Psalm 119:1-15 — A desire for holiness

We now hit the longest chapter in the Bible.  Needless to say, it’s also the longest psalm.  I toyed with the idea with just getting it all over with in one shot, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to do it justice without doing one overly long blog.  So in the end I decided to break it up as God gives me themes for doing so.

In taking the first two sections of this psalm, the one thing I see is a desire for holiness in the heart of the psalmist.  For this reason, I would not be surprised if it was a psalm of David, whom God called a man after his own heart.  (This psalm, however, is anonymous.)

After talking about the blessedness of those whose walk is blameless, the psalmist cries out,

Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!  Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.  (5-6)

In other words, “Why can’t I be holy?  So often, I’m put to shame because of my sin.  If only I could actually keep your commands.”

He then recommits himself to holiness, saying,

I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.  (8)

What are the keys to holiness?  That’s what the psalmist addresses next, singing,

How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  (9-11)

How can we be holy?  By living according to the word of God.  By hiding his word in our hearts, and meditating on it.  By making it our delight and not letting it gather dust on our bookshelf.

Do we delight in the word that makes us holy?  For that matter, do we delight in holiness?  Too often I don’t.  Instead of meditating and delighting in what’s holy, I meditate and delight on that which is not.  That’s what gets me into trouble.

And like Paul, I end up crying out,

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  (Romans 7:24)

That’s the end result of anyone who strives for holiness in their own strength.  What’s the solution?  Paul gives it in the next verse.

Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (25)

We can’t be holy through our own efforts.  It’s impossible.  Even the psalmist recognized this, pleading with God,

Do not let me stray from your commands. (Psalm 119:10)

In other words, “God I can’t do this!  Help me!”

It’s easy when reading this psalm to take a legalistic view of Christianity.  To think that we can live a holy life based on our own efforts.  But let us never forget we are saved by grace.  And that apart from God, we will never be holy.

But at the same time, let us never take the stance of, “Well, it’s impossible, so why even try?”

Instead, let us have a hunger and thirst for holiness.  For only when we do, will we see our utter and desperate need for God.  And when we see this, it opens the door to his grace in our lives.  Pride in our own righteousness is banished, and we find ourselves humbled by his grace and mercy in our lives.

The result?  A closer walk with him, as we learn to rely on him and not our own strength.  And as we do so, he will make us holy, changing us from the inside out.  That’s what sanctification is all about.  This process of being made holy.

How about you?  Are you hungry for God’s holiness in your life?


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
This entry was posted in Books of Poetry, Old Testament, Psalms and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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