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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 119’


Psalm 119: God Carries My Burden

Friday, July 5, 2019

Psalm 119:25, 37, 40, 50, 93, 145, 154 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.  Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.  How I long for your precepts!  Preserve my life in your righteousness.  My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life.  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.  I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statutes.  Defend my life and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promises. 

This psalm is the longest in this longest of Books in the Bible.  It is an ‘alphabetical’ psalm in that the first 8 verses of each strophe begin with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and each verse (except for verse 122) contains one of the terms of the Law or Teachings or Statutes in which Jesus was raised.  This psalm, along with many others, and the Books of the Torah, Wisdom and Prophets, were Jesus’ school house.  The revelation handed down through the millennia to guide humankind still serves us today.  When we see the word life in this psalm, we understand it to refer to the concept of life in its fullest sense: happiness, security, and liberation from all that oppresses us.

God says: I know that sometimes you are so burdened you cannot think.  You have so much to do that there is no time.  You are so tired that you cannot sleep.  Yet . . . I abide with you still . . . even though you do not see me . . . even though you may not feel my presence . . . still, I am with you, as I am always with you . . . even until the end of time.  If all you can do is pray this verse today, that is enough: “I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statutes”.  I am answering you each time you call.  Listen, for I am near. 

All of God’s promises are renewed.  All of God’s promises are kept.  May you know the love and peace of Christ.

Explore the reflection on the God Time page of this blog: https://thenoontimes.com/god-time/


A re-post from June 21, 2012.

Image of detail from a mural by Diego Rivera from: http://domania.us/SwordSisters/Inspirations5/Burden.html

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Psalms 119:25-32: God’s Yardstick – The Law

God’s Love Letterwrite-famous-love-song-down-and-dedicate_tips-writing-love-letter

Monday, January 18, 2016

In these opening days of a new year, we have looked at women in scripture who see and use God’s yardstick in their lives. Over the next few days we explore how we find God’s yardstick in both Old and New Scripture.

We have spent a number of reflections with this psalm, the longest of the 150 songs of sorrow, praise, joy, petition and lament. Two winters ago we spent several weeks examining each of the poem’s stanzas that begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. As we concluded we decided that this psalm was an intense love letter from God to us. When we look at all the psalms, and this one in particular, we discover a yardstick that can only come from God, a yardstick that measures both the highs and lows of our days. A yardstick that offers forgiveness, healing, redemption and joy.

I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
    Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
On the days when we feel we can go no further, we must remember to take our woes to God.

When I told my story, you responded;
    train me well in your deep wisdom.
On the days when we find it difficult to gather strength, we remember to ask God for help.

Help me understand these things inside and out
     so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
On the days when we forget the wisdom God has shared with us, we remember to ask again.

My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;                                                                         build me up again by your Word.                                                                                         On the days when we see no way past the heavy obstacle before us, we remember to rest in God.

Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;                                                                                        grace me with your clear revelation.                                                                                  During the nights when doubts and fears return, we remember that with    God all things are possible.

I choose the true road to Somewhere,
    I post your road signs at every curve and corner.                                                           During the nights when we are restless and alone, we remember that Christ is constantly within.

I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
    God, don’t let me down!                                                                                                          During the nights when we are desperate for peace, we remember that the Spirit heals and comforts.

I’ll run the course you lay out for me
    if you’ll just show me how.                                                                                                     During the days and nights when we struggle with the world, we read and re-read God’s love letter to us, and remember that we are made by God for and with and in love alone.

Enter the words God’s Love Letter into the blog search bar for other reflections about Psalm 119. This ancient prayer from ancient scripture continues to serve us today as God’s yardstick. Tomorrow, we find God’s measure of love in the person of Jesus. 

 

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Saturday, February 7, 2015roots and branches

Malachi 4 (Malachi 3:19-24)

Roots and Branches

Destruction is a familiar theme in the Old Testament; restoration is a theme in the New.  We seem always to be looking for the phoenix life – one in which our past is obliterated when we rise from the ashes of our former selves.  In today’s Noontime the wicked will be like ashes under the feet of the righteous.  This place which Malachi describes does not appear to offer resurrection; evidently there are actions from which there is no turning back.  The New Testament Jesus calls all of us – even those who seem to be lost in total perdition.  In today’s reading we hear that neither root nor branch will survive the coming fire.  There will be no source of renewal and no bearing of fruit for some.  We might wonder who these wicked are . . . and why they deserve this end.

This prophecy was written after the restoration and re-dedication of the Temple by Ezra and Nehemiah.  Evidently the people had not learned much from their suffering in exile.  These people sound a good deal like us.   “Unlike such early prophecies as Amos and Hosea, the late prophetic book of Malachi is not simply the voice of the observant masses against a corrupt priesthood, though it readily indicts the priesthood for its failures.  It identifies itself with Levitical priestly circles and believes deeply in the temple, true worship, and the payment of tithes as means for obtaining the blessing of the land”.  (Mays 1428-1429)  Malachi saw the corruption and witnessed truth to the power structure.  Clearly, he was ignored.  The Temple fell to final ruin in the Roman-Jewish conflict around the year 70 C.E.  We might wonder how history would have resulted differently if the temple hierarchy had acted positively in response to this prophecy.  We might wonder if we are like the temple priests whom Malachi describes to us today.

tree_vision1Psalm 119, sometimes entitled The Glories of God’s Law, is a long one but we cannot let it discourage us from exploring its verses.  One weekend several years ago I used it for a self-imposed three-day retreat on my porch at home.  Every few hours I went to the corner settee to sit awhile and look at the beauty of nature before me, and then I read and reflected on a portion of this Psalm.  I interspersed this with yoga, reflective music, and reading Thomas Merton, Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, and Henri Nouwen.  By the end of the weekend, after immersing myself in God’s Law, I had come to better understand an obstacle in my path.  By the end of that weekend I had learned how to rise from ashes so that I might not be trampled underfoot.  By the end of the weekend I had learned again how to put down roots . . . and how to lift up branches in order to bear fruit out of suffering.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1428-1429. Print.

Adapted from a Favorite written on May 9, 2011.  

For more reflections on this prophecy, enter the word Malachi in the blog search bar and explore. 

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Joy and the Law


joyMonday, November 17, 2014

Nehemiah 8

Joy and the Law

We continue through the Old Testament looking for stories of joy that might surprise us. If today’s story calls you to search further, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is taken from the Book of Nehemiah.

The priest Ezra and the organizer Nehemiah bring the faithful back to Jerusalem to rebuild the, city, the temple and their relationship with Yahweh. The faithful find it in themselves to ask forgiveness, to ponder their recklessness and abandon. Yahweh receives the faithful with loving forgiveness. For Yahweh has been waiting with open arms all along their journey home.

We might find it difficult to understand what The Law really is, and last winter we spent a number of weeks reflecting with Psalm 119. In this series, we found a variety of ways in which we are called to perceive the concepts in the Mosaic Law and in the end we determined that this psalm – the longest Chapter in scripture – is actually an exchange of love letters between God the Creator and us, God’s creatures. This is what the stories in Nehemiah call us to today.

Nehemiah 8:9-10: And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 12:43: They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

What is this law that brings the faithful back to God?

images-joy-redAleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, He . . . the first five letters in the Hebrew alphabet and the opening stanzas of this prayer of the Law. These letters bring us the understanding that we are made in God’s image of mercy, forgiveness and love. This is God’s promise.

Waw, Azyin, Heth, Teth, Yodh . . . the second five letters bring home to us the idea of trusting God beyond all others and all else. We also come to understand that joy is always somewhere hidden in sorrow. This is our portion.

Kaph, Lamed, Mem Nun, Samekh . . . kindness, transformation, dedication, insight, promise. These are the gifts we receive when we contemplate God’s law. These are the gifts that often only come through strife and contention. God promises that despite our portion of suffering, there will always be great joy. This is our call.

Ayin, Pe, Sadhe, Qoph, Resh . . . discernment, serenity, freedom, discipleship, eternal life. Once we begin to live in God’s Way rather than our own, we understand how and why we are Children of God. We understand that we are most free when we give ourselves over to God. We understand that we must die to self before we experience eternal life. This is our rescue.

psalm-119-32Shin and Taw . . . the Law of Love arrives when the creator comes to walk among us as a man of flesh and bone. We are marked with the sign of Tau, claimed as God’s own. When we journey through and with God’s Law we begin to experience transformation. This is our redemption and our own resurrection from the life of the dead.

If we struggle to find how God’s Law brings more freedom and not less, we might spend time with this story. If we balk at the lesson that we must die in order to rise, we might spend time with this Psalm. Ezra and the Levites teach the people. Nehemiah organizes the work. Together these leaders and these people enact God’s Law. Together these leaders and these people find rejoicing in what had once been a great sorrow.

To investigate God’s Law in these stanzas, enter Psalm 119 in the blog search bar.

To learn more about Ezra and Nehemiah, spend time with the stories in these two books. Enter their names in the blog search bar and explore. Click on the images for other reflections. Or use the scripture link to compare different Bible versions of these verses. 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

rose[1]Sirach 39:13-16a

Opening Our Petals

Listen, my faithful children: open up your petals, like roses planted near running waters . . .

Much like plants that flower and bloom, each of us has our own needs for sun and shade, heat and coolness. Some of us struggle upward, reaching for the nurturing light, fending off the weeds that threaten to choke us out.  Some of us tussle with thistles or look for places to put down roots in the hardened ground of the well-traveled path. Others are blessed to find themselves in rich, well-plowed soil.  No matter our place or time, we rejoice when we live in days of abundant water, we wait in patience through days of dryness, and always we give thanks as we open our petals to God’s loving kindness.

Send up the sweet odor of incense, break forth in blossoms like the lily.  Send up the sweet odor of your hymn of praise; bless the Lord for all he has done.

In Psalm 119, God has sent us a loving letter of welcome, of initiation in Christ’s Law of Love, of consolation in the Spirit.  How do we respond to God’s offer of peace and kindness?

Proclaim the greatness of God’s name, loudly sing God’s praises, with music on the harp and all stringed instruments; sing out with joy as you proclaim: the works of God are all of them good.

As we move through our work and play over the next hours, let us compose a list of gifts for which we thank God. Let us put down strong roots into God’s word.  And let us open our petals to God’s light so that we might give praise and thanks for the good that comes to us each day.

Tomorrow, a prayer to give thanks for all of God’s works.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

sparks of fireWisdom 3:1-9

A Prayer for Fallen Sparks

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead . . . but they are in peace . . . They shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble . . . they shall judge nations and rule over peoples . . . and the Lord shall be their King forever . . . because grace and mercy and care are with God’s holy ones.

We have journeyed through Psalm 119, pausing to reflect and consider the insights and wisdom God reveals to us through the written word. We have come to understand that God is too great and too good to describe and therefore we dart about, looking for a time and place to ignite the smallest bit of kindling so that our small spark of life might not be extinguished.   As we move through the ending stanzas of this psalm, a certain simplicity and intelligence settles over us.  And so as we find new understanding, we pray.

Knowing that we are always in God’s hands although we may not feel God’s presence we pray: Providential God, speak to us in a way that we might hear you.

Knowing that God’s Word lives in and around us although we may not comprehend it, we pray: Consoling God, reveal yourself to us in a way that we might see you.

Knowing that God’s fidelity saves us although we may not believe it, we pray: Faithful God, abide with us in a way that we might sense you.

Knowing that God’s love redeems us although we may not trust it, we pray: Redemptive God, hold and rescue us in a way that we might feel you.

Knowing that God’s grace and mercy are present to and in us although we may not believe it, we pray: Gracious God, continue to wrap us in your kindness and beauty although we may not thank you.

Knowing that we are fallen sparks, little life forces that dart to and fro, seeking origin and end, looking for wisdom and security, we pray:  Loving God, although we may not believe that you sacrifice all in order to transform us, bring us insight and serenity so that we might rest eternally in you.  Amen.   

Tomorrow, we near the end of Psalm 119 . . . Shin.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

sparks of fireWisdom 3:1-9

Fallen Sparks

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before people, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever.  Those who trust in God shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and God’s care is with the elect.

As we near the end of Psalm 119 and drink in the message, we begin to understand the wisdom brought to us in sacred Scripture; we experience more fully God’s grace and mercy; and we begin to understand God’s deep and abiding love for even the smallest of the fallen sparks of life.

Ayin: God’s Providence – We are always in God’s hands although we may not feel it.

Pe: Communication, Revelation of God’s Word – God is constantly revealing the Word to us although we may not comprehend it.

Sadhe: Faith – God’s fidelity saves us although we may not believe it.

Qoph: Redemption of Fallen Sparks – God’s love redeems us although we may not trust it.

Resh: Clarity – God’s grace and mercy are present to us . . . although we may not see it.

Tomorrow, A Prayer for God’s grace and mercy . . . a Prayer for Fallen Sparks.

For an understanding of why this reading is often heard at funerals, go to: http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/funeral-lectionary-wisdom-31-9/

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