Put false ways far from me;
and graciously teach me your law (Psalm 119:29 NRSV).
False ways are close enough to the psalmist that he* needs divine help to have them removed. The psalmist is essentially confessing a temptation to deception. Deception is a difficult habit to break.
My wife Shannon and I attended an excellent seminar entitled “Loving Teenagers” at our church over the weekend. The speaker (Kevin Huggins) said that teens need space to be creative and use their imagination. If they have no healthy creative/imaginative outlet, they are more likely to give in to deception as a way to express creativity. If deceptive patterns are established during adolescence they are difficult to break, as the psalmist here realizes.
For antidotes to deception, in addition to imagination the psalmist here would add prayer and a divine Torah tutorial (see also my earlier post on Psalm 119:26). The psalmist wants YHWH to teach him the law. But notice, he requests a gracious tutorial. We all know what it’s like to have a mean teacher. Fortunately, God is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love. That makes him a great teacher.
The psalmist typically alternates between stating facts about the law and making requests to God. Both lines of this verse are requests (“put”, “teach”), which is unusual. The psalmist focuses in the first half of the verse on what to say no to, and in the second half, what to say yes to. (This is the 5th verse in Dalet section of Psalm 119.)
God, continue to teach me your law.
So, why the image of Jim Carrey?
*I’ve avoided using masculine pronouns for the author of Psalm 119 for 28 verses, but I’m going to start now, even though it’s not ideal. All of the other options are awkward, and therefore even less ideal:
1) Referring to the “psalmist” multiple times in the same sentence. Clunky.
2) Using the passive voice. Weak.
3) Using the 3rd person plural. Inconsistent. Psalm 119 uses too many 1st personal singulars (“I”, “me”).
4) A combination of these three. Clunky, weak and inconsistent.
So, while I don’t like using the 3rd masculine singular it’s the least awkward. The psalmist may be a “she,” but it’s far more likely he’s a “he.”