Do good to your servant,
and I will live.
The agency and the initiative in our relationship with God all belongs to him. All life is dependent upon God doing good to us. To live in reality is to obey God. His continued decision to support us, to remain true to his promises, to continue sustaining the created world, lays down the physical and spiritual laws of the universe. We all obey these words whether we acknowledge it or not! His goodness in doing this causes us to live – but to live a deep and real life – a living life, not a death-in-life, we choose to acknowledge his truth: that he does good to his servant and this itself is the best life we can enjoy.
Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law!
Again, this is dependent upon God’s action – he must open our eyes before we see with understanding. The wonderful things are already there in God’s law – he does not put them there new for us, or create fancy ideas for our benefit! Can you imagine how Jesus must have prayed this scripture? How hungry he was to receive his Father’s wonderful revelation when reading and studying scripture? This is the attitude we should have!
I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
Like walker, travelling through a strange part of the country, remaining on one path, we can feel this at times. Certainly Jesus must have. To feel separate from the ways of other people, looking for direction when we speak a different language to so many of the inhabitants! Nor are we owners in our own land – even as stewards the world can be so strange to us. We are not in possession of the earth but visitors, here and then gone, requiring direction and help. What better help than God’s commands and his revelation of their purposes, meanings and effects?
My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
We may feel this in our body or even our mind or even our emotions – but know this: once we have decided to follow Jesus, a longing for God will possess your soul and nothing else will ever satisfy you in your spirit! This hunger to know God’s ‘laws’ is exactly what the psalmist is struggling to understand as he worships and expresses himself. The different phrases he uses – law, precept, word, command, decree, statues – are his attempts to lasso whatever it is that God speaks that we long for so much – his activity in our lives, whether we read it in scripture, see it in Jesus’ example, notice it in the world, hear it from a brother or sister, whether it is his instruction, his warning, his promise, his description, his comfort, his chiding, his correction or his blessing.
You rebuke the arrogant,
who are cursed and stray from your commands.
Yes, this is the nature of God’s character: he himself, in his gentleness and his merciful exercise of his power, is a rebuke to anyone and any part of ourselves characterised by arrogance: he alone acts with propriety and an appropriate sense of self-importance! To stray from his commands – well, that is a curse upon oneself! To be disobedient is to invite all manner of suffering. So the curse and the rebuke of the arrogant is that they cannot remain in obedience to God.
Remove from me scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
We do not have to move from where God has set us – rather, the scorn and contempt of the world is removed from us. Once again, this is God’s action rather than our own. Also the inner scorn and self-criticism will be removed if we confess to ourselves that our will is made subject to God. If, as we say this, we feel our conscience convict us, then we act upon it until we can speak with a clear conscience. What a gift the conscience is, to keep us in purity and joy.
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
So this meditation now, reading these words of God and allowing them to renew you mind and to soften your heart, this is the appropriate reaction and the right response to pressure from the slanderous authorities of the world. When things get tough and people look badly at you, consider the things that God has said and done and what it means for you.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counsellors.
We can go to God’s Word for advice, since it is much older and wiser than us, also fresher and more alive. Good advice comes from the law, and the law lives in Jesus and Jesus dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. Was ever a King or Director privileged to have such good advice as we are given, from the very voice of God? Hallelujah indeed!