The Fifth Sunday of Lent (Passiontide begins): Psalm 119.9-16
How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119 is probably best known for being the longest of the psalms, and is, therefore, a psalm a that is rarely read in its entirety.
This lack of engagement with Psalm 119 is sad because, in reality, it is a wonderfully intricate piece of writing in praise of God’s law.
Structurally it is an acrostic comprising twenty-two sections, each containing eight verses.
Each section is constructed around the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, thus providing an A-Z system for meditating on the joy of God’s law.
In the context of Psalm 119 ‘statutes’ (or ‘the law’) is an expression of God’s love and mercy for humanity.
God’s law is something that lights up the world, as well as bring order to the places and situations where otherwise there would be chaos.
God’s law, as poetic phrase, highlights the wonder of God’s creation, whilst also exalting the universality of divine justice.
Psalm 119 also brings the nature of the human conscience into focus as our thoughts and actions are measured against the yardstick of God’s law.
In this reading from Psalm 119 we are reminded of our very human tendency to go astray and to forget God’s word.
Psalm 119 fulfils an important role in the canon of wisdom literature by reminding us of the constant need to praise God and to examine our personal relationship with him.
As we journey towards the events of Holy Week, and as we continue to journey through the restrictions and uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic, it is easy for us to become distracted, to go astray from God’s law, and to forget the importance and relevance of God’s word in our lives.
But … this is, in fact, a perfect time to engage with the teachings of Psalm 119.
However strong the temptation to disengage our consciences and to wallow in self-pity we need to remember Jesus’ unerring faithfulness to God’s law and to join him in praising God, even as we carry our own crosses.
Let us pray that we may ever treasure God’s word in our hearts, declaring his ordinances with our lips, delighting in his decrees, meditating on his precepts, and fixing our eye on his ways.