The Garden of Psalm 119

Psalm 119.174-176
I long for your salvation, Lord,
    and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
    and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
    Seek your servant,
    for I have not forgotten your commands.

Reflection: The Garden of Psalm 119
By John Tillman

We finish Psalm 119 today and reflect on it with some words from Charles Spurgeon: 

“Those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought…The more you look into this mirror of a gracious heart the more you will see in it.”

Spurgeon is convinced that David wrote the Psalm and if not he, then some other writer who spent long years in its work and created it not over a short span, but through a lifetime of faithfulness.

“There is evident growth in the subject matter. The earlier verses are of such a character as to lend themselves to the hypothesis that the author was a young man, while many of the later passages could only have suggested themselves to age and wisdom.”

In the end, rather than rising in acclaim or celebration, the aged wisdom of the psalmist leads him to a humble and prostrate stance.

“The psalmist is approaching the end of the Psalm…he seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring. This nearness creates the most lowly view of himself, and leads him to close the Psalm upon his face in deepest self-humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep…It is a very sweet thing to a suppliant when he knows of a surety that his prayer has obtained audience. It is to Jehovah that this prayer is expressed with trembling earnestness…we crave audience of none else, for we have confidence in none beside.”

Meditating on Psalm 119 daily has been a common spiritual practice over the centuries and many have reported its wealth of spiritual benefit.

“This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed, a mass of Bibline, holy writ rewritten in holy emotions and actions. This Psalm, like the whole Scripture which it praises, is a pearl island, or, better still, a garden of sweet flowers.”

It is our hope in each cycle of our two-year-long tread through the garden of scripture to produce not pride, but humility. Not judgmental attitudes, but merciful gratitude. Not clamoring commands for others, but tender notes of correction in our own hearts.

*Quotations abridged from “A Treasury of David,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, and dear shall their blood be in his sight. — Psalm 72.12-14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 33-34 (Listen – 6:35)
Psalm 119:145-176 (Listen – 15:14) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Joshua 1 (Listen – 3:11), Psalm 120-122 (Listen – 2:12) 
Joshua 2 (Listen – 3:49), Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52) 

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about Quotations from the Desert
Connecting to God’s Word and relying on it for our sustenance, for our source of life, is a consistent theme of scripture and the purpose of spiritual disciplines.

Read more about Setting Aside the Scriptures
The reason that we cannot set aside the Scriptures that we don’t like, is that Scripture must be considered holistically. Each part is bound up with the others for a purpose.

His Love Leads to Peace :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 119.134-136
Redeem me from human oppression,
   that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine on your servant
   and teach me your decrees.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
   for your law is not obeyed.

Reflection: His Love Leads to Peace :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

We weep as the psalmist when God’s law is not obeyed.

We weep because God’s law is love. His commandment to ancient Israel was to show love even to the foreigner. His commandment to us, his disciples, is to love one another. His commandment to his church is to love without showing favoritism.

We weep to see his commandments ignored for his love leads to peace.

This prayer from Myanmar centers on the essential nature of spiritual worship that goes beyond a song service, beyond a sermon, and beyond the church walls. When we worship in Spirit and in Truth, the result will be a demonstration of love that leads to peace.

His Love leads to Peace
A prayer of intercession from Myanmar

Our Father in Heaven, may your name be glorified and be praised by all your people of the world.

Bless us in our worship to feel your presence,
To open our hearts and minds,
To be really in touch with you,
To worship you in spirit and in truth.

Preserve our soul and keep us from all evil.
Help us not to wander away from your presence.

May we experience your powerful love
So that we can share it with others.
Help us to share the blessing
Of knowing you with others
And be at peace with you
And with each other.

In Jesus’ Holy name we lift our voices of praise with thankfulness.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Turn to me and have mercy upon me; give your strength to your servant; and save the child of your handmaid. — Psalm 86.16

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 32 (Listen – 7:10)
Psalm 119:121-144 (Listen – 15:14) 

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about The Kiss of Righteousness and Peace
When love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other. But before that happens in today’s psalm, there is confession and justice, mercy and redemption.

Read more about Thankful Workers for Peace
You have placed everything in perfect order so that
we may live in peace and harmony with all that
you have created. You have provided sustenance for your children.

Light for the Next Step

Psalm 119.105
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

Reflection: Light for the Next Step
By John Tillman

I’ve found the promises of light bulb companies to be some of the most blatant marketing falsehoods I’ve ever experienced.

In the past nine years living in the same house, I’ve replaced multiple CFL bulbs that claimed they would last over 10 years. Then I replaced those with LEDs claiming to last 13. Recently, I’ve replaced those with, slightly more honest LED bulbs that only claim to last 9 years. The truth will come out—or burn out, in this case.

The ease with which we access artificial light in our modern world makes it difficult for us to understand the world in which this Psalm was written. A lamp for our feet seems redundant when every space is illuminated. We will feel cheated by this verse if we mistake the light it promises for a prophetic career map.

According to the psalmist, God’s word isn’t a spotlight for our ego-centric quest. It isn’t automobile high beams enabling us to speed through the dark toward the future. God’s word, most of the time, provides one-step-at-a-time light. A lamp for our feet forces us to engage with where we are, not look only at distant destinations.

Serving in India, Amy Carmichael wrote about her experience of learning about this popular verse in a very practical way.

“Once when I was climbing at night in the forest before there was a made path, I learned what the word meant, Psalm 119.105: ‘They word is a lantern to my path’. I had a lantern and had to hold it very low or I should certainly have slipped on those rough rocks. We don’t walk spiritually by electric light but by a hand lantern. And a lantern only shows the next step—not several ahead.

All the lights we trust in other than God’s Word, will one day fail.
The brightest lights we know and can design can’t show us what God’s Word can.
God’s Word is the light we need for everyday living.

Walking daily in this Word, meditating on it, breathing it in and out, making it a part of our thoughts and our prayers, charges an inner light of the Holy Spirit that we can trust to give us the next step. Carmichael explains:
 
“If the next step is clear, then the one thing to do is to take it. Don’t pledge your Lord or yourself about the steps beyond. You don’t see them yet.”

Daily spiritual disciplines keep oil in your lamp so that you may follow the steps of the bridegroom when he calls.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.
And so will we never turn away from you; give us life, that we may call upon your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.16-19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen – 4:57)
Psalm 119:97-120 (Listen – 15:14) 

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read More about The Good of Christ
Remember the parable of the foolish virgins: they were not harlots or profane, but “virgins.” They were not persecutors, blasphemers, or malicious, but “foolish”—supine, careless, negligent: they had lamps in their hands, but no oil in their hearts.

Read more about In the Wealth of a Dying World
The ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is the Light which shines in darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.

The Stretching Arm of Salvation :: A Guided Prayer

Psalm 119.81
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.

Reflection: The Stretching Arm of Salvation :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

The gospel is not a lifehack. Salvation is not a touch-up job on a fender bender. Sanctification is not akin to the marginal improvements available by the effort of will and self-determination. Jesus is not a self-help guru.

Self-help righteousness has been tried. It failed. Despite the fact that Moses tells the people that it, “is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach,” the rest of Israel’s history proved otherwise. Israel lived by sight yet could not avoid idolatry and judgment. We live by faith and our failures, in many ways, are more spectacularly evil than theirs. 

We cannot reach salvation. Salvation reaches for us—and His arm is not too short.

We pray, today, along with a section of Psalm 119, a prayer for those in need of salvation. It is a prayer for those suffering oppression, injustice, and persecution. We pray on behalf of those suffering worldwide, but we remember with special focus those inside our own borders who are suffering now the sting of unjust treatment and the careless disregard of the powerful. May God move on their behalf and may he do it through us. 

For Salvation
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.


Extend to us the stretching arm of salvation, promised in your holy word and fulfilled in The Word who became flesh for us.

My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
    I say, “When will you comfort me?”


We seek not the comforts of this world but those of the next, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
    I do not forget your decrees.


May suffering burn up our pride and vanity and fill us with your Word.

How long must your servant wait?
    When will you punish my persecutors?
The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
    contrary to your law.


Your law is abused, Lord. 
Twisted to harm rather than protect.
Used to excuse abuse rather than to empower love and mercy.

All your commands are trustworthy;
    help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
They almost wiped me from the earth,
    but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your unfailing love preserve my life,
    that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.


We can obey your commands with joy, for they are good.
Your love will not fail us.
Amen.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
…Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper and quieted the waves of the sea.
Then they were glad because of the calm, and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for. 
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children. — Psalm 107.28-31

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 30 (Listen – 3:12)
Psalm 119:73-96 (Listen – 15:14) 

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about Suffering and Sin
We feel less responsible for problems in the world when we can believe that only the lazy are poor.

Read more about Meaning In Suffering
God has come into the world himself and actually suffered with us. No other religion says that God is both a sovereign and a suffering God. — Tim Keller

God Shivering on Concrete

Psalm 119.50-53, 61, 64
My comfort in my suffering is this:
   Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
   but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
   and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
   who have forsaken your law…
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
   I will not forget your law…
The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
   teach me your decrees.

Only the suffering God can help. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reflection: God Shivering on Concrete
By John Tillman

There is great wickedness in the world. Yet, in such a world, the psalmist proclaims God’s love, the power of God’s laws, and the strength of his desire to know his God more deeply.

Even in a world in which a person may be bound with ropes, or separated from their family, or denied justice, or put into a cage, or killed for the convenience of others, or hung from a tree, or gunned down in a church… Even in such a world, the psalmist tells us, “God’s love is evident.”

Wickedness is evident. But God’s love is also evident.

It is evident in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden, the poor, and those purposely excluded from justice. It is evident in the disaster that our God promises to bring upon a nation that ignores its responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own. Our God sends help to the helpless, no matter the owner of the goods, the ship, the truck, or the organization.

God’s love is evident in God’s help, but more so in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer.

Our God lies on concrete floors under aluminum blankets with abandoned children. He bleeds on the floor of a sanctuary with victimized worshipers. His arms bear wounds of unjust captivity. He bears scars familiar to those who have been brutalized by government forces.

God’s love is, of course, most fully evident in what we call the gospel. The gospel puts wickedness to death in the way it deserves. Christ, through the cross, drags evil to Hell and abandons it there, setting free Hell’s captives. But merely chuffing about “the gospel” in the face of evil makes us into signposts on the road to Hell rather than gatekeepers in the house of our God.

One of the endlessly repeating themes of scripture and especially the Old Testament is that God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to foreigners and strangers.

Reach out in God’s love in any way that is available to you, whether through financial means or political. Even giving a cup of water in the name of Christ to the least of these will be remembered.

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen – 4:14)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14) 

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
Malachi testifies: “I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against those who…deprive the foreigners among you of justice,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Read more about In Denial about Injustice
The sins that brought God’s judgment and caused the exile of Israel were multi-faceted. But there is a common thread—injustice. Having a justice system is not the same as having justice.

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