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October 9th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Psalm 119:8 – Do Not Forsake Me!

Today we finish the “Aleph” stanza of the acrostic Psalm 119. Each stanza has eight verses. We think that the use of the number eight corresponds to the eight words used over and over for God’s word in Psalm 119.

Verse eight says simply…

“I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!”

As before we kind of need to see this verse in the flow of the stanza:

1. Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!
2. Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3. who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4. You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
5. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
6. Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
8. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!

Verse eight uses the word “statutes” for God’s revealed will. The word “statutes” carries the idea of something engraved or inscribed, set down in stone if you will. It speaks of the binding permanence of God’s word.

We find again the confident expression of personal intent side by side with a deep fear of failure. The Psalmist knows the way of Life. He knows that the man is blessed who walks in the law of the Lord. But he also knows himself. He knows his heart’s intent and desire, and he knows his heart’s weakness and waywardness.

When one person forsakes another he writes him off, leaves him behind, disowns him, and refuses to help him. Our writer knows that unless God is there to hold him up and keep him on the straight path that he will fail. If God forsakes him in the journey into obedience to God, then there is no hope, and no hope of blessedness.

I so deeply appreciate the real-world nature of this Psalm. It speaks to me, yet it also speaks of me. It describes my life – what I am sure about and what I am not sure about, what I long for, along with my certain knowledge that I can never arrive there in my own strength. I deeply want to please God by obeying His word, yet, I completely depend on Him that I may be able to do so.

“Father in heaven, you are very great. May your kingdom come, may your will be done here and now, today, on earth, across the earth, and also in my heart, as your will is done in heaven. I look to you to meet my needs. I seek your forgiveness for all the ways I have not walked according to your word, and I ask for the mercy to extend forgiveness to others who have sinned against me, just as I have sinned against you. Lead me not into trials or temptations beyond what I can bear, and Father, protect me from the evil one who would have me rebel against you and your Word, and bring dishonor upon your name.”

The prayer that Jesus taught me to pray jives with the heart of the Psalmist in Psalm 119.

My Christian friend, only God can give to you the “want to.” Ask Him to every day. Ask Him to provide you with strength to obey His word. Ask Him not to leave you to your own devices. Ask Him not to abandon you. He has promised not to leave you or forsake you; claim the promise, don’t just assume it. Everyday find time to meditate upon God’s work, in the day or in the night, on work breaks, in the car, wherever you are. Flee to His word as food for your hungry and thirsty soul. There is not a thing in your life more important. Quit making excuses. Quit blowing off God. Seek him while He may be found. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of blessedness. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow may not even arrive.

I would like to make in one final point in closing off the ‘Aleph” stanza. Christians come to the Psalms as it were from different directions. We read and pray them straight up, just as they are, identifying with the Psalmist. We read them as pointing to and being fulfilled in the life and person of Jesus Christ. We imagine our Lord Jesus reading and praying them. He certainly knew the Psalms. The cry of his heart from the cross was straight from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

I can see Jesus my Lord reading and meditating on Psalm 119. We have a hard time imagining Jesus struggling because we think that the only reason we struggle is because of indwelling original sin, which we rightly understand that Jesus did not have. But neither did Adam; neither did Eve. We also imagine Jesus not struggling because ‘He was God.” Yes, I believe that to be true. But he was also fully human, human without the stain of inherited sin and guilt, yet still human. Jesus was tempted, truly and really tempted, as we are, yet more I believe. He was tempted to be a spiritual rock star, to be co-owner of the whole world, tempted to disobey his Father’s will and use his powers to turn stones into bread and break is fast. He was tempted time and time again to abandon his mission, tempted in way I believe that we can barely even imagine.

Jesus depended on His Father’s mercies as we must. All He did and said was from the Father. I have no doubt whatsoever that he sought his Father’s empowering presence day in and day out. He needed His Father’s strength to fend off temptation, which he did, but not alone.

We as Christians give thanks that Jesus fulfilled the life of blessedness as laid out in the “Aleph” stanza of Psalm 119. Because He did, He merited the Father’s favor, and gained a standing that we can share in as we believe in him and attach to Him. Gaining this status and standing was no walk in the park for Jesus however. We need to remember that He learned obedience through suffering. Do we think we won’t have to learn it that way too?

And finally, Jesus, who obeyed his Father to the uttermost, and who never was forsaken by Him in his life, yet on the cross and in his death he was utterly forsaken by his Father, for our sakes. The irony is that the only way those words “I will never leave you or forsake you” – could be true for us was by the Father forsaking His Only Begotten Son, His Beloved Son, who knew no sin, and who in obedience to His Father, became sin for us. The mystery of Jesus’ suffering on the cross may never be understood by us, in this life or the next. But through that suffering we gain acquittal of our sin and freedom from our guilt.

Jesus did keep His Father’s statutes, yet for us suffered forsakenness that we would have standing before the Father, and confidence that we would not be abandoned.

When we pray each day for the “want to,” and for the strength to carry on, let us also give thanks for Jesus who lived out Psalm 119, and remained utterly obedient, even unto death on the cross.

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