“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word. Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end” (Psalm 119:105–112).
Reading through these verses I am struck by its intimacy. This writer isn’t cowering in a corner apologetically. He is open and honest before God. Throughout the stanzas in this Psalm we’ve seen the pain and persecution he has faced. This is the heart-song of a man who has turned to face God with confidence in the middle of a nightmare crisis. He doesn’t give in to self-pity. He doesn’t get angry at God, and he doesn’t fall into the deep abyss of anxiety and depression. He trusts. He lays his heart bare to Almighty God, and, in the kind of joy that can only come out of sincere faith, he says “Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth.”
I am gutted by this response. When I face seemingly impossible circumstances, when illness tragically takes friends and loved ones, when I am surrounded by a million questions and no answers in sight, when I feel the pain of rejection and disappointment, my first response is not praise.
“Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.” The writer’s response to trials in his life: I will turn to God. I will set my mind on Him. Verse 105 could be the theme of the entire psalm: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Over and over again, the writer reminds himself and his audience: I will follow God’s righteous laws—whatever my circumstances, whatever my feelings, whatever others say or do.
It would be very easy to read these verses and see a Pharisee, a person dependent on following the letter of the Law for the sake of following the Law. Yet that kind of surface relationship with God does not inspire the deep adoration we read in his words. This man loves the Law as an extension of God Himself. He follows it as a means of showing his love, not as a means of gaining recognition or as a checklist for approval. That kind of Law-following leads to exhaustion—always striving to do more, to do better—failure, and bitterness because we live with a fallen nature unable to keep the Law perfectly. That kind of Law-following is focused on performance and has little to do with relationship.
So why did God create the Law if He knew we would never be able to keep it perfectly? God loves us deeply and He wants an intimate relationship with each of us. He knew we would never seek Him as our rescuer, as our Savior, if we didn’t see a need for Him. The Law was created, not as a means of keeping score against us, but as a means of showing us our desperate need for God. (See Romans 3:20.)
This Psalm was written hundreds of years before Jesus came. The writer didn’t know the joy of Emmanuel—God with us. Always. Forever. He didn’t have the joy of the Holy Spirit living in him. Before the life-giving sacrifice of Christ, the Holy Spirit could only rest on a person for a time. Only after the work of the cross, the Holy Spirit—the divine power of God—could come to live inside the hearts of believers—giving us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
The writer of this Psalm, as much as he loves God, wrote as someone standing outside a window, looking in at the party. He could not know Christ in him, yet he knew of his Creator and the lover of his soul. He knew the God who walked with Abraham and called him Friend, the God who tenderly cared for his ancestors as they wandered the desert. He knew God because of His Word. “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” This writer got what so many of us miss. No matter his circumstances, he had an abiding hope and confidence in the Lord, and the result was praise–even in his darkest hours.
Read Hebrews 10:1–23
How is the law described in verse 1?
Can it make us perfect, holy before God?
The Law required a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of the people. This is why it was necessary for the people to make regular visits to the Temple to offer sacrifices for their own sins. But those sacrifices couldn’t take away the sins, they could only cover them over.
Read slowly through verses 5–14. What did Jesus do?
Read verses 16–18. What is the result of Jesus’ sacrifice of love, which justifies those who “are being made holy”—those who believe and actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives?
Are blood sacrifices necessary now? Why? (see v. 18)
“Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful”
What hope is this passage talking about?
Do you ever struggle to believe this hope when life gets hard and messy?
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice you and I, when we choose to trust in Him, can “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience…” We have the gift of intimacy with God. He knows your heart-truth and He longs to hold you. Do you know this kind of intimacy, this assured hope? Take a few moments to pray. What is it that stands in your way? Is it guilt? Anxiety? Busyness? Exhaustion? Discouragement? Bitterness? There’s an old hymn that says,
“I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me,
He ever loves and cares for His own”
(I Must Tell Jesus, E. Hoffman).
Jesus isn’t surprised or shocked or angry when we are open and honest with Him. He longs for us to draw near with a sincere faith, to tell Him our troubles and learn from Him. His Word gives us truth and hope for our everyday journey—not just for Sunday living.
2 thoughts on “Chapter 14: Draw Near”
Good stuff, well done!