Life of the Word of God: Psalm 119 (5)

The fifth stanza of Psalm 119 has something to teach us, I think, about our dependence on God for knowledge of his word.

Teach me, Lord, the way of your statutes
And I will observe them to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may observe your law,
And keep it wholeheartedly.
Make me track in the path of your commandments,
Because it is my delight.
Stretch my heart to your teachings,
And not to unjust gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at worthlessness;
Give me life in your way!
Raise up to your servant your word,
Which brings the fear of you.
Remove from me my disgrace, which I dread;
Because your judgments are good.
Look, I long for your precepts;
Give me life in your righteousness!

This stanza is full of urgent requests for God’s help: “teach me”, “give me”, “make me”, “stretch”, “raise up”. The writer, of course, had the Scriptures at hand; and yet he is anything but cocky about his capacity to read, to understand, to hear the Word of God. He cannot take for granted that he will hear God speak. God’s Word is there, he knows that full well — “your judgments are good!” But will he hear God speak? Will he be able to understand? Will he listen? Will it change his heart? These things he cannot assume. And so he prays, he begs, he asks for God to be gracious to him and grant him the life of the Word of God. Are we this concerned to hear? Are we this anxious to not miss out on it? Are we a bit too confident of our possession of and capacity to understand the speech of God. It is there; but will we hear it?

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