Wednesday of Lent V – Psalm 119:9-16

(Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm. Each verse within a section begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. All these verses begin with the equivalent of the letter B. Hebrew poets loved these little word plays and literary games. It is impossible to replicate in English and keep the meaning, so you will have to imagine it for yourself as you read it.)

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
    all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word.

He had come to college from across the country. There was a bit of a story there. It was good to put some distance between himself and his family and the world of his high school past. He was looking for a fresh start. But what would be the fresh start he found in college? There were so many voices which summoned him to obedience. As with all young people, the pleasures of life were the loudest voices. “Obey your desires,” they crooned. I was proud of him. He did not succumb to their temptations. The intellectuals saw in him a kindred spirit. He was smart. “Look at this wretched world,” they sneered. “You cannot still believe in God!” Their words seemed wise and true, but then he looked at the cross. Yes, the world was bleak, but God had entered this bleak world and saved it. What then was this young man to do? He fell in love with a young woman who also loved the Lord. He learned the hard lessons of relationships. He had to forgive and be forgiven at times. He had to grow in patience and humility.

This path was not easy. Growth and maturation are never easy. It would have been simpler sometimes just to walk away, to erect the barriers of indifference and contempt for the weaknesses of others. It would have been easier to deny and hide from his own problems. He read, however, in his Bible of another way, of a God who sought him out and loved him despite his sins. He read of a shepherd who cared and loved, a healer, a man who welcomed the outcast, and a God whose love would not be constrained by sin.

No one will write this young man’s life into a television series or some novel. It has no great falling into sin or scandalous betrayal to draw the audience in. This life is an adventure which the world simply cannot grasp. It is the adventure one who fixes his eyes on God’s ways, who delights in God’s commandments and statutes. That the world finds this life boring says a great deal about how perverse our world has become. Does it say something about you and me as well? The psalmist asks in the first verse of today’s reading “how can a young man keep his way pure?” Read the rest of this passage as an answer to that question.

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