25 My soul clings to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.
26 I have declared my ways, and You answered me;
Teach me Your statutes.
27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts;
So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.
28 My soul melts from heaviness;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
29 Remove from me the way of lying,
And grant me Your law graciously.
30 I have chosen the way of truth;
Your judgments I have laid before me.
31 I cling to Your testimonies;
O LORD, do not put me to shame!
32 I will run the course of Your commandments,
For You shall enlarge my heart.
Several years ago, I was going through what I thought was a dark time, and for the first time in my life I turned to the Lord in earnest prayer. After decades of avoiding God, I came back to Him in desperation, seeking His guidance, His peace, and, yes, His salvation. I was not disappointed. The Lord lifted me up and gave me a better life, a better way of living, and I thought the worst of the darkness was over. Just after that, I met and married to a wonderful lady, and we had a nice home and a fun blended family, and life was looking good. We had plans for ministry together–plans that we were sure the Lord would bless. And then, just thirty-three days after our wedding, she died.
She had been my inspiration, my friend, my muse, and my loving thorn in my side. She was a mother and foster mother, a teacher, a counselor, a fighter for social justice. And she was suddenly and unexpectedly gone, called home by the Lord for some inscrutable reason, and now I was left alone to deal with so much. Like an exhausted runner, I sometimes fell, exhausted and panting, still reaching for the goal but feeling as if I had no breath, no strength to carry on. One day, about a month after she died, I was reading the Psalms and I came to today’s verses from the 119th Psalm. I saw my life there–and I saw my salvation.
Look at the imagery the psalmist uses here:
• Verse 25: “My soul clings to the dust…”
• Verse 28: “My soul melts from heaviness…” (or “My soul drops from grief…”)
This imagery of falling down, dropping, being heavily laden–this is the image of a man who is being dragged down by sorrow and the difficulties of his life. And yet he sees the solution, the thing that will lift him up:
• Verse 25: “…Revive me according to Your word.”
• Verse 28: “…Strengthen me according to Your word.”
Although he has fallen and his heart is heavy, still he looks to God’s Word and sees the promise of new life, the promise of salvation. He calls out to God, “Hosanna!”–“Save!”–and he is answered with the gentle voice of his Rock and his Savior:
28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
In Jewish teaching, a teacher’s “yoke” is the doctrines and practices he teaches, the tradition he passes on to his disciples. Jesus called us to lay aside the things of this world that are dragging us down, and to hold fast to the one thing that matters most: God the Father, whose Son is the only source of salvation. Where the traditions of men weigh us down with requirements and plague us with demands, the law of the Lord is summed up in two simple commandments:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Our Savior tells us, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40) So all of the Lord’s statutes, precepts, commandments, testimonies, and judgments depend on those two simple statements to “Love the LORD your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Looking back at Psalms 119, as the psalmist struggles to rise from the dust, we find that he wants to be taught God’s statutes. He wants to understand the way of God’s precepts. He wants to be granted God’s law with grace. He lays out God’s judgments before himself, and he sees and chooses the way of truth. Now, at last, he no longer clings to the dust but to something else: the testimonies of God’s faithfulness. Knowing and understanding God’s abundant and unwavering love for His chosen people–having seen God’s love in His Word–the psalmist has chosen to stand again. Now he runs his course with new life and new purpose, running the “course of [God’s] commandments” with a heart strengthen by God Himself, the Creator of the Universe.
When I was clinging to the dust in those dark days after the death of my wife, I found myself renewed and invigorated by God’s holy Word. I was also chastened and humbled by what I found there, because I saw how much I had started to rely on men (and myself!) rather than on God. I had been clinging to that which was created from dust, rather than clinging to the covenants and promises of the Creator Himself. I saw His wonderful works, and I saw hope. Oh, what precious hope! Where my muscles and heart grew weak, my Savior and Rock stood fast and strengthened me. Where my mind and soul faltered and doubted, the Word of my Father showed me truth and wisdom. When I became lost in lies and bad counsel, the Word of the Lord showed me the true path of righteousness through faith in Christ Jesus.
My heartfelt prayer is that we should all see that God’s Word is the benchmark of our lives, the unwavering standard of truth, and the sole testimony of God’s desire for us.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
We cannot afford to rely on our own judgment anymore. We are past that now. We must cling to God’s Word, write it upon our hearts, and carry this beautiful burden of His love. My faith in God and His enduring love bore me through what truly was the darkest time of my life, and when I finally stood up and looked in the His direction I found enormous joy. I am not perfect, and I will stumble again, and I will face darkness and tribulation again. But I know–I KNOW–that with the holy standard of God’s Word, with the testimony of His love ever with me on my heart, so long as I am faithful to God, I will always be able to rise again and be strengthened by Him. I will never again cling to the dust, but only to the Lord my God.
Heavenly Father, I am humbled by Your great love. I admit I often weep at Your Word, because I see there Your truly amazing grace. I see Your grace also in my own life, in the lives of my children and family and friends. I could not now stand were it not for You, Lord. I stand now upon Your Word, Your laws and statutes and judgments, so that I may run with strength the course You’ve set before me. I have set my eyes on You, only on You, and so even when I stumble and my knees hit the road, I still see Your glory in all I do. Continue to enlarge my heart as I put my trust in You. Amen.