Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bountiful and Wondrous

Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
(Psalm 119:17-18)
This morning, as I was going to the Psalms, which is my devotional habit, my Bible flopped open to Psalm 119 and my eye was caught by these verses. I had marked these verses before, with circles and underlines, and a few words penciled in the margins.

“Deal bountifully with Your servant.” The psalm writer is calling on the abundance of God to take care of him. He is well aware how much he needs the grace and mercy of the Lord if he is going to survive. When he says, “that I may live,” he is not merely speaking in a metaphorical way of enjoying the richness and beauty of life; he is looking to God to preserve his physical life. One of the poignant realities of this psalm is that he is singing these praises about the Word of God even though things have not been going well for him — he is leaning in on the promises of God to guide him through.

Even so, he does not just want something from God — he wants God Himself. He is leaning into his covenant relationship with God. He does not just want God to honor His promises to him; he wants to honor God’s word by doing what it says. But he cannot do that without the help of the Lord.

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” The law of God is indeed a wondrous thing. Many religious folks think that God is waiting for us to break His law so He can clobber us. But His law is instruction. Indeed, the Hebrew word torah, often translated as “law,” can just as well be translated as “instruction.”

That is what the psalm writer wants. He is not cringing in fear of divine retribution; he is eagerly looking for divine instruction. He deeply desires wisdom and revelation from God, and he knows that is why God has given His torah in the first place. God does not hold back from us; He freely gives to us, if we are ready to receive. The problem is that, very often, pride and arrogance and our own brand of “wisdom” get in the way, and we have to be emptied out of these things.

This morning, I thought of all the prides and arrogances I have had in my life, back when I was a very young man but also in my later years. God has been gracious over the years to expose and uproot so many of them. I am well aware that it is an ongoing project. The process is not usually very pleasant, but the results are well worth it, because it readies us for the pleasures of God and the joy of knowing Him. I want to be emptied out of myself, of vanity and ego, and filled up with the Lord. It is, as the psalm writer says, wondrous — thinking God’s thoughts with Him, walking with Him in His ways, our hearts being brought into rhythm with His.

Deal bountifully with me today, O Lord. Open my eyes to the wonders of Your Word, that I may know You more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.