The Longest Chapter – Part 5

This week our study focuses on verses 33 – 40 of Psalm 119

Teach me Your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end.

Give me understanding and I will obey Your instructions;

I will put them into practice with all my heart.

Make me walk along the path of Your commands,

For that is where my happiness is found.

Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money.

Turn my eyes from worthless things and give me life through Your word.

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.

119-34

The opening words of this section reveal a vital biblical principle.  The psalmist asks that the Holy One would teach him and at the same time declares that what he learns he will do to the end of his life.  This, in fact, is the essence of true learning.  The accumulation of biblical knowledge has limited value unless it produces the fruit of wise living.  We see this in the case of so-called ‘scholars’ who may know the Bible better than you do but whose lives bear no witness to its teachings.

Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is useless from the biblical point of view.  What matters to our heavenly Father is what we do with what we learn.  This is why the psalmist’s words are so instructive.  He repeats the same concept in the next verse as if to impress on himself the utter importance of what he had just penned.  Give me understanding and I will obey Your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.  He then acknowledges that true happiness is found by living according to God’s word.

Echoing an attitude we saw in Part 2 – that is, that the Word of God is greater than any earthly treasure we may acquire – David prays that he would consistently be more eager to know and do the Word of God than he is to earn money.  Turn my eyes from worthless things, he cries, and give me life from Your Word.

Money – or the lack of it- ranks exceedingly high on the scale of mankind’s priorities. The acquiring of it occupies much of our time and attention.  Yet money – and possessions – are at best temporary.  David acknowledges that money is a part of life but looks past it to a greater priority; i.e., that zeal to live according to God’s commandments and statues is of greater value than millions in the bank.

Life is fragile. Life on this planet is temporary.  But there is a world beyond where life is eternal.  What we take into that world when we pass from this one will have nothing to do with our earthly bank account but everything to do with our heavenly one.  What does the balance sheet in the heavenly book reveal? Acts of obedience, of kindness, of humility, of service to others?

What are the ‘worthless things’ to which the psalmist alludes?  ‘Worthless’ means without value, useless, ineffective, unproductive, fruitless, empty, hollow and pointless.  When viewed through a heavenly lens, David is asking himself, ‘What am I really doing day to day? How do I spend my time? Are my activities productive from an eternal perspective or am I just filling up hours and minutes?  Is my routine empty, hollow, pointless?  Or do I spend my days in pursuing those things that foster life?  Prayer, study of God’s word, kindness, justice, compassion, service?  Am I living according to what I have learned?

Turn my eyes from worthless things and give me life through Your word.

Is that my prayer?  Is it yours?

Selah.

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Check out our weekly Torah commentary: In Tune with Torah

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