Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Simile of Wisdom, Law & Worship in Psalm 119

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I will keep it to the end [steadfastly]… Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity (idols and idolatry); and restore me to vigorous life and health in Your ways”
–Psalm 119:33, 37 (Amplified).

Psalm 119 is often considered a psalm of the wisdom genre, yet every line it seems is etched with legal terms of God’s law. It seems a never-ending meditative prayer of the psalmist who is fearful of letting go lest he risk giving up the prize of the true knowledge of, and obedience to, God.

This portion of the longest of the one hundred and fifty biblical psalms talks about ‘worthless’ things, continuing the incessant prayer of the psalmist to abide by the statutes and decrees (the covenant) of the Lord--until the very end. The NIV and Message paraphrase have verse 37:

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (NIV)

“Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.” (Msg)

Unpacking this pithy little verse is tantamount to the opening of Pandora’s Box, as we see profoundly the vast divergences of life; one of worship in extremes.

Psalm 1 (NIV) tells us that the person who ‘delights in the law of the LORD’ cannot help meditating on the law with devotion both day and night. They’re immersed in it as if the law was an unfathomable ocean and they were addicted to swimming in it. Perhaps they’re so fearful that it might be to their own peril to stop; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” as Proverbs 1:7 (NIV) has it. And this is true. To stop, for these, would be to totally dishonour, and turn from, God.

And this is the essential blending of wisdom with the law that both are inextricable. Both call to each other. Wisdom, among much more, is fundamentally turning from worthless things to the law, which is the Word of God.

And this is the ‘pilgrim way,’ of rejecting the world’s trappings and turning back to the eternal God and his things of eternity. What does it serve us (or God) when we chase after all the gadgetry, ‘toys and trinkets’ in the world (perhaps even in God’s name?) but lose the essence of the ‘life in his way?’ Let us be forever watchful, as the psalmist, continually aware and abiding.

We’re all inclined to worship… what (object/s) or who (subject/s) is it though, that we worship? And what thought and activity defines our worship?

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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