The way of life in Psalm 119, He

The fifth section of Psalm 119, titled after the Hebrew letter, He (or Hei), emphasizes that God’s law is the only way of life.

The psalmist begins this section with a prayer and a promise:

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
   and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart (33-34, ESV).

As he asks God to enlighten him with the wisdom of his word, the psalmist also vows to keep God’s laws in two ways: faithfully to the end of his days and devotedly with his whole heart.

The motif of delight in God’s word continues in verse 35 (ESV):

Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.

Walking in the way of God’s word brings delight. It also provides guidance in setting priorities throughout life.

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
   and not to selfish gain!
 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
   and give me life in your ways (36-37, ESV).

Our sinful natures pursue the accumulation of money and material possessions, but by God’s enabling grace we can redirect our hearts to love God’s word and our eyes to view its beauty. Changing priorities resurrects our zombie walk of death into a vibrant way of life.

The next verse indicates that it is proper to ask God for confirmation of his promises (38, ESV):

Confirm to your servant your promise,
    that you may be feared.

This shouldn’t be understood to condone actions such as Gideon’s fleece presentations (Judges 6) in an effort to manipulate God. I believe it speaks more to the feeling of peace we receive when we remember and review the promises of God’s word. This internal confirmation, sometimes confirmed by external events, increases our awe and respect for God’s holiness and majesty.

The psalmist begs God to turn away dreaded reproach:

Turn away the reproach that I dread,
   for your rules are good (39, ESV).

As we’ve seen before in Psalm 119, the turning away of reproach or the removal of shame is always coupled with the goodness of God’s rules. The best way to avoid reproach or shame is to live according to God’s way of life.

This section concludes with the familiar longing that characterizes this entire Psalm (40, ESV):

Behold, I long for your precepts;
    in your righteousness give me life!

The way of life centers in loving and living God’s law. May each of us long for the Lord’s precepts as we discover his way of life!


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