, it is also a feeling — a totally unpleasant feeling that can make you feel just terrible.
The verse goes on to say, “Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?” MSG. I love that. The writer is “laid low,” by his current circumstances, but, he recognizes that God can bolster him up.
I heard a very interesting presentation last night, made by a successful businessman in my community. He was talking about a time when he was in transition, and explaining to his listeners the things that he did to both further his objective and also to make himself feel better. He laid out a series of concrete steps that he took, to get on his feet, just like the writer of this Psalm. In the midst of his description, he said something that has stuck with me.
He was saying that the activity that he was describing wasn’t going to get him to the goal (in this case it was a new job), but, that he felt that God had blessed it. He said, “If I don’t raise the sail,” and he mimed pulling a sail up a mast, “He cannot blow on it, and bless it.”
I love that.
Worry encourages one to wallow. Getting on one’s feet and taking concrete steps gives God an opportunity to bless and to guide and to intervene. Wallowing cannot be guided … it is a self-guided activity.
By the end of this section of the Psalm the writer, just like that businessman, is on his way to new things and new opportunities. In fact, in the last verse he says, “I’ll run the course you lay out for me …” MSG.
Now, for the last two days I’ve been looking at this chapter through the lens of a slow and careful walk. But here, the writer has so much confidence, he is so blessed by God, that he can break into a run as he moves toward the will that God has for his life, because, he says, “you have set my heart free.”
That’s what I will think about today.