Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous rules.
Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for your salvation, O LORD,
and I do your commandments.
My soul keeps your testimonies;
I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts and testimonies,
for all my ways are before you.
~ Psalm 119:161-168 English Standard Version
It’s funny. I know a lot of people find the Psalms to be the most relatable of all sections of Scripture. I suppose for me, that depends on the Psalm. As I’ve gone through this exercise of blogging through Psalm 119, there have been sections and passages that jump off the page and hit me square between the eyes, others that have been more a stretch. This passages at first glance is the latter, but the more I dig, the more it resembles the former.
I probably need to flesh that out a bit. You see, I’m sitting right now in a nice, warm Starbucks, I’m enjoying a very good espresso (Americano), and a few moments ago I pulled out my laptop and my Bible. No one arrested me. No one yelled at me. No has yet to even “harrumph!” or sigh. Nothing. And I’m nowhere near the Bible Belt, it’s a blue state. But…nothing. The psalmist hasn’t had it nearly so well, and that’s why it’s a bit difficult at times to relate. No one is persecuting me. They could not care less.
Now, I’m not complaining. I tend to see the periods of peace as a blessing, as an answer to the prayers Paul has urged us to offer up in his first letter to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” I really believe that God wants us to know times of peace and quiet, and I thank God for them. Of course, for every good and perfect gift that comes down from above, the devil has a plan of disruption. In times of peace, sometimes I think that disruption comes in the sly package of complacency, which on the surface can look like peace or contentment, but in fact lacks the character and spirituality of either.
The psalmist, we’ve seen throughout this poem, has been undergoing great pressure and persecution–false accusations, gossip, ridicule, harassment, etc.–and all this has caused him to sharply refocus his attention and priorities back on being faithful to God. When faced with uncertainty and crashing waves, he looked for a solid rock to which he could cling, and he found God to be that Rock. This much, I can relate to, and I’ve also found that God has pulled me through each of those circumstances and I’ve found peace and blessing on the other side. However, the psalmist endures still more…he even has princes–“powerful people” says the New Living Translation–hounding at him. This I know nothing of. Rulers on the world stage couldn’t care less about puny ol’ me.
I am blessed to live in a nation that, though less hospitable to faith than in the past, is still one of the most peaceable countries in which a Christian can live. I don’t walk around with a “persecution complex” as some seem to do every time someone looks at them funny; I know we’ve got it good, and somehow I think that’s a part of our problem.
In seeking shelter, comfort, strength and protection, the psalmist finds that God is a source–no, the source– of all peace and righteousness. He found this because he had to look. I’ll say it again. He found this because he had to look. He found the treasure of God’s word and the wisdom and strength of character he needed because he was desperate enough to dig in the first place. Are we desperate enough in a land of Bibles for $2.99, Oprahic platitudes, and “seeker-sensitive” assemblies? Looking at stats for broken homes, divorces, lost jobs, lost homes, disasters, etc…we should be, but are we? Are we even paying attention, or are we too at ease to be bothered? I mean, even as families decay and terrorists plot, we’re still going to malls, movies, and McDonald’s as though everything’s fine. We are not digging for deliverance. We are convinced we’re already OK. We think Clapton on an iPod and a Vanilla Chai Latte (yuck) will be all the peace we need in a day. And we’re wrong…disastrously wrong.
A theme repeated in the Scriptures is that things start going so well we stop digging, we lose our way. It happened to Israel (remember when they lost the Law of Moses in a box in the corner for years?). It happened to the folks who returned from Babylon to rebuild the Temple (see Haggai). It’s happened at some time or another to all of us, individually, as churches, as a nation, as humanity.
Yet, the treasure, buried, is still there. It’s waiting to be found. It’s waiting to bless.
Are you digging?
“…know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.”
(I Chronicles 28:9, ESV)
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”
(II Chronicles 16:9, ESV)
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
(Matthew 13:44, ESV)