Psalm 119:33-40

Psalm 119:33-40
In junior high I knew Psalm 119 as the longest Psalm in the Bible. That's about it. Certainly too long for a youngster. Later I learned it is an acrostic psalm-- actually a collection of twenty-two stanzas, each of which begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph, beth, gimmel, etc. This arrangement doesn't usually show up clearly in English translations, but, as I remind my students, here's where those footnotes in an annotated study Bible are really helpful. The common theme of these twenty-two little psalms is the law.

But reflecting on "the Law" sometimes doesn't sound very inviting to Lutheran ears. For Martin Luther the law has two uses, first to give order to the world and second to drive us to Christ. In Psalm 119 we hear not so much about rules to be kept as about a path to be followed. The emphasis is not so much upon human response as it is upon divine initiative and promise. "Teach me...the way..." "Give me understanding..." "Lead me in the path..." and "In your righteousness give me life."

In light of the good news, early Christians didn't abandon the law or Torah, but they saw it in a new light. It is not without some irony that the book of Acts refers to the early Jesus movement as "followers of the way." Following Jesus was not a new kind of law, but a new kind of "way." In contemporary language we might think of Psalm 119 as a call to our vocation.

O Lord, teach us your way. Help us to hear your promises, and then mold us into ones who follow where you would lead. Amen.
Psalm 119:33-40 (NRSV)

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
36 Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.
39 Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.
40 See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

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