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September 27th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Psalm 119:5 – A Cry for Help

It has often been said that every commandment of God is an implicit promise, for He does not command that which He is not willing to strengthen us to obey.

I believe that this is true, and find great comfort in it.

We need not just the strength to keep the commandments; we need the desire as well. Our hearts wander, we are attracted to this or that, and we need God’s help in directing out steps in the right direction, or, as alternatively put, in establishing us in the right path. Climbing a mountain we may feel we do not have the strength. Our lungs are burning. Our hearts are pounding. We need strength. But what if we don’t even want to stay on the trail what if we are tempted to stop or to go off on another path? In truth, we need help staying on the trail as well as the strength to walk it.

This is the basic idea of Psalm 119:5. After confident affirmations about the way of blessing, and after acknowledging God’s prerogative in giving us directives and direction, the Psalmist looks back upon himself and sighs.

Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! (Psalm 119:5)

“Oh that” is not merely the Psalmist talking to himself, it is the heart cry of prayer. It is directed to God himself. It is an admission. It is a confession. It is an expression of need.

“Oh that” is the cry of the heart that assesses itself rightly. We know that the “Oh that” is a cry to God (and thus a prayer) because the same sentence needs with “your statutes,” the statutes of God already praised in the first three verses.

It has the flavor of a benediction, which is like a prayer addressing God in third person “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”  This cry of the heart is like an exclamation spoken aloud in God’s presence, and which really is a cry for help.

Obedience always has its beginning in prayer. Any man who realizes the depth of the Lord’s demands upon His person knows full well that in himself he cannot do what he wants in his mind to do – and that is to live the blessed life as described in verses 1-3. He knows not only that he is weak but also that his loyalty wavers, he is enticed out of weakness or distraction or temptation to just lay the Lord’s words aside and wander off for easier pastures and enticing opportunities.

This is why I love Psalm 119. It resonates with my world and experience. It resonates with my observations of the experiences of countless others.

But rather than sink into despair over ever being able to walk in His ways, I am given hope in seeing this man struggle before His God, and am reminded, as I have already said, that each commandment of God contains an implicit promise.

God will provide the very thing he requires. But I must seek him, and I must pray, and I must cry out. And after I do, I realize that He gave me the “want to” to seek him and to cry out in the first place.

The word “steadfast” is often used of God Himself. It is covenant language. It speaks of a consisted determined dogged faithfulness. That is how God is to us. That is how we are to be toward Him and His statues – persistent, faithful, consistent, and dependable.

How often do we flip through our Bibles willy-nilly when we’re a “spiritual” mood to see if anything thing strikes us, or meets our need in the moment. That is not being steadfast. In Psalm one read about the blessed man whose “delight is in the torah of YHWH and on it he meditates day and night.” And in Deuteronomy, as we saw last time, we read of the kind of diligence that looks like “steadfastness.”

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The word “statute” reminds of us the rock solid permanent and binding truth of God’s words. Our lives come and go. Our happiness is her and gone again. Life seems like no more than a brief and tiny blip on the screen of history. But as the Lord’s words abide forever, as we abide in them then we too abide.

A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

(Isaiah 40:6-8)

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