Haven 90|60

I’ll be worshipping at Haven 90|60 in Milton Keynes this Saturday and leading a Workshop called Speak Out in Praise, helping believers learn how their passion for spoken word, rap and poetry can be put to the King’s service.

You can access my workshop handout here.

Psalm 119 137-144

Righteous are you, O Lord,

and your laws are right.

God’s correctness, goodness and justice inevitably overflow into his spoken instructions – laws – which come from God’s heart, just as our words come from our heart.  The difference is that our heart is changeable, so our words are passing, but God’s heart is faithful and unchanging, so his words are laws, permanent descriptions of what has been, is and will be.

The statutes you have laid down are righteous;

they are fully trustworthy.

All God’s past utterances are equally valuable – he does not delete – and we can reap their benefits at any time, any year, on into the future, without fearing them, knowing all of scripture is God-breathed and good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and making us holy.  The laws to the Jews are like fine wines, laid down and stored, but still so good to drink.  Some might strike us as old-fashioned – but consider how well they stand up, even though they were brewed for very different tastes, written by God to a people far away in time and in a very different culture.  Yet these laws are only the impressions of his own speaking self – his heart – that Jesus summed up in another way – the command to love God and our neighbour without holding back.

My zeal wears me out,

for my enemies ignore your words.

It is exhausting to be zealous, and rightly so, for it should be a drawing out of the depths of ourselves, like exhaustion, seeking with a whole heart, because there are no examples in the world of righteousness and no easy answers.  We cannot simply rest on our brothers’ and sisters’ abilities to find God’s way but must each go direct to God to seek him and his law for our lives.  How does your unchanging character, O God, impress commands into my life and my culture and my daily life?  I have seen how your law pushed into the Jews’ world – now how about mine, today?  Exhausting work!  Zeal is travelling, seeking, walking.

Your promises have been thoroughly tested,

and your servant loves them.

We have only good testimony of God.  His utterance is tried, refined, purified, his Word was refined through the desert, his promises have no weakness or flaw: they are coherent, complete, proportionate, lovely, strong, living and have every appeal to a servant, for they are what we need – not orders but promises, principles rather than simply instructions, so we are free to act for ourselves with full conviction of purpose.

Though I am lowly and despised,

I do not forget your precepts.

No!  It is exactly then, when we do not enjoy the world’s recognition, that we can be most sure of the goodness of God’s word to us.  We are each lowly, despised by the worldly for having these principles, but forgetting them would be the despicable thing.  We must remember through action – by continuing to enact.

Your righteousness is everlasting

and your law is true.

The eternity of God’s character and nature gives integrity to his speech: he alone can claim such a thing.

Trouble and distress have come upon me,

but your commands are my delight.

Oh joy and celebration in trouble and worry – let this be in my life, Lord, for your commands are designed for these times – whether it is difficulty from someone else or our own inconsistent confidence, we can feast on God’s word and his place in our life.

Your statutes are for ever right,

give me understanding that I may live.

They hold the key to eternal and abundant life, and oh, understanding of God’s ways is life indeed!  Being changed by them is really living – a life that will continue beyond the grave.  Ah, Lord God, I long to live with real understanding of your word in me, knowledge of your Son, intimately.

Josh Davidson 4

Dry thistles at Thames Barrier Point

Dry thistles at Thames Barrier Point

Part I

Now, Joshua didn’t stay there long. He followed the voice that told him to go out into the hills and woods of the country, and underwent a test of his own self. A time of self-seeking, some might call it, although this Joshua already knew who he was and what he was called to do. But every accusation that could come at him, as he walked and thought and prayed, attacked him with the voice of the devil. Because he wasn’t eating or drinking, the whole time, longer than a month, and if you’ve never been without food that long then you can’t say you know what hunger was. But he knew what hunger was – past the pangs of longing, into the feeling of bodily need, when your own body feels light because you have metabolised every scrap of fat between your sinews and under your skin. When the cushions of cartilage and fluid are empty and your nerves run directly over your bones.

“Hungry?” asked the Devil scornfully. “But you don’t even need to be hungry! You’re just indulging your need for drama – and needlessly. You’re going to survive – so why invite all this pain and starvation? Only a sadist does that. And are you a sadist?

“And anyway, didn’t we all hear it? If you are God’s son, you can turn any of these stones from the path into something good to eat – you can call a tree to fruit right in front of you. And I thought you liked that whole blossoming, fruiting, growing thing anyway? There’s no need for this stupid fast.”

But he knew why he was there. The hunger was the unavoidable companion of the degree of discipline and sacrifice he had chosen. The Devil was just trying to distract him from the real reason for his fast. “I know what it says,” replied Joshua to that needling voice. “Food doesn’t keep you going and breath doesn’t keep you breathing – it’s God’s promises that keep us alive.” He remembered the way his dad Joseph had said that – sometimes when he had been hungry and sometimes right before a feast. His dad had stuck to what he knew to be true.

But then it was as though Josh’s wanderings had brought him, suddenly, around a dry-stone wall and beneath overhanging trees to the pinnacle of the tallest tower in London, the city spread our below him, the trains rushing into and out of London Bridge station, vans delivering, riverboats accelerating away, and no-one looking up. And the Devil challenged him again.

“I don’t even know why you’re being careful with yourself. If you fall, you’re not going to die! If you were God’s son he’d send an angel to catch you, wouldn’t he? Like it says in that book you love – ‘His angels have orders to protect you, so they’ll carry you and you won’t even stub your toe.’ It’s a written promise, isn’t it? So just jump and leave all this stubborn walking.”

Joshua shook his head. “And it says ‘Don’t joke about with God’s promise.”

But then it was like Joshua had climbed even higher, so that in one view he could see all the countries of the worlds, their rulers and parliaments, all the wonderful diverse and developed kingdoms of men. And he heard the Devil say. “And where is God, anyway? Have you heard him, after all this time not eating or drinking? But you can hear me. Do what I say and you’ll have this – you know you will. You’re powerful enough to take it, if you let me direct you. If you choose me instead…”

“Don’t you dare,” said Joshua. “Don’t you dare even suggest it, you liar! I know what it says: ‘You belong to God – so don’t let anyone else take charge.’ I know what will happen if I choose you, you liar! Go away.”

And that was the last he heard of that needling voice. But I tell you what, he didn’t stub his toe on any stone as he came off the hills and back towards home. And whichever way he looked he saw figures guarding and guiding. And they even fed him with a food that he couldn’t quite recognise. And by the time he was back from his walk, he looked better and fitter than ever.

On the journey back he heard that John Waters had been arrested and was being held pending charges. He returned to his mum’s place and picked up a few things. And then he went down to Chesterfield, because it had always been said that when God would choose to change things, he’d start there. Perhaps because if God could change Chesterfield, he could change anywhere. So that was when Joshua Davidson started to tell people. “Change your life,” he’d say. Whether it was someone on the bus next to him or when he got on local radio or a visit to a school. “Change your life, because God’s reign is coming.”

Isaiah 32 14-20

The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city. deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,

These words of Isaiah are concluding a section in which he promises, in God’s name, that things are going to change! He directly addresses complacency, warning that the very things we can delight in are the most liable to changing – but the rhythm of these chapters has a pattern of renewal, not destruction.  We all need renewal at stages in our life of faith, particularly when we have become too attached to the ‘pleasant fields and fruitful vines’ or have begun to trust in ‘citadel and watchtower’ instead of in the person of God.  Things can change in an instant!

till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes like a fertile field and the fertile field seems like a forest.

Jesus’ ministry was the long pouring out of the Spirit of God.  Although he promised his disciples that the Helper would come ‘after’ him, he himself, ‘filled with God’s spirit’, had brought God near and their awakening faith – which is the gift only of God’s spirit – proved that they had begun to receive.  This also has the sense that times of renewal and over-turning will necessarily end in a pouring-out of God’s spirit upon us.

The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field.

Reading this today I saw the person of the Lord’s justice, Jesus, heading out into the desert to dwell there before his ministry and I heard a voice like is written so many times in the Gospel saying, ‘As it is written…’  I’m sure that as he went, consciously choosing to and unconsciously fulfilling all the prophecies made about him, Jesus would have had these words of Isaiah in his head. The desert is easy to recognise – where is the fertile field?  Well, Jesus loved to talk in the metaphors of a farmer.  He called himself a sower in a field.  Was he choosing to align his behaviour with an ancient prophecy?  That seems like inspired marketing to me.

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.

Every cycle of disruption and calming does have permanent effects in our character, in the same way that every storm that bends the branches of a tree leaves that tree stronger in places, barer in others.  I’m increasingly aware of ‘renewal’ cycles, which I think happen constantly at different scales in our lives.  At this time of year I love to attend the Renewal conference in South London, where I personally challenge myself to accept disruption of my habits of sung worship – and danced worship – to receive a lasting confidence and quietness.  I can attribute significant changes in my character and my way of life to going to Renewal like this in the last few years and I can’t wait to be there on January 30th.


My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.  Though hail flattens the forest and the city is levelled completely, how blessed will you be, sowing your seed by every stream and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

God does not want us to bind ourselves up in the ‘security’ of wealth, you see.  We are less able to sow, less able to care for our responsibilities – whether animals, the natural world, communities or individuals.  He will disrupt us.  We can accept that and grow to depend on him more or be left like those barren ruins.  I don’t think this a threat from the prophet – he is simply explaining a truth about the process of change.  His inspiration, his insight, as a gift from God, should prompt us to obedience and a keenness to live in reality, but with an insider’s knowledge of what is to come.  Roll on the new year!

Verses 121-128

I have done what is righteous and just;

do not leave me to my oppressors.

How can I, a man, claim to have acted righteously?  By God’s indwelling: he cannot leave me because he binds himself by his promise, like a husband to a wife, and we have a thousand proofs of his faithfulness.  I am now founded on him and his character.  So I can ask God not to leave me to my once-while, erstwhile oppressors – the temptations and habits of an unrighteous past.

Ensure your servant’s well-being;

let not the arrogant oppress me.

Well-being relates to our identity as servants of a good master.  It may not be a very English thing to pray, but God wills our well-being – that we should say ‘It is well, it is well with my soul’.  We are free of the oppression of the arrogance because the arrogant admit no higher authority – and they cannot assume authority over us as we now live in a much more direct, essential chain of command.

My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,

looking for your righteous promise.

It’s a full-time job.  I see your kingdom on Earth, Lord, your salvation for the people, until day fails and night falls.  Hence Simeon’s release when he could say ‘My eyes have seen your salvation’.

Deal with your servant according to your love

and teach me your decrees.

This may be a prayer but really it is only an echo of God’s promise: that he WILL deal with us in love, not wrath, and that he intends to teach us his way, his style and his intentions, that we would be made holy in him.  ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’  1 Thessalonians 5:23.  To do all the things of this Psalm we must embrace first the Father’s – the Master’s – love for us and let him change us. Then what a relief to be taught, not a struggle or a duty, since we know we are loved!  Much of the struggle in learning comes from not realising that the one teaching us cares for us – parent, teacher or God.

I am your servant; give me discernment

that I may understand your statutes.

The servant should resemble the master: God is wise and he wants us to be wise.  ‘No longer do I call you servants,’ John 15:15, because God by his spirit has given us the keys to his wealth, including this discernment or understanding.  We no longer have to obey in ignorance but can be changed to understand the principles of God with our heart.  I’ve read about ‘the role of a servant but the position of a son’, which seems like the fine sort of legal distinction Jesus laughed at, but maybe that’s how to reconcile these scriptures for now.

It is time for you to act, O Lord;

your law is being broken.

A bold plea – from the servant to the master – asking him to intervene wherever his law is broken – primarily within myself.  Whenever I note that God’s law of love is broken, in myself or otherwise, my first response should not be to fix it myself by to cry to the master ‘It is time for you to act’.  And that cry can be made with confidence because of the proof that he does and will act to save.

Because I love your commands more than gold,

more than pure gold,

This is what it means to be secure against sin and unrighteousness – to cultivate a deep love – a passion – for God’s word.  A desire so strong that the desire for gold looks like a passing fancy.

and because I consider all your precepts right,

I hate every wrong path.

Preference for one path, this path, however difficult, is based on considering God’s instruction preferable to every other possible choice.  Everything God has done has brought about life and freedom and all the good we see, so any path diverting me from considering or following this way is an evil distraction.

The Baby on the Bypass

There’s only one story to tell at this time of year. It’s the old, old story of a young couple on the road in a beat-up contractor’s van, driving to the place his family used to come from. They’re three months married and nine months pregnant and her folks don’t want to know. The van, one headlight dim, pulls over at service station where the A-road meets the bypass, but it’s well past midnight and the carpark of the Holiday Inn is rammed.
They park up on a loading bay and Joe goes in to see what comforts the last twenty in his wallet might get them. The tank is almost empty and they won’t be going any further tonight.
It’s the cold of a premature winter and the cold of another uncaring receptionist. Maybe it’s their rough appearance, maybe it’s Joe’s obvious poverty, but the woman behind the desk is not going to let them into the lounge, or the restaurant, or the lobby.
It’s while he’s in there, arguing behind the plate glass, that Moira realises the baby’s coming. What she first thought were shivers of cold have gripped her – and then a cramping pain around her that makes her gasp and water comes straight to her eyes. “Joe,” she calls, willing him to turn around and see her through the windscreen and come running back across the paving. But she knows he can’t see her. “Joe, the baby’s here… Joe…” she wails.
When he comes back she is gripping the seatbelt and making moans through clenched teeth. He realises straight away.
“Is she alright, mate?” There’s a man in overalls coming out of one of the units beside the Holiday Inn. A garage.
“She’s having a baby.”
“Bleeding ‘eck. Best get her inside.”
“They say there’s no room in there.” Joe’s panicking. He’s been the strong man for the last six months – but really he’s been dreading that it would end like this. He just needs someone to give him a helping hand.
“You’re right there’s no room. Seems like everyone’s on the road. I should have been home hours ago. She can come in here. I’ve got a waiting room – a little bed I use sometimes. Come on.”
They help Moira out of the van. She doesn’t acknowledge them at all, hobbles, supported by her husband and this stranger, looking at nothing, as they lay her down on the campbed the garageman has. He flicks the kettle on. “I knew there was a reason I stayed tonight,” he says to Joe. “Don’t worry – she’s going to be alright. You jus’ keep holding that hand. I’ll ring for an ambulance.”
But the phone doesn’t connect to start with and when he gets through, they don’t seem to care that a woman is having a baby. “Where’s she from?” asks a voice down the cold phone line. “What’s her trust?”
“I don’t know, do I?” says the garage man. A yell interrupts him. “I didn’t hear,” he says. “Look, send someone quick. She’s a first-timer and there’s no-one here but me and her partner.”
Joe is trying to do what he can. He can see the head of his son, red and striped with dark hair like a bald man’s across his pate, between Moira’s spread legs. There’d been a baby in the family just a few month’s before – Moira’s cousin – but who though to tell him what to do. He just hangs on to his wife’s hand while she shouts and heaves.
So it’s there. In the unheated waiting corner of the garage beside the compressed air tank and with the benison of a Vauxhall up on the lift that their son is born, and when he’s out – it’s mercifully brief bus desperate – the garageman offers a pair of metal-cutting shears to cut the cord and they wipe the little living thing down with paper towels and Moira, in her torn and soaked skirt, clutches him to her exhausted breast and cries with joy and relief.
The garage man doesn’t know what to do. It’s past three in the morning now and he and Joe have been wiping, bracing, holding the young woman as best as they could. He rings his wife, eventually wakes her up, gets her to say she’ll come to help, since a stranger has given birth in his garage.
She falls asleep for a moment, still holding the boy to her. Joe has fetched their blankets from the van, he bag with some clothes, and sits there, in the seats, looking at his wife, in awe of her, of the boy that has sprung out of nowhere and into life… He looks around with eyes drinking in the reality of the world and the garage man makes them both a cup of strong tea with UHT milk.
It’s not long after that they hear the rumble of engines and the shudder and hiss of lorry brakes. Disregard them, initially, but then a face looks around the side of the still open roll-shutters. It’s a guy with a badge that identifies him as a delivery driver, then another man, two more, five or six all trying to get in.
“What do you lot want?” asks the garage man.
The first one in seems to be their chosen leader. “Err,” he hesitates. “Have you had a baby?”
“How did you know that?” asks Joe. “What’s going on?”
“Long story mate,” replies the driver. “Where is he? Where is he?”
Joe doesn’t ask how this stranger knows that the baby is a boy. He doesn’t want to ask anything. Everything seems to be changing in front of his eyes, like he is watching his own life on film. “Over here,” he replies. He leads them to where his wife is now sitting on the campbed, leaning against the wall wrapped in the old van blanket with its oil stains and holes. The baby is in the crook of her arm – a tiny morsel of humanity – not even fully awake. “Moira”, says Joe. “They’ve come to see the baby… They knew. They knew about him. I told you this was meant to be.” He goes to sit with her, puts his arm around his family. “Everything is going to be just like it was promised. I’m sorry I was too slow…”
She shakes her head. “Doesn’t matter, Joe. He’s here now.”
The drivers are standing around in something like a semi-circle, watching, listening. Then, abruptly, one of them kneels down. And the others, drawn by something deep inside, follow.
“Your son,” says one, “Is going to be special. He is special, I mean. Look – I know it’s a funny thing to say. And everyone gets told their baby is going to be someone special. I mean, I’ve got two of my own – I know a bit how you feel, mate,” and he nods at Joe. “But I mean something else. Your baby is the… chosen one.” He looked around at the others for encouragement, dseperate to wring some meaning out of a cliche.
“We got told,” says another. “We got told that we would find a baby in a garage, wrapped in paper towels.”
“Who told you?” asks Moira.
“Angels,” says the first one, shaking his head. “Angels. I was driving, we were all driving…”
“I was pulled over in the layby up Ruggleford corner…” interrupts another.
“Yeah alright – we all saw them, didn’t we.” Nods.
“That’s right.”
“Angels. Had to be.”
“I thought it was some patrol at first,” said the one who’d been parked up. “Came up, tapped on the window, I rolled it down, then I looked at him… Like, shining. Like he had a light on the inside of his face. And he said…”
“Don’t worry,” interrupted another.
“Yeah – that’s what he said to me too.”
“Don’t worry – I’ve got something to tell you – it’s going to change the world…”
“Told us there’d be a garage – told us exactly where – and when we went inside we’d find this baby, wrapped in paper towels, with his mum and dad, and he’d be…”
At last one of them said it. “The saviour of the world.”
By now the garage man’s wife has arrived. She’s a woman with her own children, grandchildren, sees Moira like a friend of her own daughter, just a teenager, taken unawares, sees herself in her, takes her under her wing. The drivers stay, get out some food, even something to drink, continue to tell each other the story, the music they heard, wonder about this baby – this air-gulping, barely alive frail-fisted little child. Is he going to grow up to do something? To change the world like those angels said? Who are his parents, anyway? Why are they here? Joseph tries his best to be in charge, but the garage man sits him down, gives him a drink of something strong from a paper cup, and when he wakes up the lorry drivers have gone and someone has filled the van’s tank with petrol.

Verses 113-120

I hate double-minded men,
But I love your law.

How can we have anything but the strongest antithetical reaction to men – and that part of all men – when they are changeable, deathly, deceitful, unintentional, when we profess to love a living word that is secure, alive, honest, purposeful and good?

You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.

God is a cave – an overhanging tree – a windbreak – a stormwall – a dam, a cordon, a barrier.  My belief for the good in tomorrow resides entirely within his word, nestled inside it.  You have to unfold the flaps of God;s voice and there, beautifully hidden, you see your hope – your own belief.  Find it!

Away from me, you evildoers,
That I may keep the commands of God!

Harsh words – but the price is great.  You cannot save a drowning man unless you are secure in the boat.  Distance is important – it brings clarity and freedom of sight – and allows me to keep God’s commands – not simply begin them.

Sustain me according to your promise, and I shall live;
Do not let my hopes be dashed.

This strength to see things through to the end is to be found in God’s promise to us.  Life is when something is being continued, sustained, not otherwise.  Your hopes – all of them – are secure in that single word – undashable.

Uphold me, and I shall be delivered;
I shall always have regard for your decrees.

Keeping God’s law is prominent, upheld like an offering in the sight of the people – but for delivery – and this is eternal life – satisfaction in his word!

You reject all who stray from your decrees,
For their deceitfulness is in vain.

Shortcuts are a waste of time – self-defeating.  Attempts to trick God are folly.  Those who stray are choosing a path that will be harder and less profitable.

All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
Therefore I love your statutes,

Here, there is some fear – not to be discarded – but you can see the poet’s value on his relationship with God.  I do not want to be unnecessary to the purpose, for wickedness makes us unusable – cannot be forged into good tools.

My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.

For his word is like a furnace – burning, changing, melting – on a vast scale.  More terrifyingly hot that a furnace crucible – than all the molten metal in the world – the process is on such a scale and is so effective.  This is what the word of God does – refine!

So we might learn distaste for the company of evil, but God effects our separation.  This verse of the Psalm is a window into his process in our hearts, convincing us through shows of strength and mercy.  The mercy is in his sustenance – we can only keep his laws because he hears our prayers and does his will.

Verses 105-112

Your word is a lamp to my feet

And a light for my path.

God’s Word is both the path and the light to see the path – the way, the truth and the light, in fact.  Light for planting our feet – ie for making decisions – not that he controls where we tread but that he gives light to us to choose where to tread.  Light like this is strong, but silent.  We’re not meant to walk in the dark – the Word should be showing us the way clearly.

I have taken an oath and confirmed it,

That I will follow your righteous laws.

Double charge!  How do we confirm our promises to God – do we back them up with sacrifice or gift?  A vow to follow this new path – the long path!  Baptism is such a time of dedication and vow and confirmation.

I have suffered much,

Preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.

Some pains – like blisters – are simply the result of walking so far for so long.  Then there are attacks from enemies, but God’s promise is to defend and protect his pilgrims.

Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,

And teach me your laws.

Teach me as I praise – after I praise – and only willing praise counts!

Though I constantly take my life in my hands,

I will not forget your law.

I will not focus on my own preservation or the threat to me.  I will have to willingly forget myself so that I can concentrate on the truth of your word – and I would have to willingly forget you, God, to think of myself after this praise.

The wicked have set a snare for me,

But I have not strayed from your statutes.

They have – they will have.  It’s certain.  But it doesn’t just affect me.  Everyone set on this path has these challenges.

Your statutes are my heritage for ever;

They are the joy of my heart.

Praise Him!  What an heirloom to receive from previous generations.  No wonder I am glad.  All of the people of my house – all the pleasure within me is because of your law.  Gladness and deep satisfaction has only ever come to me through your good law of forgiveness, freedom, righteousness and truth.

My heart is set on keeping your decrees

To the very end.

My heart is now set.  My decisions are made, my bag packed, emotions decided, will submitted, spirit conquered.  To the very end I will walk after you, O Lord, because of joy – the joy of inheriting your word!

Verses 97-104

Oh, how I love your law!

I meditate on it all day long.

Certainly scripture is meaning more to me – but so is his word by the Spirit.  This Psalm has been constantly in my head this weekend – the words and their lessons.  A good way to be.  Oh that my ways were steadfast – that I thought on God’s word through my working day! [I wrote this in April 2014.  It’s far too easy to condemn ourselves for ‘not reading Scripture enough’.  That feeling alone is a symptom of something disconnected in our Spirits.  I think it is and always will be a struggle to tear our minds off earthly things and truly concentrate on the Word, and because we remember the effects of studying it much more than the joy of studying and learning the word, we stop ourselves from falling in love with Scripture.  So – one of our collective priorities must be to talk about God’s word with excitement and love – the same way we gush to one another when we fall in love!]

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,

For they are ever with me.

Able to see further, in time and space, and able to judge what is important – not just of people, but I can out-do and out-think temptation when God’s command is close to me.

I have more insight than all my teachers,

For I meditate on your statutes.

Insight – knowledge of God’s will and way arising from the spirit within each of us.  It develops with the dwelling – ruminating – Eugene Petersen would say ‘gnawing’.

I have more understanding than the elders,

For I obey your precepts.

Understanding in the mind, born of experience, develops particularly as a result of obedient experience.  This is God’s intention in giving us his commands – that we would understand him.

I have kept my feet from every evil path

So that I might obey your word.

Here is another direct walking parable.  There are paths that are evil to our intention and purpose, like Christian’s path in the Pilgrim’s Progress.  Because we long to follow God’s purpose at the great scale – to finish the race and complete the walk – we must be singleminded and turn down other distractions.  Even if not immoral, they can be evil to us if they lead us off the path.

I have not departed from our laws,

For you yourself have taught me.

So at no time have I been able to escape the effect of God’s law and his justice, since he himself has been actively engaged in my education.

How sweet are your words to my taste,

Sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Yet we have to chew to get the sweetness!  Looking at food, we never really remember how good it tastes.  God’s word is sweet remaining in our mouths, too.

I get understanding from your precepts;

Therefore I hate every wrong path.

The strength of my reaction to the paths and ways around me, splitting off from my route, is a result of my mind’s new openness to God’s word and my dwelling in his teaching.  If I continue to learn by making myself available to God, my mind will be even better able to warn me from bad paths, and more able to actually decide against them.  To have a pliable will and insight to see – that is freedom to walk wherever you want!

Verses 73-80

Your hands made me and formed me;

Give me understanding to learn your commands.

From the same hands come creation and training, both acts of love.  Initially we are made – and well-made – but spiritually unformed – and then formed by the growth of understanding as we learn to obey God and follow his law.  His chosen method of explaining – his Spirit – is required to learn about his laws.  That is unavoidable.  To know of his commands is only the beginning, since we are designed to relate to them and to relate to him through them.

May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,

For I have put my hope in your word.

A ruler or king can be trusted when he hopes in God, which is enacted when he looks for goodness in God’s utterance.  People around don’t simply receive pleasure but joy!

I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous

And in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

We can have factual knowledge and know, without any experience, that God is good, but to be faithful to his promise to teach us, God will judge us in the law – and then in the new law.  He couldn’t leave us thinking we knew him and his ways when we had never been tested or had opportunity to depend on him.  So Jesus prays in the garden “Your faithfulness to your own plan requires this suffering.”

Let your compassion come to me that I may live

For your law is my delight.

Without his compassion, I would surely die, but I seek your compassion because I love your law – because I love your living word.  I know what your compassion is like and look for it where it is likely to be found.

May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;

But I will meditate on your precepts.

The causeless actions of the arrogant bring more actions – caused ones and reasoned ones.  So God repays chaos with order, deceit with truth, evil with good.  But meditation is not a reaction to the arrogant.  It is separate, quiet, peaceful.  Arrogant actions are slander, treating people unjustly and describing them inaccurately.  Meditating on God’s precepts stops this in us.

May those who fear you turn to me,

Those who understand your statutes.

Everyone who really knows God’s way of business will be drawn to holy kings, good leaders and true servants of the Gospel.  Our fear of God allows us to relate to people who have ordered their life that way.

May my heart be blameless towards your decrees

That I might not be put to shame.

How?  My heart must be revived and renewed.  I must have learnt your word – not simply know it or know about it, but I must have been taught by it, changed by it.  I must be living a new life – I must be redeemed and sealed by the Holy Spirit – for that is the blamelessness promised to us, free of condemnation and living within the law.