Wandering is a bad thing (Psalm 119:10)

With my whole heart I seek you;
Do not let me stray from your commandments (Psa. 119:10 NRSV).

The psalmist understands that pursuit of God’s laws are primarily a relational concern.  The psalmist seeks not legalistic obedience in order to impress God and earn divine favor, but the psalmist’s desire to pursue God leads naturally to a request for divine assistance to keep God’s laws.  A whole-hearted pursuit of God necessarily involves a fear of losing connection with God’s laws.

The Hebrew word here, shagah, could be rendered as “stray” or “wander.”  The verb shagah appears in two other verses in the psalm–people who “wander” from God’s laws are “accursed” (119:21) and “rejected” (119:118).  Wandering is a bad thing, particularly when it involves moving away from God’s commands.  So, it makes sense the psalmist would request help to avoid straying.

The “with” at the beginning of the verse comes from the Hebrew prepositional prefix Bet (fitting appropriately in this Bet section of the psalm, verses 9-16), so while the NIV’s “I seek you with all my heart” works nicely in English, it loses the emphasis of the original Hebrew: “With all my heart…” with a “with” at the beginning.

How often do you pray for help to not “stray” from God’s commands? 

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