The Longest Psalm – Part 2

21 Jan

We are getting a big snow. It is a great day to stay tucked up in bed and blog about this wonderfully long psalm.

Journey has become one of the central imagines for our faith life. This imagine, like this psalm, reflect the concept of a lifetime of growing in God and learning the ways of god. The first stanza talks of this journey and asks that, “my whole life [be] on long, obedient response.” It is a wonderful thought. This living will lead to a person, “bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot.” Just think about how much time we spend piling up loot. Christmas has ended, but the shopping continues. So I ask with the psalmist, Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.”

33-40
God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways!

The psalm continues this the affirmation that the way we make it through this life’s difficultly is by being shaped by God’s love. It was an interesting weekend for me. I saw “12 Years a Slave” with my Dad, because he really wanted to see the movie and then we celebrated Dr. King’s birthday. For me, Dr. King was enable to do what he did by God’s strength. He embodied the line, “Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery because I trusted your Word.” Dr. King took us to the mountain top with him because his life was shaped by God’s love and justice.

41-48
Let your love, God, shape my life
with salvation, exactly as you promised;
Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery
because I trusted your Word.
Don’t ever deprive me of truth, not ever—
your commandments are what I depend on.
Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me,
guard it now, guard it ever;
And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces
as I look for your truth and your wisdom;
Then I’ll tell the world what I find,
speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed.
I cherish your commandments—oh, how I love them!—
relishing every fragment of your counsel.

49-56
Remember what you said to me, your servant—
I hang on to these words for dear life!
These words hold me up in bad times;
yes, your promises rejuvenate me.
The insolent ridicule me without mercy,
but I don’t budge from your revelation.
I watch for your ancient landmark words,
and know I’m on the right track.
But when I see the wicked ignore your directions,
I’m beside myself with anger.
I set your instructions to music
and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way.
I meditate on your name all night, God,
treasuring your revelation, O God.
Still, I walk through a rain of derision
because I live by your Word and counsel.

My favorite line from this last stanza is, “I set your instructions to music and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way.” I have learned a number of scripture passages set to music and know a lot of hymns. It is a wonderful day when these are the words singing through my head throughout the day.

57-64
Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise
to do everything you say.
I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile,
be gracious to me just as you promised.
When I took a long, careful look at your ways,
I got my feet back on the trail you blazed.
I was up at once, didn’t drag my feet,
was quick to follow your orders.
The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out—
but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me.
I get up in the middle of the night to thank you;
your decisions are so right, so true—I can’t wait till morning!
I’m a friend and companion of all who fear you,
of those committed to living by your rules.
Your love, God, fills the earth!
Train me to live by your counsel.

The line, “I get up in the middle of the night to thank you;”, is why Benedictine monks I visited get up at 4:30 am for their first worship service. It was one the first one of the day and one of my favorites. It began with the call and response, “O Lord open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise,” said three times. I have often thought what a wonderful day it would be if the only time I opened my mouth was to declare God’s grace and love and praise God’s name. And as the Benedictines and the psalm remind us, this kind of life takes training!

65-72
Be good to your servant, God;
be as good as your Word.
Train me in good common sense;
I’m thoroughly committed to living your way.
Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place,
but now I’m in step with your Word.
You are good, and the source of good;
train me in your goodness.
The godless spread lies about me,
but I focus my attention on what you are saying;
They’re bland as a bucket of lard,
while I dance to the tune of your revelation.
My troubles turned out all for the best—
they forced me to learn from your textbook.
Truth from your mouth means more to me
than striking it rich in a gold mine.

This stanza is artfully true. The psalmist asks to be trained in common sense; what a wonderful and rare gift these days. If we are not on God’s path, we are wondering all over the place. It is on God’s path that our lives have meaning and purpose and direction [pointed towards God]. Again, that are great insights into our human life in this song, without God, our lives are as, “bland as a bucket of lard, while I dance to the tune of your revelation.” It is in God’s presence and power where meaningful creativity abounds. AND, even the bad time turn out for the best because we learn deeper the truths of God’s way. I know this is true for my life It is an amazing journey.

73-80
With your very own hands you formed me;
now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.
When they see me waiting, expecting your Word,
those who fear you will take heart and be glad.
I can see now, God, that your decisions are right;
your testing has taught me what’s true and right.
Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to.
Let the fast-talking tricksters be exposed as frauds;
they tried to sell me a bill of goods,
but I kept my mind fixed on your counsel.
Let those who fear you turn to me
for evidence of your wise guidance.
And let me live whole and holy, soul and body,
so I can always walk with my head held high.

I pray you continue to dance in God’s revelations this day, with the scripture singing in your head. Peace.

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