The melting soul of Psalm 119, Daleth

“My soul melts away for sorrow,” writes the Psalmist, “strengthen me according to your word!”

One of the things I love about the psalms is their vivid language describing a wide range of human emotions. Even Psalm 119, known as the longest chapter in the Bible and as a praise song about God’s law, reflects the depth of human emotion.

Verse 25 (ESV) begins this fourth section, titled after the fourth Hebrew letter, “Daleth,” with a heartfelt plea:

My soul clings to the dust;
    give me life according to your word!

What a word picture! God created man from the dust of the earth and this psalmist feels as if he is about to disintegrate into dust. He is so bowed down with despair or disease that his essential being clings to the dust.

In the hopelessness of this deep distress, the psalmist begs God for life according to his word. He acknowledges God as the giver of life who promises life and blessing to believers in his written word.

This is not the first time the psalmist has come before the Lord: 

When I told of my ways, you answered me;
    teach me your statutes!
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
   and I will meditate on your wondrous works
(26-27, ESV).

The psalmist has already conveyed his problems and confessed his sins. He has seen God’s answers in his life. Because he wants to live to serve the Lord, he begs God to continue teaching him his laws. He longs to understand God’s word and promises to meditate on his wondrous works.

But he cannot do this in his own strength (28, ESV):

My soul melts away for sorrow;
   strengthen me according to your word!

His entire being is so consumed with distress that he feels his soul melting away like a sliver of ice in the hot sun. He seeks strength from God, again drawing on the promises and provision of God’s word.

The psalmist recognizes the antidote to deceitful living (29, ESV):

Put false ways far from me
   and graciously teach me your law!

As God graciously opens our minds to his law, falsehood and deceit move away from our hearts. We are able to chose righteous actions (30-32, ESV):

I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
   I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
    let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments
   when you enlarge my heart!

When we focus on God and his word, we are able to walk faithfully. Instead of clinging to the dust, we cling to God’s word. The believer who embraces honest living instead of deceit will not be ashamed.

When God’s Spirit expands the shriveled heart, the person cowering in the dust stands, walks, and breaks into an all-out run. Run in the way of God’s commandments!

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