Psalm 119:33-40 The Message Version
God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways!
Reflection Who does not want to sustain a joyful and holy life? But this is easier said than done, which is why the eight verses in the fifth section of Psalm 119 are so important. Most theologians believe they are the words of King David, a prayer uttered by a man who succumbed to adultery and then murder for a cover-up. I believe these are the words of a man who has come face to face with his own weakness and vulnerability. These are the words of a man who has learned he must turn to something more than himself to sustain a joyful and holy life.
The psalm begins calling out to God because God alone can be our teacher. God alone awakens the Spirit of Wisdom in our hearts. Without listening to the Spirit of Wisdom in our hearts there is every chance we will depend on lesser teachers, misuse our intellect and reasonable faculties. When we fail to root our lives in the Spirit of Wisdom we will surely be distracted by “toys and trinkets, harsh words and critics." Once we turn in that direction we will find every reason to be afraid.
Better we should call to God and pray earnestly not only to know but also to apply God’s Wisdom in our lives, that we may “stay the course" and put our faith in God’s faithfulness. Insight or understanding are not enough. They must be fulfilled by our actions. And so we pray that we might also live every minute of every day doing what is good by the grace of God with us. Here again, we put our faith in God’s faithfulness rather than ourselves. “Give me insight so I can do what you tell me, my whole life, one long, obedient response.”
It does not end there. We must also pray to turn away from all those things that distract us from the Wisdom in our hearts; toys and trinkets and all that stuff we keep in the garage and storage sheds. Social, political, religious and economic conventions and rules about the rational course of action; all those things we store in our heads. “Give me a bent for your words of wisdom…”
Still, this is not enough so we continue praying for the strength to be unmoved by “the harsh words of our critics.” Because we know the Wisdom of God is “always good,” we can depend on it, which is why we pause and pray and listen to the Wisdom in our hearts, no matter what the voices in our heads or the world around us are shouting.
The key to sustaining a joyful and holy life is to listen to the Wisdom of our hearts and to act with confidence in God’s faithfulness.
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