Psalm 119:145-176   5 comments

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POST LII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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This is the last of five posts on Psalm 119 in this series.  The first is here.  The second is here.  The third is here.  The fourth is here.

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Let me live, that I may praise You;

may Your rules be my help.

–Psalm 119:175, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Interestingly, in verse 175 the psalmist does not pray,

may You be my help

or

You are my help.

No, the author of Psalm 119 emphasizes the rules, which he describes as worthy of learning (verse 7), delightful (verse 16), his intimate companions (verse 24), just and eternal (verse 160), et cetera.  Also, love of the torah replaces love of God in the psalm.  This use of torah is mystical; God’s words have saving power.  Yet the psalmist also seeks divine deliverance throughout the text, as in verse 176:

I have strayed like a  lost sheep;

search for Your servant,

for I have not neglected Your commandments.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

A note in The Jewish Study Bible suggests that I contrast 119:176 with Psalm 44:18:

All this has come upon us,

yet we have not forgotten You,

or been false to Your covenant.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Note, O reader, what the psalmists have not forgotten or neglected:  “You” (God), in the case of Psalm 44, and “Your commandments,” in the case of Psalm 119.

All of his is fascinating reading for me, an Episcopalian who grew up as a United Methodist.  The sentiment of Psalm 44:18 (“we have not forgotten You”) comes naturally to me.  However, the attachment to the rules in Psalm 119 does not.  Nevertheless, the legal emphasis of Psalm 119 makes sense in its postexilic setting, given the teaching that neglecting those commandments had led to two exiles and the lost of ten tribes.

As for the straying of the psalmist in 119:176, how has he strayed, if indeed he has not neglected divine commandments?  The text does not explain.  Somehow he finds himself lost, or more precise, perishing.  Those enemies to whom he has been referring remain.  The psalmist acknowledges that he and all faithful people find their deliverance via grace, not the keeping of the rules.

St. Paul the Apostle agreed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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