Adventure with God to the holy city

Deal bountifully with your servant,
That I may live and keep your word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from your law.
I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide your commandments
         From me.
My soul is crushed with longing
After your ordinances at all times.
You rebuke the arrogant, the cursed,
Who wander from your commandments.
(Psalms 119:17-21)

Studying the word of God is a wonderful adventure. It is a journey of exploration. The journey is not unlike the kind portrayed in Indian Jones movies. It is life-long profession that is often perilous. Overcoming the terrible obstacles means getting to and possessing the treasure. The Lost Ark is the treasure. The Ark represented the presence of God. The journey is thus both with and to God. It is a progressive relationship with our creator-redeemer-king. Inside the Ark was deposited the covenant and testimony God gave to Israel and the world. Thus the treasure deposited inside the Ark is God’s word.

As Psalms 119: 17-18 states, the treasure is more than something to gain for personal profit. It is something learned and lived while on the adventurous journey called life. It is life lived by the bounteous provision of the divine King in His kingdom. God’s kingdom encompasses our world as well as the entire universe. Nevertheless, those invited chose to enter by choice not by coercion.

The Psalmist expressed his emotional attachment to God. As above, the Psalmist’s emotional bonds to God are mediated through God’s concrete laws, testimonies, and judgments–in other words, God’s covenantal word.

As we are on the journey, we too may keenly feel like a stranger in a secular world. The secular world does not know God. Even many religious communities or nations, do not seem to know God. At least not as we experience the living God. You, I, or the Psalmist are not alone in this sense of being in a foreign land. The gospels express in great detail how Jesus not only felt this but, according to Christian teaching, he was literally from another world–from heaven. Like other acclaimed prophets, the feeling of not being of the present world is typical. The 11th chapter of Hebrews gives us a list of how many of them were treated as aliens as well. A more contemporary version of such a list is the Book of Martyrs.

As for the Psalmist, the people of God living in a world of biological and social necessities often experience periods of distraction in which they feel like souls disconnected from the life-giving Spirit. This is often described as weariness but not necessarily physiological. It can be spiritual affecting our mental state. Spiritual fatigue can create an intense longing for the renewed vitality experienced by communing with God mediated through meditation on His word. It is a moving meditation because the time spent contemplating the word results in mutual human-divine acts along the journey. Genuine relationships are always lived through mutual acts of communication and support.

That is meaning of verses 19 and 20.

However, the Psalmist is right to remember the consequences for erring from the commandments of God. Is it any different in secular society? Does breaking the law not result in suffering the penalty for doing so? Can mates violate their sacred vows of trust and loyalty without doing harm to their once mutual trust, love, and future life together? The end result is best defined as death. Death is the severance of morally bonded relationships. Can there be any worse curse than such a death? (v.21)

One reason for believing Psalm 119 was authored by King David is found in verses 22-24. Here again we read expressions of one who must have experienced injustices similar to those suffered by king David. Although anointed as king by the prophet Samuel, the same prophets who had also anointed Saul, David’s ascent to the throne was met with violent attempts to kill him. His rival was then King Saul, who had both ordered others to kill him as well as attempted it himself many times. After divine providence saw fit to end the evil reign of Saul, David was finally made king over Israel. Yet, his son, Absalom, was later to counsel with others about taking over the kingdom. Even David’s son attempted to kill the anointed one. There were leaders of other tribes and kingdoms who schemed against David as well. Yet, God’s chosen one overcame them all.

It is reasonable to conclude that these verses were part of very intensely felt prayer for help from God by David. For consider their content:

Take away reproach and contempt from me,
For I observe your testimonies.
Even though princes sit and talk against me,
Your servant meditates on your statutes.
Your testimonies are also my delight;
They are my counselors.
(Psalms 119:22-24)

Our Lord Jesus seconded David’s prayer when he proclaimed:

Blessed are you when people insult you and
Persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of
evil against you because of me. Rejoice and
be glad, for your reward in heaven is great;
for in the same way they persecuted the
prophets who were before you.

This is the last in a list of beatitudes and part of a summary of messages delivered by Jesus during his prophetic and redemptive ministry in ancient Israel. It is called a be-attitude for obvious reasons.

Because the Lord claims the sole right to vengeance for evils done against His people, we who are members of His kingdom must follow the righteous example David and Jesus. History has evidenced that both were victorious by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. (Micah 6:8). Whereas David was a victorious king in his time, Jesus remains victorious for all times. His victory is eternal because he perfectly and fully accomplished God will and redemptive plan without violating the moral law of God. Because the redemptive justice of God was fully satisfied through the sinless life, death and resurrection of Jesus, Jesus resign over God’s kingdom is the prize of the adventure and treacherous journey to the eternal city of God.

Unlike David, Jesus was killed but God raised him from death and made him Lord over all. God made Jesus a winner of the prize of a sinless life that accomplished redemptive justice for all humanity, or, should I say, for whomsoever will humbly accept the divine terms.

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