Wednesday of Pentecost 14 – Psalm 119:169-176

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
    give me understanding according to your word!
170 Let my plea come before you;
    deliver me according to your word.
171 My lips will pour forth praise,
    for you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue will sing of your word,
    for all your commandments are right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
    for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord,
    and your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live and praise you,
    and let your rules help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
    for I do not forget your commandments.

There is an old proverb about when it is everybody’s responsibility it is nobody’s responsibility. We can walk by a problem day after day and say to ourselves that someone should really do something about that without ever imagining that we are that someone. It works the other way too. I think we often hear that famous verse from Isaiah 53 and to which Paul seems to allude in Romans 3, “All we like sheep have gone astray…” But too often I believe we have made that into an excuse for our lack of any moral improvement. Everyone is doing it, we reason, so I am not so bad. In effect we have said it is everyone’s problem, so it is not really my problem.

That is why I think we need this last verse of Psalm 119. It is the longest chapter in the Bible and is a long and complicated poem which expresses the psalmist’s delight in the Torah of God. This is the last section of this psalm. This last verse does not allow us to generalize the problem, hiding in the massive sea of humanity. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep;” he sings. He begs the Lord to seek his servant for he has not forgotten the commandments. Those commandments remembered stand in both an accusation against him and a hope for what his life can be. “Let my soul live,” he pleads in the verse before this. He longs for the salvation of the LORD. Yet, he also delights in the Law of God. He wants to rules of God to help him. There is only one way that can happen. Those rules stand in a fierce accusation against him and us. There is only one way to change that. Christ our Lord must give us his obedience and take our sinfulness to Himself. The psalmist’s cry and our cries have come before the Lord. He has answered the groanings which are too deep for words which a broken creation has rendered to heaven. He has sent His only Son. The psalmists delight in the Law of God is genuine and true because Jesus has kept all those commandments and rules for us. He has given us that obedience.

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