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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Not just a life preserver!


Affirm your promises to me—promises made to all who fear you. Deflect the harsh words of my critics—but what you say is always so good.  See how hungry I am for your counsel;preserve my life through your righteous ways!
(Psalm 119:38-40 The Message)

 Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you.
 Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good.
 I long to obey your commandments!  Renew my life with your goodness.
(Psalm 119:38-40 The New Living Translation)

Sometimes we need to see things written a little differently to help us understand the purpose of what is being written.  From our passage today, let's look at a few similar words that have some very unique meaning:

Affirm and Reassure - Affirm carries the meaning of remaining true to that which has been promised.  It is the idea of confirming or ratifying an agreement.  David is asking God to give him confirmation that his promises will remain true for all time.  Reassure carries the idea of being encouraged again by those promises.  When one is reassured, there is a confidence that what has been promised will indeed come to pass.  Our psalmist is pointing us to the promises God makes - not the ones we make to God.  At best, our own promises are marginal - we seem to vary our commitment to them with the changing of circumstances in our lives.  The tougher things are, the more we draw into God.  The converse is true - the better things seem to be going, the less intent we may be at honoring those promises we made in the tougher times.  Isn't it reassuring that we don't have a God that is "situational" in his promise keeping.  He makes them to all who fear him - he fulfills them to all who fear him!

Deflect and Abandon - Deflect has the meaning of turning aside from something that seems to be coming straight at you so that it misses you totally.  It seems that the psalmist is asking God to "turn aside" those attacks that come his way because of his commitment to stand for God's truth.  Abandon carries the idea of giving up completely so as not to take it up again.  With this word, David appears to be asking God to ensure that his attackers abandon (give up) their course of attack against him.  We will always have critics in life - it is human nature to criticize what we don't understand!  We have a unique opportunity to allow God to act as our shield against those attacks of doubt, criticisms of faith, and accusations of guilt.  In so doing, we allow God to protect us from the things that could easily get us off course with him.  Look again at that word "abandon" - David is asking God to HELP him to abandon his shameful ways.  He doesn't want to keep doing the same shameful things - these only serve to weigh him down with guilt.  I think we'd do well to follow David's example - asking God for his HELP in abandoning (laying down so as not to pick it up again) those things that we struggle with.

Hungry and Long - Hungry carries the idea of a compelling need.  There is something David is trying to describe here as a compelling need to no longer rely upon his own wisdom, but to lean into God so he receives only God's counsel.  In so doing, he is counting on God's assistance to help him walk in obedience to that revealed counsel.  Long carries the meaning of a persistent desire - it is not easily satisfied.  When we have that kind of persistent desire, we usually do everything we can to see it is fulfilled!  There are all kinds of hunger, but David counts on God to help him sort out the good hunger from the hunger that just isn't going to result in good things for our lives.  He yearns to be obedient and he lays that yearning at God's feet.  In so doing, he is asking God to help him with that compelling need - a need he is incapable of meeting in his natural man.

Preserve and Renew - If an object is preserved, some would say that it is kept alive.  In the case of brain death, the brain can no longer sustain the life of the body without the assistance of machines.  In these cases, the patient may be an organ donor.  If that is the case, every attempt is made to "keep alive" the organs of the donor via the machines until they can be harvested and given to the intended recipient.  Preserve means to "keep up" - not allowing something to fall into disrepair.  David knows that his life is bound to fall apart if God is not actively engaged in preserving him from his own "hell-bent" course.  Renew has a totally different meaning, but adds significance to what David is conveying.  It means to "begin again" - as in taking up something again that might have been laid down for a while.  It is the idea of resuming something.  It has the additional meaning of being replenished.  The psalmist is asking God to replenish his commitments to walk in is ways and his ways alone.  

David was assured of one thing:  God listens when we lay our needs out before him.  If we are struggling, he stands ready to step in.  If we are shamed by our missteps, he comes along to set us on course again.  If there is pressure to conform to standards not always the best for us, he outlines the best again so we are clear on what they are.  If we just need to begin again, he is the God of new beginnings (no matter how many times we have to begin!).  God's commitment to those that fear him is that we will not fall into a state of disrepair!  Thank him for his continued care - even when we aren't crying out for his help, he is still there!