Psalm 119:73-80

s BibleThe following reflection on Psalm 119:73-80 is a belated continuation of a series on Psalm 119.

God is our Creator and therefore we are duty-bound to obey his precepts and to conform ourselves to his word. The Psalmist realizes that he is molded and intricately shaped by God, the divine potter.  God is also a weaver who has patterned him into a marvelous form (Psalm 139:13-16):  “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb . . . When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”  The psalmist remembered and took to heart the ancient word of Scripture that God formed man from the dust of the ground.  Human beings stand above the rest of God’s creation which he merely spoke into existence – but to man and woman God endowed his own image and likeness.  The psalmist’s identity was based on God’s word and creative work, and that same word or work informed his purpose and prayer, namely, to “give me understanding to learn your commands” (v. 73).

Of paramount importance for learning the human purpose is to realize that God has created us as a species and as individuals.  That knowledge may be a combination of the direct revelation of Scripture and the indirect revelation and reflection from nature. In other words, reflective observers who are perceptive and rational assert that human beings discern a certain awareness of God and their creative likeness to him.  In the same vein, the apostle Paul quoted with approval even certain pagan poets who said of the God and human relationship that “‘we are his offspring'” (Acts 17:28).

The Psalmist knows that he was uniquely created by God and therefore he was motivated to probe God’s commands for his own benefit and deeper experience of God.  He kept before his conscious thought that he was God’s “offspring” and deliberated on God’s precepts and the nature of God’s character – his righteousness (v. 75), love (v. 76), and compassion (v. 77).  Because the Psalmist, in effect, reminded himself that God created him, he neither forgot – nor neglected – to anchor his life in the Lord’s commands.

In merely the first verse of the present stanza (v. 73), the Psalmist’s declaration offers a multi-fold challenge. First, it is a reminder to teach and train young learners to  sharpen their intuitive and intellectual awareness of God in order to direct them to a deeper relationship to him through the Scriptures.  Second, it is a challenging reminder to seek first God’s word and his righteousness based on our  creative being from God.

 

 

 

Psalm 119:65-72

Psalm 119 is an “acrostic” in which the psalm’s 22 stanzas represent successive letters of the Hebrew consonants.  Each stanza is composed of eight lines and the initial words of each line begin with that stanza’s representative consonant.   The eight lines within each stanza of Psalm 119 were almost certainly chosen to highlight the eight synonyms of the “Torah” (i.e. God’s word) that occur throughout the Psalm and which are its recurring focus.

The stanza of verses 65-72 represent the letter ‘ט’ (“teth”), with all eight lines beginning with a word as “teth” for their initial letter.   Five of those initial words (verses 65, 66, 68, 71, 72) are similarly translated (such as “good” or “precious”). As a result, the stanza emphasizes – at its first and end – that “goodness” is the obvious character of God and his ways.  In verse 65, the Psalmist either recalls or seeks God’s goodness through his word (the “Torah”); in conclusion at verse 72, the Psalmist heartily embraces the same divine precepts as “better” or “more precious” than a ‘fat’ bank account or rich inheritance (how much more, then, is God more endearing than even little possessions!).

But how often we are anxious about our daily needs and future well-being!  They seem to occupy our thoughts and compete for our primary attention.  Yet the Psalmist’s idea of the “good life” was not the “cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes” and boasting of accomplishments and acquisitions (1 John 2:16). On the contrary, the “good life” was a close and growing adherence to God’s ways.  Any development that steered the Psalmist back to God – even if it involved suffering – was also good:  “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word . . . It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (v. 66, 71; cf. Psalm 107).

“You are good and what you do is good,” the Psalmist claimed from experience (v. 68).  He realized that whatever comfort, health, success, peace of mind, or acceptance by others he once had was an impoverished condition apart from conformity to God.  On the other hand, illness, poverty, persecution or other unfortunate circumstances are ultimately ‘good’ if they lead a wayward person back to God and his gracious, life-giving principles which alone are the genuine “good life”.