Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.49-56 (Stanza ז)

Pray and ask God to open your eyes and heart to His Word and to empower you by His Holy Spirit to put it into practice. 

Abba, I love You and thank You for the life that You give! It is awesome that You grace us with life for as long as You do. O Lord, I pray that we would live that life that You give us patterned after Jesus Christ our Savior, Your Son, walking in step with Your Holy Spirit the whole way, until this life opens up into a grander kind of life as we who truly trust in You cross the threshold of death. Teach us Your Word today, unto that aim. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Scripture: Psalm 119.49-56 (Stanza ז)
49   Remember what You said to Your slave
       which You made me hope in.
50   This is my comfort in my affliction, 
       because Your promise makes me live. 
51   Arrogant people mock me like crazy, 
       I don't turn from Your instruction. 
52   I remember Your ancient judgments, Yahweh, 
       and I am comforted.
53   Blistering rage has seized me because of wicked people--
       the people who abandon Your instruction!
54   Your laws are songs to me
       in the house of my immigrant wanderings.
55   I remember in the night Your Name, Yahweh, 
       and I will definitely keep Your instruction.
56   This is mine,
        because I keep Your rules.

   This section of eight verses has each verse start with the Hebrew letter ז, which is the 7th letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The passage continues discussing the troubles the author is experiencing as well as the hope and commitment he has for Yahweh. In terms of the poetic structure of the stanza, v.49 appears to be the heading of the stanza, and sets the overarching perspective of the stanza. However, vv.50-56 form the body of the stanza, framed with v.50 and v.56 which both start with the word "this" with a first half that talks about something that belongs to the author and have a second half that begins with "because." v.51 and v.55 both have a second line that talk about the author not turning from Yahweh's instruction, while v.52 and 54 talk about the positive emotions that God's judgments and laws give to the psalms. This makes v.53 the focal point of the section. Thus, the passage has a heading in v.49 and a chiastic structure in vv.50-56. 
Heading: God You be faithful, because I'm hoping in You
Body: I'm being faithful to You God (don't forget to be faithful to me)
   A    What belongs to the Psalmist
      B    The Psalmist will not turn from Yahweh's instruction
         C   The Psalmist feels good because of what God has said
            D   The Psalmist gets angry at wicked people
         C'  The Palmist feels good because of what God has said
      B'   The Palmist will not turn from Yahweh's instruciton
   A'   What belongs to the Psalmist

   Looking at the stanza as a whole, I am struck by the psalmist faith in God, the hope God has given him in God. Yet, the psalmist can be honest and admit that He is dependent on God to come through for Him. The psalmist talks about how committed he is to God, and how He remembers Yahweh, what He has said as well as Who He is. He has this close and faith-filled relationship with Yahweh. And while it may seem in some sense inappropriate to phrase it like this, basically the psalmist seems to be telling God that he needs God to be faithful to him as much as he has been faithful to God. He is saying, "Hey, Yahweh, we have this relationship. I'm trusting in You--You're the One that made me hope in You in the first place--and I want You to be faithful to the commitment You made to me!" Obviously, on some level, we don't need to ever worry about whether God will come through for us, but clearly this guy feels comfortable telling God that it feels like even though he is holding up his side of the relationship, God doesn't seem to be active in His part yet. A lot of Christians talk about God as if we should not presume to have expectations of Him, but I think that from this passage we can agree that at some level we need to be honest with God about those expectations. It is true: some of our expectations are ridiculous. But the author just seems to want relief and justice and know that God cares and is being faithful. 
   Anger towards wicked people is something that often we as Christians--or sometimes even if you're not a Christian--feel uncomfortable about. We in American culture often view anger as whole as a bad thing. And yet, setting aside for a moment the question of rightness or wrongness of anger, we do need to be honest with God about the anger we have and the causes of that anger. Anger, I think, actually can be something that is good and holy. Righteous indignation is a good thing. People who perpetrate evil against others should make us anger, that people refuse to follow Christ in humility and faith should make us anger. And although we often say "love the sinner, hate the sin" we also have to admit that if there is such a line in everyday life, it is often blurry. When someone hurts us we are not just angry at the evil action but the perpetrator of the action because they are morally culpable. And I think that when framed and governed by the Holy Spirit that is right. We should get angry, but not only angry. Reading from other passages in Scripture does help us to see that this anger must be held in tension with love, patience, humility, and forgiveness. 

   I need to enjoy having a real relationship with God, where I trust Him and expect Him to act. While I certainly don't have a relationship with God because of anything in me or anything that I ever did or will do, I do have a relationship with God. And that relationship with God does mean that I have one role in the relationship and God has another role, which also means that I can and should expect God to fulfill His role as He has promised, which also means I can talk with Him honestly about the times when I feel like I'm waiting for Him to do His part. 
   While I need to be careful not to be hypocritical or unreasonably or unrighteously angry, I should get angry about evil things. People who sin and refuse to follow and obey God and believe in Christ and live by the Spirit should make me angry. But in this anger, I also need to mix in love, patience, hope, and grace. 


Yahweh, You are my God. You've been my God ever since You made me hope in You at age 4. I thank You that we have a relationship by grace and that because You are my God and I am one of Your people, that I can trust in You to do what You promised me You would do! God, I love you! Get all the glory from my life! Keep me faithful to You as You keep Your promises to be faithful to me! I love You! Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may live by Him and know Christ more deeply through Him, in Jesus' Name, Amen!

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