Dear Christ Church Family,
This morning’s devotional is on Psalm 119. “Oh no! Not Psalm 119! Argh!” Yes, I know that most of us have never actually gotten through this Psalm, much less understood it. But, take a look! Hidden in our part of it for today is a real Gem.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
Cyril of Jerusalem
Psalm 119: The longest Psalm, and a hidden gem. If you’ve tried, but failed, to read all 150 Psalms over a short period, this one Psalm may be the reason you got derailed in your quest. It’s sooo long, and it’s a hard slog just trying to make sense of it as well. It is, for many, the “skip-over” Psalm. Well, if that’s how you feel about it, that’s understandable. The first problem is the subject matter: the love and joy of the Law. As Christians, we have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of joy coming from the Law. For us, we revel in the joy of how Christ’s love frees us from slavish observance of a Law Code that “strains out the gnat” as Jesus put it. But remember, Jesus never spoke against the Law, but only against those in power who used it to oppress the powerless.
Here’s the key to understanding the Psalmist’s love for the Law, and joy in following it. The Law, in the Old Testament, is not just the many codes and ordinances of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It is also the human origin stories of Genesis, the choosing by God of a particular people in Exodus, and the arrival at a place of promise in Deuteronomy. Knowing where you come from gives identity. Knowing that you are known and loved by God gives joy. Knowing that you are part of God’s plan for the world gives meaning and peace. This is what the Psalmist understands as the Law when praising it. For the Psalmist, the codes and ordinances of the Law are there as the way to discern right from wrong in following God’s path, and direction for showing gratitude and love to God while following God’s plan. Remembering the Psalmist’s understanding will make reading this Psalm much easier, and possibly allow it to pray you.
Of course, there’s still the other problem of having to slog through its repetitive length, especially if you’re trying to do it in one sitting. I get that. That’s why I’m so happy about the part of this Psalm that is our Office Reading for this day. This part is the heart of this Psalm, where all the themes come together in verses 105 through 112. Here the Psalmist speaks a true gem of a verse; the whole point of this Psalm in just one great verse:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light upon my path.” (Verse 105)
Reading God’s instruction, applying the thoughts and teachings of Scripture, is like picking up a lamp that dispels the darkness around us; that lets us see where and how to set our feet as we move forward on life’s path. Memorize this verse. It will be a constant help, no matter how thick the present darkness may be, to guide us to the one light the darkness has never overcome: the light of God in Jesus.
* Commemorations in italics are from A Great Cloud of Witnesses; others are from Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018.