I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
I recounted my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts;
then I will meditate on your wonders.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD ;
do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.
(Psalm 119:25-32, New International Version)
Be careful what you pray for. So far the psalmist has sought clarity, understanding, and wisdom from the Lord as he reads, meditates, and rejoices in the Law. God has answered that prayer and the result is not all bumper sticker prose and candy hearts. When we look into the Word of God and seek understanding from the Lord we often find both joy and conviction. It kind of reminds me of the Yoda quote, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Only in this case it would go something like, “Conviction leads to life. Conviction leads to change (repentance). Change leads to healing. Healing leads to life.”
So it is in this verse. Looking into the mirror of the word, our brother has found himself in the dust of repentance…prostrate, humbled, ready to be transformed by the Living Word. When we find ourselves eating dirt, we can react many ways. Sometimes we get defensive and have the demeanor of a junkyard dog. Sometimes we are arrogant and smug, pretending it tastes good and that “We like the taste of dust, and this is a nice vintage.” God can’t use us in those moments, those mindsets. But the psalmist has embraced the higher road, the road of humility. Humility can help us to see that even in moments of rebuke, God is at work for our joy. When we yield as clay to the masterful hands of the potter, we find that we are in reality not being hurt, but shaped — even freed — to meet a potential good we would never reach on our own. Thus, the psalmist calls from the dust of repentance to Jehovah for strength, wisdom and guidance because he knows that ultimately the trials of conviction and change are freedom. And who doesn’t yearn to be free?
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”
(John 1:22-25, New International Version)