Do you ever find yourself returning to a passage of scripture but not knowing why? I am stuck on Psalm 119. I want to look away, I promise. But God keeps turning my gaze back to this Psalm. So here I am, in the longest chapter of the Bible, almost dead center of The Book. I’m sure He can feel my squirming. Verse after verse about the word of God, the testimony of God, His precepts, judgments and decrees (eight different Hebrew words are used to refer to God’s Word in this Psalm) A few weeks ago I mentioned how precious His testimonies are and the very reference to His testimonies in this Psalm wrecks me! This week I’ve been struck by the phrase, “give me understanding,” which is repeated six times in Psalm 119. Have we not whispered this prayer as we read the day’s headlines? Haven’t we shaken our head and said this as we consider our friendships or perhaps even our marriages? What are these patterns in our life? What’s our purpose? Why do we struggle to walk out the Christian life in this world? Lord, give us understanding. Let’s dig deeper.
In Psalm 119:34 we read: “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” It makes sense that we can follow whole heartedly if we only understand. Clarity is curative, right? Lord I so want to understand to be whole toward You. C.S. Lewis said, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” Our hope, delight, and trust are in God. Our head knows this but sometimes our heart has to catch up!
“Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:73) Our identity and purpose flow out of this fact: God made us and fashioned us. Yes, how desperately we need understanding on this point today. WHO we are is designed; we are not an accident. God made us for His heart. At the most basic level, our identity is literally stamped on every cell in our body. But so much greater than that simple fact, God chose every unique aspect of our existence: our eye-print, lip-print, fingerprint all unique. Our laugh, our gait, our thoughts, family background and experiences are unique. Who doesn’t want greater understanding in the why behind their identity?
“I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.” Here in verse 104 the writer shifts from asking for understanding to stating an impact of clarity received. We hate the false, fake ways that lead us away from real life. When we see the truth, beauty, and goodness in God’s ways, we realize the short-comings of all other options.
In verse 125, the writer states: “I am Your servant; Give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies.” I’ve prayed this one. I’m all in, God. My answer is Yes to You. Help me understand what You are saying right now! I don’t want to be the person who reads story after story of Jesus feeding the 5000, the 4000, taking care of people and not understand He wants to take care of me! Give me understanding that I may know Your testimonies! Jesus healed every.single.person who came to Him. Give me understanding when I need healing Lord! We want His testimonies to be our story as well.
“The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding and I shall live.” (verse 144) I’ve questioned this one: are His ways right? It hasn’t always felt right but the older I get the more I see the rightness of God’s ways and the permanence of them. Give me understanding and I shall truly live.
“Let my cry come before You, O Lord; Give me understanding according to Your word.” (verse 169) Give me understanding clearly communicates I have no resources in myself. I’ve exhausted all of my means of problem solving and gathering insight. An understanding remains which can only be revealed. God is hiding things for us not from us! He is waiting on that prayer of Lord, give me understanding! Dear friends, may you dig into His Word this week and dance in God’s presence! May His understanding and revelation be the highlight of your week. I would love to hear what catches your heart in Psalm 119