“Check it out God!” (Psalm 119:40)

Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me
life! (Psalm 119:40).

Normal people don’t say “Behold” any more.  “Behold, I went to Famous Footware today and bought these cool Nike running shoes.  Behold them.”

That doesn’t sound right.  The Hebrew word henay, instead of “behold” might be better translated “look.”  We can excuse the King James Version for saying “behold”, because I’m pretty sure people actually said “behold” four hundred years ago.  However, this translation, the ESV, is only eleven years old.  I was alive in 2001, I’m pretty sure no one then said “behold” (unless they were talking about the furniture polish, see image).  Why is the Bible the only place we expect to find someone saying “behold”?

The NRSV has “See” which isn’t bad.  I’d prefer “Check it out!”  The psalmist is trying to get YHWH’s attention here.  “Check it out!  I long for your precepts.”  Do you ever say that to God?  “Check it out God! I’m longing for you and your word!”

In 119:20, the psalmist’s soul was consumed with longing at all times for God’s ordinances.  Here the psalmist simply longs for God’s precepts.  You don’t “long” for things unless you’re really into them.  It’s an all-consuming passion.  I long for the football season to start (and God’s precepts).

Four verses earlier, the psalmist asked God to “give me life” (119:37) and now he asks God for the same thing.  In verse 37, it was life “in your ways, now it is life “in your righteousness.”  For the psalmist, his life is completely wrapped up in God, God’s word and God’s laws.

Psalm 119:40 is the final verse in He section (33-40).

Check it out God!  We’re longing for you and your word!

What word or phrase do you use to get someone’s attention? (It’s got to be better than “behold.”)

Turning away reproach (Psalm 119:39)

Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good
(Psalm 119:39 ESV).

What do you dread?  Getting fired?  Speaking in public?  The psalmist fears reproach.

I’m in Kentucky right now to pick up some furniture from my dad and see my mom one last time.  Her Alzheimer’s is advanced and she probably won’t survive much longer.  My son Noah joined me.  Dad, Noah and I went for a workout at my dad’s tennis club yesterday.  After returning to my dad’s house, I couldn’t find my iPod which had been in my pocket.  I thought, “It must have fallen out of my pocket.”  Noah suggested I double-check my pockets.  No iPod.  We looked in the car.  No iPod.  We called the tennis club and they looked around.  No iPod.  We needed to head out to dinner asap, so I needed to take a quick shower.  As I lifted up my sweaty, stinky t-shirt what did I find clipped to the top of my shorts?  My iPod.  Whoops.

I dread Alzheimer’s.

So far, no one has reproached me for “losing” my iPod, but I’m sure my family will tease me about it.  Just as there are things I can do that might delay the inevitable onslaught of Alzheimer’s (getting exercise, taking fish oil, eating blueberries–I draw the line at doing crosswords), the psalmist focuses on the goodness of God’s laws to avoid reproach.

It’s not clear from this verse how the goodness of God’s rules will prevent the reproach that the psalmist dreads, but he clearly perceives that a connection between the two.  Remembering that God’s rules are good will somehow protect reproach.

I describe the goodness of God’s laws in more depth in chapter six of God Behaving Badly, but I’ll review briefly here.

What’s God’s first rule?  Be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  In other words, “Have a lot of sex.”

What’s God’s second rule?  Eat freely of every tree in the garden (Gen. 2:16).  In other words, “Eat a lot of food.”

The Bible begins by describing the amazing goodness of God’s rules.  God wants to bless people with good things and his laws make that clear.

How do you think the goodness of God’s rules protect us from reproach? 

Seeking Confirmation (Psalm 119:38)

Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared
(Psalm 119:38 ESV).

While most verses in Psalm 119 mention keeping, observing or delighting in God’s laws, this verse doesn’t really fit the formula.  The psalmist here requests that God’s promise (presumably to the psalmist) is confirmed.

One could argue that the psalmist is doubting God’s word.  The divine promise has clearly already been given.  Why then does God need to confirm his promise?  Can’t the psalmist simply believe?  Shouldn’t God’s promise be sufficient?  What is this doing in the Bible?

While we might be uncomfortable with a demand for confirmation from God, the Bible isn’t.  Other people of faith in the Old Testament seek similar confirmations.  The ESV and NAS include a note here with a reference to 2 Samuel 7:25, where David prays that YHWH confirm the promise given of an “eternal” dynastic lineage.  The connection is interesting.  Is David behind the request for confirmation in 119:38?  Who can say?  Psalm 119 mentions no one in the heading.  But whether Psalm 119:38 should be linked to David or not, in both texts a person of faith seeks divine confirmation and it seems to be OK.

When he was childless Abraham sought confirmation for the promise of offspring and God repeatedly gave him confirmation with visual reminders of dust, sand and stars (Gen. 13:16; 15:5; 22:17).

Even in the midst of what may appear to be doubt, the psalmist stays engaged with YHWH in the quest for confirmation.  The psalmist seems to know that it’s OK to seek confirmation directly from God.

The psalmist also knows his place relative to God–as God’s servant.  In addition to this verse, the psalmist calls himself “your servant” twelve other places in the psalm (119:17, 23, 49, 65, 76, 82, 122, 124, 125, 135, 140, 176).  (In his prayer of 2 Samuel, David also frequently referred to himself as “your servant”; 2 Sam. 7:20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 29).

God as we wait for you to come through on what you’ve promised give us patience, faith and confirmation. 

How does promise confirmation lead to fear of God?  Any thoughts? 

Apologies for skipping a week of blogging on Psalm 119 last Sunday.  I couldn’t make it happen, so I decided to cut myself a little slack. 

Image from http://epiphanyumc.org/confirmation

From worthlessness to pricelessness (Psalm 119:37)?

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways
(Psalm 119:37 ESV).

What worthless things do you look at?  (Not counting this blog.)

I don’t think the psalmist is referring to blogs, Facebook, Twitter or youtube.  Perhaps, but not necessarily.  Worthless things lead one away from God.  The Psalms often speak of “worthless idols” (Psa. 31:6; 96:5; 97:7).  Almost anything can become worthless if it distracts us from what’s really important.

Reading a blog can become worthless if you should be praying or spending time with your family.  (Unless the blog is encouraging you to pray or spend time with your family, like this one is.)  Posting on Facebook can be worthless, but it can also be a great way to connect with friends.  Watching youtube…well, that’s harder to come up with a good rationalization for why it’s not worthless.

When I was young (about 45), I was always confused by the words “worthless” and “priceless“.  An item’s worth and it’s price are supposed to be the same.  So, these two words should be synonyms, and yet they were antonyms.  One refers to things with no worth, the other to things with unlimited worth.

The psalmist clearly believes that life is found in God’s ways.  The psalmist tells God to divert his gaze from worthlessness to pricelessness.  God and God’s word are therefore the only things that are truly priceless.  (I should probably also say people are priceless since they are made in God’s image…)

God, help us focus on you and your word. 

So, is youtube worthless?  When?  When not?