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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Conclusion of the Matter (Psalm 119:169-176)

We have now come to the final section of the longest psalm, indeed the longest chapter, in the Bible. The author, whoever he was, has taken us through a wide variety of his personal experiences in the life of faith. In the main, he has stressed his desire to obey the commandments of his God from the heart, even although he often found himself opposed by powerful enemies.

He continues this focus in the final section and begins it with a prayer for further spiritual understanding of God’s Word. This petition is a reminder that no believer can ever assume that he has reached a stage where he does not need to grow in spiritual experience (v. 169). Prayer about this matter was stimulated by the fact that he still needed divine deliverance from his opponents (v. 170). 

The outcome of divine teaching is always praise of God (v. 171). Despite his difficulties, the psalmist will give large amounts of praise; indeed he will find it hard to stop because his lips will have so much to say to God about what he has done. 

Part of his praise will be offered by singing about what God’s Word has taught him (v. 172). Singing is normally an expression of delight, and what delight can compare with what God reveals in his Word. And the psalmist has discovered that all God’s commandments are right and when they are obeyed they provide the way for a happy life. So he has much to sing about. 

The psalmist also prays for divine guidance and aid (v. 173). Using the imagery of the Lord having a hand shows us that he can lift us when we fall, guide us when we are confused, release us when we are in danger, console us when we are hurt, and much more besides. The psalmist knows that a powerful argument in his prayer is his deliberate choice to obey God’s laws. 

It has often been pointed out that a person’s desires indicate the state of his soul. The psalmist mentions his desires in verse 174: ‘I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.’ If that is our longing, each aspect of it will continue to be our experience. 

Nevertheless the author knows that he is not perfect and confesses his need of ongoing divine recovery: ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments’ (v. 176). Those who want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly are often aware of their failures and helplessness. Yet they also know that they can ask for his help at all times.

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