Psalm 119

“I will run the way of your commandments,
for you have set my heart at liberty.”

“I will walk at liberty,
because I study your commandments.”

Ps 119:32, 45

I used to dread going through the book of Psalms whenever I took on a whole-Bible reading project.

Since beginning the Daily Office in December or so, with its seven-week cycle of the psalms, I have developed a greater appreciation for and familiarity with them. I especially like how 119, which is super long, is divided up so that you don’t have to try to absorb (slog through) the whole thing in one sitting.

Also, I used to find 119 puzzling because of its topic of delight in and devotion to and adoration of the law — in Christ weren’t we freed from the law, and how could trying to keep the law be a thing that would evoke devotion, gratitude, and desire?

But thanks to spiritual direction and disciplines and reading, coming into an understanding of discipleship as apprenticeship, becoming students of Christ, embracing his commands, embracing righteousness, patiently and unworriedly working to walk in that way — 119 makes a lot more sense.

Keeping the law doesn’t ultimately mean absolutely consistent obedience (although there is a sense in which every failing and every fault is sin) — it has more of a sense of embrace — of agreeing that the law is good, and desiring to walk more and more in its ways, and, leaning on Christ and taking up his yoke, learning to do so.

Fr. John says Eugene Peterson says (not sure where) that it is harder to be lost than we think. When we have an intention of overall embrace of righteousness, an intention of serious commitment to and trust in Jesus, including prayer, confession, sacraments — our daily sins are provided for. It is when we reject the whole idea, reject God absolutely, reject righteousness, resist every grace that comes our way, that we are in danger; and it is hard to be that resistant.

With this understanding of the life of faith, I get what the psalmist is saying in the quoted verses — embracing the law, righteousness, Rule, is a matter of freedom indeed.


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